Hollywood bracketology: Sports movies battle it out for top billing


‘Glory Road’

‘Raging Bull’


‘The Natural’

‘Major League’

‘Field of Dreams’

‘Talladega Nights’




The story to follow is a comedic but timely take on a very serious issue sweeping the nation: March Madness.

March Madness isn’t an illness, or even a problem, really. Rather it’s an American fixation on the NCAA men’s or women’s basketball tournaments and the brackets affiliated with said tournaments.

In fact, you might be checking over a bracket right now, shaking your head in disgust or delight that you correctly picked some no-name school to beat some big-name school.

In the spirit of using brackets to determine what is brilliant, I, Out & About writer Melinda Mawdsley, decided to stage my own pretend tournament.

However, instead of sports teams, I had a tournament of sports movies.

Disclaimer: Hang up the phone or delete the e-mail if all you want to do is let me know how stupid I am or how movies such as “Tin Cup,” or “Youngblood” are so good that I am an idiot for leaving them out.

This is fake, but it just might open your eyes to a possible sports flick you would enjoy.

Thank you.

Now, just as the NCAA holds a selection meeting to determine the teams most deserving of making the season-ending tournament, I also held a selection meeting to determine what 17 movies would compete for top sports movie. Tough stuff.

It took several co-workers and myself nearly 15 minutes to compile a list of 60-plus sports movies before we had to thin the list to 17 by using criteria such as:

“No, Melinda. ‘Cutting Edge’ is not a sports movie.”

“Sorry, Rachel, ‘Bring It On’ was not even good.”

“Really, anonymous web editor, are you serious about ‘Cool Runnings’ or just joking?”

After all, this is a serious, fake contest. We wanted the best of the best.

That brings us to our 17 movies.

We selected 17 to ensure that two teams had to have a play-in game just for the honor of making it into my fake tournament. Heck, if the NCAA can stage multiple play-in games, then I get one.

On to the show.


“Hoosiers” (released in 1986) defeats “Vision Quest” (1985). After upsetting “The Mighty Ducks” in the play-in game, “Vision Quest” could not take down one of the greatest sports movies of all time.

Although I love prep wrestling as much as anyone, and grew up watching guys spit in milk cartons to avoid swallowing anything that might add water weight, “Vision Quest” is no “Hoosiers.”

“The Natural” (1984) defeats “Field of Dreams” (1989). My heart said Iowa and “Field of Dreams.” I’m from Iowa, and it was a pretty big deal that this movie portrayed the state in a positive light, or any light at all, really.

However, my eyes, brain and ears picked “The Natural,” which was so good it almost made me want to watch baseball again. Almost.

“Rudy” (1993) defeats “Bull Durham” (1988). I first watched “Bull Durham” a year ago. I did not like most of the characters, and, frankly, once I watched “The Natural,” other baseball movies seemed a little desperate and unwatchable.

Props to “Rudy.” Sure, while watching I kept thinking Sean Astin should go help Frodo from “The Lord of the Rings.” But I stand a whopping 5-foot-1. Of course, I dig a movie starring an undersized kid with a big heart.

“Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby” (2006) defeats “Major League” (1989). Honestly, this was the closest call of Round 1.

I think both movies are funny, and “Major League” is even funnier now because the crew of wild and crazy guys who star in that movie, turned out to be kind of crazy in real life. I mean, Charlie Sheen is in “Major League.”

For as well as “Major League” has held up through the years, “Talladega Nights” remains one of the funniest and quotable comedies I have ever seen.

“Miracle” (2004) defeats “Raging Bull” (1980). According to the “experts,” this is an upset based on the eight Oscar nominations “Raging Bull” received, whereas “Miracle” received none.

I don’t care.

“Raging Bull” is a drama full of rage and violence. I can’t stand movies like that.

“Miracle” is an uplifting movie about one of the most iconic sports moments in American history and involves three things I love: hockey, the Olympics and the USA.

“Miracle” wins.

“Rocky” (1976) defeats “American Flyers” (1985). Listen, I love seeing images of Grand Junction flashed on the big screen, and I’m all about cycling. Truthfully, I thought Kevin Costner could easily defeat a boxing movie. I dislike boxing movies.

But, “Rocky” the original is pretty good. I’m not talking sequels.

Sylvester Stallone wrote a great script and as actor did not detract from this movie. I dug it. I only had to turn away once because I saw too much blood, and I was surprised how much I liked this movie.

“Victory” (1981) defeats “Glory Road” (2006). Let’s call this the un-Melinda game.

I had never even heard of “Victory.” Now, I would consider “Victory” a pretty good movie.

Although “Glory Road” is good, and I admire Josh Lucas as much as the next woman, it wasn’t as good as “Victory,” which had the winning factor of Pele’s amazing bicycle kick for a goal.

“Invictus” (2009) defeats “Slap Shot” (1977). Not. Even. Close. Seriously, is there a mercy rule in fake sports movie tournaments? If not, I’m creating one now.

“Slap Shot” is one of the worst movies I have ever seen. I think I’m dumber for watching it.

Thanks a lot, anonymous web editor, for telling me I “would love this movie.” That is 123 minutes I’m never getting back.


“The Natural” defeats “Hoosiers.” This hurts. I never saw this coming.

I thought “Hoosiers” would win my tournament. Then, I watched “The Natural.”

I’m willing to say “The Natural” is the best baseball movie I’ve ever seen. It was that good.

The movie had no lulls, and each character was pivotal in the development of the movie. The spirit of the movie is carried from beginning to end.

Of course, “Hoosiers” still holds a special place in my heart, and I understand this outcome will upset some, particularly in March, but the truth sometimes hurts.

“Rudy” defeats “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.” In the lasting words of Ricky Bobby, “If you ain’t first, you’re last.”

As entertaining as this comedy was, “Talladega Nights” is not the greatest sports movie ever, so it might as well bow out now.

It is losing to a worthy adversary. There is something endearing about setting a goal as a young child and fulfilling it.

Rudy didn’t care that he was too short, too small, too stupid and too poor to play football at the University of Notre Dame. He wanted to, and that was enough.

“Rocky” defeats “Miracle.” I know. How could “Miracle” beat one critically-acclaimed boxing movie only to fall to another critically-acclaimed boxing movie?

Unfortunately, for the fantastic hockey players and their coach with the under-appreciated Minnesoh-tah accent, the miraculous story ends.

As I’ve stated, I dislike boxing movies, and some might argue anyway that “Rocky” isn’t a boxing movie and more a love story. Whatever.

“Rocky” is a boxing movie. I even thought the fight scenes were pretty good for a movie shot in the ‘70s.

“Invictus” defeats “Victory.” I’m pretty anti-Nazi, so I thoroughly enjoyed “Victory,” but I can’t imagine a day when I would ever prefer to watch a soccer movie over “Invictus.” True, “Invictus” is about rugby, a sport some Americans know much about.

I did not see “Invictus” when it was first released. I wish I had.


“The Natural” defeats “Rudy.” Ahhh! I labored over this decision. I liked both movies ... a lot.

Ultimately, it came down to which movie I would want to own.

I dug Rudy, but for crying out loud, he was essentially a glorified Notre Dame football groupie.

A couple times, I wanted to scream for him to stop caring so much about that stinkin’ elite program.

Then, I calmed down, got some water and realized how inspiring it must be for anyone, anywhere in the world, to have a goal and stop at nothing to make it happen. Kind of like Roy Hobbs in “The Natural.”

The added drama to Hobbs’ life was that he got shot, left for dead and forgotten for 16 years. I would own “The Natural.”

“Invictus” defeats “Rocky.” Yo, boxing fans. The “Rocky” ride ends here. “Invictus” is a better movie.

I did admire “Rocky” because in the end, movie wasn’t about being the best boxer or winning any championship belt. It was about Rocky proving he was a great fighter by going the distance. And, yes, it was about getting the girl.

Fine. However, I want my sports movie to end with some unlikely championship victory that makes me cry and feel good. “Rocky” did not make me cry.


I’m a “Sleepless in Seattle” or “Phantom of the Opera” kind of girl. I love music, chick flicks, romance and laughter.

I didn’t think a movie about baseball or rugby would have much to offer me in terms of entertainment. Or make me cry.

But I strongly suggest people to see both “The Natural” and “Invictus.” They are great movies men, women and children would enjoy.

They are well-written, well-acted and follow story lines equally memorable and entertaining. That’s all I want from a sports movie. I don’t care if the story is true. I just want to be entertained.

With that said, “Invictus” defeated “The Natural” to be the best sports movie I have ever seen.

I was so pleasantly surprised by the power of “Invictus,” I surfed the Internet after watching the movie to learn more about the events before and after the 1995 rugby World Cup.

From what I’ve read, the movie did a good job of recreating South Africa after apartheid as Nelson Mandela came to power.

Morgan Freeman made me think he was Mandela. Matt Damon was great as Springboks captain Francois Pienaar.

Admittedly, I know a thing or two about rugby since a great friend of mine is from Australia, where rugby is pretty close to being the national sport.

But I don’t think you need to truly understand the sport to follow and love this movie.

Likewise, you don’t need to follow baseball to understand “The Natural.”

Robert Redford is fantastic, and Kim Basinger did a excellent job making me strongly dislike her character.

Ultimately, it came down to the fact that I would rather own “Invictus” and thought it was such a great movie, sports or not, that I told numerous people to watch it.

The power sports can have on a nation is reflected in “Invictus” and is a wonderful reminder of why so many people love sports movies, anyway.


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