We asked our sports team* to talk about their favourite sports movies. This is what they said.
There is something inherently uplifting about underdog sports tales – you root for the protagonist to
overcome the gaping odds and vanquish the glory. But Moneyball is not your average underdog story – not least because here the underdog doesn’t actually win in the traditional sense.
Michael Lewis’ 2003 book Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game on which the 2011 movie is based, has revolutionised sports and how franchise managers approach squad building. Boston Red Sox in 2004 and Leicester City in 2017 – at the two extremes of the hierarchy of their respective leagues – demonstrated the success of incorporating sabermetrics in scouting.
The Oakland Athletics’ Billy Beane – still at the A’s – statistically innovative approach to baseball has helped his side punch above its weights, but without actually ever winning a championship. But what his counterstrategy – and its film depiction – has given, to a sports world where money’s involvement is exponentially rising, is a blueprint for underdogs to at the very least make the tilt less inclined in favour of the biggest fish.
K K Shahid,
It is never too late to follow your dreams, and this is what ‘The Rookie’ is all about. A true story based on American baseball player Jim Morrison-a family drama- sports movie gives the same message. Performed by Dennis Quaid. The Rookie is a story of courage, and having the strength to follow your dreams, no matter what your age. Morrison, who could not made it out of minor league before a shoulder injury 12 years ago, is now a married-with children-high school-teacher and high school baseball coach who finds out that he has still got it in him to throw the ball at 98 mph. After a deal with his team, he gives a trial for major league and gets selected and eventually plays for AAA team Durham Bulls, where he had a short but famous career from 1999-2000. A beautiful, simple movie with true sports message, the game is never over, until you want it to be.
Some people may argue that Muhammad Ali’s biopic didn’t have enough to match his stature, but Will Smith’s performance in the film was hypnotically amazing. The movie covered a number of aspects of Ali’s life, including his ruthless training routine, ‘float like a butterfly, sting like a bee’ fighting style and the refusal to serve in the US army to fight in the Vietnam War. One of the greatest boxers of all time was also known to belittle his opponents before a fight by trash talking about them, a prominent characteristic that was well-mimicked by Smith.
Will Smith’s hard-work, Mann’s adaptation and Muhammad Ali’s legendary life makes ‘Ali’ a must-watch for sports movie lovers.
If you’re looking for some serious sports symbolism, then you don’t need to go beyond the scrappy, down on his luck, underdog, Italian boxer from Philly taking hit after hit from Apollo Creed and getting back up every time.
There’s a reason that Rocky is, and alway will be, the greatest sports film to ever appear on the silver screen. Just look at all the boxes it ticks. Soulful working class hero? Check. Surprisingly sensitive emotional drama? Check. A girl-next-door romance? Check. Academy Award? Triple check.
And then there’s Rocky Balboa himself, with his eternal puppy-dog eyes, and abashed movements, delivering some folksy, seemingly-simple but actually profound immigrant wisdom, in his annoyingly charming mumble, that sometimes lands harder than his southpaw hook.
There’s something very relatable about this soft hearted puncher, but when Stallone wrote the Oscar nominated screenplay for Rocky, he did much more than create an iconic role for himself. He managed to craft the archetypal sports fiction tropes, including Mickey, the father figure coach with a mean streak, Apollo Creed, the enemy with a heart, and the awesome ending where the hero gets the girl even if he loses the title.
Long before the franchise expanded and Rocky became a became a dolt-sy, cold war era, jingoistic cornerstone, the movie symbolised a profound, gritty working class story. And through a sport as violent as boxing, it somehow managed to bring out the qualities of love, camaraderie and respect. And no matter how cheesy, it made for an epic sports film.
Any given Sunday
Though Moneyball is a close second, my favourite sports film is Any Given Sunday.
I don’t follow American football and don’t even know any of the rules, but with the power that all good fiction has, it raises universal themes that even Pakistani cricket fans could identify with. It shows changing times and how the old ways of doing things have to give way to the new. It also shows how this transition isn’t neat, because the merits of the newer ways aside, they also have some ill-thought-out bravado. And alongside the frustrating intransigence of the older ways, there is also some enduring wisdom.
I think locker room speeches, a trope of sports films, are cheesy, but if they are to be attempted, Pacino’s “Inches” speech is the way to go.
Furthermore, I think director Oliver Stone filmed the play itself really well. Statistically, American football is a really dangerous sport. Dangerous enough for the rules to be given a serious rethink, more dangerous for the brain than rugby or even boxing. So, the confusing all-at-onceness, the sheer physical danger and the beauty of contact sports has been filmed by Stone really well.
Umar Aziz Khan,
*not sports team, sifarshi entry