I’ve been wanting to write this piece for a while now. I don’t know about you, but I’ve doubled down on my movie favorites anytime they’ve become available the last four months; watching Rocky all the way through to Creed II several times would be my most consistently obsessive example. Same for Ocean’s 11 and 12 and 13.
The last one got me thinking, as I re-watched Al Pacino starring as Willy Bank, the morally bankrupt Vegas hotel mogul in Ocean’s 13. Bank was bad through and through. In pro wrestling, they call guys like Bank "heels." In movies, they’re the villains or bad guys. Any way you label them, here are ten of the worst from popular sports comedy movies.
Before we dive in, here’s some criteria needed to qualify. First, this list is for sports comedies or sports ‘related’ comedy movies. I’m struggling with making a list of bad guys without including the likes of Johnny Lawrence from Karate Kid, but this space today is strictly for sports comedies. Candidates should carry more than a few of these traits; sleaziness, dishonesty, underhandedness, deceitfulness, untrustworthiness, sneakiness, selfishness, smugness, narcissism, arrogance, cowardice, creepiness and a cockroach-like will to survive. A distinctly punchable face only helps make the list too. Without further ado let’s dive into this personality cesspool:
10: Don Johnson as David Simms – Tin Cup
Tin Cup is no Bull Durham in terms of movies, but they got the casting right in this one. Don Johnson is easy to dislike in most everything he’s in and few carry that smug-I-think-I’m-better-than-you smile better than him. His squinty face and smug expression is amongst the most punchable in Hollywood making the ever par-seeking Sims a heel worthy of the list. Best heel traits include: Punchable face, smugness and arrogance.
9: William Zabka as Chas Osborne – Back to School
The Karate Kid is not a comedy as I referenced earlier but I found a way to get the biggest bully of them all, Johnny Lawrence in here through the cowardly, arrogant aura of Chas Osborne. Same actor if you missed the reference. Back to School is one of my all-time favorite movies. I’ll watch anything with Rodney Dangerfield. I even went to the movies to see Lady Bugs (it was a date night decades ago, don’t hold it against me). Most great movies need someone to hate and the smug, detestable rich kid act from pretty boy Chas is more than you need to fill the role. When the tide was high, Chas was an arrogant, mean spirited tool and like a true bully, when the pressure hit he folded, getting a sudden ‘cramp’ during his teams big diving meet. He loses the girl in the end too which is perfect.
8A: Margaret Whitton as Rachel Phelps – Major League
Cold snake. The owner of the lowly Cleveland Indians in Major League is like the ocean water in Maine. Icy. Underhanded? Check. She’s does everything she can to kill the team’s chances from Opening Day right through the end of the season. Deceitful? Yup. Her intentions are never on the up and up from the start. Her big entrance in the clubhouse is epic though and that gives her character some shape and then some. All in though, make no mistake, Phelps is a heel of note.
8B: Honorable Mention, Corbin Bernsen as Roger Dorn – Major League
Redemption. That’s what keeps Corbin Bernsen from earning a fixed spot in the Top 10 but for most of the movie, the aging, pretty boy star Roger Dorn is easy to hate. He embodies everything we regrettably have to swallow in real life with too many professional athletes; cocky, lazy and devoid of grit. After Jake Taylor (Tom Berenger) sets him straight with a great threat, Dorn works his way back to some level of likeability but the heel traits you need to qualify are certainly there. Dorn’s biggest heel traits being arrogance and narcissism of course.
7: Paul D’Amato as Tim McCracken – Slap Shot
How can you leave out Slap Shot? It's right at the top of any movie list be it sports movies, comedies, sports comedies, or movies in general. However, the heels aren’t as glaring or prominent as any of this movie's modern-day counterparts. Even in the hockey movie Youngblood the bad guy is clear; Racki, who damn near kills Derek Sutton (Patrick Swayze) with a cheap shot on the ice. All that said, Tim McCracken gets my vote. He looks the part and has a great rivalry with and hatred for Reggie Dunlop (Paul Newman), whom audiences for 43 years have loved. The banter between the two is classic. Honorable mention goes to the worst referee of all-time, simply named Hanrahan, who’s never seen a call he didn’t miss. Second honorable mention goes to the scariest goon of them all, Ogilthorpe who looks the part the moment he’s announced on the ice.
6: Vic Morrow as Roy Turner – The Bad News Bears
If you played sports as a kid and or have kids in sports, I’m sure you probably know that guy. You know, that guy who’s using Little League baseball as his sole opportunity to make up for all his former athletic failings, embarrassing himself and sadly his kids along the way. The archrival of the lowly yet improving Bears are of course, the Yankees. Team coach Roy Turner is a tightly wound jerk and a little league version of Bobby Knight in the worst way. When his own son rightfully walks off the field in defiance of his dad’s misplaced anger it’s an uncomfortable and powerful moment in a great movie. Turner is most certainly the bad guy here and his moment of pure shame is unforgettable.
5: Jerry Reed as Red Beaulieu – The Waterboy
Henry Winkler was perfect as the timid, defeated, fear-filled, loser Coach Klein in the Waterboy. He was betrayed, bullied and beat down for years by his nemesis Red Beaulieu, head coach of the University of Louisiana. Coach Beaulieu has a great heel trait in that he actually gets worse and worse as the movie goes on. He cheated his way to the top and stuck it in Coach Klein’s face for years. So many characters torture Bobby Boucher (Adam Sandler) during the movie that the misgivings of Coach Beaulieu slide under the radar throughout the story. Like everyone else, he bullied the Waterboy as a kid and then Coach Klein as an adult. When the two misfits joined together to finally beat him it was a glorious two-for-one underdog special. Red Beaulieu was a liar, a cheat and a bully and had that rat like knack for survival. A Top 5 villain for sure.
4: Ted Knight as Judge Smails – Caddyshack
This one actually physically hurts because I love Judge Smails for so many reasons. What a great character. The best part is that Ted Knight was such a perfectly random yet perfectly cast actor for the role. Nobody could have played finishing second best better than Ted Knight and Judge Smails was always second best. Nothing ever went right for the guy. The movie is too funny to hate anybody but Smails is the heel for sure and the sheer awesomeness of the movie, the character and Knight himself awards him undisputed top five entry. I view this more like an honor or a salute for Judge Smails. There’s never been another character like him. The heel qualities outside of arrogance and deceitfulness aren’t as strong as the others but come on man, Judge Smails has to be here.
Now it gets tough…
3: Bill Murray as “The Big Ern” Ernie McCracken – King Pin
The Big Ern checks all the boxes and he’s hilariously obnoxious. If it wasn’t Bill Murray, I’m sure there would be little beyond hatred for McCracken, then again the character wouldn’t have been as good if it wasn’t Murray playing him. Conniving, underhanded, deceitful and untrustworthy just scratch the surface. McCracken revels in the hell he has put and will happily continue to put Roy Munson (Woody Harrelson) through. As you watch it you really get the feeling McCracken enjoys the torturous pain he puts him through. Thankfully it’s a comedy albeit of the darker variety and laughs are aplenty. McCracken is a near-perfect heel. The only thing keeping him out of the top spot is the smarmy nature of the next two fiends
2: Christopher McDonald as Shooter McGavin – Happy Gilmore
He was my instinctive number one but after a couple of conversations, I had to slot him here, a razor-close second. Shooter McGavin is the lowest of low. As a heel, he like Ernie McCracken has it all. Nobody is smugger. Nobody is more arrogant. Nobody is more phony, deceitful, underhanded or desperate as Shooter. He stole the yellow jacket! Bought Grandma’s house and had Happy Gilmore run over by a car! It’s a constant series of villainy. He’s like a villain in the old Batman series and maybe has the most punchable face of all. He’s a heel at every turn and in every way.
However, there is someone just a little creepier.
1: Ben Stiller as White Goodman – Dodgeball
Creepiness takes the cake. When it comes to being a creep White Goodman stands alone. I put the heavyweight heel battle royal between Shooter McGavin and White Goodman to the ultimate test. I consulted men and women alike and 100 percent chose Ben Stiller’s White Goodman. The consistent thread was his creepiness. Tough to disagree. Goodman was a snake. A liar. A rat. He had a punchable face. He has all the traits needed to qualify in any bad guy list, but what puts Goodman over the top is what a total creep he is. My wife cringed merely at the thought of him. Good enough for me.