A sports columnist’s mailbag: Sports movies and Gale Sayers

Eliot asks: Can there be another great sports movie, or have we done it in every way possible?

We’ve seen just about every kind of sports movie imaginable. We’ve seen stories of triumph (“Miracle”), stories about defying the odds, but still losing (most of the “Rocky” movies) and just about every variation of a high school/college/pro football movie: “Friday Night Lights,” “Remember the Titans,” “Any Given Sunday,” “Rudy,” “The Blind Side,” “We Are Marshall,” “The Longest Yard”. I could go on, but you get the idea. Name a sport, and there are numerous movies about it. 

We’ve seen a movie about aliens challenging Michael Jordan and the Looney Tunes to a basketball game (“Space Jam”). So yeah, we’ve just about seen it all.

I don’t think we’ll see anything original in the world of sports movies, but that doesn’t mean we won’t see anything great.

Look at “Foxcatcher,” for example. A friend of mine didn’t think I should talk about it, because he didn’t think it was a “traditional” sports movie. I would beg to differ. Just because there aren’t clichés and inspirational messages at the end, doesn’t mean it’s not a sports movie.

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    Foxcatcher was a fantastic film that told a true story against the backdrop of wrestling. We will continue to get the cheesy, cliché-ridden films such as last year’s “When the Game Stands Tall,” which I didn’t see, simply because of the lame title.

    I saw 2014’s boxing movie Grudge Match, just so you guys didn’t have to.

    Tip: never go into a movie thinking, “Hey, I have liked Robert De Niro and Sly Stallone in things, so that must mean I’ll like them in this thing.”

    It was terrible.

    I couldn’t even laugh at how bad it was. The whole time I was just angry with the two actors and their career decisions over the past, oh I don’t know, two decades.

    There are a lot more bad sports movies than there are great ones, but that goes for all movies. I just checked the movies playing at my local theater; there might be just one that qualifies as “great.” (American Sniper)

    I mean, I don’t know, maybe you really loved “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water.”

    So yes, I do believe that there’ll be another great sports movie. It won’t necessarily be an original idea or premise, but as “Foxcatcher” showed us last year, sports movies can still be great.

    John asks: Do Bears fans still care about Gale Sayers?

    I sure as heck hope Bears fans still care about Gale Sayers. Needless to say, I didn’t watch Gale Sayers when he played. I was negative 22 years old the last time Gale Sayers suited up. Growing up, my dad always told me that Gale Sayers was the most exciting football player he ever watched. That surprised me, considering a guy by the name of Walter Payton also played for the Bears at the same position.

    It honestly wasn’t until I sat down with my dad and watched the NFL-produced “A Football Life” about Sayers and Dick Butkus that I realized how amazing Sayers was. First of all, if you haven’t seen that episode of “A Football Life,” I highly recommend you watch it immediately. I only know Sayers from what my dad has said and from watching old highlights on YouTube, but he was unreal. In my opinion, he changed the running back position forever.

    Football fans my age watch players like LeSean McCoy and Jamaal Charles, but nobody, past or present, runs like Sayers did. It’s actually pretty funny to watch defenders try and catch him. He saw the field in ways that no other running back had before. Sayers was one of those players who transcended the sport he played.

    His career was cut short after tearing multiple ligaments in his right knee. Sports medicine wasn’t as advanced then as it is today, and doctors couldn’t fully repair the injury. After a long rehab, and lacking his once elite speed, Sayers returned to the field the following season and rushed for over 1,000 yards using just his vision and instincts. Further injuries finally forced him to leave football in 1971. He only played for seven seasons and is in the NFL Hall of Fame.

    If you call yourself a Bears fan, and don’t think you care about Sayers, go to YouTube right now and watch his highlights. You won’t be disappointed.

    Sam is a senior in Media and can be reached at sshermn2@dailyillini.com.