With the statewide stay-at-home order in effect because of the coronavirus outbreak, one way for sports fans to get their fill is by watching some of the greatest movies.
The following are my five favorite sports movies to watch and are worth your time, starting with No. 5.
5. “Major League”
With baseball at a standstill now, what’s better than listening to a sports comedy that features the voice of Brewers announcer Bob Uecker? It’s a must-see for any baseball fan.
The 1989 comedy stars Tom Berenger, Charlie Sheen, Wesley Snipes, James Gammon, Rene Russo and Uecker. It’s a fictional story of the Cleveland Indians team that is struggling with financial hardships.
Rachel Phelps (Margaret Whitton) is a former Las Vegas showgirl who inherits the team from her husband who died. She hates Cleveland and wants to relocate the team to Miami. In a contract stipulation, if the team’s attendance dwindles and the team finishes last she can relocate the franchise.
The team’s cast of characters reports to spring training and it includes Lou Brown (Gammon) and star third baseman Roger Dorn (Corben Bernsen), who has a big ego but his skills have faded. Staff ace Eddie Harris (Chelcie Ross) has to rely on doctoring the baseball to be effective because of a weak arm. Cuban-born Pedro Cerrano (Dennis Haysbert) has some unusual voodoo practices, but has massive power and struggles hitting breaking balls.
The film was produced by Chris Chesser and Irby Smith, and written and directed by David S. Ward.
The 1993 biographical film tells the life story of Daniel Ruettiger, who had dreams of playing football at the University of Notre Dame despite many obstacles.
At 5-foot-6, Ruettiger was told he was too small to play college football.
He earned a spot on the scout team at Notre Dame under then Hall of Fame head coach Ara Parseghian, who encouraged students to walk-on.
When Parseghian stepped down after the 1974 season, former Green Bay Packers head coach Dan Devine was named head coach. In his final chance to play in a home game, Ruettiger was put into the game to play defensive end against Georgia Tech on Nov. 8, 1975.
The film stars Sean Astin in the lead role. The film was written by Angelo Pizzo and David Anspaugh, who both worked on “Hoosiers.”
The movie was a Heartland International Film Festival winner in 1994.
The inspirational boxing movie starring Sylvester Stallone that came out in 1976 is renowned as an epic sports film.
It chronicles the life of a small-town boxer who gets a rare opportunity to fight heavyweight champion Apollo Creed. Stallone is a club fighter and debt collector for a loan shark. He is determined to go the distance to earn respect.
The film came out four months before I was born.
The movie is a smash-hit among the great “Wizard of Oz.” It has one of the most renowned soundtracks in film history, ultimately including warm-up songs for many middle school and high school basketball teams. I can still recall going through layup drills or a postgame handshake to the music.
2. “Brian’s Song”
I’m biased as a Chicago Bears fan, but this classic, which debuted as the ABC Movie of the Week in 1971, is an underrated film that even Cheeseheads could embrace and enjoy.
It’s a tear-jerker for any sports fan and family. The film chronicles former Bears running back Brian Piccolo’s battle with cancer after turning pro in 1965. Every time I see the movie, I can’t help but cry even though I know the outcome. Don’t want to spoil it for anyone.
This true story is told through the eyes of Piccolo’s former teammates, including Gale Sayers played by Billy Dee Williams. James Caan does an admirable job portraying Piccolo and the friendship he formed with Sayers. It does an excellent job detailing the personality temperament and racial backgrounds of two former Bears who many thought were unlikely to become close friends. Sayers and Piccolo became the first interracial roommates in the history of the NFL.
The film was directed by Buzz Kulik and won four Emmy Awards – “Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography for Entertainment Programming – For a Special or Feature Length Program Made for Television,” “Outstanding Single Program-Drama or Comedy,” “Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in Drama” (Jack Warden) for playing Bears coach George Halas and “Outstanding Writing Achievement in Drama — Adaptation.”
A story about a small-town Indiana high school basketball team led by a coach, starring Gene Hackman, along with a town drunk and the father of one of the players (Wilber Flatch, played by Dennis Hopper), that makes it to the state championship game.
This 1986 hit is directed by Anspaugh and also stars Barbara Hershey. It was the one go-to movie I would watch every Thanksgiving at my Aunt Marilou and Uncle Les’ house in Elgin, Illinois. I would always get goosebumps and it has some inspiring quotes, including, “Boys, we’re gonna run the picket fence at ‘em...Now, don’t get caught watching the paint dry.”
It was nominated for two Oscars in 1987 – Hopper for “Best Actor in a Supporting Role” and “Best Music, Original Score.” Hopper won the Golden Globe for his role.