Sports movies, like “The Natural,” “Miracle” and “Slap Shot,” can be a good way to pass the time while social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic. (Nick Patterson / The Herald)

Sports movies, like “The Natural,” “Miracle” and “Slap Shot,” can be a good way to pass the time while social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic. (Nick Patterson / The Herald)

Bored at home? Here’s our list of great sports movies to watch

The Herald sports staff gives its movie recommendations to help pass the time during social distancing.

Well, we all have a little more time on our hands.

The coronavirus pandemic, along with the subsequent social-distancing measures, has us largely confined to our homes. That leaves us all looking for ways to pass the time.

Therefore, we in The Herald’s sports department decided it would be a good idea to create a list of sports movies we thought would make for appropriate viewing fare to help get through these challenging times. We had each member of the department suggest one movie, then give their reasons why they thought it was appropriate for the circumstances.

Here’s our list. Happy viewing!

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“The Natural” (1984)

I chose “The Natural” because, given the situation we’re all dealing with, I thought it was appropriate to pick a movie that’s uplifting and can bring a smile to the viewer’s face. Based on the novel by Bernard Malamud, this story about middle-aged baseball phenom Roy Hobbs may be a standard sports tale about overcoming all odds, but the way it’s told is a cut above. The acting is top notch thanks to the presence of the likes of Robert Redford, Robert Duvall and Glenn Close, a hint of the supernatural gives the movie a magical aura, and there are just enough humorous moments to keep the viewer chuckling. Then there’s the musical score — I purchased it 25 years ago and the CD is sitting around somewhere — which still gives me chills any time I hear it. And, perhaps most importantly in the current circumstances, if you have Netflix it can be streamed for free.

Nick Patterson, Herald writer and columnist

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“Miracle” (2004)

If you need a movie to lift your spirits, this one should do the trick. It’s the story of the U.S. men’s hockey team’s stunning upset of the seemingly invincible Russians in the 1980 Olympics, an outcome so unbelievable that it instantly became known as the “Miracle on Ice.” The film follows the players and their head coach, Herb Brooks, from the team selection process through the final horn of that iconic game, highlighting along the way the unorthodox methods Brooks used to prepare and motivate his team. The linchpin of the film is Kurt Russell’s portrayal of the demanding Brooks, who pushed his players to their physical and mental limits. There are several thump-in-the-throat moments in the film, none bigger than Russell’s “this is our time” speech just before the team takes the ice to face the Russians. With all that’s in the news lately — and for sports fans, all that’s not in the news — an uplifting story about what can be accomplished through teamwork and sacrifice should be a welcome respite.

Kevin Brown, sports editor

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“The Wrestler” (2008)

“The Wrestler,” starring Mickey Rourke, is a riveting tale about the life of an aging professional wrestler trying desperately to hang on to his glory days from the 1980s. Even if you aren’t a wrestling fan, viewers can easily relate to the struggles of trying to hang on to something from the past even as it wrecks the prospects of the future. What Rourke’s character, “The Ram,” puts his body through to perform every night is a devastating commentary on how far some will go to stay in the spotlight for just a little longer and how quickly we cast off our heroes once their playing, or wrestling, days are over. This movie isn’t the classic sports tale of an underdog achieving glory, but I think it’s powerful just the same. Parents beware, this isn’t a DVD to pop in on family movie night.

Chad Davis, assistant sports editor

—-

“When We Were Kings” (1996)

When We Were Kings has something for everyone. It’s an Academy Award-winning documentary, focusing on the buildup to the October 1974 heavyweight championship bout in Kinshasa, Zaire, between then 22-year-old George Foreman, fresh off destroying Joe Frazier to win the title, and 32-year-old Muhammad Ali, thought to be past his prime. The extraordinary behind-the-scenes footage of Ali — one of my personal heroes — makes clear how important it was to him to be fighting in Africa, and highlights the connection he made with the people of Zaire before the fight. The film also shows snippets of the “black Woodstock” concert performance that coincided with the fight, starring James Brown and B.B. King. The best is saved for last, as the fight itself is shown with commentary from those who were there, and witnessed Ali’s classic “rope-a-dope” strategy executed to perfection against the powerful Foreman.

Brian Adamowsky, Herald writer

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“Glory Road” (2006)

With the cancellation of March Madness leaving a massive void in sports fans’ lives, I felt “Glory Road” was a particularly appropriate choice. “Glory Road” is a tribute to the 1965-66 Texas Western College (now University of Texas-El Paso) men’s basketball team, which made one of the more impactful NCAA tournament runs of all time. Texas Western, with the first all-black starting lineup to play in the NCAA title game, overcame racial prejudices to claim the national championship by defeating a powerhouse Kentucky team that started an all-white lineup. As is the case with many movies based on historical events, I’ll admit this one is a bit of an oversimplification of college basketball’s long road to integration. But nevertheless, it’s a definite feel-good story about an important moment in the game’s history. And with no bracket-busting upsets and thrilling finishes to entertain us for the next few weeks, this Texas Western team is certainly one worth cheering for.

Cameron Van Til, Herald writer

—-

“Slap Shot: (1977)

Didn’t you know I’d pick a hockey movie? When it comes to hockey cinema, it’s hard to go wrong with either “Slap Shot” or “Miracle.” But I’m a sucker for comedies, so “Slap Shot” is always my go-to. I first watched this movie during my freshman year of college, which has been a while, so I recently rewatched it while social distancing. Not every part of this film has aged well, and it’s definitely not appropriate for the whole family. But I love “Slap Shot,” not only the laughs, but for its parody of the quirks of minor-league sports, a business I love dearly. It also makes me thankful hockey doesn’t have the propensity of fighting and line brawls portrayed in “Slap Shot” — long delays like that aren’t typically conducive to making deadline. There’s also a movie star from an older era (Paul Newman), 70s wardrobes (three-piece leather suits) and a cast of zany characters.

Josh Horton, Herald writer

—-

“Happy Gilmore” (1996)

In times like these, everybody can use a laugh and some silly humor. Who better to deliver that than Adam Sandler? Happy Gilmore — an unskilled hockey goon who discovers his true calling on the golf course — is an easy-to-root-for underdog trying to help his grandma save her house after joining the PGA Tour. His enemy, Shooter McGavin, is about as easy to hate as any sports movie villain and seeing him get his comeuppance at the end will surely bring a smile to your face. Also, any movie that features Bob Barker getting into a fist fight is worth a watch for that simple fact alone. I’d tell you how many times I’ve watched this, but it’s honestly a little embarrassing. If you’re not an Adam Sandler fan but still want a laugh and a mid-1990s movie involving golf, see “Tin Cup.”

Zac Hereth, Herald writer

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