Well, it’s a new year, new days stretching out before us all and new challenges to be faced. For my part, I could do with fewer challenges but then, we don’t get to choose the times when our patience and peace of mind are tested. I woke up yesterday, just like any other day, and so I suppose that is a good start. :)
I watched a movie yesterday, as there’s really not much else to do on New Year’s Day. It was called “When the Game Stands Tall,” about a high school football team who shattered all records, across all sports, for games won. Their winning streak went to 151-games before they were defeated and the movie follows the path of that loss, and what comes after for the team. I liked it very much, but then, I’ve always been a big fan of sports movies. So often, they’re about overcoming odds, facing personal demons and becoming better men and women because of it.
This movie was much the same. A lot of critics called the movie contrived, dull and not true to the facts they were LOOSELY based on. What those people all failed to see, and probably fail to see in other sports themed movies, is that the movies aren’t about sports. They’re not about the games they play or the wins or losses. Like I said, they’re all about overcoming challenges, external and internal. They’re about facing the truth, in all its forms and deciding whether or not to live up to your own expectations of yourself. “When the Game Stands Tall” did this, just as so many other movies have.
So in that spirit, in the spirit of facing a new year, new struggles and deciding what kind of person we’re all going to be by the end of this year, I give you my own favourite list of sports themed movies. They’re only my own top ten, not an opinion on which are the greatest sports movies, as it would be difficult to narrow it down. There are so many!
Anyway, here they are: :D
10. Rocky – What’s impressive about Rocky is that it’s a story about an ordinary man, just trying to find his place in the world. A bit like the man who wrote and starred in it. I’ve always loved the whole Rocky series, but the first stands out, of course, because it was the beginning. Throughout the movie Rocky goes from being fine with who he is, to wondering if he can do better, to doing better, to wanting only to be near the woman he loves. What’s not to like about that?
9. We Are Marshall – This movie tracks the year following the tragic plane crash that took almost an entire football team. It’s about the school’s struggle to put together a new team and to convince the college sports rule makers to allow freshmen to play football. Meanwhile, the town and community deal with the loss of brothers, sons and friends and it’s a heart wrenching movie, but ultimately, heartwarming as the game helps to heal.
8. The Sandlot – I watched this movie as a kid and loved it for the youthful hi-jinx. I still love it for the same reason but now with a nostalgic twist. It’s a wonderful movie about a young boy moving to a new town, a new school and meeting a ragtag group of kids who play baseball every day in the neighborhood sandlot. Only, he doesn’t know a thing about baseball, or the fact that Babe Ruth is a man. This movie will probably make me laugh for-ev-ER.
7. Gridiron Gang – A fairly recent movie, this one follows the football program at a youth detention center in Los Angeles. The coach refuses to let these kids leave Camp Kilpatrick without even a narrow shot at a better life. Not all the kids who play on the team go on to make something of themselves but some do and those few who face the challenge the coach lays out for them, are better for it.
6. The Longest Yard – You can pick either the old or the new one, though I enjoyed the newer one quite a lot. Yes, it was funny and silly and crude in a lot of moments, but there were moments that made you stand up and cheer for the Mean Machine. Also, who doesn’t love a movie that sees the underdog totally screw over the big man. I admit this movie is less uplifting than it is plain old entertaining.
5. Wimbledon – Now this is definitely a sports movie that is less about sports and more of a rom-com. However, it does focus on the famous tournament of Wimbledon and with that backdrop, it counts as a sports movie. It’s about a man and a woman figuring out what means more to them. The title or the chance at a meaningful relationship. Also, special shout-out to a now wildly famous Nikolaj Coster-Waldau. He was delightful in this movie as the best buddy. And who didn’t love James McAvoy’s character betting against his own brother round-after-round?
4. A League of Their Own – This movie was an instant baseball classic. I loved seeing this in the theaters years ago and still love watching it whenever I catch it on TV. These ladies are all so unique and so far ahead of their time. It’s amazing when you think of how this movie is inspired by actual events.
3. Bend it Like Beckham – A surprise hit from a few years ago, this movie helped launch the careers of Keira Knightley and Parminder Nagra. I love the way this movie explores the family dynamic and the two wholly different sisters. I also love how in the end, the parents are traditional, staid and so loving, that they only want to make their daughters happy. It’s a warm, touching movie with some exceptionally funny moments – my fav is when all the older ladies whip out their cell phones at the engagement towards the beginning.
2. Coach Carter – What I like most about this movie is that I recall the way the school made headlines even up here in Canada with the decision to forfeit games until the players got their grades up. I don’t know how accurate the facts of the movie are, but I still love it. It’s a great movie about watching boys start to grow into men and face challenges the likes of which, most of us have never or never will face.
1. Remember the Titans – I had this movie listed as one of my all-time favs for movies, period but it remains my favorite for sports movies. It’s a great movie and if you’ve seen it, you’ll know what I mean. Yes, I’ve heard that it doesn’t follow the facts exactly – what movie “inspired by actual events” does? – but the spirit of the movie, and the message is the same. The game just is, and sport, any sport, doesn’t care what you look like.
Honorable Mentions include (but are not restricted to!): Draft Day, Field of Dreams, The Cutting Edge, Happy Gilmore (Come on!! Who didn’t love seeing Bob Barker kick some ass!), The Replacements, Bad News Bears, Caddyshack, Jerry Maguire, Hoosiers, Moneyball, 42 (another fairly recent one based on the first year Jackie Robinson played in the major league), Leatherheads and The Last Boy Scout. (OK, maybe The Last Boy Scout doesn’t quite count but Damon Wayans plays a former football star so that counts in my mind.)
So there you have it. Once again, these are just my favorites. There are too many to include every single sports movie, and I know I’ve left out many classics, merely because I haven’t seen them all. Perhaps you can share your own favs?
OT: Just for the heck of it, I’m re-watching a Doctor Who episode, called “Journey’s End.” Even though I’ve seen it a dozen times before, and even though I know what’s coming, I always hope against hope that it could be different. In the end, I have my heart ripped out every time when I have to say good-bye to the best companion of all. “But… I was going to be with you forever…” *sigh* ;)
As always, take care and happy reading.