- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 1, 2002

Movies and sports. They're meant for each other. Both tell dramatic stories about good guys vs. bad guys. Both play out in front of mass audiences at large venues. Both last about two to three hours.
So why do these seemingly compatible cosmic forces so often come together and leave us with heaping piles of compost like "the Replacements?"
Never seen it? Congrats, you're one of the lucky ones who wasn't subjected to this 2000 release about a group of misfit football players taking over for the on-strike pros.
Hilarity ensues for a full 118 minutes, but "the Replacements" can best be summed up by one heart-tugging scene at the movie's climax.
The Washington Sentinels, needing to win their regular-season finale to make the playoffs, are trailing 17-0 at halftime and are in disarray. Enter none other than Shane Falco (played to critical acclaim by renowned thespian Keanu Reeves), the replacement quarterback who guided his team to victories the last two weeks only to get the axe when the star QB decided to cross the picket line.
Falco, who has somehow made it from his houseboat to the stadium in seven minutes flat, says he wants back on the team, kicks the $10 million-a-year quarterback out of the locker room and leads the Sentinels back onto the field for the second half (stopping first, of course, to kiss his cheerleader girlfriend on the sideline).
Then in a dramatic turn of events no regular movie-goer could have seen coming, Falco leads his team back and puts it in position to win on the game's final play (what are the odds?). In the huddle, Reeves (perhaps best known as Ted from "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure") delivers the defining line of his acting career.
"I know you're tired, and I know you're hurt," he says, with a straight face nonetheless. "I wish I could say something classy and inspirational, but that just wouldn't be our style, would it?"
He then proceeds to say something classy and inspirational.
"Pain heals, chicks dig scars, glory lasts forever."
Chicks dig scars? Glory lasts forever? What did anyone ever do to warrant torture like this?
Apparently plenty, because before you can say "Varsity Blues," "the Program" and "Any Given Sunday," Hollywood has already churned out another bad sports movie.
Why must it be so? Why must it be so hard to make a good, believable, funny, dramatic, realistic movie about sports, one that doesn't make you want to lose your lunch all over the person seated next to you? (Which, it should be noted, takes place in one scene in "the Replacements." Does this movie have it all, or what?)
There are some notable exceptions of sports movies you'd actually plunk down $8.50 to watch on a Saturday night, but for every "Hoosiers" to hit the silver screen there are at least four other god-awful movies making their way to a theater near you. Chances are one of them is another "Rocky" sequel.
We may never fully understand why Hollywood continues to make the same mistake over and over again when it comes to bad sports movies, but a closer examination of the worst Hollywood has to offer may shed some light on the subject and serve as a primer for wannabe directors looking to make a big hit.
Hence, signs you may be watching a bad sports movie:

Haven't I seen this one before?
Otherwise known as the Bad News Mighty Little Wildcat Bear Ducks syndrome.
Hollywood loves to take a tried-and-true premise and then remake it into a fresh new film, with a slight twist. Nowhere is this more painfully obvious than in that old standby of sports movies: Ragtag kids team turns into a winner.
This may ring a bell. Down and out coach with a troubled past reluctantly agrees to take over a team full of miscreant kids (including, but not limited to: the shy one, the bad one, the fat one, the nerdy one, the token black one and in some cases the female one).
Said team, which usually has an embarrassing or uninspiring nickname (the Ducks, the Ladybugs, the Bears sponsored by Chico's Bail Bonds), can't get anything right on the field/court/ice until the aforementioned new coach somehow finds a way to bring them all together, just in time for the big game against the hated rival team (which has bigger players, better uniforms and a take-no-prisoners coach who will stop at nothing to win).
In a possible side-plot, the shy kid, who lives alone with his single mother and is in desperate need of a father figure in his life, tries to set up coach and mom, even though the two are reluctant.
In the end, as always, our little heroes win the big game, coach has a new outlook on life and young Billy has a new dad.
Note to Hollywood: It was funny the first time around in "the Bad News Bears." It hasn't been since.

White Men Can't Jump (and Woody Harrelson can't shoot)
Not that it stopped Woody from firing up awkward-looking 3-pointer after awkward-looking 3-pointer after awkward-looking 3-pointer.
Nor did it prevent Kevin Costner from continuing his lifelong pursuit of convincing us he could have been a real ballplayer.
This just in: Professional athletes generally don't make good actors, and professional actors generally don't make good athletes.
When a 45-year-old Costner short-arms a 62-mph fastball past a flailing batter in "For Love of the Game," are we really to believe that he has just tossed a no-hitter against the Yankees? In a word: No.
John Goodman seemed a natural choice to play the Sultan of Swat in "the Babe," until he picked up a baseball bat and became the Sultan of Weak Grounder Back to the Mound.
Tom Cruise as a NASCAR driver ("Days of Thunder")? Not even Goose and Iceman would buy that premise, Maverick.
Remember "Youngblood?" Didn't think so. All you need to know is that Rob Lowe starred as the title character (Dean Youngblood) in this 1986 flick as a brash junior hockey player, leaving his brother Blane (Eric Nesterenko) to remark that "having him on the power play is like putting Cheryl Tiegs at middle linebacker."
To sum up, there's a reason it's so hard to become a professional athlete, folks.

How did the dog and little kid get on the field?
One of the most famous not to mention most ridiculed sports movies ever made was 1948's "the Babe Ruth Story," starring William Bendix as the Bambino. In one scene, while taking batting practice, the Babe inadvertently whacks a shot off some kid's dog on the playing field (what those two were doing on the field at the time is anyone's guess).
Never fear, though, 'cause here comes the Babe to the rescue. He grabs the dog and the kid, rushes them to the hospital (still in uniform, mind you) and yells at the nurse, "Get your best doctors in there in a hurry! I've got a sick dog!"
An entire doctoral thesis could be written on all that is wrong with this scene, but for these purposes the key point to make (though it seems fairly obvious) is that for a sports movie to be believable, it has to be … that's right, believable.
If a guy hits a baseball off the handle of the bat at a 45 degree angle to the ground, don't cut to a shot of Mr. Spalding sailing over the 457-foot sign in center field.
If a right-handed quarterback rolls left and tries to throw across his body, common physics would prevent the ball from traveling 65 yards in the air and hitting a streaking receiver in stride.
And if your 250-pound heavyweight opponent lands a clean right uppercut to your jaw after 12 rounds of non-stop bloody torture in the ring, chances are you're finally going to fall to the mat and not withstand the blow and counter with a left hook of your own.
Pay attention: The main character doesn't always win, the game doesn't always come down to the final play and the dog, most definitely, is never allowed on the playing field during batting practice.
Sadly, they just don't seem to get it in Hollywood, because they just keep on making 'em. They give us sap ( "Rudy"), unrealistic violence ( "the Hurricane") and basketball-dunking dogs ("Air Bud").
They give us "Top Gun on the ski slopes" (the actual promo for "Aspen Extreme"), they give us lame comedies about women coaching football ("Wildcats"), 12-year-olds coaching the Minnesota Twins ("Little Big League") and the greatest player of all time being guarded by Bugs Bunny ("Space Jam").
And when they run out of fresh ideas, they give us sequel ("Major League II") after sequel ("Caddyshack II") after sequel ("D2: the Mighty Ducks").
But rest assured, every once in awhile, someone gets it right and makes an original sports movie with an all-star cast.
Just last September, director Brian Robbins gave us a screen adaptation of Daniel Coyle's touching "Hardball: A Season in the Projects." The movie's premise: An aimless young man who is scalping tickets, gambling and drinking, agrees to coach a Little League team from the Cabrini Green housing project in Chicago as a condition of getting a loan from a friend. Starring Keanu Reeves.
Oh, for the love of…


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