With everyone suddenly having plenty of time to spend in the house, we asked the 94WIP staff to recommend their favorite sports movie.
My weekend radio partner Glen Macnow was the one who suggested a book on sports movies. I wish I could take the credit, but I can't. It was his idea and like most of Glen's ideas, it was a good one.
I know, it overstayed its welcome. Rocky IV was ridiculous and Rocky V was abysmal (aside from Stan Hochman's brilliant cameo) but the original film was wonderful, a worthy choice for the Oscar as best picture. Sports movies have worked and re-worked the underdog theme for years but no one did it better than Sylvester Stallone in his tale of a blue-collar pug who wants to show the world (and the women he loves) he ain't just another bum from the neighborhood.
The first time I saw the film I was in Augusta, Ga., covering the Masters. It was so weird to watch a movie that was so Philadelphia in a theater far from home surrounded by people who had never seen the Italian Market or the Art Museum steps. But when Rocky and Apollo were slugging it out in Round 15, they were on their feet cheering. So was I.
Just to be clear: This is the original, not the Adam Sandler remake. Burt Reynolds is in peak form as Paul Crewe, the former NFL star who drives his girl friend's Maserati into a lake and winds up in a Florida prison. Crewe is an abusive, selfish lout with no sense of decency but when he quarterbacks a team of fellow cons in a game against the prison guards (with Ray Nitschke at middle linebacker) we're cheering him on.
Reynolds played football at Florida State and he flashes some of his old moves in the big game. Director Robert Aldrich, who told a similar convicts-as-heroes tale in The Dirty Dozen, does a superb job bringing the story to life. Look for the NFL players (Mike Henry, Joe Kapp, Ernie Wheelwright, Nitschke) in supporting roles.
A splendid piece of work by filmmaker Leon Gast capturing every aspect of The Rumble in the Jungle, Muhammad Ali's stunning upset of George Foreman in Zaire. It is clear in the film that even those in Ali's inner circle felt the 32-year-old former champion would lose to Foreman. Yet Ali shocks the world by introducing us to the Rope-a-Dope as the crowd chants his name.
The film earned the top prize at the Sundance Film Festival and won the Oscar for Best Documentary. It took Gast 22 years to edit his 300,000 feet of film down to his 90-minute masterpiece but it was well worth it.
I could have gone with Caddyshack (you can never go wrong with Bill Murray and Rodney Dangerfield) but I have to give the edge to Slapshot, a nutty and absolutely hilarious send up of minor league hockey shot on location in Johnstown, Pa. Paul Newman, one of the great actors of his generation, said he never had more fun than he did playing Reggie Dunlop, the has-been player coach of the Charlestown Chiefs.
The movie came out during the Broad Street Bullies days so it has special meaning to the hockey fans of Philadelphia. The most amazing thing about the film is it was written by a woman, Nancy Dowd, who later won an Oscar for writing the script for the Jane Fonda-Jon Voight film "Coming Home." Her brother, a hockey player, has a cameo as Oglethorpe, a hockey goon.
This film came and went in a hurry which is too bad because it is worth seeing, especially if you are a baseball fan. It is the story of a talented teenager from the Dominican Republic who is signed to a professional baseball contract and comes to America to pursue his dreams. It is a fine study of the challenge these young players face, moving to a strange place -- he is sent to Iowa where he lives with a white family -- where they can't speak the language and don't understand the culture.
Example: The first English words Miguel "Sugar" Santos learns are "French toast" so that's what he orders for every meal. It makes the point that it is a hard climb for all these Latin players who aspire to be the next Juan Marichael or Robby Cano.
Here are five underrated sports that show heroes overcoming adversity. Added plus -- they're all good movies to watch with kids (at least older kids), and I imagine your children are probably going crazy about now:
I read all of those books, so maybe I like them more. Seabiscuit my all-time favorite book. I always enjoy the line in the beginning of The Blind Side. The monologue with Sandra Bullock — “As every housewife knows, the first check you make is to the mortgage company, the second check is to the insurance company (referring to the left tackle)”. I’m not exactly sure why I like Moneyball except for the fact that his daughter sings a song by Lenka. My son used to make me sing it for him. I can’t sing at all so that always makes me laugh.