Give Movies a Sporting Chance
Listen up, patients! I sit here now a confused man. I try to flip through my channels to find a good movie, and I run up on hockey games, basketball games, and baseball games. Exactly what season is it, anyway? Hockey = ice = winter. Basketball = indoors = winter. Baseball = grass = spring. What's going on here? I feel like Rod Taylor in The Time Machine. Thank the Lord that the USFL is no longer in biz or I'd really be off my bentwood.
Cuttin' to the chase, I'd actually rather sit through a good sports movie than a real game anyday. Heck, if I'm gonna watch overpaid individuals for two hours, they sure-as-shinola better be acting like they care about what they are up to, yaknow? I mean, look at spoiled sapsuckers like Barry Bonds, Jeff George, and Dennis Rodman. They make scads of money for playing a game, and they have the gall to cry like toddlers when the fans don't treat them like Gold Incarnate, when they, at their best, give maybe 50 percent effort on the field, and absolutely zero percent back to the fans. (Deep breath.) These are the kind of losers who only talk to the press after they've won a big game and only sign autographs at shows where they're getting a fat appearance fee and ten bucks a scribble. By crackie, the only man in sports that deserves to be paid astronomical figures is Cal Ripken, Jr. He's played in, what, twenty gazillion straight games, with broken bones and pneumonia and buckled knees. And then on top of that, he signs every autograph asked of him...for free!
Give me a well-crafted sports movie. These days, the broadcasters covering the game can be as annoying as the athletes playing it. We're moving beyond the soothing sounds of guys like Jim McKay and Keith Jackson to stoked-up screamers with a penchant for self-absorption. I'm a die-hard baseball fanatic, but I know I'd rather watch The Natural than listen to Tim "Remember Me" McCarver call a game. (When I want to hear someone talk about himself for three hours, I tune in to Rush Limbaugh.) For roundball, I'll pop White Men Can't Jump or Hoosiers in the machine. Then I can be assured of not hearing grown men refer to themselves in the third person, and I'm spared the squawk of Dick Vitale's annoying hyperbole. Football? Give me The Longest Yard or, better yet, Brian's Song. With football movies, I'm spared John Madden (the Michael "Police Academy" Winslow of the broadcasting world), plus I don't have to hear brain-burnt Frank Gifford grappling to analyze a play in single syllables.
If guys like Michael Caine (Victory) were really the toast of the soccer set, I'd sit in for some "toe-ball" in a heartbeat. As it stands now, it's just a bunch of scootin' stocky guys with too much body hair and last names that won't fit on their jerseys. Hockey? I prefer Paul Newman in Slap Shot. On film, the hockey fights have some style. In the NHL, it's like a high school drill team's tribute to Rock-'em, Sock-'em Robots.
Even in the pseudo-sports, like bowling and billiards and golf, the movies make them look a lot better than they actually are. I'd be bowling every night if Kingpin's Ernie McCracken was gonna be there. I'd build my own golf course if Roy "Tin Cup" McAvoy could be my teacher and mentor. Who would need a better billard instructor than Fast Eddie Felson or Vincent Lauria, or even Jackie Gleason as Minnesota Fats? Forrest Gump made Ping Pong look entertaining, and that game is like watching a clock tick, for Pete's sake. I just wish somebody could make a watchable movie about tennis.
If you're looking for a nice alternative to the same old crap for sports, try these jaunts down the cinematic playing field:
Field of Dreams, Bull Durham, Pastime, Talent for the Game, The Scout.
Hoosiers, Hoop Dreams, Inside Moves, and, if you can find it, The Harlem Globetrotters (1951).
Slap Shot, Miracle on Ice, Sudden Death.
Brian's Song, The Longest Yard, Rudy, North Dallas Forty.
Kingpin, the only way bowling could be funny.
Tin Cup, Dead Solid Perfect, Happy Gilmore, and, of course, the original Caddyshack.
Billiards, a.k.a. Pool
The Hustler and The Color of Money make the ultimate double feature.
I'm sure there are other sports movies, but these are the hall-of-famers. And every one of them was made for less than Albert Belle or Michael Irvin make in a year.
Get "reel" soon,