Sport is a backdrop to life
How non-sport movies portray sports narratives
Todd Colin Vaughan
There has to be some societal reason why the average Jane or Joe thinks that every time they play intramural sport, break out a deck of cards or pull up beside a vehicle at a red light that it is going to be their day to earn a win.
Society itself has an underdog complex. Nowhere is this more apparent than in how sports are portrayed by Hollywood cinema.
The film industry scours the globe looking for any interesting story where the loser-becomes-a-winner stereotype that can be told in such a way as to fit into the regular five-minute “get better” montage.
The underdog in film doesn’t, however, have to be the typical “Rocky Balboa hits the gym and finally beats Apollo Creed.” It could instead be defined by human struggle with sport as the backdrop.
The following sport-related movies are examples that express our human desire to break through as an underdog in life.
This film is most well-known for the way over-done “you had me at hello” quote that Renee Zellweger delivered back when this film was originally screened in 1996.
The more important story in this film comes way earlier, when Cruise as Maguire breaks down in the middle of the night and writes a “mission statement” that ends up costing him his job at a premier sports agent corporation.
This scene represents a very sporty theme of the underdog by portraying the average person’s disenchantment with an average lifestyle. Maguire, like many of the athletes he represents, chooses his own path at the cost of what is comfortable to him.
Now, I know what you’re thinking, Forrest Gump is a story about the history of the second half of the 20th century and not only about sports.
This is true, but the core principle of everyone’s favorite movie about an Alabama All American college football star, Vietnam War veteran, ping-pong superstar, shrimp boat millionaire and City of Greenbow lawn cutter is exactly what an underdog sports story should be about.
The key aspect is a story of how someone, who society had marked as a loser because of an I.Q. test, overcame his naysayers and did something inspiring. A quintessential sports narrative.
We all want to be Gump, the same way we all want to be Wayne Gretzky. Gump, however, represents something that we are more likely to achieve because he is a fallible character.
We would never expect Gretzky to lose his footing and fall into the net, but we would expect Gump, and likely ourselves, to occasionally run the wrong way down a football field.
Okay, I’m really stretching it this time, but honestly, every sports movie story is about Rocky, Hoosiers or the Mighty Ducks.
Everyone’s favourite wizard-orphan, granted, is very talented at chasing after those snitches. He also represents what sports means to many of us.
Quidditch, although thrilling to the young wizard, was an excuse for him to hang out with his friends and get some time away from the grind of being the chosen one. In life, we use sports to escape from the daily grind of the universe.
Like Potter, when we put on our uniform and “pick up our brooms,” we leave our baggage at the door for that short period of time and become part of something bigger.
Potter may have been the underdog in life, but on the Quidditch pitch he was just another Griffindor looking for a “W.” Being part a team is what mattered to him and it means something to anyone else who has battled with their teammates for something more.
What Hollywood allows us to believe is that we could be people like Jerry Macguire, Forrest Gump or a magical boy wizard going through teenage angst — to an extent anyway.
Like Macguire, we all go through times when we need to alter the paradigm of how we are living. Like Gump, we all have the potential to do big-world things from humble beginnings and like Potter, we all strive to be included.
Hollywood provides us with hero stories about people who are fallible that the marketing of major league sports simply doesn’t allow.
If you would like to write book reviews or movie reviews about sports in 2013, please tweet @toddcvaughan