It's Friday night and I had a long, rough, exhausting week. So I turned on the television and I watched a movie. It was a movie I'd never seen before, in fact, it was a movie I'd never heard of. I'm a movie addict. There aren't many movies I've never heard of - the movies I don't see, I read reviews of or I at least see the previews.
But what this movie made me realize was how much I love sports movies. I'm a sports fan - I love hockey and football and footie (aka soccer). I'm looking forward to the Olympics. I even, occasionally, catch a tennis match or a baseball game. I like curling - though not too often. I've been to boxing matches and wresting matches and figure skating. I'm pretty much an all round sports fan.
Sports movies often pull two things together. They're funny and they're poignant. They have that perfect hero's journey, from down to up. Sometimes just for one person, sometimes for a whole team. Maybe that's what I love about them.
So here's a tribute to my favorite sports movies. I'll start at the top.
My all time favorite sports movie (though not my all time favorite sport) is Bull Durham. I love that movie from beginning to end. I love the actors. I love the story. I love the writing and the dialogue and the humor. It's a perfect baseball movie though some would say that Field of Dreams is the better baseball movie. Not for me. Bull Durham has it all.
The rest of my top eleven list goes like this - in no particular order:
Footie movies - at least the ones I love - tend not to be about professional soccer but about kids or teenagers. My favorite footie movie is Bend it Like Beckham. I love the courage of the heroine to fight her family and go for what she wants. I love her family. I love her coach. If you haven't seen it, watch. And the other? I know, I know, it's a kid movie but I loved it the first time I saw it and I've loved it every time since - The Big Green. It's fun, it's poignant, the kids are great.
Football movies - The movie that made me think about this post is called Hometown Legend. I'd never seen it before but it's about a small Alabama town and the last season of their high school and thus, their high school football team. It's a darn good movie. But my favorite football movie? The Replacements. It's funny, it's smart, it's a little dig at professional sports, and it has Keanu Reeves and Gene Hackman. Who can complain about that?
The rest of the sports are all mixed up.
I really enjoyed Wimbledon, maybe because I love Paul Bettany. Although A Beautiful Mind is not on my top 100 list, he was terrific in that movie and I've enjoyed his work ever since. Never thought I'd include a tennis movie - but it's fun. It's not a great movie but it's worth watching.
Okay, here's another movie I'd never heard of and watched - just like Hometown Legend - late on a Friday night on the kids' channel. It's a wresting movie called Going to the Mat. It's a terrific movie, good cast, interesting twist (the hero is blind) and, like most movies made for kids, the supporting cast is a hoot.
Who could talk about sports movies without mentioning Chariots of Fire? I don't know that there's another sports movie that won 4 Oscars including best picture and writing - but this one did and it deserved them. The music still gives me a chill when I hear it - and it was composed by Vangelis. Who knew? This is one of those movies that if you didn't see it in 1981 - you should see it now. It's full of heroism of all kinds and not just about sports. It gives you an insight into a different world - Britain in the early 1920s and the 1924 Olympics. Fabulous cast, fabulous story, and be prepared to cry.
There aren't - at least to my mind - a lot of great hockey movies. I'm not sure why that is but one that I really enjoyed was Mystery, Alaska. I am not a fan of Russell Crowe but I really liked him in this movie. I mean, how could you not like this movie? A tiny town in the frozen north challenges an NHL team to an outdoor game and the NHL shows up.
Ice skating (with a little hockey thrown in for good measure) - there are a few ice skating movies but my favorite is The Cutting Edge. It's pretty old but it's fun. An ex-hockey player ends up working with a spoiled rotten figure skater and they make it to the world championships not without a whole lot of fighting and, of course, a romantic subplot. Pretty good skating, too.
I'm going to end with the oddest of sports movies. It's a curling movie. And yes, it's the best curling movie, probably because it's the only curling movie. Curling's more than a bit obscure and so is this movie, but it does star Paul Gross, who is as cute as pie. It has an undertaker, a biker gangster, a NASA astronaut and a curling superstar.
I'm always on the lookout for a good sports movie of any kind so if you have any suggestions - let me know. I'll be out all day Saturday but I'll check back in the late afternoon to see what you've got to say.