BRONX, NY – The passing of the great actor George Kennedy this week on the same day as the 88th Academy Awards was both sad and fitting. Kennedy took home a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his turn as Dragline, the lovable alpha of a Florida prison camp, in one of the greatest movies of all time, Cool Hand Luke. Still, Yahoo News chose to describe him as a “star of The Naked Gun” movies with Leslie Nielsen (more on this later). It was in Luke where he left his most indelible mark. And upon his passing many friends, including our own West Coast Craig, posted a great photo of him decking Paul Newman in a prison yard boxing match in that film. It got me to thinking, there are quite a few great sports moments in films that weren’t necessarily about sports. Aside from the aforementioned boxing scene and the “I can eat 50 eggs” contest (yes, competitive eating is a sport) in Cool Hand Luke, here are a few more.
The Naked Gun. We might as well stick with Kennedy and this movie for starters. The entire baseball scene at an Angels/Mariners game had just about everything. From Leslie Nielsen butchering the National Anthem as an Enrico Palazzo impostor, to two deadbeats sitting in Queen Elizabeth’s box seats to the hilarious scoreboard blooper highlights (particularly a tiger mauling a guy sliding into second) to brainwashed Reggie Jackson attempting to kill the Queen with a gun he fishes out from under second base to Kennedy eating everything in sight, this scene had it all!
Sideways. Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church took a slight break from their wino fest to get in 18 holes and terrorize some fellow duffers in this Alexander Payne movie that made Merlot a dirty word.
Bachelor Party. Tom Hanks playing tennis against his future father-in-law is the way most of us would like to play tennis.
Barfly. Before there was the homoeroticism that is UFC and MMA, there was Mickey Rourke channeling drunk poet Charles Bukowski squaring off against square bartender Frank Stallone in this cult classic. “Drinks for all my friends!!!”
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Going to a museum, impersonating Abe Frohman and crashing the Steuben Day Parade are one thing, but catching a foul ball at a Cubs game is the best possible trophy from an epic day of cutting school. “Saaa-wing, batter.”
Hot Dog: The Movie. You know that I mention this classic as often as I can. Yes, I know this movie is supposed to be about skiing, but it is really a softcore porn masquerading as a skiing movie. And the only two true sports moments–the broom ball match and the Chinese Downhill–are outstanding.
The Pope of Greenwich Village. Whaddaya know, it’s Mickey Rourke again! This time he’s playing stickball with a bunch of Goodfellas in a public playground off Mulberry street. There’s just something great about watching a bunch of Paisans in suits playing a kids game. He and his cousin Paulie (Eric Roberts) also take in a race at Monmouth Park in New Jersey.
Wedding Crashers. There were easily funnier parts in this movie, but watching Vince Vaughn get lit up by Bradley Cooper was good for some laughs.
Honorable Mention. There are countless other non-sports movies with memorable sports scenes. Here are a few more. The Big Chill (touch football), The Tao of Steve (frisbee golf), Heathers (croquet), Goodfellas (competitive shooting), and, of course, Judgement at Nuremberg (ice dancing).
That’s all for today. Come back tomorrow for a guy whose favorite non-sports sports movie is Deep Throat (sword swallowing), Haywood Jablomie.