Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

January 31, 2013

A few sports flicks for a snowy day

By BOB REDD
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

BLUEFIELD — With recent snow in the two Virginias some people have grown accustomed to getting prepared in advance for a storm. When the watches and warnings are issued people head to the stores to get staples that will hopefully provide not only comfort but necessary nutrition during the weather incident.

One thing people like to do when they are snowed in, if electricity has not been interrupted is watch movies. I, for one, do not like going outside when it’s snowing and would much rather cuddle up with the wife and pootle, as my great-niece calls our dog, and watch a good movie. For me, that good movie is a sports movie.

I have a rather good collection of movies in that genre and I’d like to share with you what I think are the best baseball, football and basketball films I’ve seen in my lifetime, my “you must-see” list.

“Bull Durham” — This movie is based on a real character, Crash Davis, and his extensive minor league career, with some poetic justice added. Kevin Costner and Tim Robbins are great characters and who doesn’t like Susan Sarandon as Annie Savoy? Being in this area you’ve got to love the line that Tim Wuhrl has near the end of the movie when the Bulls cut Davis, because they’re bringing up “some kid hitting .300 in Bluefield.”

“Major League” — An excellent comedy, Charlie Sheen as “Wild Thing” Vaughn gave us a preview of what he was going to be like in real life 20 years later. The cast is great and my favorite character is actually the manager, good old Lou Brown. Major League II is okay, but don’t waste your time watching the third of this series, Major League Back to the Minors. It’s awful.

“The Natural” — The lightning, the ball breaking the lights, the killer woman, plus an old rookie make this a great movie. The scenes shot in Buffalo’s old War Memorial Stadium add to the movie’s authenticity. Robert Redford as Roy Hobbs is an excellent “old” rookie, and who doesn’t like Wilford Brimley’s character, that’s before he pitched Quaker Oats and diabetes awareness.

“Field of Dreams” — Kevin Costner, James Earl Jones, what a pair. I wish my backyard were big enough for such a field of dreams.

“For the Love of the Game” — Another Kevin Costner diamond classic. Add Vin Scully to it and you’ve got an awesome flick. Even Yankee fans root for Al Chapel in his no-hit bid.

“A League of their Own” — Funny, great cast of characters that include Tom Hanks, Madonna, Gina Davis, Rosie O’Donnell and many more. I love Jimmy Dougan’s advice to the young fans.

“The Jackie Robinson Story” — As we celebrated Jackie Robinson’s 94th birthday on Thursday, Robinson played himself in this 1950s film that showed what he faced as the first black player in the major leagues.

“Pride of the Yankees — Gary Cooper looks so much like Lou Gehrig it’s scary. The Iron Man was one of baseball’s greats and so is this flick.

“Eight Men Out” — One of the best stories of the Black Sox Scandal of 1919. Painted a new light on Shoeless Joe Jackson and made me dislike Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis even more.

There are some good football movies also. While my football collection is not as extensive as my baseball, here are what I would recommend.

“Remember the Titans” — A true story that shows a team, a community, a nation coming to grips with changing times.

“Brian’s Song” (the original version) — Billy Dee Williams as Gale Sayers and James Caan as Brian Piccolo is one of the best football movies ever. It shows how two players fighting for the same job, from different worlds, with different skill sets, can become friends and complement each other and the 1960s Chicago Bears. A true story.

“The Water Boy” — Bobby Boucher is the man! Not to mention Henry Winkler as Coach Cline. This movie has me in stitches every time I see it.

“The Longest Yard” — Both versions of this prison comedy are great. Whether it’s Burt Reynolds in the 1970s or Adam Sandler in the 2000s as Paul Crewe, this movie will have you laughing and forgetting all your troubles.

“We Are Marshall” — A movie telling the rise of the Thundering Herd football program after the tragic plane crash of Nov. 14, 1970. The portrayal of Nate Ruffin was excellent except he didn’t have the lazy, think Southern accent. I knew Nate, he worked for Gannett Newspapers and the Huntington Herald-Dispatch before he passed away and other than the accent he was well-portrayed.

“Rudy” — It’s just a good story and it makes you feel good even if it did happen at Notre Dame. What kid doesn’t have dreams of playing for his favorite team? I always kicked the field goal for the Mountaineers that beat Pitt!

In the realm of basketball movies, here are my top choices.

“The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh” — A cult classic from 1979 starring Dr. J., Julius Erving and a brief appearance by Gene Steratore as a referee. Steratore, father of the current NFL official of the same name, officiated many WVU basketball games when the Mountaineers were in the Atlantic 10. One night after seeing the movie on late-night TV,  Steratore was the official the next night at the Coliseum. We in the pep band cheered and jeered him about it and he returned good-natured fun. Later that year when we were at the A10 tournament at Rutgers, he came to a party we were having. A real class guy from Uniontown, Pa.

“Hoosiers” — Probably the best basketball movie ever made. The only reason it’s not number one on my list is I am a part of the cult following of “The Fish that Saved Pittsburgh.”

“Coach Carter” — I just watched this one again recently and what a good movie. Samuel L. Jackson shows the young men at Richmond High School that there is more to life than making baskets and you can use those skills on the court to achieve goals later in life.

“Blue Chips” — Starring Shaquille O’Neal, Penny Hardaway, and Nick Nolte, this movie had some great action and it also showed what goes on, I think accurately, in major college basketball.  This came out in the early ‘90s when Kentucky was put on probation for doing the things that were done in this movie.

Now guys, you wives and girlfriends may not like these during a snowy day, but if you can squeeze in a few here and there to get your sports fix, I think you will have a good time.

There are many other great sports movies I failed to mention. In fact I think my baseball collection numbers about 25 and I think 24 of them are great. “The Pitcher and the Pin-Up?” Not too good.

And oh, one in my collection I left out that has sentimental value to me and my wife? “The Road to the Sugar Bowl,” the 2005 WVU football highlight video. That’s an excellent first film for a couple and one that can be watched any time, not just during snowstorms. Believe me, you will never forget it.

—Bob Redd is a Daily Telegraph sportswriter. Contact him at bredd@bdtonline.com