As part of it’s 25th anniversary, ESPN is releasing a ‘Top 25 of the Past 25 Years’ list of something sports-related every week. Top 25 Hockey moments, Top 25 Olympic Stars, Top 25 Groin Injuries, you name it, they’re listing it.
This week they announced their Top 25 Sports Movies of the Past 25 Years, as picked by a panel of experts. Apparently, ‘panel of experts’ is ESPN-ease for the 6 closest interns we could grab. While no one could argue with many of their selections, (Hoosiers, Field of Dreams, Raging Bull) I would suggest that a few aren’t even sports movies at all!
Searching for Bobby Fischer, you’re getting benched. To be sure, chess is challenging. Although, I’ve never seen Garry Kasparov break a sweat while battling Big Blue. Doesn’t there need to be some sort of athleticism involved for something to be dubbed a sport? What’s next, The Commemorative Boggle Championship Edition of Sports Illustrated?
I’m sorry, The Hurricane is not a sports movie. The plot of Denzel’s star vehicle revolved around Rubin “Hurricane” Carter’s wrongful imprisonment, not his boxing career. That’s like saying The Shawshank Redemption is a sports movie because Red and Andy tossed the ball around in the yard in-between being brutalized. C’mon ESPN, you have to do better than that.
And where’s our favorite mono-syllabic pugilist? Sure the original Rocky doesn’t meet your 25 year criteria, but are you telling me that Rocky II (The Hollywood-Ending Rocky), Rocky III (The Mr. T Rocky), or Rocky IV (The ‘America is Great’ Rocky) weren’t better than Tin Cup? Puh-leeze, a Gary McCord mustache cameo does not a great movie make. There’s a reason they made five Rocky movies and it isn’t Sly’s acting skills. I challenge ESPN to name one scene in Tin Cup better than any of the following scenes in Rocky IV:
- James Brown ascending into the boxing ring before the Apollo-Drago fight, singing Living in America in the midst of hellzapoppin’ U.S.A. pyrotechnics.
- The Siberia training sequence. Honestly, if this musical montage doesn’t get your ass off the couch ready to punch a Russian in the face, nothing will.
- Not one, but two of the greatest bad-guy lines ever. “If he dies, he dies.” and “I must break you.” C’mon admit it, you’ve repeated at least one of these lines playing wiffle ball or pick-up basketball with your friends during your lifetime.
- The point in the Rocky-Drago fight where Rocky wins the partisan communist crowd over with his underdog Italian Stallion moxie.
Okay, so you may want to honor the original Rocky by leaving the inferior sequels off your list, but save some love for Sly. Where is Over the Top, to date the best arm wrestling movie ever made. How can a one man’s quest to win a Big Rig, reunite with his estranged son, and take-on all comers in the gentile artistry of crushing another man’s arm into a table be ignored by ESPN’s panel? Just Stallone’s in-competition facial expressions alone are worthy of cracking the top 25.