Now I recognize our sans sport plight has now reached epic proportions, but there is NO NEED TO PANIC!
Just kidding, there is every reason to panic. No, we are without sports, and between reruns of Schitts Creek, I’ve been running through my favorite sports movies of all time as well as a few of the not-necessarily sports movies that still give me the games I’m looking for. Alas, I’ve gotten to the point where last night I dreamed about the Mighty Ducks taking on Iceland in a rematch decades later (D2 was obviously the better film in the franchise).
In fact, D2, in my opinion, has to be one of the best sports films of all time. It has everything - the romance, the intrigue, the caricatures of pre-Olympiad youths - everything. The best part of D2 is that it brings in, by nature of its context, all the best of the original Mighty Ducks and adds the knuckle puck.
So did I mention that I was panicking? I’m watching 20+ year old movies just to get a little bit of hockey action. Which naturally begs the question: What movies are literally so good that they can help us to forget the fact we don’t have actual, live, in real life sports right now? Additionally, we need to find those singular scenes from films - even those movies which aren’t even about sports - which offer the best action and which take us, if only for a moment, back to the football field or to the hardcourt or the ice or the diamond or whatever venue you so desire.
The answers lie on Netflix, Disney+, Hulu and on VHS tapes gathering dust in our parents’ basements. And I’ve perused all but the latter.
My dad would say the Wild Thing scene in Major League is one for the books. Others might point to the Annexation of Puerto Rico from Little Giants. And my work wife would say Rudy (No, I’ve never seen it. How good can a movie about Notre Dame football be? But quarantine seems like a good time to give it a shot).
Then there’s what, in my opinion, is the greatest sports movie of all time and one which I’ve mentioned several times in my column in recent weeks. Obviously, it’s Space Jam.
I recently learned that the film earned only a 43% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and the Wikipedia article about the movie stated that younger viewers would enjoy it, while adults were more likely to be annoyed than entertained. Phooey, I say. The big game, while unrealistic in terms of both the alternating one-sidedness of the scoring and the total lack of fouls called on either side, still offers the ultimate conclusion of Michael Jordan literally flying to the rim. For those of us who are old enough to remember watching Jordan actually play in the NBA, this scene showed exactly what we dreamed about - he was so good that his talent didn’t seem real. Maybe just a little Looney.
Then there’s Remember the Titans. All around, it’s a great film, but the championship game, go figure, was just so realistic and anxiety-inducing in the way real football games are for me. I remember feeling like Sheryl Yost the first time I watched the movie, barely able to peek through my hands to see if Rev managed the fake 23 blast with backside George reverse successfully.
And of course there are all the games from the first two Mighty Ducks films (we’re not getting into the third for obvious reasons). Even the Ducks’ opener, when the squad was still known as District Five, still gets me with the team’s total ineptitude. Then there’s the egg passing (how the terms “soft hands” and “concentration, not strength” made it into my lexicon) and Goldberg being tied to the net while having dozens of shots hit directly at him, followed of course by the immediate and perhaps undue improvement of the squad which landed the Ducks in the playoffs and ultimately the championship against the Hawks where Conway scored the winning goal on a penalty shot.
And that was just the first film.
However, the aforementioned flicks are already sports movies, so you’d have to expect that the sports scenes are going to be good. But what about non-sports movies? Some of those scenes certainly have their merits and can help to fill the void.
My husband would likely point to Forrest Gump, when Forrest goes to Alabama and we got the “But he sure is fast,” line from Bear Bryant as portrayed by Sonny Shroyer. With the obvious exception of the fact the scene was about ‘Bama, it’s a great scene from a great movie.
My friends from Air Force days might point to the beach volleyball scene from Top Gun. I’ll admit that I haven’t watched the movie since before I joined the Air Force because, despite the fact Top Gun is about the Navy, the amount of times I heard it quoted among my now pilot friends kind of ruined it for me. However, a battle at the net between Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer never goes out of style.
One movie moment that’s particularly heart wrenching for me right now is the scene from Ferris Bueller’s Day off at the Cubs game. As I’ve mentioned before, I live in Chicago, and happen to live in Wrigleyville about four blocks from Wrigley Field. Now’s supposed to be the time when throngs of happy people swarm our neighborhood and bring a spirit of life and enthusiasm. But alas, it’s not to be this spring. Welp, guess I’ll have to fall back on my old Browns mantra that “there’s always next year.”
We also have the chance to see sports that don’t exist in our world - like quidditch, “The greatest game there is,” according to Ron Weasley. And that’s about it. But I bet if a researcher wired my brain to see my reaction reading about or watching a quidditch match, it would look similar to what happens when I watch a football game. Or maybe I’m just really invested in making sure Harry doesn’t fall off his broom.
Finally, these media highlight the great sports we play every day - like the touch football scene in Wedding Crashers, or the basketball episode in season one of The Office. They bring to life the feelings and experiences we all have when playing sports with others - from the guy who’s way too aggressive during a friendly game of backyard football to the guy on the court who grossly overestimates his basketball prowess. These moments make me long for those times when I could go play pickup basketball with friends or touch football in the park or tennis or kickball or softball. But they’re good reminders that, just as the scene is fleeting on the screen, this too shall pass.
Bye for now.