It is with this thought in mind I rise in rebuttal, with tongue in cheek, to a column written and published Thursday by my young “whipper-snapper” co-worker.
In offering her opinion of the “best sports movies out there,” Saralyn Norkus’ “absolute favorite” Top 10 included just one movie made before she was born in 1988 (the year I attended my 10-year reunion at Bradley Central).
Any Top 10 list compiled by a single person will be slanted toward their particular tastes (i.e. six hockey movies and an Adam Sandler flick in the dozen films on her Top 10 list, not to mention equating “Space Jam” with “Rocky” in her honorable mention category). In the spirit of fairness, she admits there are a number of the “older” films she has not seen.
Just to review, Saralyn’s list went in this order: “Slap Shot,” “A League of Their Own,” “Remember the Titans,” “Goon” (a 2011 hockey movie starring the actor who played Stifler in the American Pie movies), “The Blind Side,” “Miracle,” “The Mighty Ducks” trilogy, “Cool Runnings,” “The Waterboy” and “Angels in the Outfield” (Disney’s 1992 version, not the 1951 original).
Let me first say, I do not take umbrage with “Remember the Titans,” “Miracle,” “A League of Their Own” and “Slap Shot” (yes it’s a hockey movie, but it starred Paul Newman before his salad dressing days). Some or many of them would be on a lot of people’s lists.
“Cool Runnings” is a great real-life story, but in my opinion, not an all-time great film (it had John Candy and Doug E. Doug in it). The other half of my colleague’s list left me scratching my long white beard.
There are many things to consider when compiling and narrowing down any list to the 10 best. As far as “Best Sports Movies,” one has to take into consideration subject matter (real or fiction), quality of the acting and the movie, plus the lasting impression it leaves with the viewer.
In checking an Internet list, which had many rankings I did not agree with, I quickly narrowed my short list to 31 films, 25 of which I’ve seen, four I have not but included due to other critical acclaim, another because I liked the subject matter (Roberto Clemente) and the final one because my great-nephew Gentry Bell and friend Will Moore were extras in the cast of “42.”
I first had to disqualify from my list those which I have not seen — “Chariots of Fire” “Miracle,” “Moneyball,” “Coach Carter,” “42” and “Chasing 3000” (not “Mr. 3000” starring the late comedian Bernie Mack, which I unfortunately did see).
“Chariots of Fire,” which was nominated for seven Academy Awards and won four, including Best Picture in 1981, and “Miracle” are two that would easily be at or near the top of anybody’s list who has seen them.
That left me with 14 based, at least loosely, on real life people or teams, plus 11 “fictional” films. I’ve always been much more interested in real life than “make believe,” so I’ll give you my Top 10 “real life” favorites and my Top 5 “made up” ones. (Yes I’m cheating, but it’s my column and I couldn’t make up my mind where to fit the fiction ones into the overall list.)
Due to space and deadline constraints, I only list my first five films in this column and hold my Top 5 until my next column, giving readers time to compile their own lists to see which writer’s rankings they come closer to agreeing with.
Cannon’s Top 10
(based on true stories)
No. 10 — “Rudy”
I admire the determination of Rudy’s struggle to be on the Notre Dame team (plus he has the same name as one of my all-time favorite teachers).
Daniel Eugene "Rudy" Ruettiger grows up in Joliet, Ill., dreaming of playing football at Notre Dame. Though he is achieving some success with his local high school team, he lacks the grades and money necessary to attend Notre Dame, as well as the talent and physical stature to play football for a major intercollegiate program.
After taking a job at a local steel mill like his father Daniel Sr., who is also a Notre Dame fan, he prepares to settle down, but when his best friend Pete is killed in an explosion at the mill, Rudy decides to follow his dream.
The movie shows his indomitable spirit and resolve to do everything he can to be a part of the Fighting Irish.
No. 9 — “A League of Their Own”
I liked the idea behind the All-American Girls’ Professional Baseball League trying to keep the sport going during a time when many Major Leaguers were overseas defending our country in a time of war.
In 2012, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".
Having Madonna and Rosie O’Donnell in the cast was thankfully overshadowed by the performances of Tom Hanks and Geena Davis.
The movie also provided one of the greatest sports lines ever: “There’s no crying in baseball” or in making Top 10 lists (I added that last part).
No. 8 — “The Blind Side”
Great film (nominated for Best Picture) and story, with a family opening their home and lives to someone who needed love and guidance.
Only problem I had with it was how could such a great “volunteer” story involving a Tennessee high school player turn down an offer to play for Phil Fulmer. Kathy Bates fixed that with her lie about dead bodies buried under Neyland Stadium.
No. 7 — “Raging Bull”
The 1980 Martin Scorsese blockbuster was nominated for eight Academy Awards, winning two, including Best Actor for Robert De Niro in the lead role of Jake LaMotta.
LaMotta was an Italian American middleweight boxer during the 1940s and 50s, whose self-destructive and obsessive rage, sexual jealousy and animalistic appetite destroyed his relationship with his wife and family.
Going 14-0-1 in his first 15 fights before losing a highly controversial decision, LaMotta finished his career with a 93-9-4 record.
LaMotta fought former Welterweight Champion Sugar Ray Robinson in Robinson's middleweight debut at Madison Square Garden in New York. LaMotta knocked Robinson down in the first round of the fight, but Robinson got up and took control over much of the fight, winning via unanimous decision.
A rematch took place months later in Detroit. The eighth round was historic. LaMotta landed a right to Robinson's head and a left to his body, sending him through the ropes.
Robinson was saved by the bell at the count of nine. LaMotta, who was already leading on the scorecards before knocking Robinson out of the ring, pummeled and outpointed him for the rest of the fight, winning via unanimous decision, giving Robinson the first defeat of his career.
No. 6 — “Hoosiers”
Inspired by the story of the 1954 Milan High School basketball team that won the 1954 Indiana state championship, “Hoosiers” has been listed in many publications as the best sports movie ever filmed, including claiming the No. 1 spot in a USA Today poll. It was also listed 13th on the American Film Institutes “100 Years... 100 Cheers” list of most inspirational films.
It not only had the second chance stories of a couple of coaches, but also the David vs. Goliath conflict of the small school team battling much larger schools in the one classification system.
Besides you can’t go wrong with Gene Hackman and Dennis Hopper as your stars.
Joe Cannon is the Assistant Sports editor for the Cleveland Daily Banner and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org