Do You like Interesting Debates? Try Ranking Sports Movies

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), April 20, 2007 | Go to article overview

Do You like Interesting Debates? Try Ranking Sports Movies


Byline: Bob Frisk

Sports fans love to argue.

Sports fans also love lists.

Making them, reading them, defending them.

It's in our DNA.

If you're with friends and the conversation suddenly starts to drag, you can always turn to sports movies.

What's the best ever?

What's the worst ever?

Everybody's got a favorite.

I guarantee you'll get the conversation rolling again.

Although the quality of sports movies has picked up dramatically in recent years, particularly with fact-based football stories, it's still hard for me to erase the painful memories of such classic bombs as "Babe Ruth Story" with William Bendix.

That was my unfortunate debut with sports movies. I saw it when I was 12 years old and thought it was unbelievably corny even for the 1940s.

Arthur Lake as Dagwood Bumstead in the long-running "Blondie" series is called by some movie buffs the greatest casting in Hollywood history.

William Bendix as Babe Ruth may have been the worst casting decision in history. At 12, I looked more like a legitimate baseball player than Bendix of "Life of Riley" radio fame.

The ranking of sports movies has always appealed to me, and I have announced many times in this column that "Hoosiers" is my favorite - by far. Yes, it has all the Hollywood sports movie cliches - redemption, misfits, underdog basketball team, dramatic win at the end.

I still love this movie with a passion and have seen it about 40 times, but that pales in comparison to how many times many others have seen it.

When I wrote about "Hoosiers" in 2004, Doug Abrams, a professor in the School of Law at the University of Missouri, e-mailed to say he has seen the movie more than 100 times and "it gets better each time."

George Steinbrenner, owner of the New York Yankees, also claims he has seen the movie over 100 times.

I get chills every time that final shot goes in at the end with the rousing musical score by Jerry Goldsmith filling the background and appealing to anyone who has a pulse.

Gene Hackman is brilliant as Hickory coach Norman Dale, another great bit of casting. But did you know that Jack Nicholson also had expressed interest in the role of coach Dale?

That Nicholson item is just one of many delightful nuggets you find in an interesting book by Randy Williams -"Sports Cinema - 100 Movies" (Limelight Editions, $24.95).

In addition to presenting a list of his 100 favorite sports movies, Williams offers a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at each selection with not only the story lines but also special moments, production problems and highlights and revealing insights on the actors and actresses before, during and after filming. …

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