Sports movies that echo real life lessons (a reprise)

Last month, I highlighted a sports movie that made even men cry called “Brian’s Song.”  The movie was about friendship between men of different backgrounds who were competing for the same job on a football team. So, the movie inspired me to note a few other sports movies, that echo longer, due to the story and/ or circumstances. There are many sports movies that can easily be forgotten, so those that are not have a reason for lasting in our memories.

To me, the most profound sports movie is called “Invictus” which chronicles the greatness of Nelson Mandela using the example of the national rugby team. Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon star in the movie directed by Clint Eastwood. Mandela would not let the Springbok team favored by white South Africans lose its support and galvanized a whole country behind it as it hosted and won the world championship. The team was a metaphor for inclusion and showed why Mandela was able to bring a fractured country together. Mohammed Morsi should have taken notes when he took over Egypt and he may still have a job.

“42” about Jackie Robinson becoming the first African-American major league baseball player is of the same ilk. The story is far more than about baseball, as Robinson (played by Chadwick Boseman) and Dodger owner Branch Rickey (played by Harrison Ford), showed a huge amount of courage to break the color barrier years before the Civil Rights Act. Both received death threats, but Robinson had to face so many obstacles, hatred and abuse by racists, fans, players and even teammates and do so, without responding with anger. Many people would not be up to this challenge and, at some point, would have reacted. By example, he helped pave the way for others.

A movie some might be surprised is on this short list is “Bull Durham.” The reason I picked this one is it captures the camaraderie of teams quite well and shows the not so glamorous side of baseball in the minor leagues. But, the movie is about an old player and unique woman mentoring a young talented pitcher with a “million dollar arm and a five cents head.” Kevin Costner plays the veteran catcher, while Susan Sarandon plays a unique and astute baseball fan. Ironically, Tim Robbins, who becomes her husband in real life, plays Nuke Laloosh, the pitcher who needs seasoning. It also provides advice for that would resonate in the non-baseball world.  Here a few:

– Strikeouts are fascist. Throw more ground balls, they are more democratic.

– Don’t mess with a streak. If you think you are on a streak because of….then you are.

– I am not interested in anyone who is interested in that boy.

– Don’t think, just throw.

But, one you may not have seen is a worth the watch – “Bang the Drum Slowly” which is similar to “Brian’s Song,” but about baseball. It stars Michael Moriarty as a pitcher who will not play unless his catcher played by Robert De Niro can play. The catcher has cancer, so this will be his final season, a secret only Moriarty knows.

There are several others that could have been highlighted. “Hoosiers” with Gene Hackman as the imperfect coach of a high school Indiana basketball team that beats all odds to win, is excellent. “Field of Dreams” is also excellent where Costner creates a baseball diamond in his corn field and has the best game of catch at the end. “Seabiscuit” and “Phar Lap” are two movies about race horses and people who should not win, but do while overcoming great adversity. The latter is an Australian movie and is worth the watch. “The Greatest Game Ever Played” about a teenage golfer, Francis Ouimet, who beat three of the best golfers in the world is a little cheesy, but excellent. “The Lou Gehrig Story” is cheesy at times, but with Gary Cooper playing Gehrig, it is worth it. And, even “Rocky” is a classic, although they should have stopped at one.

Let me know your favorites. I know I have left off some good ones,but would love to hear your thoughts.

Needed sports funnies in golf and football

It may have been legendary and funny golfer Lee Trevino who answered the question why he played a fade in golf. Trevino said, “You can talk to a fade, but a hook just won’t listen.” There you have it. Trevino was crazy good. 

Football Coach Lou Holtz was also an amateur magician. Appearing on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show, he did a trick and then answered Carson’s question as to how he did that. “Perfectly,” answered Holtz.

Golfers have a term for a terrible score of an eight on a golf hole – they call it a “snowman” due to the written score resembling a snowman. When a pro made one on a par 5, the reporter asked how he could have made a snowman on such an easy hole. The golfer said, “Easy. I made a ten footer to avoid a nine.”

One of the greatest defensive lineman in NFL history was named Jim Marshall and his Minnesota Vikings team was so good at preventing scoring they were called the “Purple People Eaters.” In a moment of confusion, Marshall must have felt guilty of denying the other team points, as he recovered a fumble and ran it in for a touchdown – the wrong way.. When he crossed the goal line, he celebrated his play by throwing the ball into the stands. The referees gathered together and scored it a safety awarding the opposing team two points. Had he kept the ball, it might have been ruled a touchback with no points. Oops.

Golf is funnier when you get to the every day players who are not nearly as good as the pros. Their one-liners are immeasurable. For those of you who do not remember the TV evangelist Ernest Angley (that is a real name), he was a faith healer known for his elongated healing words. When a friend would hit a golf ball into the woods, he would pull out an Angleyism and say “Out, Satan!” If he hit another one poorly, he would say “Be Healed!” On occasion, a tree would answer his prayer and the ball would carom back onto the course.

One of the funniest endings to a football game was in the big rivalry of University of California and Stanford University. Per History.com, “On November 20, 1982, the UC Berkeley football team, referred to as Cal, wins an improbable last-second victory over Stanford when they complete five lateral passes around members of the Cardinals’ marching band, who had wandered onto the field a bit early to celebrate the upset they were sure their team had won, and score a touchdown.” One of the Cal players ran over a band member to get to the end zone. It is unreported if future Stanford bands were taught how to tackle.(see video below).

Next time, I may hit some other sports funnies besides football and golf.

Here is a link to the Cal/ Stanford final play. The band still missed the tackle.

You have a “towards problem”

Sports competition often provides us with comic relief. The more down time between shots or plays gives more time for one liners and jokes. Golf is ideal for comedy for this reason, especially when you fail more in golf than you succeed which offers fodder.

While golfing with an elderly couple with whom we were paired, my wife was apprised by the gentleman late in the round that he had diagnosed her swing  problem. On the 17th fairway, he quietly said she had a “towards problem.” A “towards problem” she exclaimed. “What is that?” He said, “Your are hitting the ball towards the wrong direction.”

On another occasion, yet another elderly couple played with us. I think we attract them when we play, but now we are the elderly couple. Again, the man said to my wife on the infamous 17th hole he also had diagnosed her problem. As she was all ears, he said, “You are standing too close to the ball after you hit it.”

I used to golf with my boss, who had many one liners, some courtesy of TV evangelist Reverend Ernest Angley. If he hit into the woods, he would say, “Out Satan” or “Be healed” using his best Ernest drawl. If a tree knocked it back into the fairway, he would say “I played it off the tree.” Or, if he hit a ball into the water and it splashed out, he would say, “This game is easier when you know where all the rocks are.”

One of my favorite golfing buddies loved to offer his sayings. When he had a nice swing pattern going, he would say, “That swing was smoother than a prom queen’s thigh.” Another friend when he pulled the ball left, would call it a “Babe Ruth.” When we asked what a Babe Ruth was, he said “Yeh. A dead yank.” Another popular golf saying I think is traced to Lee Trevino, the very funny pro. He routinely hit a nice fade shot, not unlike Ben Hogan. Lee would say, “You can talk to a fade, but a hook just won’t listen.”

Some of the sayings are not very flattering, so I will leave those behind. It should not be a surprise when a guy says something that could be offensive. Much teasing can go on when your fellow foursome member tops it, hits it into the woods, does not hit past the ladies’ tee box, hits it out-of-bounds or misses an easy putt. It should be noted, my golf swing created many a comment like this.

But, the funniest line I ever heard on a golf course was by a sassy beverage cart woman. She did not take guff from anyone. One day, she had a stone hanging from a necklace. When our group inquired about it, she said “It is a sex stone.”   We asked what it did to deserve such a name. After sufficient baiting and time, she said “You don’t get it. It is just a f**king rock.”

On that note, I will say sayonara. May you find your golf balls in bounds and on the green ground. Please share some of your favorites, whether they are golf or another sport.