Ok people, if you know me at all, you know that my 2 biggest entertainment passions are Sports, and Movies. You would think that a natural euphoria would ooze all over me at the thought of seeing a sports movie, or, when a movie decides to include some sport. Well, you’re wrong. And here’s why. You see, typically, and if you think back to your school days, you’ll know this to be true, but typically, the jocks aren’t interested in the arts, and the artsy folks aren’t interested in sports. As a result, the kings and queens of the artsy folks, make their living in Hollywood, and this much we know for sure, Hollywood doesn’t know a flying flip about sports.
It’s quite amazing really.
Now, I know a lot of you reading this are not sports fans either, and this diatribe isn’t a knock against the non sports fan, so don’t go running off. In fact, this is something that should bother you too, especially if you’re a fan of people getting paid to do a job, and do it well.
I’ve come up with a list of 10 things that Hollywood consistently does wrong when in comes to sports in movies, and as you’ll see, it’s not always the sport that they screw up, it’s the art, which ironically, is what they should know best.
*****WARNING……THIS WILL TAKE YOU LONGER THAN 5 MINUTES TO READ***********
So here we go, starting with #10.
Playing Sports out of season.
Look, I understand that sometimes when you’re shooting a movie, you just have to shoot it whenever you can shoot it. But guess what, Blind Side, don’t try to tell me this is a November day in Memphis, when all the flowers are in bloom, and the grass in the lawn and on the field is shockingly vibrant green. Do you think if Steven Spielberg is shooting a movie set in a meadow around Thanksgiving, he’d try to let the green grass slip past us? Um, no. This is only allowed in Sports Movies, because, the only people who would care are the sports nerds, and of course, we’re too dumb to notice.
Incorrect equipment or playing fields/courts.
Imagine if you will, the movie TITANIC. remember the detail? Remember how the cars that were being loaded on there, and the clothes the people were wearing, seemed to fall in line with the time the Titanic itself was still afloat? They didn’t sneak a 1964 Buick Skylark on the Titanic. Why? Well, because that’s just dumb, we’re supposed to believe the movie was set in 1912. But come on, I mean, how important is that really? You know how hard it is to come up with wardrobes or vehicles from that era?? Are you taking notes Remember the Titans? How about you Forrest Gump? Those are just two examples of very good movies, movies that not only made my Top 100, but cracked the top 20. But yet, in Remember the Titans, a movie that is set in the early 1970’s, we’re supposed to be ok with the players wearing helmets and face masks that didn’t exist until the mid 80’s. Or in Forrest Gump, when he’s playing ping pong by himself in the gymnasium, sometime immediately following the Vietnam War, we’re supposed to believe he’s in the only gym in the world that has the college 3 point line already on the floor? The college 3 point line that didn’t come into existence until 1987? I’m not ok with this. Are you telling me in a movie that digitally places Tom Hanks at the White House with Lyndon Johnson, shaking the President’s hand, in a movie that puts Tom Hanks on the Dick Cavett Show with John Lennon, they can’t digitally erase a 3 point line off of a basketball court? The answer is, yes they can, but why bother? Because the only people who would care are sports nerds, but we’re too dumb to notice.
Unathletic actors portraying professional athletes.
Ok, do you watch Sportscenter? Ever? Do you see that to be an elite athlete, somebody who is at the top of their field, these guys have to be in PEAK physical condition? But yet, EVERY single sports movie has those guys. The ones that look like they could be professional bowlers, but yet, we’re supposed to believe they have trained their whole life for this sport. Now, this is one area that is not limited to sports movies. I mean come on, you telling me that every person who works in the Miami Crime Lab could be on the cover of magazines? But you know what’s funny, most professional athletes COULD be on the cover of magazines, but yet, we’re led to believe that John C. Reilly is your typical Major League Baseball Player because the only people who would care are sports nerds, and we’re too dumb to notice.
Continuity errors between shots.
Let’s pretend there was a movie called Up in the Air. Let’s say that in this movie, George Clooney is on an airplane. We see Mr. Clooney gazing out the window to the landscape below, cut to the shot of the stewardess bringing Mr. Clooney a drink, cut back to Mr. Clooney, who is now sitting in the middle seat, between two old ladies. He takes the drink and says thank you, we see a close up of the young stewardess giving Mr. Clooney a wink. As she walks away, the camera now shows Mr. Clooney, in the aisle seat, give her a smile as she walks away. That would be pretty dumb wouldn’t it? In fact, if that were to happen, I’m pretty sure the director would never work in Hollywood again. The shot was clear that Mr. Clooney had a window seat, then a middle seat, then an aisle seat, all in one shot. But yet, in sports movie after sports movie, we see things EXACTLY like this EVERY time. Football movies are the WORST. Blind Side, Waterboy, Any Given Sunday, The Program, Remember the Titans, Leatherheads, ALL of them have this sequence:
TEAM A is in need of a winning touchdown, we see shots of an excited crowd in the stadium, we see the coach barking in the winning play. WIDE SHOT we see that TEAM A needs about 30-40 yards to get the winning score. We see the hero quarterback calling the play in the huddle, they break and go to the line. CLOSE UP of quarterback, calling out the play. Play starts, we get a quick montage of every aspect of the play, until the heroic play is completed and TEAM A gets the victory.
That’s really not that hard to shoot. It really, truly isn’t. All you have to do is run the same play, FROM THE SAME SPOT ON THE FIELD, the same way, for every angle. But yet, it never fails, the closeup of the quarterback calling the play, is typically from the wrong part of the field. A lot of times, you even see the goal posts from the other endzone, right behind him, even though, it’s supposed to be 60-70 yards away. But, we’re expected to just live with it, because the only people who would care are sports nerds, and we’re too dumb to notice.
Winning and Losing deciding the future of prospects.
Ok, to be honest, this one isn’t abused all that much in film. I think it was somewhat mentioned in Can’t Buy Me Love, but that’s not what most would call a sports movie. In fact, this one is kind of out of place, because it’s not so much a sports movie faux pas as it is just somethin that annoys the heck outta me. I saw it once on an episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, and come to find out, they stole the idea from an episode of Joanie Loves Chachi, for crying out loud. Look, college coaches don’t scour the country looking for only the players who play the best game in the state championship. If you are good enough to score 25 points a game in high school, and happen to come up short in your championship game, pretty sure the college isn’t going to say, “Sorry bud, Jo Jo over there on the winning team scored more points, he’s getting our last scholarship. That’s just a poor concept, most likely written by a screenwriter who doesn’t know a basketball from a jellybean, but yet, they still let them get by with it, because the only people who would care are sports nerds, and we’re too dumb to notice.
The proverbial fat out of shape slob lineman and/or catcher.
Every movie profiling little league or high school sports has one. You’ve seen him. The big fat kid they put a catcher’s mitt on, or throw on to the offensive line. This is somewhat like the earlier topic, but that one was strictly about portraying professionals. This is about the every day, down on the schoolyard, playground sports, where they always feel the fat kid has to play. This just doesn’t happen in real life. I’m sorry, I’m not trying to be mean, but they are called “athletics” for a reason. You don’t see kids that are 200 lbs overweight playing kids sports in real life, you just don’t. So, while it’s cute and comical that the big ol’ boy can sing “Ain’t no Mountain High Enough”, he more than likely would not be playing high school football. And that’s the other thing, they try to throw you off the scent a little bit with comedy. Ever notice that? The less athletic the player is, the more funny lines they give him, because the only people who would care are sports nerds, and we’re too dumb to notice.
Practicing on the same field as the cheerleaders.
Oh man this drives me nuts. I’ve played sports my whole life, all through school, and I can quite honestly say, coaches STRUGGLE to keep the attention of their players, in any sport, especially in high school. The VERY last thing a football coach needs, is the cheerleading squad within eyeshot of his team practicing. Oh sure, in movies, it’s cute for Kerri Green to wave hello to Corey Haim(RIP) and Charlie Sheen in Lucas. Her in her cheerleading get up, and them casually getting a drink of water. But seriously? I mean, are we even remotely trying to be real here? How come we never see footage of the debate team going over their arguments while the glee club is nearby doing their Do-Re-Mi’s? Hmmm….maybe because that would be RIDICULOUS! But hey, let’s plant the football team on the practice field, with their 18 players, while the Cheer squad is down behind the endzone building pyramids and rehearsing ridiculous cheers because the only people who care are sports nerds, and we’re too dumb to notice.
Play by Play announcers that are heard over the PA.
I have been to one or two sporting events in my time, and not once, NOT ONCE, have I heard the play by play being done over the PA System. Sure, it’s funny to hear, Rob Schneider telling us all about the “Fighting Armadillos” in Necessary Roughness, but can you imagine if that happened in real life? The quarterback is back to pass, and he narrowly escapes the rush from his back side, because he hears on the PA that he is about to get creamed. Yeah, that would go over real well. But yet, year after year, movie after movie, they try to sneak this one by us, because the only people who care are sports nerds, and we’re too dumb to notice.
And now, my #1 pet peeve of all pet peeves when it comes to sports movies……(drum roll)…………………………..
TURN ON THE FRICKIN LIGHTS!!!!
Night games played with no lights on.
This drives me batty. Directors fall in love with this visual. The players running down the field, the shadows, the noises, and you know that it most likely just had a biblical rain storm so the mud is covering the players uniforms. You can’t tell who is who, the drama is building, who’s going to win, what’s going to happen? WHO CARES!?!? TURN THE LIGHTS ON!!! I mean seriously, close your eyes and picture this.
The stadium is dark, shots of the crowd, probably jumping up and down in slow motion, their mouths are moving but you can’t really hear individuals. Cut to the coach on the side sending in the play, close up of players feet sloshing to the huddle to give the quarterback the play, they need 30 yards for the TD. The 5’4 inch millionaire actor qb, calls the play in the huddle, and tells the 400 lb linemen they better block, we see their bellies hanging over their belts, popping out from underneath their jerseys. Cut to a shot of the sidelines, and the cheerleaders are arm and arm with the 5 players on the sideline as they pray for a victory on this cold, blustery August evening. Cut back to the field we see a closeup of the qb, with the goalpost no more than 15 yards behind him, cut back to the wide shot and they’re magically on the opponents 37 yard line.
He drops back to pass, the defense is on him quick, but he sidesteps everyone as mud is flying in the pitch black sky. We hear the funny announcer tell us over the loud speaker that he better duck because here comes another defender rushing towards him from behind, and our little whippersnapper qb does just that, nothing can stop him on this night, because if they don’t win this game, he can’t go to college. He winds up his candy arm and as his arm goes forward it’s evident in real life he has never actually tried to throw a football before but we cut to a closeup of a football that more than likely has the wrong kinds of stripes on it, or no stripes, is probably too over inflated, dripping with mud and slop, but spiraling nonetheless in slow motion through the night sky.
Cut to the crowd, the coach, the opposing coach, the quarterback’s girlfriend, the quarterback who is now lying on his back underneath a fat out of shape 28 year old, who is portraying the role of a 17 year old defensive tackle. Cut to the shot of the announcer, holding his microphone in his hand, with a fedora on and a cigar hanging out of his mouth, cut now to the receiver, most likely a skinny, frail white boy, who nobody in the stadium is expecting to catch this pass. He catches it and runs into the end zone, cut to a shot of the scoreboard where we see the time go to 0:00 just as he crosses the line, as if he needed to get there before it did. And miraculously the team we invested this 90 minutes on, who most likely started the season with low expectations, suffered some turmoil through the year, had some internal conflict, but rose above it all for this moment, has just won the championship.
In the dark.
But hey, the only people who care are sports nerds, and we’re too dumb to notice.