May 26, 2020
There's never been a time more perfect for watching (or re-watching) sports movies, as the major sports leagues in the United States remained suspended — though we are inching ever closer to having them back this summer.
When taking time to relax and feel all the feels with some classic sports movies, it's hard not to notice there are really two different kinds. One is the realistic, often based-on-a-true-story kind of sports movie like Miracle, or Remember the Titans.
The other is the... much less realistic.
When taken out of context, the synopsis of several of the most popular and memorable sports movie ever made are absolutely ridiculous sounding. Which is why we've actually decided to rank them by their outlandish premises. Which is more absurd: A dog playing basketball or Michael Jordan playing with Looney Tune teammates?
Here's our ranking of the weirdest, most outlandish-sounding sports movie plots ever made:
Kevin Costner has made so many sports movies it's inevitable that some would be on this list. The first of his movies with crazy plot lines involves him, as GM of the Browns, making a series of trades and concocting and exploiting rumors to eventually stockpile draft picks — and to also pick the player they wanted all along.
What's feasible about it: There are many accounts of this movie as painting a very accurate picture of how NFL Draft war rooms work, and how teams interact with eachother on draft day. There is a lot this movie got right. But...
Why it's ridiculous: Here are the trades Costner's character pulled off for the Browns:
Browns get: No. 1 overall
Seahawks get: No. 7 overall, two future first round picks
Browns get: No. 6 overall
Jaguars get: Three future second round picks
Browns get: No. 7 overall, its two future first round picks back
Seahawks get: No. 6 overall pick back
So... the Browns were able to get the No. 1 overall pick essentially for free? I don't care what other drama takes place in this movie, that is never, ever realistically happening. The Browns wind up taking a linebacker at No. 1, and a running back 7th, while they swindle the Seahawks into taking the original top prospect, a QB who they didn't want anyway. This guy is best GM ever.
This is a great movie, probably one of my personal all-time favorites but the premise is wack. Happy has never played golf before. Golf is really, really hard. The idea that he, in less than a year, goes from his first swing to winning a gold jacket is a stretch.
What's feasible about it: There's nothing other-worldly or anything like that fueling Happy's success as a golfer, the claim is that he just has a ton of natural talent, which is fine. There is little doubt he would be an extremely popular pro athletes based on his boisterous personality and truly unique golf swing (one that is humorously expressly forbidden from being used at TopGolf).
Why it's ridiculous: Happy is driving par 4's in one like it's routine. Okay, I'll grant him 400-yard drives, but there is no reasonable way Happy's approach to golf would work. What happens when he has to hit a pitch shot, a chip shot or anything besides driving and putting?
What does Happy do if he misses the green and has to gently flop his golf ball over a bunker out of the rough? What does he do on, say, a short 120 yard par 3 that would require a wedge or short iron shot with finesse? What does he do when there is a dogleg — can he fade or draw the golf ball by running up and hitting it without a real stance to manipulate? Sure, a bunker shot can theoretically work if you explode into the sand to get the ball out but that's a rare case. He just doesn't have all the tools to win on a pro golf tour.
Can I first say, as a 1990s basketball lover, this movie getting 18% on Rotten Tomatoes is absurd. This movie is a masterpiece. In it, Whoopi Goldberg (who was nominated for a Razzie for worst acting performance) wins a contest among Knick fans to make her an honorary coach of the struggling team. She strikes a chord with the New York crowd and the team's owner makes her the actual coach. The Knicks make an improbable run to a playoff berth.
What's feasible about it: I guess the biggest argument against this premise being ridiculous is there is no law of nature, or rule in the NBA that would prevent someone from walking out of the stands and into the locker room to become the head coach.
Why it's ridiculous: The likelihood of this happening, and actually succeeding is preposterous. But Donald Trump claims credit for it so...
It's the classic "X person is struck by lightning and then he becomes Y," with the X being 'Lil Bow Wow and the Y being Michael Jordan. Wearing shoes he thinks belonged to MJ, the main character has a supernatural occurrence turn him into an NBA player despite being, you know, still a child. He's able to dunk and lead his team, the Knights, against NBA franchises like Vince Carter and the Raptors. As happens in these movies, his magic Nikes get ruined and everything goes back to normal.
What's feasible about it: If, somehow, MJ's talent was able to be assimilated into a 13-year-old via sneakers and a lightning strike, I guess this is how it would go down?
Why it's ridiculous: They aren't even Air Jordans.
Angels in the Outfield is a classic sports movie, and one The 6th Man took a different approach to, but the idea is pretty straightforward — supernatural things (god, or a dead teammate) are interfering with the actual living world to help either the California Angels, or the University of Washington men's basketball team succeed.
What's feasible about them: It's true, sometimes luck plays a huge role in sports. There are unexplained bounces or ref's calls — things totally out of an athlete's control — that can swing a game. Players also can rally together after someone's death. It happens all the time.
Why they're ridiculous: Literal angels lifting outfielders to make circus catches seems like a stretch, even for God. Be more subtle...
As for The 6th Man, there is certainly something to be said for a deceased teammate rallying and inspiring a team. But supernatural forces interfering on the court is a bridge too far (at least the ones used in this movie).
Okay, there is a lot to weed through here. In two of the greatest mid-90s movies ever made, a 12-year-old boy becomes a 100-mph-throwing pitcher for the Cubs (Rookie of the Year), and another one inherits the Twins and names himself manager (Little Big League). The premises are simple enough. Let's break this down a bit...
What's feasible about them: In 1944, a 15-year-old, Joe Nuxhall, pitched in an MLB game. Since then, an 18-year-old age limit has been implemented but, I guess 15 is close to 12?
Let's presume, for a second, that in Little Big League an owner does leave a baseball team to a 12-year-old — and the commissioner of baseball does approve of him managing the team. I would suspect the PR move of allowing a pre-teen to call the shots of an MLB team would probably be a pretty unwise decision, but the premise kind of seems believable. Maybe?
Why they're ridiculous: Okay so, the kid in Rookie of the Year, after an injury, winds up with his "tendon a little too tight" which allows him to throw 100 MPH. That's... not a thing. But let's push passed that. Are we to just presume that he, at 12, has anywhere near the control, stamina and baseball IQ to jump literally from the stands to the pitcher's mound? Also, the manner in which he loses his "powers," slipping on a baseball and re-injuring his arm but only enough to make his throwing strength go back to normal, doesn't seem very scientific to me.
And yeah, I can't see a 12-year-old under any circumstances being allowed to manage an MLB team — or that MLB team doing anything but quitting on their ownership for making such an asinine decision.
This is a fairly popular "fantasy" teen movie premise, where some wild paranormal event makes a teenager good at sports. In Teen Wolf it's werewolf-like physical attributes that make Michael J. Fox a hoops star — and not a blood-thirsty beast set on devouring his opponents (and probably his teammates) a couple nights per month.
What's feasible about it: It is true, a boy who is also a werewolf would be extremely athletic.
Why it's ridiculous: Werewolves don't exist.
Everyone likes to wonder what might have happened if Michael Jordan never took a 18 month hiatus from the NBA to play baseball, and it's a reasonable thing to wonder. Would he have won eight-straight NBA championships? Well, if he did, he probably never would have made Space Jam. Pick your poison.
In the film, Jordan is humanity's only hope as the respective basketball talent of Charles Barkley, Shawn Bradley, Patrick Ewing, Larry Johnson and Muggsy Bogues is stolen by Looney Tunes universe aliens. Jordan, who the aliens are unaware of because he's no longer in the NBA, is recruited to be the leader of Bug Bunny and company's team, which is slated to play the said aliens in a basketball game to determine the fate of the world. I skipped over a bunch, but Jordan succeeds and then returns to the Bulls. It's all great.
What's feasible about it: There's really no denying Jordan's greatness, and if you look at some of the rosters of some Bulls teams in the 80s and 90s he led to the playoffs, I have no doubt he could do the same with a starting five of MJ, Bugs Bunny, the Tasmanian Devil, Marvin Martian and Daffy Duck.
Why it's ridiculous: Okay first of all, Bradley and Bogues are who the Mon-Stars chose? From the loaded 1996 NBA? These idiot aliens are assembling a team comprised of two centers, two power forwards and a five-foot-three point guard? They deserved to lose. Also, you know, humans can't exist in cartoon universes, as far as I know...
It's an iconic book that became an iconic Kevin Costner movie. The premise is confusing, but also weirdly inspiring. Nominated for a best picture Oscar, Field of Dreams sees Costner's character own a struggling farm, hear voices in his head urging him to build a baseball diamond in his corn field, and once he does, players from the golden age (like Shoeless Joe Jackson) play on the field — but only are visible to some people, which isn't very convenient. The field represents heaven, and his dad shows up eventually in a moment that makes every sports movie fan cry like a baby.
What's feasible about it: People hearing voices in their heads does happen. All of those old-time baseball players did exist. The field this was shot on also exists and is a big Iowa attraction.
Why it's ridiculous: First of all, Shoeless Joe — a member of the Black Sox gambling scandal of 1919 — is portrayed by right-hander Ray Liotta. Jackson is one of the best left-handed hitters who ever lived. Ugh. The timing of a lot of the ball-players who knew each other was way off, sometimes by as many a 50 years. A baseball historian could have fixed it all but I am nit picking here. The entire concept, while fun and inspiring, is... far-fetched. Ghosts of famous baseball players playing again, in their primes, in a random Iowa cornfield is a Hollywood concept and ridiculous.
According to 1997's Air Bid, the first of (yes this is true) 14 movies in the franchise — which combined to earn more than $300 million — there is no written rule banning a dog from playing high school basketball. And so the franchise begins. Bud went on to play football and soccer and baseball and volleyball, as imitations involving monkeys playing sports with humans also somehow hit the mainstream as well.
What's feasible about it: I suppose dogs do possess pretty impressive athleticism.
Why it's ridiculous: Beyond the fact that, you know, it's a dog, the dog is probably not getting good enough grades in that high school to be eligible for the varsity team.
I wonder how he's handling the pandemic?
Follow Evan on Twitter:@evan_macy
Like us on Facebook: PhillyVoice Sports