Column: What is the ideal sports movie for dads?

 The Field of Dreams field in Iowa (InsideHook.com)

The Field of Dreams field in Iowa (InsideHook.com)

While I was home for Thanksgiving break I realized that the television stand at my house had an overabundance of one particular genre of film.  

Mid-2000’s Disney Channel original movies.  

But I also realized that my dad had built up an impressive collection of sports flicks in his day. From VHS to Blu-Ray, it spans multiple decades and multiple sports. However, some had been watched far more than others. I started to wonder, what exactly makes a sport film a hit with the paternal demographic of America?  

After much research, I came up with a couple categories that might explain why some films will survive evergreen on our fathers’ TV stands.  

How quotable is it? How many quotes you can pull from a movie for everyday use has a direct correlation to re-watchability, it’s just proven science.  

Does the training montage make you want to run through a brick wall?  Most great sports movie have a training montage, or another scene where the team comes together accompanied by music, briefly giving you the motivation to create active and positive change in your life before you always reach for that second sleeve of Oreos.  

Does it star Kevin Costner? Self-explanatory.  

Is there a chubby and comedic sidekick? Because every great protagonist has a Ham Porter behind him.  

The Nostalgia factor. Does it bring you back to a simpler time? A simpler time when everything all made sense and your hair wasn’t actively trying to flee your scalp?  

Is there a notable father and son moment? Nothing gets the tears flowing and eyeballs glued to a TV like a sweet and tender moment between father and son. 

After establishing the above criteria, I decided to assemble the ultimate ranking of what sports movies are treasured in man-caves across America.  

Think about this list as a ranking of likelihood the movie will be playing when you enter the house and your dad is asleep on the sofa with a half-eaten box of Girl Scout cookies beside him.  

10. Bull Durham- Our first movie on the list is also Kevin Costner’s first appearance on the list.  

Costner plays a middle-aged minor league baseball player who is only kept around in order to mentor the organizations’ top prospect. It’s an extremely well made movie and is often regarded as one of the greatest sports films ever made. 

However, it loses a lot of points due to its emphasis on emotional storytelling and its lack of quotable jokes and training montage.   

Still, it stars Kevin Costner and tugs at the heartstrings. It belongs on here.  

9. Slapshot – My dad hates hockey but loves this movie. It’s a testament to the comedy and nonstop laughs the movie brings.  

The premise is simple. A bankrupt minor league hockey team decides to go full scorched earth during their final season of play. If they can’t outscore the competition, they’re going to beat them bloody.  

It’s old-time hockey and an all-time classic cult comedy. 

8. Tin Cup- Honestly, I’ve never seen this movie. The only thing I know about Mr. Costner’s second appearance on this list is that it’s on the television pretty often at my house.  

So, I called my dad while he was on his lunch break at work to get his thoughts.  

“It’s pretty good. Oh, it’s got Rene Russo. It’s a wicked classic.”  

Thanks, Keith.   

7. Remember the Titans 

The only thing dads love more than football is concurring racism and this movie’s got both.  

In the wake of integration, a previously all-white high-school football team conquers racial tensions, sings “’Aint No Mountain High Enough” and wins a whole lot of football games.  

The members of the football team are fleshed-out and given distinct personalities. When team Gerry Bertier is paralyzed, you feel the pain of the team as a whole.   

It also sports a “team finally learning to be a REAL TEAM” scene that might be undone only by the next entry on our list. 

6. Miracle  

“Who do you play for?” 

“The United States of America!” 

After a grueling session of suicides after an exhibition tie, Mike Euruzione delivers one of the films’ primary messages and sets the collection of college hockey players down the path to sports immortality.  

Based on the 1980 Miracle on Ice Olympic team, the film tells the story of one of the sport’s greatest underdogs and does it beautifully.  

Kurt Russell is amazing as head coach Herb Brooks, the hockey scenes look tremendous and it’s got quotability as elite as the Soviet Union hockey team. 

It’s a film that has lived on in televisions and pump-up videos across America. It has a message that everyone could use now and again: The impossible can be possible.  

5. Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace  

You don’t think this is a sports movie? Au Contraire.  

The Boonta Eve Classic, the most dangerous sporting event this side of the Outer-Rim territories, (or “that podrace” to those less well-read) takes up about 10 minutes of the films’ 133-minute run time.  That’s more sports action than the number one film on this list.  

Though undoubtedly not a great Star Wars film, it does still take place in a galaxy far far away, which means your dad probably watches it every time it’s on TNT.  

4. Caddyshack  

Rodney Dangerfield, Bill Murray and Chevy Chase lend their talents to the funniest movie on this list.  

It’s got a quote for every occasion, a villainous gopher and a new absurdity every minute. It’s the most entertaining thing to come out of Golf since the sport was invented.  

I don’t think I’ve ever stepped onto a golf course and haven’t heard my dad say “It’s in the hole!” at some point.  

3. The Sandlot  

It’s hard to get more nostalgic than remembering the times playing baseball in the summer with your friends.  

It’s a coming-of-age story about friends, that attractive lifeguard down at the community pool and one monstrous dog.  

You’ve probably heard your dad say things like: “You play ball like a girl!”, “You’re killing me, Smalls” and “For-Ev-Er.” 

You can thank Benny the Jet Rodriguez, Ham Porter and the rest of the gang at the Sandlot for that.  

2. Rocky IV- I decided to limit the Rocky franchise to just one entry. Because if I didn’t, this list might have been comprised of only Rocky Balboa and Kevin Costner  

Out of the eight-film, billion-dollar franchise, Rocky IV gets the nod.  

You want to talk training montages? This entire film is a training montage. The distinctly 80’s power ballads don’t stop from the opening credits to Rocky’s speech to the entire Soviet Union at the end of the film.  

It’s corny and a far-cry from the heart-warming, slow-burn drama that the franchise started out as, but you’re too entertained by the musical stylings of James Brown and Rocky’s training in the Siberian wilderness to care.  

1. Field of Dreams- This is it. The pinnacle of father-moviedom.  

Other films on list might excel at one or two categories above. Field of Dreams is the only one that is a master-class in every thing that dads love.  

It’s quotable. (“If you build it, he will come.” and Terrance Mann’s final speech.) 

It stars Kevin Costner, in maybe his best acting job ever.  

It’s a love-letter to baseball history as well as the sports’ ability to forge connections between people.  

For a baseball movie. it doesn’t have a whole lot of on-the-diamond action. It mostly follows Costner’s Ray Kinsella as he travels across America uniting people in the name of America’s Pastime.  

The movies’ final scene has Ray play catch with his deceased and often distant father, brought back to life by the magic of baseball and an Iowan cornfield.  

Read that last sentence again. How could anything else be number one?


Bryan Lambert is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at bryan.lambert@uconn.edu.

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