Inspirational sports movies overrated

By Kevin Wilson: CNJ staff writer

There’s one thing I’m looking forward to about 2007. It’s not the party I’m planning to celebrate the San Francisco 49ers’ seven-win season, and it’s not the 50-something credit card offers I’ll receive (I could have pooled all of my offered credit limits in 2006 and bought a $137,000 house that would have run me about $4 million in interest payments).

I’m looking forward to the year in movies. There are comic book movies like “Spiderman 3” and “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer.” There are sequels for the “Die Hard” series, the “Bourne” series and “Oceans” series. Oh yeah, and there’s another pirate movie with Johnny Depp, which should draw a crowd.

Though I have some reservations (“Ghost Rider” as a PG-13 movie and starring Nicholas Cage?), I’m optimistic — especially since I see very few inspirational sports movies on the horizon.

I’ve grown tired of Hollywood cranking out inspirational sports movies every few months that fit into a basic formula: A no-nonsense coach comes into a no-win situation, against the backdrop of racism (“Remember the Titans” or “Glory Road”), gang violence (“Sunset Park” or “Coach Carter”), troubled pasts (“Gridiron Gang”) or the unrealistic expectations of a town that gives the team unjustified hero worship because “Football is a way of life.” (“Friday Night Lights,” “Remember the Titans” or “Varsity Blues”).

The fact that some of these movies are based on true events doesn’t mean much, because contrary characters and events are eliminated to create a dramatic ending. In the true-life version of “Remember the Titans,” Gary Bertier was injured after the season was over, not before the championship game, and the Titans beat everybody in the playoffs by about 50 points because the merging of schools gave them more students and a bigger talent pool.

It also helps if your no-nonsense coach is played by a minority (“Coach Carter” or “Remember the Titans”) or somebody we think is a minority (The Rock in “Gridiron Gang”). That helps play up the racial element, so legitimate detractors of said coach are turned into racist strawmen.

If I’m ever in a position to make a movie, I would hope to let the genre implode by making the feel-good sports movie of the year about a no-nonsense coach who turns around a rugby team against the backdrop of the Irish potato famine. I’d also make Morgan Freeman the coach, so he could do narration duties as well … “I wasn’t much of a potato man myself, and that’s probably what helped me get through my toughest experience as a rugby coach…” The story would be so good, fans would ignore the preposterous notion of a black man in 19th-century Ireland or the fact that rugby leagues were formed decades after the potato famine.
Should I prepare my Oscar speech now?

Kevin Wilson is a columnist for Freedom Newspapers of New Mexico. He can be reached at 763-3431, ext. 313, or by e-mail: