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Tuesday November 21, 2017
Posted: Mar 11, 2015

Dyer’s Look Back: Top five all-time favorite sports movies

Sidelines: Central Maine Sports Blog

rudy1As I sat at home and watched movies such as “Birdman” and “The Grand Budapest Hotel” walk away with a significant amount of Academy Awards a couple of weeks ago, I began my yearly routine of checking off any changes in my head to my all-time favorite sports movie list.

When it comes to sports movies, we’re all different. That’s the beauty of putting together a list of your Top 5 favorite sports movies; it’s unlikely your list will be the same as someone else’s. You may lean toward comedies, such as “Caddyshack” or “Major League.” The dramatic movie fan may choose “Raging Bull” or “Rocky.” There’s even romantic movies with sports involvement, like “For Love of the Game.”

I love movies that involve an underdog overcoming the odds, the down-on-their-luck loser who hopes for a chance at glory. My list has a heavy dose of movies with that theme.

Without further ado, my Top 5 all-time sports movie list. The opinions are mine alone. Feel free to e-mail me whether you agree, or likely strongly disagree, with my list.

Honorable Mention: “Remember the Titans,” “Slapshot,” “Eight Men Out,” “Field of Dreams,” “The Mighty Ducks,” “The Sandlot,” “Hoosiers,” “Cinderella Man,” “Invincible,” “He Got Game,” “We Are Marshall,” “Warrior,” “Friday Night Lights,” “The Longest Yard” (the 1974 version), “Raging Bull.”

No. 5, “Miracle” — There’s hardly an underdog bigger in the history of sports than the 1980 U.S. men’s hockey team, who went out and defeated the heavily favored Soviet Union on its way to a gold medal. The movie focuses on the events leading up to that game, showing how coach Herb Brooks (played by Kurt Russell) brings a group of teenage hockey players from all over the country and drives them hard in practice in the pursuit of coming together as a team. The results of that work is sports history.

Best quote: “Great moments… are born from great opportunity. And that’s what you have here tonight boys. That’s what you’ve earned here tonight. One game. If we played ’em 10 times, they might win nine. But not this game. Not tonight. Tonight, we skate with them. Tonight, we stay with them. And we shut them down because we can! Tonight, we are the greatest hockey team in the world. You were born to be hockey players. Every one of you. And you were meant to be here tonight. This is your time. Their time is done. It’s over. I’m sick and tired of hearing about what a great hockey team the Soviets have. Screw ’em. This is your time. Now go out there and take it.”

No. 4, “Bull Durham” — A comedic look into minor league baseball. The movie focuses on minor league veteran catcher Crash Davis (played by Kevin Costner) playing babysitter to rookie pitcher Ebby Calvin “Nuke” LaLoosh (played by Tim Robbins). The duo also have a mini-rivalry over the affections of hardcore baseball fan Annie Savoy (played by Susan Sarandon). Past the comedic shenanigans is an undertone of how real life is for a minor league baseball player. One player is on his way up to the big leagues (LaLoosh), while another is hanging on to their career by a thread (Davis). LaLoosh trying to master the mental side of pitching alone is enough to watch this movie.

Best quote: “Your shower shoes have fungus on them. You’ll never make it to the bigs with fungus on your shower shoes. Think classy, you’ll be classy. If you win 20 in the show, you can let the fungus grow back and the press’ll think you’re colorful. Until you win 20 in the show, however, it means you’re a slob.”

No. 3, “The Fighter” — Similar to “Rocky,” this movie follows the rise of Lowell, Mass. boxer Micky Ward, who went from almost nothing to becoming the WBU Light Welterweight Champion. Along the way, Ward (played by Mark Wahlberg) has some setbacks, thanks mostly to his half-brother and trainer Dicky Ecklund (played by Christian Bale), a recovering drug addict. The beauty of this movie is it’s a true story (with some creative liberties taken). After a hiatus from boxing and dealing with a broken hand, Ward makes an epic return and beats Shae Neary for the WBU title in 2000, before going on to fight Arturo Gatti in a trilogy of bouts that are arguably the best fights in recent boxing history. Bale won an Oscar for his performance as Ecklund, and Melissa Leo also won an Oscar for her performance as mother/manager Alice Ward.

Best quote: “He did not just get off the … couch. If he did, I’m gonna buy a couch like that.”

No. 2, “Rocky” — Please forget the ridiculous sequels. It’s the original that sets the bar for sports movies. Truly down-on-his-luck fighter Rocky Balboa (played by Sylvester Stallone), gets the shot of a lifetime when he faces heavyweight champion Apollo Creed (played by Carl Weathers). Knowing he’ll likely be slaughtered in front of a hometown crowd, Balboa’s only goal is to go the distance against the champ. He does it, and in the process proves to himself and to everyone that he’s more than a nobody. It won an Oscar for Best Picture in 1977. It also shot Stallone, himself a nobody at the time, into Hollywood stardom. Mickey Goldmill (played by Burgess Meredith), Rocky’s grizzled manager, is one of my all-time favorite movie characters.

Best quote: “Nobody’s ever gone the distance with Creed, and if I can go that distance, you see, and that bell rings and I’m still standing, I’m gonna know for the first time in my life, see, that I weren’t just another bum from the neighborhood.”

No. 1, “Rudy” — This movie came at the right time in my life. I was eight when “Rudy” was released in the movie theaters and I vividly remember being taken to see the movie with my mom. This film follows the true (with heavy creative liberties taken) story of Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger, a walk-on football player for the University of Notre Dame that eventually gets into a game and makes a play. The story follows Rudy from his rough upbringing in a tough steel mill town. Even with his low grades and lack of athletic ability, he still dreams of attending the school and playing for legendary coach Ara Parseghian. Ruettiger (played by Sean Astin) takes the long way to get to the school — and an even longer way of getting onto the football field for the Fighting Irish — but he accomplishes both against all odds. It was former Irish quarterback Joe Montana, of all people, who broke my heart some years ago in a TV interview when he explained that nobody on the team really stood up for Rudy (Montana played with Ruettiger early in his college career) and that most of the story was bogus. The movie, however, is still my favorite. You can’t watch it and not be filled with some sort of hope that one can achieve anything.

Best quote: “Oh you are so full of crap. You’re 5-foot-nothing. A 100 and nothin. Hardly have a spec of athletic ability and you hung in with the best college football team in the land for two years. And you were also going to walk out of here with a degree from the University of Norte Dame. In this lifetime you don’t have to prove nothing to nobody except yourself, and after what you gone through if you haven’t done that by now, it ain’t gonna never happen.”

 

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