We Like Sportz (and we don’t care who knows)
I’ve played sports for much of my life but I would not consider myself a “jock”. That’s one of the reasons the above-referenced Lonely Island lyric, from the album Incredibad, cracks me up every time I hear it. I’m not a sports fan, but I love a good game. And so I love a good sports film.
Most people are familiar with the classic sports films such as The Bad News Bears, Field of Dreams, Miracle, The Natural, Hoop Dreams, maybe even the more recent films The Fighter and Million Dollar Baby. I’ve seen The Hustler and Raging Bull on some lists of great sports films, but I myself would not deign to pigeon-hole them as sports film…but I digress.
There are three sports documentaries that have been released within the last 5 years or so that you may have missed, and are well-worth a watch.
My favorite of the three is the documentary Harvard Beats Yale 29-29. The film contains a fascinating amount of original footage depicting the drama of a notorious 1968 football game, played in the midst of anti-war conflict, resulting in a headline from which the film title is drawn. I loved this film partly because it gave me insight into the culture of the two schools (who knew that Harvard considers themselves a working class school, in opposition to Yale’s school of bluebloods?) and the it’s-a-small-world insight into George W. Bush, Al Gore, and Tommy Lee Jones’ backgrounds; but there’s plenty of other drama to the story to keep you interested.
Close behind Harvard Beats Yale is a local story, a documentary about the intense rivalry between Seattle’s Garfield and Roosevelt Girls Basketball teams titled The Heart of the Game. This movie is at once inspirational, sad, heart-pumping, maddening and reflective.
The third is a film I’d only recently become aware of called Senna. Senna, a well-to-do Brazilian, was/is a legend in Formula One racing. If I’ve started to lose you here, I understand – but try to hang on. This documentary is about old-school car racing, when driver skill (and not vehicle technology) made all the difference in a race. The footage is all original, from the 1970’s and 1980’s, and the filmmakers do a fantastic job illuminating the tension amongst Senna and his career-long arch nemesis Alain Prost. Huge egos battling each other… and battling it out at alarming speeds – it’s incredible to watch.
As any fan of sports film knows, most great sports films are about so much more than the sport they portray. Many tackle complex social issues that incorporate socio-economics, race, and gender. Sadly, many good films are made and never make it to distribution. One such film that I had the opportunity to see is a 2001 documentary Rocks with Wings, about a girls basketball team in Shiprock, NM. The team is made up of Navajo girls, and their coach is a black 24-year-old male. If you ever have a chance to see it, I recommend it!