Best Sports Movie Bracket – Division Semi Finals #1

With the world going through a COVID-19 related sports withdrawal, it’s time to escape to the world of film to get our fix in! And since there aren’t any sports to compete in, it’s time to find out what the best sports movie of all time is! We’ve broken all movies into 4 different themed divisions of 8 teams each: Hockey, Baseball, Football and Fighting and The Rest. With the 2nd round here, let’s check out the first half of the division semi finals!

Check out all of the round 1 matchups here:

Best Sports Movie Bracket – Rd. 1 – #4 vs #5

Best Sports Movie Bracket – Rd. 1 – #2 vs #7

Best Sports Movie Bracket – Rd. 1 – #1 vs #8

Best Sports Movie Bracket – Rd. 1 – #3 vs #6

Hockey: #1 Miracle vs #5 Mystery, Alaska

By Scotty Hicks

With both of these movies working their way through the first round, we have a respectable matchup with #1 seed Miracle taking on the #5 seed Mystery Alaska. My household in Michigan nearly wore through VHS copies of both these films; they are special to me but one is a clear winner in this contest.

Since both films were lightly recapped in the previous round, I will dive right in. Miracle wins this round and it comes down to the elements of the story and the hockey action within the film. First, the whole “Miracle on Ice” story on it’s own is one of the best real-life sports stories out there. Put that into a well-scripted inspirational sports drama, tack on a $28 million budget, and it really cannot get much better. The musical score backs up the moments throughout the film and plays to the sensational highs and lows. The clear peak of the film, the defeat of the Soviets, is contrasted with the raw emotional lows. I am a grown man and will openly admit that I cry (in private and public) when Ralph Cox gets cut. Everytime.

Now for hockey action, again Miracle comes out on top. Many of the hockey actors in this film have high level hockey experience. In fact, several have a deeper Hockey DB profile than they do IMDB film credits. Even some of the lead roles are actors that skated in the OHL, NCAA DI, WHL, UHL, ECHL, AHL and more. I understand Russell Crowe did his own hockey scenes and learned how to play (generous description) hockey for his role, but even looking past that gap in the hockey action, the scenes in Mystery just do not live up to that of Miracle.

Mystery Alaska is funny, charming, and the John Biebe (Crowe) inspirational speech does make me sit up a little bit taller, but ultimately there is only room for one Russell in the next round. That is Kurt Russell, starring as Herb Brooks in Miracle.

Winner – I already said or alluded to Miracle like 3 times above. I am sticking to it.

Baseball: #1 Bull Durham vs #4 A League of Their Own

By Mike Laybourne

Bull Durham edged out Trouble with the Curve in our first match-up taking a stunning 83% of the vote. But how Kevin Costner’s aging pro (isn’t that every character he plays) hold up against Tom Hanks’ rag-tag team of women drafted in to keep the league afloat?

A League of Their Own took 51% of the vote against Field of Dreams, but it has an even more difficult fight to take this round. Both are great movies, and we’re getting to the stage of the bracket where the best movie isn’t as obvious.

What makes both movies work are the really well built characters, each essentially good but equally flawed. From Susan Sarandon’s baseball groupie, to Geena Davis and her sister issues. Putting the sports aspect to one side, resolving these issues is what these movies do really well, but the real magic is in the way that baseball is woven into every part of the tale.

Bull Durham is already considered one of the greatest baseball movies, whereas A League of Their Own doesn’t match up quite as well. This is because for all of the awesome performances and storylines that went into A League of Their Own, the ultimate storytelling feels a little disjointed. The comedy aspect (helped in no small part by Jon Lovitz) rises and falls too much, and at points the movie loses its identity a little. Of course I’m being super critical here, because we need to find a winner, but on reflection between the movies and considering which I enjoyed the most, Bull Durham takes the prize again.

Winner – Bull Durham. “There’s no crying in baseball” is one of those iconic lines that’ll always be around, but sometimes less is more, and what A League of Their Own did with a large cast, Bull Durham does with a handful, and somehow makes it feel more powerful.

Football and Fighting: #1 Raging Bull vs #5 Friday Night Lights

By Brodie Cotnam

The sweet science is a sport that quickly reveals the character of a person, and Robert DeNiro gave an all-time great (Oscar winning) performance as Jake LaMotta in the Martin Scorsese classic, Raging Bull. Whether it was his in ring battles with Sugar Ray Robinson, or fighting with his brother, and former manager Joey (played by Joe Pesci) with whom he eventually became estranged, it was that rage that ultimately defined Jake LaMotta. It served him well in the ring, making him a champion and renowned fearless fighter, but away from it took him down a far more troubled path. From the way we see him rise and fall: his jealous, domineering nature as a husband, his trouble with the law, to the adversity through which he battles later in his life as he attempts to stay relevant, we can’t help at times to both feel, and lack empathy for this man who was often the author of his own demise.

One of the greater depictions of football on screen, Friday Night Lights captures the drama on and off the field in the pressure packed world of Texas high school football, where it’s almost more of a religion than sport. Based on the true story of the 1988 Permian Panthers of Odessa, the team, lead by coach Gary Gaines (Billy Bob Thornton) are among the favourites to win the state championship. However, after a key injury to their star running back to begin the season, which Gaines is blamed for, they have to battle through adversity. It resultantly sets itself up as somewhat of an underdog story, and ultimately is one that doesn’t need the storybook ending to capture our hearts. In fact some would suggest it’s better off because of that. It does a great job of showing the human side of the game as well, which any good sports movie must.

Winner – Raging Bull: Few movies can transcend the ‘sports movie’ label and are simply regarded as one of the all-time great films. Raging Bull is that movie. Preserved in the National Film Registry, it’s a masterwork, from its incredible performances to its powerful story of a broken, troubled man trying to make something of himself long after his fifteen minutes of fame are up, it’s what film aspires to accomplish in captivating its audience. That’s not to say Friday Night Lights isn’t a good movie, and it’s certainly worthy of mention amongst the greatest sports movies, but as its ESPY win for Best Sports Movie will attest, it’ll always hold that distinction. Raging Bull is simply another level of filmmaking.

The Rest: #4 Happy Gilmore vs #8 Space Jam

By German Villegas

Let’s travel back to the 90’s and pretend I’m going to Blockbuster Video and having these two movies in my hands trying to decide which one to watch, which am I going to dedicate my whole night.

Now I vouched for Space Jam before just on the pure entertainment factor of it, but it has some flaws. It stars Michael Jordan who is clearly not an actor and is carried by the friggin Looney Tunes here. Also, let’s do a small test, can you remember one memorable line in Space Jam? I cannot. The best thing about Space Jam is the amazing soundtrack. I know R Kelly “I Believe I Can Fly” is great, but it’s 2020 and he’s deservedly canceled, so you should really just jam to “Hit em High” which has an All-star squad of 90’s rappers. But I mean, that’s all that’s good about Space Jam.

On the other hand, Happy Gilmore has more memorable scenes that’s it’s hard to rank them all, it has the better villain in Shooter McGavin, it has better lines, and elevated Adam Sandler to what he is today (for the good and the bad). This movie is an elite level wacky sports movie that defined what a comedy sports movie would look like in the 90’s and 2000’s (think about all the copycat movies that came after Happy Gilmore like Dodgeball, Talladega Nights, Semi-Pro, The Longest Yard, the Waterboy, etc). This is Adam Sandler at his comedy apex and a completely rewatchable movie. Come on, you already know many lines from it.

Winner – Happy Gilmore. If I had to pick between Space Jam and Happy Gilmore at Blockbuster, I would pick Happy Gilmore easily even though I may have watched it 20 times already.

We’ve had our say, now it’s your turn! Vote in the Twitter polls and decide who moves onto the next round. See you next time, when we finish round 2!

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