Sports Movies Snubbed: Fixing Wrongs At The Oscars

Ever since 1906 when the first feature-length, multi-reel film was released to the public, moviegoers have been rating films. ‘That was a good flick,’ from one person could easily be ‘Ugh, that was terrible,’ from another. Everyone’s a critic.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences decided to give itself the biggest voice in memorializing movies in 1929. Since then, trophies, nicknamed Oscars, have been handed to myriad movies, both fantastic and questionable. But one genre has been oft-overlooked.

Sports movies have gotten little love from the Academy.

We’re here to fix that.

Eighty nine Oscars have been awarded for Best Picture and only three have been movies about sports or with a sports theme. Rocky (1976) took home the first Best Picture Oscar for the sports genre, followed by Chariots of Fire (1981) fives later and then Million Dollar Baby (2004) after a 23-year gap.

Sure, 13 other sports movies have been nominated for Best Picture, and scads more have been up for, and won, other Oscars like Best Cinematography or Best Actor or Actress. But only three wins in the biggest movie category of them all feels as hinky as an Olympic figure skating event filled with French judges.

On Sunday, Feb. 26, The Academy will have another chance to hand out a Best Picture award to a sports movie. While not directly engrossed with baseball, sports is a theme in Fences, which follows the protagonist, Troy Maxson, as he battles with missing Major League Baseball’s integration while dealing with his son, who desires a football career.

Whether “Fences” becomes the fourth Best Picture in the sports genre or not, we’re going to retro actively hand out some hardware. With apologies to the Academy, we here at 92-9 The Game are going to fix some of the wrongs in regard to sports movies being overlooked.

We have a few sports movies that should – and from this point forward will be known to – have won as Oscar for Best Picture.

Before we get started… I feel like I need to share a little bit about the discussions around the station regarding this project. After providing a list of 80-90 options, I asked everyone to rank their top 10 sports movies of all time. The reaction, and participation, was incredible. I received 22 responses from producers, the bosses, myself and especially the show hosts you listen to on a daily basis.

Some observations:

  • We all love sports movies, but getting everyone at 92-9 The Game to agree on which flick was best is more difficult than finding a reasonable way to explain Sacramento’s side of the Boogie Cousin’s deal.
  • Of the 22 responses, the leading vote-getter at No. 1 only had four votes. That’s how spread out the idea of “Favorite Sports Movie” is.
  • I caught more hell for leaving movies off the list than I expected. Forgive me John Michaels for giving you 80-plus options and forgetting to include Varsity Blues. Although, I am a bit embarrassed for doing so. Ali Larter’s whipped cream bikini was worth the price of admission and played zero part in the fun football action wrapped inside.
  • There were multiple heated arguments in our bullpen – and on our air – involving what constituted a sports movie. Of course Hoosiers is a basketball movie and Major League is a baseball movie, those were easy. But were Trouble With The Curve and Bull Durham baseball movies or love stories? Folks had trouble including The Big Lebowski as a sports movie, too. Come on, if there’s sports in the movie more than just a smidge, it’s a sports movie. [And yes, I lump Die Hard in as a Christmas movie.]
  • I knew there were a lot of baseball movies. But I was surprised to find that boxing came in as an unofficial second in genre to how many movies were made about the sport. And no, it’s not just because there were 139 Rocky movies.

On to the 92-9 The Game awards…

Because it was listed as No. 1 on four different lists at the station (the most No. 1 votes of all), our first Best Picture Oscar goes to Remember the Titans.

John Michaels, Mark Owens, Beau Morgan and Brian Gebhardt all had this Denzel Washington classic as their favorite. It was also listed in the top 10 of over half the other respondents.

A little explanation is needed before handing out our second Best Picture award. Everyone’s had a favorite team that was well on its way to a championship, only to run up against a buzz saw opponent; an adversary so good its excellence eventually became known as classic.

There have been a number of sports movies that were nominated for Best Picture, but didn’t win because of stiff competition.

  • The Hustler ran up against West Side Story in 1961
  • Heaven Can Wait came up against The Deer Hunter in 1978
  • Raging BullOrdinary People in 1980
  • Field of DreamsDriving Miss Daisy in 1989
  • Jerry MaguireThe English Patient in 1996
  • SeabiscuitLord of the Rings: The Return of the King in 2003
  • The Blind SideThe Hurt Locker in 2009
  • The FighterThe King’s Speech in 2010

I mean, wow. Everyone knows West Side Story. It was nominated for 11 Academy Awards and won 10. What was The Hustler to do? Sure it won two awards (Best Cinematography and Art Direction) and was nominated for seven others, but had the Sharks and Jets not been in the way, “Fast Eddie” Felson might have fared better.

When the world was hobbit crazy in the early 2000s, poor Seabiscuit didn’t stand a chance, although it was nominated for seven awards (winning none).

Morgan Freeman and Jessica Tandy upended the chances for Field of Dreams to win its Best Picture Oscar. Driving Miss Daisy was nominated nine times and won four Academy Awards.

Robert Redford (who should be shamed for wrecking it for Raging Bull considering his sports movie The Natural was a classic) debuted as a director with the movie Ordinary People. It won four Oscars and was nominated for six.

Robert Di Nero, however, was amazing in Raging Bull, and the movie was nominated for eight Academy Awards. It won two (Best Actor (Di Nero) and Best Film Editing) and then grew on people so much that this Martin Scorsese classic is often lumped in on lists like “Best Movies of All Time.”

“Raging Bull” gets our second Academy Award here at the station.

With our final Best Picture award, we’re going to change direction a bit.

With the three sports movies that have earned actual Academy Awards and now the two we’re given out here at 92-9 The Game, one thing seems to be missing. Where’s the comedy?

One of the biggest dividing lines among us here at the station was the idea of a sports movie having to land on one side of the comedic theme or the other: Does a favorite sports movie have to be heroic or involve masterful storytelling, or can it just make us laugh?

According to the movie that earned the second-most votes, we can embrace the knuckle head side of sports movies too. Two people (yes, after four voted for Remember the Titans and two for this classic, that means 16 other movies got only one vote. That’s how spread out we were here at the station.

Because Rick Kamla and Paul Bible – along with almost 40 percent of our other voters listing it in their top 10 – had Caddyshack on top of their lists, this 1980 golf film gets our final Oscar. With names like Harold Ramis, Chevy Chase, Rodney Dangerfield, Ted Knight and Bill Murray attached to the project, do you really want to argue?

We’re not done, however. Let’s have some fun.

While everyone loves awards like Best Picture, Actor in a Leading Role, Actress in a Supporting Role and others, there are some that are just flat-out boring or don’t line up with us as fans of sports movies.

Since we’re handing out Best Picture awards to more sports movies, let’s create a couple of new awards,

Most Likeable Villain – Ernie McCracken, Kingpin

It’s near impossible to make a sports movie without an adversary, a foe… the villain. But we don’t always have to dislike this villain, do we? In the realm of sports movies, we say no.

  • White Goodman, Dodgeball (Ben Stiller) – Not only did Goodman have an incredible way with words (“Nobody makes me bleed my own blood… nobody” might be one of my all-time favorites) but the ineptitude with which he navigated his obstacles made it tough to take him seriously.
  • While Dennis Leary’s character Bill might have been seen as a foe, or even the Little League punks, the biggest obstacle the guys from The Sandlot had to face was “The Beast,” a giant English Mastiff that made sure baseballs hit over his fence were never retrieved. “The Beast” made an awesome likeable villain.
  • But the winner has to be Ernie McCraken from Kingpin. Bill Murray played this role perfectly, with equal parts diabolic villain and role model. I mean, who doesn’t want to sponsor a family in every major bowling metropolis?

Most Quotable Sports Movie — Jerry Maguire

Everyone loves to quote movie lines. And with apologies to the Stars Wars movies, Casablanca and Dirty Harry, to name a few, sports movies are chock full of the best quotes.

It was very tough to pick a winner in this category. Over many discussions it became important that there be more than one awesome quote. If not, “There’s no crying in baseball” would have been the easy pick. But that quote was the only truly memorable one from A League of Their Own. There must be multiple quotes and they must cross over genres.

“If you build it, he will come” from Field of Dreams is another classic. But that one quote wasn’t enough to pull the movie onto our list of nominees.

The Rocky Movies – I couldn’t have a category of great quotes and not list Rocky, “Yo, Adrian” is one of the best. But to get multiple quotes, to add “I must break you” or “If he dies, he dies” I had to include Rocky IV as well.

The Karate Kid almost got the nod here. “Wax on, wax off” might be one of the more memorable movie quotes ever. And “Sweep the leg” was every bit cinematic gold as Daniel-san’s crane kick to win the 1989 All Valley Under-18 Karate Championship.

But when it came to crossing over genres and pushing out movie quotes galore, nothing stands in the way of Jerry Maquire. “Show me the money” from Tom Cruise’s character was great. And Renee Zellweger got into the act with “You complete me” and “You had me at hello.” But let’s not forget a young Jonathan Lipnicki as he offered comedic relief too.

Because I’ve learned no one will completely agree with us here, I’m leaving some ideas for open debate. If you’d like to tell us how we’re wrong here, or answer any of the questions below, Twitter and Facebook are great ways to interact with 92-9 The Game. Follow us and let us know what you think.

Why don’t you tell us who the most viscous villain was in sports movie history? How about the best music or soundtrack to a sports movie? What do you think is the most realistic, or unrealistic, sports movie?

We’re waiting to hear from you…

While you think, take a listen to our sports movie-themed Barbershop Bickerfest on The Midday Show with Rick and John:

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