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Sports Authority

Kramer: Quarantine and chill

| Monday, March 30, 2020

I love the Sports Authority.

This heavily neglected column, normally buried within the crypts of Fighting Irish sports news and analysis, strikes a unique chord for its cultlike niche of readers. Make no mistake, the hidden gem of The Observer is not just an opinion exchange. It’s an intermission, if you will, a method for the madness consisting of scalding takes, tributes to beloved athletes and in-depth critiques with soap opera caliber sentiment.

But above all, perhaps the Sports Authority series serves as one ever-growing sports film, one that, if done right, can make us laugh, cry, and think within a mere moment.

With this absolutely crazy quarantine season smacking the nation in the face at full force, we are scrambling to find ways to satisfy our craving for sports beyond the lines of Notre Dame Stadium, Purcell Pavilion and Compton Family Ice Arena. What once thrived on campus as an integral part of the Notre Dame ethos now feels like a long-lost relative.

But never fear, our cousin’s ex-boyfriend’s sister’s Netflix password is here.

During this season of loss, we deserve some seriously heartwarming flicks, breaths of fresh air from the comfort of our couches. As a fearless leader in the most feel-good column of the Observer, I present my top 20 favorite sports movies to help us come together in spite of our social distance.

20. “Million Dollar Arm” (2014)
19. “Caddyshack” (1980)
18. “We Are Marshall” (2006)
17. “Major League” (1989)
16. “The Sandlot” (1993)
15. “Chariots of Fire” (1981)
14. “Bend It Like Beckham” (2002)
13. “Field of Dreams” (1989)
12. “The Way Back” (2020)
11. “Rocky” (1976)

10. “Semi-Pro” (2008) / “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby” (2006):
Will Ferrell, in all of his “car crash so bad you can’t take your eyes off of it” splendor, gives us a duo of unexplainably hilarious and endlessly quotable films about a struggling basketball team owner and a NASCAR driver that loves Fig Newtons. Directors Kent Alterman and Adam McKay tug on their respective sport’s cliches ad nauseam in a strangely captivating way. Look no further for your next favorite mindless movies of the COVID-19 season.

9. “The Greatest Game Ever Played” (2005)
Based on the book by Mark Frost, this childhood favorite presents the quintessential “unlikely hero” in Francis Ouimet, a blue-collar American amateur among white-collar giants in the British-dominated golf world. An astonishingly young, pre-“just DO it!” Shia LeBeouf brings this story to life with his maturity, resilience and heartfelt conversations with his caddy.

8. “A League of Their Own” (1992)
The most distinctive true story on my list, the star-studded portrayal of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League during World War II proves much deeper than the original sex appeal of Madonna upon its release.

7. “Hoosiers” (1986)
George Walker’s depiction of “two types of dumb” is immortal, and the rest of the film stands as essential viewing for any basketball fan in Indiana. Gene Hackman gives us the best performance of his career as Coach Norman Dale, and the arsenal of ragtag scrappers in Hickory evolves as a beloved underdog.

6. “Rudy” (1993)
We know why.

5. “Remember the Titans” (2000)
With Denzel Washington shining at the peak of his career, the tale of the T.C. Williams Titans beautifully intersects race and sports, social pressure and fellowship, humor and social commentary. With a message that aged incredibly well, the highly quotable Coach Boone becomes a lovable trailblazer with a thirst for victory. And they blitzed all night.

4. “I, Tonya” (2017)
The greatest sports film of the past decade (save one), the adaptation of Tonya Harding’s hired assault of Nancy Kerrigan leaves us with more questions than answers. Harding’s interviews throughout the film makes her transparency and reliability as a narrator addictively challenging, and the sprinkled interactions between Harding and her mother, LaVona Golden, are some of the most hilarious put to film.

3. “Bull Durham” (1988)
Like Jerry Maguire, Bull Durham earns more reception as a romantic comedy than as a sports flick. But the iconic story of Crash Davis and Nuke LaLoosh presents a raw, down-to-earth look at sports stereotypes, a quality lost in films like Major League. Kevin Costner finds the delicate balance of thought-provoking sports comedy in provocative fashion.

2. “Miracle” (2004)
Kurt Russell makes Herb Brooks the most quotable coach in the realm of American sports. Legendary speech aside, the clash of battered college kids from Boston and Minnesota blurs the lines of former enemies and transforms a riveting group of “cone heads” into family. The greatest upset of the 20th century soars to even greater heights in this riveting look into the life of the man behind it all.

1. “Moneyball” (2011)
The soundtrack. The cinematography. The vibrant theatrics of Jonah Hill and Brad Pitt. The cinematic mastery behind Moneyball makes the movie so much more artistically expressive than your typical inelegant, bare-bones sports film. Writers Steve Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin weave such an intricate intensity into the storyline behind the 2002 Oakland Athletics that viewers are instinctively drawn to Billy Beane at his first tirade. Just enjoy the show.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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