Column by Steve Yingling | TahoeDailyTribune.com
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Column by Steve Yingling

So where does your favorite sports movie fit into a top 10 list?

Whenever you’re feeling blue and need some cheering up, one way to recharge is to watch one of the many inspiring sports movies that now glut the market.

The motivational underdog or comeback stories seem to hit the mark, but even old comedies like “Bull Durham” and “Caddyshack” are worth digging out of the back of your video tape collection or rerenting from the local video store.

And the movie themes are changing. As popular as baseball, football and basketball storylines have been, cycling, boxing, wrestling and especially golf have carved their market niche.



Here’s my top 10 list:

1. Bull Durham, starring Kevin Costner and Susan Sarandon: You don’t have to be a baseball fan to enjoy this comedy about Crash Davis (Costner), a 10-year minor league veteran catcher who is asked to retreat from a AAA team to an A team to help season raw pitching phenom Ebby Calvin “Nuke” LaLoosh (Tim Robbins).



You’re hooked for 105 minutes after the first exchange between Crash and Nuke. Nuke has just won his minor league debut with the Durham Bulls, setting league records with 18 strikeouts and 18 walks. A sportswriter asks Nuke how the victory feels.

“It feels out there,” Nuke says. “It’s a major rush. It doesn’t just feel out there, it feels out there in a kind of tubular way. But most of all it feels out there.”

Listening in, Davis shakes his head and responds, “This is utterly hopeless.”

Thankfully, STHS and Whittell high players don’t quote from the book of Nuke.

Davis and Annie (Sarandon) get LaLoosh ready for the big leagues in their own way – the former with his baseball experiences and the latter with her domineering, educated and sexy personality.

The belly laughs over and over, and there’s enough baseball to keep the avid fan satisfied.

2. Hoosiers, starring Gene Hackman, Barbara Hershey and Dennis Hopper: If I were Whittell coaches Steve Maltase and Lindsay Wines or STHS coaches Tim Jaureguito and Tom Orlich, I’d show this flick at least once a season.

Because a good part of the story is true, the ending makes you want to go out and beat that 40-and-over recreation basketball team you haven’t beaten in five years.

If a tiny school like the Hickory Hoosiers can win the Indiana state championship in the one-class state tournament format, then I’ll never give a serious thought the next time some small AAA school complains about having to play Truckee.

Hackman – why didn’t they get Indiana coach Bobby Knight for this role? – convinces viewers that basketball isn’t child’s play in the Hoosier state.

3. Tin Cup, starring Costner, Renee Russo and Cheech Marin – For anyone who still dreams about qualifying for the U.S. Open golf tournament, this movie is a must-see.

Watching the rural Texas driving range owner Roy McAvoy (Costner) rise from his unmotivated-but-talented existence to qualify for the U.S. Open makes you realize why you should never bet against someone who shows up for an unfriendly game with a set of garden tools. Of course, it took a serious case of infatuation with Russo to get his game going, and Tin must overcome a dreaded bout of the shanks and poor course management skills to reach his destiny. By movie’s end, you’ll be cheering on Tin Cup as he holes a three-wood for a 7-over-par 12 on his final shot of the U.S. Open.

4. Without Limits, starring Billy Crudup and Donald Sutherland: This compelling movie about the life of late runner Steve Prefontaine makes all of us wish that we followed running closer back in the 1970s. “Pre” makes running look like fun as ascends from a small logging town of Coos Bay, Ore., into one of the top distance runners in the world. Pre’s relationship with legendary coach Bill Bowerman (Sutherland) is beautifully done. Given Pre’s heart and determination, it’s tragic a 1975 car wreck cut short the four-time NCAA 5,000-meter champion’s life in the prime of his running career.

5. Caddyshack, starring Bill Murray, Chevy Chase, Rodney Dangerfield and Ted Knight: Chase, Murray and Dangerfield made golf a cool sport in this 1980 classic comedy that focuses on a silly golf bet between the goofy Dangerfield and the all-too-serious Knight. But too bad a sequel was made.

6. The Best of Times, starring Kurt Russell and Robin Williams. Jack Dunde (Williams) and Reno Hightower (Russell) try to right the biggest loss in their high school’s football history by challenging their longtime nemesis 20 years later. It’s Dunde’s idea since he dropped a potential game-winning touchdown the first time. Dunde proves that you can go back in time and change history – but is it really worth it?

7. Running Brave: While Robby Benson wasn’t convincing as a college basketball player in “One on One,” he delivers in this inspiring story about a Lakota Indian runner who overcomes prejudice and other barriers to become the stunning winner of the 1964 Olympic champion in the 10,000 meters.

No one knows for sure, but STHS cross country coach Dominique Westlake must have shown this flick to his runners the night before they captured the school’s first Nevada state championship last fall.

By the way, Mills, who failed to recapture his Olympic fame at the U.S. Trials at Echo Summit in 1968, resides in Fair Oaks, a suburb of Sacramento.

8. Rocky, starring Sylvester Stallone, Burgess Meredith, Carl Weathers and Talia Shire: At last count, this movie collection was getting stronger and closing in on a 10 count. The first one was the only real knockout as the Italian Stallion (Stallone) showed why Apollo Creed (Weathers) should have never risked his heavyweight title against some bum from Philadelphia. With some prodding from his trainer (Meredith), Rocky, part-time muscle for a loan shark, dedicates himself to capitalizing on the biggest opportunity of a life going nowhere.

No ears are bitten off in the ring, but this movie will captivate you to the last bell.

9. Breaking Away, starring Dennis Quaid and Dennis Christopher: This movie should be a hit in this town, where biking kept recreationalists sane until the snow arrived this winter.

Entries for the Little 500, a 50-mile bike race at Indiana University, must have gone up after this movie came out in 1979. As four friends start to go their separate ways following graduation, a chance to compete in the “Little Five” pulls them back together .

10. Color of Money, starring Tom Cruise, Paul Newman and Helen Shaver: Cruise springboarded his motion picture career with the sports theme (also “Days of Thunder” and “All the Right Moves”) and performed best in this one. Vincent Lauria (Cruise) reluctantly learns the ropes of high-stakes pool from “Fast” Eddie Felson (Newman) and eventually evolves into a player that the middle-aged Felson wonders if he can beat. If you’ve ever lost money to a pool shark, check this one out.

And more sports movie genre should only grow. How long before before we see movies portraying the lives of Rams quarterback and former grocery store bag boy Kurt Warner and Kings guard Jason Williams/Vikings receiver Randy Moss?


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