I’m not a sports fan. I will occasionally attend a minor league baseball game or a football game at my son’s school. I enjoy playing tennis and softball with my son, and I’ve taken part in a pick-up games of softball or volleyball over the years. It’s extremely rare for me to watch sports on TV, aside from some Olympics coverage. I hardly ever know which teams will be competing in the Superbowl each year, even if I’m invited to a Superbowl party. I go for the food and the company. With this level of disinterest, is it surprising I like sports movies?
First, a small disclaimer. I’m sure I’ve left out some great sports movies in this list of my favorites. I encourage you to help me rectify this by naming yours in the comments at the end of this blog entry. These are by no means my favorite kinds of movies, but they are some I’ll watch over and over again when I discover them while channel surfing. For me, a great story is a great story, even if it’s interrupted by some sportsball here and there. In choosing a few to recommend, I’ve selected those I’ve seen multiple times or will often recollect with a smile. None of these is new or hard to find. If you have Comedy Central, you’ll find them by accident.
The Waterboy is probably my favorite of Adam Sandler’s sports-themed movies. It’s not a football preference that makes this my favorite so much as an excellent supporting cast. (Though I loved Carl Weathers in Happy Gilmore.) Kathy Bates is brilliant as Bobby’s overprotective mother. Henry Winkler’s character experiences a parallel underdog story that rivals Sandler’s Bobby. Even Fairuza Balk’s Vicky Vallencourt seemed inspired compared to other roles she’s played, though also derivative of them. Combined, the cast are a complimentary ensemble that work wonders to elevate the movie beyond Sandler’s overused “anger issues” character trope. That’s some high-quality sports-comedy movie making.
Goon: Last of the Enforcers was a movie I found on Netflix that may be the role Sean William Scott was destined to play even more than American Pie’s Stiffler. It combines a comically naive protagonist, a genuinely funny, wise-cracking sidekick (Jay Baruchel, of How to Train Your Dragon fame), and all the feelz of a classic underdog story. Add the always excellent Liev Schreiber as the likable antagonist, and you have a hat-trick combination. The sequel wasn’t as amusing, but it still scored some goals with me for the excellent returning cast. It might also set some records for the most violent sports movie I’ve ever seen, and that includes Rollerball and The Blood of Heroes.
My favorite of those mentioned here is the easily undisputed champion, Major League. I watch at least half of it every time I find it playing on TV. The cast is outstanding, the characters unforgettable, and the comic writing a home run. Tom Berenger is a charming leading man in the role of Jake Taylor. The supporting cast is just as memorable: Charlie Sheen before he had tiger blood, Wesley Snipes before he had vampire blood and tax problems, and Dennis Haysbert before he became President Palmer and the Allstate insurance spokesman. As someone who can’t stay awake through most baseball games, I cannot say enough good things about the humor and heart of this baseball movie.
Maybe the reasons I like sports movies better than sports are because I know which team to support, and they usually win inside of three hours. I love the larger-than-life characters that I would probably find ridiculous in real life. (I certainly feel that way about the real lives of some of the actors I’ve mentioned from these movies.) Unlike real sports, I can confidently have a conversation with someone about these movies without fear of an uncomfortable lull or coming off like a complete idiot. Also a plus.
I guess instead of a Superbowl party, I should attend a sports-comedy movie party. We won’t have to worry about a disappointing half time show or a repeat of Deflategate. We can all root for the same team because we know who will win, so there won’t be any gloating or hard feelings afterward. The real enemy won’t be our team’s rivals. It will be our bathroom scales after we eat our weights in chicken wings and seven-layer dip. Who’s with me?