Welcome to the Second Inaugural Showdown of Sports Movies!
As faithful readers will surely remember, last year my girlfriend Carrie and I set out to watch a bunch of sports movies to coincide with March Madness. The idea was at once simple and, because we are kind of dorky, needlessly complicated. We each chose four favorite sports movies, polled friends for recommendations of films neither of us had seen, and created a seeded bracket. We then watched all of them and discussed their merits and flaws in respective pairings.
On the plus side, this was a very fun endeavor — we were introduced to The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, Shaolin Soccer, and eventual winner Lagaan, among others.
Unfortunately, it also took months. It’s simply a time-consuming thing for two people with different schedules to view and discuss 16 movies of varying accessibility. In retrospect, we felt that the time it took to accomplish the whole thing was incommensurate with the seriousness of the project.
This year, we cut it in half, each choosing only two films and incorporating four more from our sports movie enthusiast peers. One additional wrinkle: both of our individual choices needed to be first-watches for the other person. This, we hoped, would add some novelty, and we wouldn’t just be duplicating last year’s hijinks.
So! Below, we present our 2017 Sports Movie Bracket, along with a brief explanation of our two choices. As you can see, the definition of the “sports movie” is pretty robust, incorporating documentaries, rom-coms, comedies, dramas, and whatever Speed Racer is.
Stay tuned for exciting developments as we work our way through the match-ups!
When We Were Kings was a pivotal movie for me. Along with reading Joyce Carol Oates’ On Boxing, foisted on me by a friend, it was one of the first times I could see boxing as a legitimate cultural event rife with existential undertones, and not just two idiots trying to kill each other as spectacle. (Though it is that, too.) There’s a lot going on in this film, and not just in the ring — the representation itself is somewhat fraught and questionable, and the showdown involves a lot more than a simple fight. As a documentary film, it’s gripping and vital.
Whip It, on the other hand, is just fun as hell, full of solid performances and visceral moments, and I never felt like it got it a fair shake. Plus, roller derby is badass.
My favorite sports movies that:
- Weren’t in my bracket lasts year, and
- That Rick Kelley hasn’t seen.
The Cutting Edge (which barely missed the ‘cut’ [ha] last year for my sports movies picks) met this year’s more ‘stringent’ qualifications. I picked The Cutting Edge because it is part rom-com and part sports movie, replete with 80’s fade-outs and slow-mo’s, 80’s hairdoes, the unlikely duo, and a team persevering despite all odds against them. And ohhhhh……… that Pamchenko twist.
But for the other, I was left with a pretty limited set of either childhood movie favorites like the made-for-tv movie Stone Fox or movies showcasing crazy cliff heights. I picked Valley Uprising because I loved the beautiful images, the generations of history of Yosemite climbing, watching the evolution of what people believe is possible, and because it would terrify Rick.