What sports movie deserved an Oscar most?

by Gary Shelton on February 29, 2016 · 7 comments

in general, NFL

Monday, 6 a.m.

I love sports movies. Even the ones that bend the facts.

It happens. People are so committed to bringing a great tale the big screen that they fudge  the story. You'd think that Chariots of Fire, the Blind Side, 61, Rudy and, especially, Cool Runnings would be enough fun all by themselves. But with every one of them, you are left to guess how much is truth and how much is padding.

But, overall, I'm a sucker for sports movies. I like the portrayal of the crusty coach, the brashness of the kid quarterback, the moxy of the underdog Little Leaguer.

I don't know the first sports movie I saw. Fear Strikes Out, maybe. The original Paper Lion? It Happens Every Spring? That's My Boy? Pride of the Yankees?

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It hit me early. There are so many sports movies. Silly ones like Tin Cup. Absurd ones like Cool Runnings. Inspiring ones like Bagger Vance. Inspirational ones like Rudy. Overrated ones like Chariots of Fire. Dumb ones like Victory. Overstated ones like Invincible.

Oh, but most of the sports movies tell a pretty good tale. That's why they followed cowboy movies and spy movies and came before comic book movies and space movies. Most of the drama is built into a sports movie. All the writers have to do is capture it.

So, with Sunday night's Academy Awards in mind, here goes.

The Sports Oscars (and I don't mean Madison):

Best Real-Life Story:

1. Seabiscuit.
2. Chariots of Fire.
3. Eight Men Out.
4. Miracle.
5. When We Were Kings.

And the winner is: When We Were Kings. A fascinating viewpoint of Ali and George Foreman, not by actors portraying them. Here's the way to judge. If all five films are on different stations tonight, which do you watch? Me? I watch this, and I tape Eight Men Out.

Best job as a coach:

1. Denzel Washington, Remember the Titans.
2. Ed Harris, Radio.
3. Tom Berringer, the Junction Boys.
4. Kurt Russell, Miracle.
5. Billy Bob Thornton, Friday Night Lights.

And the winner is: Miracle. Russell played the real-life Herb Brooks to his plaid-clad perfection. Washington was good, also. Al Pacino (Any Given Sunday) didn't quite make the cut, possibly because I kept seeing the Godfather calling plays.

Best Boxing Movie

1. Rocky.
2. Raging Bull.
3. Cinderella Man.
4. Million-Dollar Baby.
5. Somebody Up There Likes Me.

And the winner is: Raging Bull. Yeah, I'm a sucker for the Rocky movies, even though the series has gone about three movies too long. I loved Drago and Clubber Lang. I love Adrian. But, no, the series doesn't have a chance when it's up against Raging Bull and Robert DeNiro.

Best Nerd Kids Win It All Movies.

1. Bad News Bears.
2. Mighty Ducks.
3. Little Giants.
4. Mean Green.
5. The Benchwarmers.

And the winner is: The Bad News Bears. During my time on the radio, Justin Pawlowski and I used to argue about this every day. I'm a Bad News Bears guy through and through. He liked the Mighty Ducks. But the Bears were first, and they had better actors. I'm a Bear guy.

Best Baseball Movie

1. Bull Durham.
2. The Natural.
3. League of Their Own.
4. Bang the Drum Slowly
5. Eight Men Out.

And the winner is: Bull Durham. For some reason, baseball is the most literate of sports. Perhaps it moves at the same speed as movies, but there are more good baseball movies than in any other sport. I'm not crazy about the Natural, which changed the book's ending, but it was better than Major League.

When I was young, I spent a couple of years covering minor league baseball, and I was stunned at how true that Bull Durham was despite the humor. I love Bang the Drum Slowly, and I've always been a nut about the old Black Sox scandal. But because I lived through minor league baseball, I have to go with Crash Davis and the bunch.

Best Football Movie

1. Rudy.
2. Brian's Song.
3. The Longest Yard.
4. The Blind Side.
5. Horse Feathers.

And the winner is: No contest. Give me the original Longest Yard, and I'm happy. (None of that Adam Sandler hokum, who has never for a second made me think he's an athlete). Of course, Horse Feathers is going to keep you happy. Also worth mention is We Are Marshall.

Best Hockey Movie

1. Miracle.
2. Mystery, Alaska.
3. Slap Shot.
4. The Mighty Ducks.
5. The Deadliest Season.

And the winner is: How can you beat Slap Shot, the movie where Paul Newman (who I also interviewed) was threatened with relocating to St. Petersburg? I say that loving Mystery, Alaska, partially because I once interviewed Burt Reynolds on the set.

Best Basketball Movie:

1. Hoosiers
2. Blue Chips
3. He Got Game.
4. Glory Road.
5. Above the Rim.

And the winner is: Hoosiers. No contest. Hoosiers is one of the finest movies ever, even though the number of players on Gene Hackman's bench keeps changing. Terrific. Special points to Blue Chips, where the NCAA investigator interviewed the Bobby Knight-type coach in a press conference. Huh?

Best Classic

1. Pride of the Yankees.
2. It Happens Every Spring.
3. Someone Up There Likes Me.
4. Fear Strikes Out.
5. Damn Yankees.

And the winner is: It Happens Every Spring. For years, my friends told me about this movie, but growing up in a house without a TV, I never could see it. Finally, I did. Great stuff.

Best Actress

1. Geena Davis, A League of Their Own.
2. Renee Zelwegger, Jerry McGuire.
3. Hillary Swank, Million-Dollar Baby.
4. Michelle Rodriguez, Girlfight.
5. Lori Petty, A League of Their Own.

And the winner is: Geena Davis. She convinced me that she was a pretty darned good athlete in a comedy vehicle. Wonder if she could play for the Rays?

Best Actor

1. Robert DeNiro, Raging Bull.
2. Burt Reynolds, Mystery, Alaska.
3. Gene Hackman, Hoosiers.
4. Kevin Coster, Bull Durham.
5. Paul Newman, Slap Shot.

And the winner is: DeNiro. The only question that there should be about DeNiro is why he wasn't also nominated for Bang the Drum Slowly. A magnificent portrayal of the late Jake LaMotta, flaws and all.

Best picture

1. Hoosiers.
2. Bang the Drum Slowly.
3. Raging Bull.
4. Bull Durham.
5. Eight Men Out.

And the winner is: Raging Bull. They're all fine movies, but DeNiro carried Raging Bull, but it wasn't just his movie. It can be painful to watch the film, but that's because the performances are so powerful.

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Lisa Brown March 2, 2016 at 4:36 pm

Loved all of these. What about Sand Lot? Is that considered a sports movie? Kids, baseball, life lessons everyone can relate to….Great flick! 🙂


Gary Shelton March 2, 2016 at 10:45 pm

A lot of people loved Sand Lot. I saw it a long time ago. I may have to rematch it.


Howard Powders February 29, 2016 at 9:18 pm

My favorite was Field of Dreams with Kevin Costner and a wonderful late in life appearance by Burt Lancaster.


Barry McDowell February 29, 2016 at 5:31 pm

North Dallas Forty opened some eyes and its relevant today too.


Cecil DeBald February 29, 2016 at 7:46 am

I haven’t seen a third of all these movies, probably shouldn’t quibble, but my favorite coach is Tom Hanks in A League of Their Own…I was in Rockford as a lad just as the league and the Rockford Peaches were folding, saw them play once, 1953.



Gary Shelton February 29, 2016 at 8:37 am

Hanks was terrific. Wasn’t he based on Jimmie Foxx?


Cecil DeBald February 29, 2016 at 2:36 pm

I’ve heard the role was a combination of Foxx and Hack Wilson, but don’t know that for sure. I’ve made a list of your movies, and will endeavor to locate them and watch them as I can. Thanks!



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