That’s What He Said: A night at the movies

As if watching live sports on television isn’t enough, I also like watching sports movies, and it doesn’t even matter what type of sports movie it is.

While I’ve seen my fair share of sports movies, I am ashamed to say that I haven’t seen some classics such as “Rudy,” “Necessary Roughness,” the original “Longest Yard” and “Brian’s Song.”

I swear on my love of sports I will remedy this soon. If it makes you feel better, I’ve seen “The Natural,” “Field of Dreams,” “Bull Durham,” “61,” “Coach Carter” and many, many other great sports films.

I’m not certain I’ve seen a bad sports film. Even “Space Jam” as a kid was enough to get me hyped as Michael Jordan and the Looney Tunes took on the Monstars or Mean Team in an epic, fantasy showdown.

A good sports movie, in my humble opinion, often has climactic action, dramatic, heart-stopping music, unique characters and a lesson learned by the time the credits roll.

Picking my favorite sports films is like trying to pick which of my children I love the most.

Luckily, I don’t have any children.

“Hoosiers”

Starring Gene Hackman, Dennis Hopper and Barbara Hershey, this 1986 classic is loosely based on Milan High School and their unbelievable run to the 1954 Indiana state basketball championship.

Norman Dale, played by Hackman, coaches sharpshooter Jimmy Chitwood and Hickory High all the way to the 1952 championship game against the larger-than-life South Bend High School. Nearly fired in the middle of the season, Dale and company claim the state championship in a dramatic, comeback fashion.

Hopper plays a town drunk and father of one of the players. Shooter, as Norman asks him to be an assistant coach along the way, making the feel-good story a little bit more real as he battles his alcoholism throughout the season.

“We Are Marshall”

It doesn’t matter how many times I watch this movie, I find myself crying all the way through it.

In 1970, one of the worst sports tragedies occurred when a plane carrying 37 of the Marshall University Thundering Herd college football team, five coaches, the athletic director, 25 boosters and a crew of five crashed, killing all on board. Forced to rebuild an entire program from the ground up, Matthew McConaughey plays upstart head coach Jack Lengyel, who undertakes the mission of forging a competitive team in the wake of harrowing tragedy.

I won’t spoil the ending, but if you don’t have a box of tissues sitting next to you by the end of the film, we cannot be friends because you have no soul.

“Jerry Maguire”

Perhaps one of the most quotable movies of all time, “Jerry Maguire” is a thinly-veiled sports movie with a much deeper meaning about finding out who you are and what’s important in life.

Starring Cuba Gooding, Jr., as the electrifying wide receiver Rod Tidwell and Tom Cruise as the title character, Maguire faces a mid-life crisis, and amidst a change of heart goes from the big-time to the broke-but-happy. Striving to work with athletes on a more personal level, the well-to-do sports agent is left only with Tidwell at the end of the movie.

Also starring Renee Zellweger and the endearing child actor Jonathan Lipnicki, the movie is certainly one of my favorites, if not for lines such as “show me the money,” “the human head weighs eight pounds” and “I’m not gonna do what everybody thinks I’m gonna do and flip out.”

“Remember the Titans”

I watched this movie with my entire high school, as the messages of racial unity and teamwork are so prevalent in the film there is no way the message can be missed.

The movie is set in 1971 at the recently desegregated T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Va., where African-American head coach Herman Boone (Washington) is hired to replace the current head coach Bill Yoast (played by Will Patton).

In an effort to ease racial tensions, Boone offers Yoast a position on his staff, but before he can decline, the white players on the team threaten to strike if he doesn’t take the post.

Through hard work, determination, sheer will and one of the most kickass soundtracks available in cinema history, the team overcomes bigotry and hatred to become one of the most storied high school football programs in American history.

“Moneyball”

Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane sets to build a baseball team with a yeoman’s share in a small market budget.

Adapted for the screen by Aaron Sorkin, “Moneyball” is a cinematic take on the book “Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game.” Nominated for seven Academy Awards, including best picture and best actor, Brad Pitt plays the embattled Beane during the famed 2002 Major League Baseball season.

Accompanied by Jonah Hill, who plays a fictitious sabermatrician based on Paul DePodesta, Beane takes a $41 million dollar payroll and builds a team based on high on-base percentage and defense instead of chasing after high-profile athletes and large balloon contracts.

The results are not only astonishing, but one of the reasons baseball has shifted in paradigm and is beginning to follow suit with Beane’s tactics and money-managing skills through mathematical tactics.

Edward Marlowe, Staff writer