C'mon Hollywood: We need more quality sports films!
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 we’ve come to love from a sports film. What sports films would YOU like to see?|