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Saturday, February 3, 2018

February 3-4, 2018: Crowd-sourced Sports MovieStudying

[Each of the last six years, I’ve used the Super Bowl week to AmericanStudy some sports histories and stories. This year I decided to focus on sports movies and what they can tell us about American culture and identity. This crowd-sourced post is drawn from the responses and nominations of fellow Sports MovieStudiers—add yours in comments, please!]
First, I wanted to share this great AAIHS column on Jackie Robinson by my friend Matthew Teutsch.
Matthew also replies to the week’s series, Tweeting, “I’m not sure about movies and stories, but I do have some good books. For films, I would say 42 and possibly the Robinson film from the 1950s. Book wise, I’m reading Lou Moore’s I Fight for a Living, and it’s a great companion to thoughts about writers like Dunbar, Chesnutt, Du Bois, and others at the turn of the twentieth century. It’s about boxing from about 1880-1915.”
Paul Coleman follows up Monday’s post, writing, “Bad News Bears (the original) is one of the great American movies of all time. Rich and enjoyable character dramedy, but also has a lot to say about legacy, honor, class, and the role competition plays in American society.” He adds, “MONEYBALL [BEN: SPOILERS for the film’s end in that clip, but I love it too much not to share it] is also a truly great movie, and just as rich thematically.”
Beth Locke Cunningham follows up Tuesday’s post, writing, “Rudy never fails to lift my spirits.”
Francesca Lewis follows up Thursday’s post, writing, “Silver Linings Playbook! Extra relevant with the Eagles playing.”
Rob Gosselin writes, “If you want to watch an interesting science fiction metaphor for football try the original Rollerball. Every year the similarities to the NFL just get better and better. One of the lines from the movie has an executive saying that all executives secretly wish to be Rollerballers. Just last week Robert Kraft made the statement that throughout his whole career he dreamed about being a football player. And when the fans start chanting ‘Brady,’ all I hear now is ‘Jonathan.’”
Andrew McGregor Tweets, “I'm a big fan of Running Brave, about Billy Mills. I still enjoy the classic Chariots of Fire, too.”
Andrea Grenadier writes, “It’s amazing to me how few Millennials I talk to about film have never heard of or seen Chariots of Fire. A beautiful film from 1981, it captured a place and time remarkably well, and with the Olympics coming up, a reminder of what we’ve lost in the amateur sporting world and how much the Olympics meant years ago. And let me add the movie about my high school football team, Remember the Titans, should have been a lot better!”
Michael Wood Tweets, “The Program and Blue Chips as early-‘90s critiques of college football and basketball.”
Matthew Teutsch responds, “Totally forgot about The Program. Never saw Blue Chips. For a TV show, Ballers is pretty good. Over the top at points, but it addresses CTE, concussions, and post-career.” He adds, “You have other shows like The Simpsons and The Boondocks too. These use comedy though, but could still spark conversation. From Boondocks season 2 ‘Ballin.’”
Larry Rosenwald writes, “American movies, right, so I can't name Chariots of Fire, my favorite sports movie of all? [BEN: All movies and topics are very welcome in this space as ever!] In that case: The Natural, Hoosiers, Eight Men Out, and Breaking Away.”
Lara Scwartz also goes with Eight Men Out.
Philip Opere likewise goes with Hoosiers and The Natural, as well as Rocky and Bull Durham.
Jonathan Silverman shares, “My favorite sports movie is Slap Shot, and I'm not even a hockey fan. It's really funny and well acted. I think the best sports movie is probably Rocky, simply because Rocky loses at the end of a movie that is taut and thoughtful, save for maybe the initial seduction scene.” Jeff Renye agrees with Rocky, adding “Perfect weekend for it.”
Other sports film nominations:
Karen Valeri highlights Field of Dreams and Miracle.
AnneMarie Donahue highlights one of the newest sports films, I, Tonya.
Andrew DaSilva notes that “this about sums it up.” He adds, “Oh and The Big Lebowski cause BOWLING is a sport!”
Daniel Hein highlights “Moneyball, Raging Bull, Cinderella Man, The Wrestler (if you consider wrestling a sport), Seabiscuit, 42.”

Olivia Lucier goes with Cinderella Man as well.
Daniel Ellis shares the trailer for Heleno, which he notes is for “adults only but an amazing film nevertheless.”
Wyatt Phillips highlights Victory.
Matt Desiderio nominates When We Were Kings.
Cynthia Lynn Lyerly highlights He Got Game.

Emily Page nominates A League of Their Own, since "There's no crying in baseball!" 

Amanda Parsons highlights 61*.
Thomas Murray shares the Negro Leagues documentary Only the Ball Was White, and “also Bang the Drum Slowly with DeNiro and Babe with Alex Karras and Susan Clarke about the multi-sport female sports pioneer Babe Zaharias.
Ezekial Healy writes, “A little out of the box, but I've been thinking about The Running Man a lot in this current regime. It combines the themes of authoritarian regime, gladiator/sports, and Arnold Schwarzenegger! But to me, the deep idea is that in the future (basically now, at this point), the ruling party will be a brand (they sell cola and other products) and derive its power explicitly from maintaining dominance in TV ratings.
And Nancy Caronia writes, “Gah, really? A favorite? Slap Shot, Rocky, Creed, Bull Durham, Raging Bull, The Karate Kid (original)...need I go on?” And Nancy adds, “If we want to get broad here, Jaws, for the thrill of the hunt!”
Next series starts Monday,
PS. What do you think? Other sports movies you’d highlight?


  1. PPS. Tim McCaffrey writes, "For stories, 'Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu' by John Updike is worth a read. Also the Ken Burns *Baseball* series is excellent. Watching Buck O’Neil tell stories is glorious."

  2. Oooh, I know I already gave you A League of Their Own: but 3 more: Cutting Edge, Leatherheads, and Ali. And Man on Wire isn't technically about a "sport," but it takes serious athletic ability to walk on wires like that. Plus, it's just plain fascinating.