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C'mon Hollywood: We need more quality sports films!

Aug. 14, 2012by: Paul Shirey

Seeing as the 2012 Summer Olympics was the most watched TV event in US history, there’s obviously more than a little interest in seeing people perform some really cool (and really weird) athletic feats.   For the first time in my life I found myself glued to the TV, anxious to see athletes go for the gold.  It was reminiscent of the sports films I’ve grown up with; rooting for your favorite player, nervous and hopeful to see them pull off a feat of greatness before millions. 

What makes these events so amazing isn’t just the athletic act itself, but the story behind many of these individuals.  And it’s not just Olympic athletes, but all athletes in their many different forms, which are many and varied.  There’s a bevy of sporting amazement sitting in the inspiration rocket launcher, ready to be fired at audiences everywhere.

Now, it should be said that Hollywood has done pretty damn good with sports movies.  I’d say they’ve tapped the vein of dramatic and rousing films in that genre for a long damn time and I’m happy for it.  THE NATURAL, HOOSIERS, ROCKY, etc.; there's an endless supply of classics.  That said, it seems like for every THE FIGHTER, we get three KICKING AND SCREAMING’s, which just doesn’t measure up.  Plain and simple?  We need some more QUALITY sports flicks.  And regularly.

In the past decade we’ve had quite a few good sports films, including CINDERELLA MAN, MIRACLE, FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS, THE WRESTLER, MONEYBALL, and a handful of others, but I wouldn’t call it an overabundance of great flicks; it’s a moderate amount at best.  Yet with so many people involved in sports, either by watching or playing, it seems like there would be a desire to produce more. 

If there’s one thing we love it’s a Cinderella story sports film (although, ironically, CINDERELLA MAN did NOT fare so well at the box office).  We love to see the underdog get his/her due, someone rising to the challenge and meeting it, overcoming their fears or hardships to grab the win they’ve earned.  It’s a commentary on our own desire for success and easily relatable as sports films are typically very human stories that say a lot about our passion in life.  Unless it’s BLADES OF GLORY or MR. 3000.

So, let’s talk about QUALITY when it comes to sports films.  They don’t all have to be serious (SLAPSHOT and MAJOR LEAGUE are great as is), but they need to invoke that winning spirit.  Sure, we can all laugh and enjoy some stupid sports comedies (I happen to love Rodney Dangerfield’s LADYBUGS, which is terrible…but, Vinessa Shaw…), and that’s all well and good if you’re laying on the couch with nothing better to do and/or are immobilized and can’t reach the remote.  But, the best sports films are those that are made with passion and burning to tell a story, rather than just showing a bunch of silly ass hijinks on a baseball diamond/basketball court/football field, etc.   No matter what, there’s got to be some heart or it’s all for naught.

The other thing we need is to expand the idea library.  While I absolutely appreciate and respect the telling of the first black “insert sport here” team, etc., I think that it has become a genre cliché at this juncture.  There have been some great entries and I’m sure there will be more, but ultimately they’re starting to become a parody of themselves.

The story of Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglas and the “fab five,” paraplegic runner Oscar Pistorious, Moto GP racer Valentino Rossi, NFL great Tim Tebow, or the obvious choice, Michael Phelps, would all make for a great film if given some solid talent behind them.  And, there's countless more stories like theirs.  I think it’s high time to hit on some sports we haven’t seen tackled on film in a while (or ever).  It’s unlikely you’ll see me show up to another football flick, but give me something new and cool and I’m game.  Swimming, Moto GP, running, tough mudder, paintball, Best Ranger, or highland games would be some great, out-of-the-box choices.  Also, speed walking.

The bottom line is that sports are a major part of human culture and with a library of great sports films in the can, it would be nice to get more than one good film from the genre every few years.  Surely, we can sacrifice a few stupid comedies and an art house drama to get a solid sports flick out each year (and one that doesn’t swim in clichés at that).

Extra Tidbit: One of my all-time favorite films is a little movie that nobody saw called WITHOUT LIMITS, starring Billy Crudup and Donald Sutherland, that told the story of long-distance runner Steve Prefontaine. It had heart, passion, and led me on a journey of highs, lows, and tragedy. It was a brilliant and moving story, which hit on all the familiar beats weve come to love from a sports film. What sports films would YOU like to see?
Source: JoBlo.com

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+1
2:34PM on 08/15/2012
I;m sorry, I just don't see a problem here. There's enough good sports movies. I think one a year is quite servicable, since Hollywood has much bigger problems.
I;m sorry, I just don't see a problem here. There's enough good sports movies. I think one a year is quite servicable, since Hollywood has much bigger problems.
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9:21PM on 08/14/2012
It seems like we have a lot of good films for individual sports lately (Wrestler, Fighter, Warrior, etc), but not too many good team sports movies. I think part of the reason we don't get more sports movies because its hard to do them without falling into the cliche of the climax being the team scoring the winning goal/touchdown/home run right as the clock hits 0:00 or the game ends.
It seems like we have a lot of good films for individual sports lately (Wrestler, Fighter, Warrior, etc), but not too many good team sports movies. I think part of the reason we don't get more sports movies because its hard to do them without falling into the cliche of the climax being the team scoring the winning goal/touchdown/home run right as the clock hits 0:00 or the game ends.
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+2
4:50PM on 08/14/2012
Tebow can lick my nut sack
Tebow can lick my nut sack
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2:56PM on 08/14/2012
We need more Combat-sports films. Like American baseball in a NAZI POW camp. Then in the middle of the game, the POW's combined with Allied reinforcements, break free and blow NAZI shit up.

Maybe like, Hart's War- but with Baseball.

I really just want more reasons to see explosions mixed with baseball.
We need more Combat-sports films. Like American baseball in a NAZI POW camp. Then in the middle of the game, the POW's combined with Allied reinforcements, break free and blow NAZI shit up.

Maybe like, Hart's War- but with Baseball.

I really just want more reasons to see explosions mixed with baseball.
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2:40PM on 08/14/2012
As far as ones from the past year, I absolutely loved Goon and Warrior. Despite the obvious difference in genre, both had a lotta heart in their stories.
As far as ones from the past year, I absolutely loved Goon and Warrior. Despite the obvious difference in genre, both had a lotta heart in their stories.
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12:29PM on 08/14/2012
"NFL Great Tim Tebow".....uhhhhhh wha?
"NFL Great Tim Tebow".....uhhhhhh wha?
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12:26PM on 08/14/2012

Some of the Good Sports Movies IMO...

The Sandlot, Happy Gilmore, Goon, Major League, Tin Cup, Any Given Sunday, Mighty Ducks, The Fighter, Cinderella Man, Varsity Blues, Friday Night Lights, The Program, Kingpin, Cool Runnings, Million Dollar Baby, Days of Thunder, Mystery, Alaska & Rudy
The Sandlot, Happy Gilmore, Goon, Major League, Tin Cup, Any Given Sunday, Mighty Ducks, The Fighter, Cinderella Man, Varsity Blues, Friday Night Lights, The Program, Kingpin, Cool Runnings, Million Dollar Baby, Days of Thunder, Mystery, Alaska & Rudy
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11:47AM on 08/14/2012

It's just hard to do it right.

Wouldn't mind seeing a decent basketball movie in the next few years. None of that Like Mike, Space Jam, Jawanna-Man type crap but something a little more serious.
Wouldn't mind seeing a decent basketball movie in the next few years. None of that Like Mike, Space Jam, Jawanna-Man type crap but something a little more serious.
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11:34AM on 08/14/2012
Plenty of quality sports movies have been made and will continue to be made. Maybe not a lot of Olympic themed movies, but Moneyball and Warrior stick out in my mind of two recent sports themed movies that were great
Plenty of quality sports movies have been made and will continue to be made. Maybe not a lot of Olympic themed movies, but Moneyball and Warrior stick out in my mind of two recent sports themed movies that were great
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11:28AM on 08/14/2012
I definitely thought Goon was a great recent sport movie. Honestly, I don't really like sports. It's just not my thing (I didn't watch one second of the 2012 Olympics). But I do love a good sports movie. Especially boxing movies.
I definitely thought Goon was a great recent sport movie. Honestly, I don't really like sports. It's just not my thing (I didn't watch one second of the 2012 Olympics). But I do love a good sports movie. Especially boxing movies.
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12:23PM on 08/14/2012
Goon = Good Stuff
Goon = Good Stuff
11:16AM on 08/14/2012

GOON!!!

That is all.
That is all.
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10:43AM on 08/14/2012

Knige der Nutzholzgewinnung

There's a German movie called "Die Knige der Nutzholzgewinnung" (approx "The Kings Of Lumber Production" that is equal times funny and charming. You should check it out.
There's a German movie called "Die Knige der Nutzholzgewinnung" (approx "The Kings Of Lumber Production" that is equal times funny and charming. You should check it out.
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10:32AM on 08/14/2012
I miss good ol' sports films like Slap Shot and Field of Dreams. By today it might look a bit dated, but I do enjoy Oliver Stone's Any Given Sunday a lot. Good sports films are hard to come by these days.
I miss good ol' sports films like Slap Shot and Field of Dreams. By today it might look a bit dated, but I do enjoy Oliver Stone's Any Given Sunday a lot. Good sports films are hard to come by these days.
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10:22AM on 08/14/2012

Tidbit

I loved that flick. It definitely tops the similar Prefontane.
I loved that flick. It definitely tops the similar Prefontane.
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