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heart of summer is movie season. Time to reflect on sports'
contribution to film.
the little-horse-that-could flick Seabiscuit opening
this week, the already-short attention spans at Sports Online
were further diverted by a raging debate: what's the best-ever
let you vote on that. But in the process of coming up with
a short list of 10 for the poll, we frightened ourselves by
unearthing almost 70 sports-themed movies. Some are obviously
great, worthy of a rental and an evening with your home theatre
system. Some are mildly amusing, hokey throwbacks.
some are hideous pieces of celluloid that should never have
left the heads of the hacks who created them. Rent those and
you'll want to return your home theatre system for a full
BAD NEWS BEARS | BRIAN'S SONG |
BULL DURHAM | CADDYSHACK
HOOSIERS | THE LONGEST YARD |
THE NATURAL | RAGING
ROCKY | SLAP SHOT
BAD NEWS BEARS
anyone who grew up in the 70s and came anywhere near a ball
diamond, The Bad News Bears meant something. We knew
the phys-ed misfits on the Bears -- overweight Engleberg,
loser Lupus, nerdy Ogilvie, Tanner the mouthpiece. Some of
us were those kids.
Little League politics, the sad-sack coach, the losers-and-winners
mentality of kids' sports were all wickedly showcased by director
Michael Ritchie, who coaxed terrific performances out of those
kids, as well as stars Walter Matthau and Tatum O'Neal.
of the few movies to deal with sports at the entry level,
Bears tapped into all the childhood emotions around
sports without being cloying. And it packed a fair size wallop
too: who can forget coach Turner's confrontation with his
son on the pitcher's mound, or Buttermaker's meltdown when
he started taking the game seriously?
more kudo: few films penetrate pop culture to the extent that
their titles take on their own meaning. But The Bad News
Bears is now synonymous with a ragtag collection of underdogs.
one movie on our list that wasn't a theatrical release, the
made-for-TV Brian's Song is the male version of Beaches.
It's also the one flick that Maxim readers will openly
admit to crying to.
true story of Chicago Bears teammates Gale Sayers and Brian
Piccolo, Brian's Song dealt with bigotry (Sayers
black, Piccolo white) as effectively as it dealt with death.
The film was made 32 years ago but didn't shy away from controversy.
also didn't shy away from trying to make guys weep. First
it's Piccolo overcoming his prejudice to form a bond with
Sayers, next it's Sayers leaning on Piccolo through a devastating
injury, then it's Sayers and his teammates struggling to deal
with Piccolo's impending death.
one web reviewer put it, "You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll
want to play football."
Durham makes the top-10 based on its intriguing cast
of characters and the memorable dialogue they churn out.
the film as a whole has its flaws. But the on- and off-field
adventures of veteran catcher Crash Davis (Kevin Costner),
pitching prospect Nuke LaLoosh (Tim Robbins) and groupie Annie
Savoy (Susan Sarandon) provide an entertaining, if not always
accurate window into the lives of minor-league ballplayers
and their fans.
baseball elements of Bull Durham work because writer/director
Ron Shelton, who briefly played in the minors, reveres America's
pastime. However, he still isn't afraid to poke fun at the
game's love of clichés and rituals.
players' eccentricities are only surpassed by the movie's
witty exchanges and now-iconic dialogue, with Davis' "I
believe" speech leading the way.
when Chevy Chase was funny? Rent Caddyshack if you
need a refresher.
the groundskeeper sizes up the enemy VC (varmint cong)
talented ensemble cast of Chase, Bill Murray, Rodney Dangerfield,
Ted Knight and a mischievous mechanical gopher dishes out
the comedic goods in this definitive goofball golf movie (with
all due respect to Happy Gilmore).
film has an abundance of memorable scenes and quotes. There
are too many gut-busters to mention in this space. However,
Chase’s Zen-like “be the ball” mantra, the
chocolate doody in the pool and Murray’s hilarious tale
of hauling bag for the Dalai Lama are among the sequences
that still slay fans even after multiple viewings.
thumbs its nose at some of golf’s snootier ways and
isn’t afraid to riff on the country club lifestyle (pick
from any number of Dangerfield’s one-line barbs). If
only more golf courses were like Bushwood.
based-on-a-true-story flick, Hoosiers follows the
familiar theme of underdogs battling huge odds and winning.
there are more underdogs here than just the team: Gene Hackman
plays a coach with a checkered past and Dennis Hopper is his
assistant, the town drunk looking to reclaim his dignity.
strength of the characters make this movie. The power and
empathy exuded by Hackman and Hopper are more than a match
for the pure sports action, and the subtle theme of life in
the American heartland of the 1950s is compelling.
would have been easy to make Hoosiers a pure basketball
flick, and it would have ended up on our heap of 60-odd other
sports movies. To director David Anspaugh's credit, it's more
football version of The Dirty Dozen (also directed,
not coincidentally, by Robert Aldrich).
you're looking for art or tapestry, you'll be disappointed,
but The Longest Yard promises nothing but pure fun.
What else could you expect from a 1974 Burt Reynolds sports
flick set in a prison?
Maybe the word 'fun' isn't exactly appropriate to describe
Reynolds' character Paul Crewe whipping a football not once,
but twice, at a guy's crotch. But it is funny, and in the
context of the film, nicely rewarding.
strong current of anti-establishment sentiment runs through
The Longest Yard, to the point where you'll be rooting
for the Mean Machine despite the fact they're a collection
of criminals, including murderers and rapists.
in the tradition of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest,
it's the inmates we have to root for.
Ken Burns had decided to make a baseball movie instead of
his epic documentary, this would have been it.
Hobbs (Robert Redford) swings for the subtly-lit fences
Natural knows that baseball is replete with cliches, myths,
legends, and fuzzy, soft-focus moments. And it embraces them.
got the corrupt owners, the wide-eyed batboy, a bat cut from
a tree struck by lightning, the crusty manager looking for
a winning season. And Robert Redford as a baseball golden
boy looking for redemption.
for sports fans, this is a great story that isn't entirely
made up. Baseball, real baseball, has given us some of those
characters -- the Whammer, for instance -- and plot lines
the final scene when Hobbs rounds the bases in slo-mo amid
a torrent of sparks could be written off as unrealistic, sentimental
for that real-life moment in 1988 when the Dodgers' Kirk Gibson
stepped to the plate...
black-and-white biopic about former boxing champion Jake La
Motta is beautiful to look at, even when the on-screen action
teems with violence and self-destructive rage.
De Niro earned an Oscar for his portrayal of the ex-middleweight
king and garnered extra kudos for packing on the pounds to
play a portly, retired La Motta.
film is widely acclaimed on many levels. Martin Scorsese’s
direction is intoxicating, Paul Schrader’s words strike
all the right chords and the actors turn in first-rate performances.
The fight scenes provide edge-of-your-seat thrills, while
the human drama outside the ring is equally engaging.
Bull evades simple labelling. It’s so much more
than just a boxing or sports movie, rating as one of the most
fascinating character studies in cinema history.
Oscar-winner gave birth to four sequels of varying merit,
creating one of the most successful franchises in film history.
But before Rocky went toe-to-toe with Mr. T or hauled logs
around a Siberian training camp, he was a just another bum
from the neighbourhood dreaming of his one chance to make
down but not out. He's got at least four sequels to film.
original Rocky has all the elements of a classic.
It’s the blueprint tale for the underdog figure trying
to overcome numerous life-barriers for a shot at glory and
film works on many levels. Rocky is at its quiet,
engaging best in the scenes where the Philly club fighter
interacts with the key figures in his life -- Mickey the trainer,
Adrian the love interest, and her cousin Paulie. And who could
forget the entertainment value provided by the cocky, charismatic
heavyweight champion Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers)?
well-choreographed (if slightly cartoonish) fight scenes also
pack a wallop, while Bill Conti’s heart-pumping musical
score makes even the most sedentary beast want to suck back
a raw egg and race through the streets.
it to the Hanson Brothers to make taped, dark-rimmed glasses
cool. Well, sort of.
says it's a top 10 movie. Who are we to disagree?
It wasn’t so much the eyewear that cemented the goonish
trio’s place as pop culture icons. It was their rocker
hair, tinfoil-wrapped knuckles and willingness to drop the
gloves in a heartbeat.
Shot remains the ultimate hockey flick more than 25 years
after its release. Others have tried to duplicate its success,
but even though the film reeks of the late ‘70s, the
Paul Newman vehicle has maintained its charm and appeal with
Shot scores with the right mix of comedic violence, a
dash of the profane, sharp dialogue and a heartfelt respect
for minor-league athletes, teams and the small communities
that support them.
not talking athletes who turned into leading actors, so forget Johnny
Weismuller or O.J. Simpson (in and out of court). We're talking
bit parts, roles that remind you that, as actors, these guys make
Wayne's World (1992)
Canada's own Mike Myers, a huge fan of Chicago Blackhawks
legend Stan Mikita, pays tribute to the former star by adorning
his likeness at Wayne & Garth's favourite hangout, Stan Mikita's
Donuts -- an obvious play on Canada' favourite coffee and doughnut
chain, Tim Horton's. Ed
O'Neal plays the donut shop's manager and Mikita makes a brief cameo
as himself, which Mikita said, "Don't blink, or you'll miss
There's Something About Mary (1998)
Brett Favre or "Brett Fav-ruh" (as Ben Stiller
calls him in the movie) has a few lines and an on-screen kiss with
the film's beauty, Cameron Diaz (Mary). Depending on which way one
sees it, Brett Favre's stoic performance in the 1998 smash comedy
was either brilliant or brutal. As one of Mary's ex-boyfriends,
Favre comes back to confess his love, which for a macho athlete-type
can be awkward at the best of times. Favre's best line? When one
of Mary's many suitors asks, "What is Brett Favre doing here?"
the eloquent Green Bay Packers quarterback responds, "I'm in
town to play the Dolphins, you dumbass."
Dumb and Dumber (1994)
Neely, a tough yet skilled Boston Bruins forward (694 points,
1241 penalty minutes in 726 games), retired prematurely from the
NHL after battling a myriad of injuries. So what better way to fill
his days of retirement than by making cameos in Hollywood movies?
Neely's first role came in the Farrelly brothers 1994 movie Dumb
and Dumber as bullish truck driver, Sea Bass. Jim
Carrey (Lloyd) and Jeff Daniels (Harry), the two "dumb"
guys in the movie, get into an altercation with Sea Bass at a truck
stop diner, prompting Neely's trucking buddies to shout out, "Kick
his ass Sea Bass!"
Bass was resurrected as "Trooper Sea Bass" in another
Farrelly brothers movie featuring Carrey: Me, Myself, &
Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (1993)
From Isotoner glove commercials to the big screen. One
of football's greatest pivots was perhaps one of the biggest flops
in a sports cameo. Ace (Jim Carrey) is on the trail of the kindapping
of the Miami Dolphins' two most visible icons: beloved dolphin mascot
Snowflake, and Marino, captured while filming an Isotoner commercial.
For acting range and personality, the cetacean wins flippers-down.
Smoky and the Bandit II (1981)
Cannonball Run (1981)
Sure, the Pittsburgh Steelers' QB has built a more impressive media
resume than arch-rival Roger Staubach, but then again, Roger didn't
count Hal Needham and Burt Reynolds as friends. That duo was responsible
for the beer-guzzlin', car-chasin' movies of the late 70s and early
80s, which featured Bradshaw variously as tough guys or SWAT commanders.
His best performance? Hooper: he had a full head of hair.
Yes, the six-time NBA MVP made his film mark by squaring off against
Bruce Lee in Game of Death (1978) but he's best remembered
for his performance as co-pilot Roger Murdock in Airplane!
That was his alias, anyway, as we found out following an interrogation
by the tenacious-but-cute kid Joey, who said his dad thought Kareem
didn't try hard enough on the court. The response? "The hell
I don't! Listen kid! I've been hearing that crap ever since I was
at UCLA. I'm out there busting my buns every night. Tell your
old man to drag Walton and Lenier up and down the court for 48 minutes."
Interesting side note: Zero Hour, the film parodied by
Airplane!, had its own pro-athlete cameo role. Star football
"Crazylegs" Hirsch played one of the pilots in the 1957