Sports Movies

Mike Moffettby Mike Moffett
Weirs Times Columnist

There’s nothing as good as a good movie. Even a “chick flick.” And good war movies like AMERICAN SNIPER are “must sees” for me. I’ve seen PATTON—or parts of it—at least a couple dozen times since it won the Academy Award for “Best Picture” back in 1970.
War movies can be tricky though, for historian-veterans like me. Accuracy is important. I once watched a World War II flick that had helicopters in it and just changed the channel. There were no helicopters in World War II.
And then there’s the sports movie genre. I’m also a jock-historian and accuracy matters. A cool web site charts mistakes in sports movies—www.moviemistakes.com/most/sport. The golf movie HAPPY GILMORE starring New Hampshire’s Adam Sandler topped the list with 70 mistakes. Aye carumba!
Or take 1989’s MAJOR LEAGUE, starring Charlie Sheen, Corbin Bernsen, Dennis Haysbert, Rene Russo, Wes Snipes, Bob Uecker and Tom Berenger. It had 30 mistakes. For example, during a playoff-game against the Yankees, the runner that catcher Jake Taylor (Berenger) picked off at first base had the same number as the batter who’d just struck out. Also, the number they both wore was long-retired by the Yankees and thus no player would be wearing it anyway. Those things just diminish sports movies—at least for me.
Occasionally, some Internet site will list the best and worst sports movies ever. These lists are subjective, of course, but there is consensus about worst sports movie ever—THE BABE RUTH STORY (1948). The scene where the Babe cures a paraplegic boy just by saying “hello” is just too much.
A site called www.IGN.com recently listed the top 25 sports movies ever. I’ve seen most of them, but interestingly, I’ve yet to see IGN’s top pick—RAGING BULL. The list included the usual suspects. MIRACLE. HOOSIERS. SLAP SHOT. LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN. RUDY. And the comedy classic CADDYSHACK.
Naturally, the list included FIELD OF DREAMS, with Kevin Costner. Now this may be heresy, but I thought that movie was, well, stupid. Really “out there.” Still, its fantasy struck a chord with romantics. But please! The Chicago Black Sox coming out of a cornfield?
CHARIOTS OF FIRE, like many of the movies on the list, was based on real people (British Olympic runners) and it won the 1981 Best Picture Oscar. The soundtrack still plays in my head whenever I think about it. But with regard to Best Picture Oscars, IGN’s list did NOT include ROCKY, which won the Academy Award for the top film of 1976. That omission alone ruins IGN’s credibility, even if you hate Sly Stallone.
These thoughts of sports movies were inspired by the recently released MacFARLAND USA, starring the aforementioned Costner, whose resume also includes BULL DURHAM, TIN CUP, and the underrated FOR THE LOVE OF THE GAME, in which Kevin throws a perfect game for the Tigers in Yankee Stadium. Costner obviously has played baseball in real life.
I saw MacFARLAND USA at the Gilford 8—one of my favorite cinemas. Inspired by real events, the story takes place in 1987 and involves a coach named Jim White (Costner) who started a cross country team in a poor Mexican American farm town and … well, you’ll have to see it for yourself. It’s a Disney “feel good” movie which will inspire runners for decades to come. I liked it better than CHARIOTS OF FIRE. And I especially like movies that finish by showing photos or video clips of the real people upon which the movie was based.
Check it out when you get a chance. And when I get a chance, I’ll have to rent RAGING BULL.

Sports Quiz
The Chicago Bulls drafted North Carolina’s Michael Jordan with the third pick of the 1984 NBA draft. Who were the first two players to be drafted that year? (Answer follows)

Born Today …
That is to say, sports figures born on March 5 include Pittsburgh Steeler running back Rocky Bleier (1946) and Dallas Cowboy wide receiver Michael Irvin (1966).

Sportsquote
Country singer Willie Nelson was asked what par is on a golf course he’d recently purchased near Austin, Texas: “Anything I want it to be. For instance, this hole right here is a par-47—and yesterday I birdied the sucker.”

Sportsquiz Answer
The Houston Rockets took Hakeem Olajuwon, a junior center from the University of Houston, with the first pick in 1984. The Portland Trail Blazers used the second overall pick to draft Sam Bowie from the University of Kentucky.

Michael Moffett is a Professor of Sports Management at NHTI, Concord’s Community College. He recently co-authored the critically-acclaimed and award-winning “FAHIM SPEAKS: A Warrior-Actor’s Odyssey from Afghanistan to Hollywood and Back” (with the Marines) —which is available through Amazon.com. His e-mail address is mimoffett@comcast.net.

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