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Reel Sports
Jack McCallum
February 05, 2001
Hollywood trends come and go, but sports movies—clich�d, corny, sometimes downright comical—are never out of fashion. Just don't call them sports movies
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February 05, 2001

Reel Sports

Hollywood trends come and go, but sports movies—clich�d, corny, sometimes downright comical—are never out of fashion. Just don't call them sports movies

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SHOW US THE Money
Here are the sports films with the top domestic grosses.

MOVIE

GROSS
(through 1/25/01)

YEAR

SPORT

Jerry Maguire

$153,952,592

1996

Football

Rocky IV

127,873,414

1985

Boxing

Rocky III

122,823,192

1982

Boxing

Rocky

117,235,147

1976

Boxing

The Karate Kid, Part II

115,103,976

1986

Martial Arts

Remember the Titans

115,032,488

2000

Football

A League of Their Own

107,533,928

1992

Baseball

The Karate Kid

94,300,000

1984

Martial Arts

Days of Thunder

82,670,733

1990

Auto Racing

Rocky II

79,209,753

1979

Boxing

Any Given Sunday

75,530,832

1999

Football

White Men Can't Jump

71,969,454

1992

Basketball

Cool Runnings

68,856,263

1993

Bobsledding

Field of Dreams

64,431,625

1989

Baseball

Tin Cup

53,888,896

1996

Golf

SOURCE: EXHIBITOR RELATIONS CO.

RUBEN: Ernie, listen. This guy can't fight. You'll knock him out. How you feel? Can't hardly wait to get in there?

ERNIE: I'll give it everything I got.

RUBEN: You might have to go the full three, so don't punch yourself out, don't lose your head.

ERNIE: Pace myself.

RUBEN: Yeah, but don't, you know, don't, uh, hang back. It goes fast.

ERNIE: Give it everything I got.

RUBEN: But still you want to pace yourself.

DO YOU remember who spoke those lines in Fat City, John Huston's memorable 1972 film from the Leonard Gardner novel of the same name? Jeff Bridges portrayed the young boxer Ernie Munger, and his trainer, Ruben, was played by Nicholas Colasanto, who would impart similarly addled advice as Coach on Cheers. That's how it is with sports movies: We meet old friends, look for connections, make comparisons, argue over a few beers.

Colasanto, remember, was also Tommy Como, the mob heavy in Raging Bull. However, was he a better heavy than Jackie Gleason was as the boxing trainer Maish Rennick in Requiem for a Heavyweight? And was Gleason any heavier (besides corporally) than the bloodless character ( George C. Scott's Bert Gordon) who guided Paul Newman's pool career in The Hustler"? Did you laugh harder at Slap Shot or Caddyshack? Did you cry harder when James Caan (as Brian Piccolo) shuffled off his mortal coil in Brian's Song or when Robert De Niro (as Bruce Pearson) looked dazed and confused under a climactic pop-up in Bang the Drum Slowly? Did you up-chuck more violently at The Pride of the Yankees or at Knute Rockne, All American? What? You didn't upchuck at all?

Maybe you didn't, owing, most likely, to the Rudy Imperative, the axiom of sports cinema that takes its name from the overwrought tearjerker about the scrappy Notre Dame lap-dog who finally gets a chance to play on Saturday afternoon. The Rudy Imperative forbids you to dismiss Rudy out of hand on the basis of its sentimentality, its playing fast and loose with the facts, or its over-the-top celebration of a common schlub. For if you do that, you hand down, by extension, a wholesale indictment of sports films, which are, for the most part, fractured fairy tales with soft, gooey centers.

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