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Sports classics feature timeless messages

by Chuck Cordill, staff writer

I have enough problems trying to prioritize my day, let alone the top-10 classic sports movies of all time. I’ve listed five, and their order is arbitrary. All have messages about life as well as sports. I love sports because it often is a microcosm of life. Athletes, like everyone else, live, love, cry, laugh, struggle, and die. Films about them offer something for everyone who watches.

5)Bang the Drum Slowly (1973, Robert DeNiro, Michael Moriarty): This is DeNiro before he became a superstar. He plays simpleminded catcher Bruce Pearson, a man dying of Hodgkin’s disease.

"Sports philosopher" Chuck Cordill


One line sticks out. DeNiro confides in his friend and teammate: “I’m feeling kind of dipsy.” Or was it “loopy?” Whichever, it still did the job.

4)The Pride of the Yankees (1942, Gary Cooper): This film about legendary Yankee first baseman Lou Gehrig was made a year after he succumbed to the disease that still bears his name. A black and white classic, it chronicles the life of baseball’s beloved “Iron Man” who set the record of 2,130 consecutive major League starts.

3)Knute Rockne-All American (1940, Ronald Reagan, Pat O’Brien): I like this one for two reasons. First, it’s the inspirational story of legendary Notre Dame football coach Rockne (O’Brien) and his association with inspirational player George Gipp (Reagan.) One of the most memorable scenes is when Gipp, dying of pneumonia, tells his coach, “Some day, when things are tough, maybe you can ask the boys to go in there and win just one for the Gipper.”

2)Brian’s Song ( 1971, James Caan, Billy Dee Williams): Based on Gayle Sayers’s book, I am Third, the original “ABC Movie of the Week” version of this true story is so much stronger than the 2001 TV remake. This is a story of interracial friendship, of overcoming obstacles, and of dealing with death.

1)Ben Hur (1959, Charlton Heston, Stephen Boyd): This movie has been acclaimed by many to be the world’s most honored motion picture, and it truly is a classic. Giving it the distinction of a sports movie shouldn’t diminish its rightful place on the pinnacle. Long before NASCAR, Dale Earnhart and the Petty’s, there was chariot racing. The film depicts the climax of the conflict between Judah Ben Hur (Heston) and Messala (Boyd ) in one of the greatest chariot race scenes on film. After watching this movie, Bristol and Talladega look like go-cart tracks.


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