First off, to say I’m thrilled that the area will be hosting the PGA Tour’s BMW Championship in August 2021 at Caves Valley is an understatement. Not having a regular tour stop in the area has been awful, so I’m very pleased that for at least one year we will see the best of the PGA Tour. You know what would be even better? A regular LPGA tour stop in the area, or even a Champions Tour slot. As you were.
So I had this movie-themed piece in my head slated to go because I thought the Oscars would be in late February, but for some reason they were earlier. Rather than put some half-ass effort into it, I decided to wait, and put something out that would be up to the kind of quality you’ve come to expect.
Mention sports movies and immediately people think of the tried and true. I suppose that they’re okay, but as with most things, I find that by digging deeper you find better. You find complexity, storytelling, and everything we love about movies. No particular order here. Just nine sports movies you may have not seen that you should consider watching:
- Fever Pitch (1997). Take the 2005 baseball-themed remake starring Jimmy Fallon and light it on fire. The original “should” be on any soccer fan’s ‘must watch’ especially if you’re newish. Taken from Nick Hornby’s excellent book (with some significant departures), it details Colin Firth’s character as a schoolteacher by day/obsessed fan of Arsenal in during the 1988-89 season, which includes mentions about the Hillsborough disaster. Great soundtrack. Other films have done pieces about obsessed fans but they’re much darker. This one is almost comedic. Good enough to make you forget that they tried to make another version that was baseball centric.
- North Dallas Forty (1979). Taken from Peter Gent’s excellent novel (but with one super-major part of the book deleted). Nick Nolte plays a broken-down wide receiver on the mythical North Dallas Bulls. First sports film to highlight rampant drug use (recreational and prescription), alcohol abuse, etc. Not kid friendly. The game scenes are at best not good, but it was the first film to show you how the sausage was made. So many films owe a debt of gratitude to North Dallas Forty.
- The Damned United (2009). Michael Sheen plays football manager Brian Clough; the film jumps around but centres around his 40+ day stint replacing Don Revie as Leeds United manager. Sheen is nothing short of amazing as Clough as is Colm Meaney as Don Revie. A great look at life in the 1970’s. Game scenes are pretty good despite a couple minor errors. Sheen looks, sounds and walks like Clough. As good as Kurt Russell did playing Herb Brooks in Miracle, Sheen’s role of Clough is better.
- Dead Solid Perfect (1989). Someone at Golf Channel/Comcast should acquire the rights to this. It’s largely a mystery film at this point. Taken from Dan Jenkins’ novel, it does a better job of storytelling than the other golf films. Some of the production work isn’t great but it’s about 1000 miles better than a lot of golf movies. Actually it’s the best. Randy Quaid is outstanding, which isn’t something I would ever think I’d write.
- Goon (2012). As someone who loves hockey, I admit that most hockey movies don’t do it for me. Slap Shot’s hockey scenes are terrible and the sequels are beyond terrible. I’d rather eat sand than watch the Mighty Ducks films (again-the hockey scenes are terrible). Miracle was underwhelming despite having access to the actual game footage/audio. Goon is…good. Two scenes in particular; the bus scene after a loss hit a nerve, and the coffee shop scene (though a dead lift from the beyond outstanding ‘Heat’) was well done. The on-ice scenes are good and the drinking/drug subculture was dealt with sufficiently well.
- The Final Winter (2007). Was introduced to this film third-hand; rugby league film that deals with then-professional team Newtown Jets and how the lead character deals with his club (and the game) changing on him. Anyone who’s felt that the changes in the game of their preferred sport will appreciate it. Beautifully shot. Any fan of a team that has been close to folding/moving will relate.
- Raging Bull (1980). Sorry, Rocky. This film (perfectly shot in black & white) is everything sports films aspire to. DeNiro is outstanding.
- Personal Best (1982). Deals with a track and field star (played by Muriel Hemmingway) dealing with a raft of issues as she tries to make the 1980 US Olympic team (that would end up boycotting the Moscow Olympics). Again- not a family friendly film in any possible way (there is a ton of nudity and sexual content), but it tells stories that were previously not discussed. Really shows the psyche of an elite athlete. Bonus content for using Charley Jones during the Olympic Trials scenes. The voice will be familiar to older viewers.
- Bang The Drum Slowly (1973). Adapted from Mark Harris’ novel from the 1950’s. Baseball scenes aren’t the best, but it’s terrific storytelling that is authentic and doesn’t feel contrived.
Honorable mention: The Natural (1984), The Rocket (2005), The Wrestler (2008), Any Given Sunday (1999).