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Sports films – have we been had?!

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(Writer’s note – I have wasted far too much time sourcing YouTube and other clips for this posting – for the love of all that isn’t Angelina Jolie, I beg of you to click on at least one of them so it all hasn’t been in vain!

Also, the Melbourne Cup posting has caused a fair bit of dialogue. It’s 4 to 1 against ‘the race that stops a nation’ at the moment, but both sides seem equally passionate.)


Last night, I watched ‘The Blind Side‘, Sandra Bullock’s Academy Award winning coming of age, narrowly edging Speed 1 in my humble opinion….

I texted a mate during it and he quickly came back with an in-jest reply of, ‘Blind Side is a sports film. You must avert your eyes!’

Being towards the end of the film, I say confidently that ‘Blind Side’ is certainly not a sports film; it’s a love story, but in a different mould from your usual/terrible stereotypes – insert Ashton Kutcher film here – in that it’s more of a family love story that makes less people cringe than the usual suspects.


Moneyball is out in Australia next week. Knowing part of the back-story (no, no media bans shall be broken here) re the success of the Oakland A’s as a small market baseball team in a league without a salary cap (fare thee well, Boston Red Sox), I am excited to see it. The inclusion, though, of Brad Pitt has me as wary as the next NBA player to hook up with Kim Kardashian. (Thank you, thank you; I’m here til Tuesday, try the veal.)

What if it’s about Pitt trying to reclaim a lost love and his commitment to the team shows ‘Hot Woman A’ what a changed man he is? What if this is about Jonah Hill (mandatory Superbad clip) seeking acceptance in a world of … well, in a world of Brad Pitt’s? What if, simply, we are once again stooged into paying our hard earned only to be disappointed…

This has gotten me to thinking about the ‘sports films’ that don’t end up being quite what we imagined. Of course, the great film-makers are the one’s who can achieve this in a shroud of secrecy, so it’s 10 years later when it ends up on the Arena channel, wedged between Driving Miss Daisy and Thelma and Louise before we realise that we’ve been had.

And then there are the hits that you never saw coming; the rewatchable epics that transcend drama, romance or sport.


This is by no means a comprehensive list, just a few of the greats at either end of the continuum that caught my eye. Also, for the point of this post, I couldn’t claim ‘Gladiator’ as a sports film, as much as I wanted to! No docos either, meaning Beyond the Mat, Senna, Wrestling with Shadows etc + anything from the ‘30 for 30’ ESPN series is left on the sidelines.

The misses

The Legend Of Bagger Vance – for the love of Jason Bourne, what happened, here?! Okay, it revolved around golf, and Will Smith played a cross between an angel and a creepy recluse; I think we have our answer. Was Charlize Theron even in this film?? I say no…

Rocky 5 – There is no link, it never happened.

Invictus – Maybe this is demonstrating that I’m too into Matt Damon – I do admit that my most disappointing moment of the entire 2010 was the news that he’s not doing any more Bourne films! The story here was strong enough, but the game footage was not. I mean, it’s rugby, so they’re starting behind the 8 ball, but watching Damon watching the ref in the hope that he’d blow the whistle to end the game as 20 blokes sniffed each other where my dog is forbidden to do so doesn’t exactly make for a compelling finish.

Plus the lack of development of Jonah Lomu’s character – the player of that World Cup, shows that sport was not at the forefront here.

Jerry Maguire – I’ll say this right away. This is a great film! Loved it. Love it. Will watch it again. But … he’s a sports agent, there are 982 cameos from great US sports stars, he had his epiphany after one of the football players under his ‘care’ suffered his umpteenth concussion, but …  ‘You had me at hello’??! – this is not a sports film, peoples!


The Great Divider

Any Given Sunday – There are as many people that loved this film that hated it, to the same extreme. I sit somewhere in the middle, but anytime you get a great Pacino monologue, you can walk away happy.


We didn’t take ourselves too seriously and it worked

Happy Gilmore – Need I say more?!

Dodgeball – With respect to Jason Bateman, not Stiller…

Cool Runnings – Utterly rewatchable, clean, endearing, inspiring…


The Hits

The Wrestler – Not a Mickey Rourke fan. Just putting it out there. In this film, he is a-maz-ing; Golden Globe Award, robbed by pc-ness and Sean Penn at the Oscars. Wrestling cultivates a cult following, admittedly from a fan base with an average IQ under 80. This film did it justice, and then some. Springsteen also added his gold.

Remember the Titans – Denzel just 12 months before his Training Day best. A compelling story featuring a relatively unknown ensemble that still managed to pull it together to make one of the more inspiring films of my time. I don’t know why my wife is into gridiron movies, I just tag along and enjoy the ride.

Ali – The greatest, with our biggest dollar-for-dollar star, Will Smith, earning a best actor nomination at the Oscars for his portrayal. A not-too-shabby cast, either, of Jamie Foxx, Jon Voight, Ron Silver, + the mandatory Mrs Smith inclusion.

It goes without saying

Hoosiers Remember Gene Hackman?

Cinderella Man Crowe at his pre-phone-throwing best…

Field of Dreams Kevin Costner pre the Waterworld disaster.

Rocky – I, II, III (Mr T, ba-by!), or IV – I say 4, but Thunderlips in 3 – come on!!

And that’s that. Pitt, Hill, do not let me down on this one!

No doubt I’ve missed many, those that you love or hate. Feel free to add your own!


About petek8

Pete Evans has just finished going 12 months without watching any sport. The journey stemmed from a sense that the balance was out-of-whack with my time and my priorities. Everything seemed to revolve around creating enough time and space to fit in the last game, games, recap shows or space to surf the net for the latest numbers and analysis. The cycle never ends - one season leads into another, seasons overlap if you follow various sports and the media's insatiable appetite for a new 'story' means that even the greatest of achievements aren't heralded for more than 3 days. So I stepped away from the machine for awhile and intentionally engaging with the journey by writing about it.

4 responses »

  1. Without Limits. If you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favour. If you don’t go for a run afterwards you are fair dinkum kidding yourself. Go and find it.

  2. I liked The Legend of Bagger Vance. But you’re right, it’s not much of a sport film – it’s more like a romance story between director Robert Redford and mother nature.

    I have always felt that the fundamental problem with fictional and/or Hollywood sports films is that I just don’t care about the narrative. Why stage a sporting scenario? It’s fine to have sport as a backdrop if there are other things happening (as per your point about ‘Jerry Maguire’ E). Sport in itself carries its own narratives, triumphs and tragedies. I don’t need to see a carbon copy in fictional form. That’s why I’m all about the sporting documentary. The BBC series on the Three Empires of Cricket, 125 years of Wimbledon, Senna, Zidane – A 21st Century Portrait. They all have twists and turns that the greatest scriptwriter couldn’t manufacture.

    They say sport is the great metaphor for life – then leave the cinematic reconstruction out of it and go straight to the source!

  3. You missed the greatest of all…yes ‘Blue Chips’ with Shaq and Nick Nolte.
    My Top 5
    5. Rocky 3
    4. Hoosiers
    3. Rocky 2
    2. Any Given Sunday
    1. Remember the Titans
    Now to pick up on Catters very valid points, the ESPN 30 for 30 series will have you entranced, some great great human stories.
    Check out the following:
    ‘the best that never was”
    “winning time”
    “four days in October”
    “no bias”
    “the house of steimbrenner”
    “the trial of Allen iverson”
    Just to name a few. Just awesome docos.

  4. You might be ok with Moneyball. Its directed by Bennett Miller who also did Capote and Moneyball stars Phillip Seymour Hoffman which lends itself to being much better for this fact alone. If you have not seen ‘Charlie Wilsons War’ then see it if only for his performance, great film historically too as its based around how the US gave birth to the Taliban via supplied weaponarry.

    ‘The Westler’, a great film but also not a sports film. Like movies, wrestling is scripted.

    I agree with Matt and Catters, the doco form is fantastic. A script is not needed as real life, to quote Catters, has twists and turns that the greatest scriptwriter couldn’t manufacture.

    See ’24 Solo’. It started out as a year long Doco on the American 24 Hour Solo Mountain Bike Champion Chris Eatough. He had won 6 straight 24 Hour World Solo Championships going into the 2006 event. What happens at the event is unbelievable as as they were makingt he doco that year its all on film. I won’t say more but see it, it is unreal.


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