Without much in the way of live sports to watch, I suppose the next best thing to watch is movies — sports movies.
Here are a few sports movies to watch while sheltering in place.
With March Madness canceled, I’d start with a few basketball movies.
"Hoosiers" is a 1986 film staring Gene Hackman, Barbara Hershey and Dennis Hopper. It is a fictionalized version of real life Milan (Ind.) High School’s 1954 state championship season, a school with an enrollment of 161 winning the Indiana State Championship over a much larger Muncie Central at a time when Indiana had just one classification in basketball (Kansas has six and next season will have seven).
In the movie, Hackman plays disgraced college coach Norman Dale, fired for assaulting a player. He takes a job at the only place that will take him, a high school in small-town Hickory, Ind.
He meets resistance from the players, parents, teachers and the community. Only the school principal and an alcoholic parent (Hopper) believe in him, and Hopper’s character is later brought in as an assistant coach with mixed results.
Hershey plays a teacher who is opposed to Dale’s hiring. The Hollywood moguls resist making her a love interest and instead Dale earns her respect and friendship.
The movie earned an Oscar nomination for best score.
It’s a feel-good movie for the whole family.
The 2006 film "Glory Road" starred Josh Lucas as legendary Texas Western (now Texas-El Paso) coach Don Haskins and his team’s 1966 NCAA championship season with a predominantly African-American lineup during the waning days of racial segregation in the U.S.
While (as with much in Hollywood) many incidents and characters have been fictionalized, the movie shows the team’s rise from relative obscurity to the NCAA Finals against the traditional powerhouse Kentucky Wildcats.
There are a couple of area links from the movie — Kentucky coach Adolph "The Baron" Rupp is a Halstead native (portrayed by Oscar winner Jon Voight), although he’s not shown in the best of light in the film.
Rupp’s racial views are a controversy that are still argued to this day. While he recruited players of color since 1964, he didn’t actually sign a player until 1969. SEC teams were segregated though the 1960s. Both Alabama and Mississippi State turned down NCAA tournament bids in the 1950s and ’60s so the teams wouldn’t have to face players of color, and Kentucky was selected as a replacement.
Another area connection is Texas Western player Dick Myers (played by Mitch Eakins in the movie), a Peabody native.
The team downed Kansas in double overtime in the regional finals.
For something a bit different, when I first saw Spike Lee’s 1998 "joint" (what he calls all his movies) "He Got Game," I thought this was a pretty good flick, but I thought it went over the top a bit.
In light of scandals in places like Louisville and with what some of the shoe companies are accused of doing, it looks much more plausible.
Jesus Shuttlesworth (played by Ray Allen) is one of top-ranked high school basketball players in the nation.
He is being tempted by colleges with sex and money (sound familiar?).
Jesus’ father, Jake (Oscar winner Denzel Washington), is released from prison and tasked by the governor to make sure Jesus signs with "Big State" or Jake will face dire consequences upon his return to prison.
Like most Lee works, moral dilemmas abound with no clear answers put forward.
With its sex and language, it’s not a movie for the young kiddies.
My last entry is the 1977 comedy film "Slap Shot" starring Oscar winner Paul Newman as minor-league hockey player-coach Reggie Dunlap.
Dunlap leads the seemingly inept Johnstown Chiefs, from a Rust Belt town during the recession of the 1970s. The local mill is closing and the team is in danger of folding.
With the addition of the thuggish men-children the "Horrible" Hanson Brothers, the team’s fortunes change — reaching the league championships.
While some of the on-ice action (especially in the championship game) are a little over the top, the portrayal of the team’s off-ice lives in a dying town are spot on.
Screenwriter Nancy Dowd based the script on the experiences of her brother, a minor-league hockey player of the period, and his teammates. There is even a strong basis of truth in the story of the Hanson Brothers (the Carlson Brothers, two of which portray Hansons).
Again, this film is not for the kiddies, and there are some anachronisms that could not be filmed in 2020 the way you could in 1977. But much of the film still stands up.
Mark Schnabel is the sports editor at the Newton Kansan, who also is helping out on the news side in these uncertain times. He can be reached at email@example.com.