What makes a great sports movie? Sure, there are similarities that most sports movies may all tend to follow. A continuous rise in action and tension, building toward a climatic ending or payoff. Almost always there may be good guys or bad guys and they are displayed less arguably than other movie genres. Some sports movies may be funny or sad and some are also a combination of both. They can create moments of tension, similar to action movies and then they usually include elements of triumph over a struggle. Many would say that a great sports movie requires a highlight of a compelling hero, which can be displayed throughout an entire team or a single athlete character, both who represents a struggle that need to be overcame in order to be triumph. Race and The Bad News Bears are two movies that portray many elements of an exceptionally well-displayed sports movie. Race displays the elements of the hero’s journey and arête, while The Bad News Bears displays elements of anti-heroes throughout the movie.
Race, an inspirational movie that straightforwardly tells the life story of Jesse Owens, the African American sprinter who made history when he won four gold medals at the 1936 Olympics. In the movie Race, we begin as an introduction to the ordinary world by looking at the everyday life of Jesse Owens. In the 1930s, a young black man, Jesse Owens is running through the streets of Cleveland, Ohio. As the first in his family to go to college, we watch as Jesse packs his bags and is getting ready to leave his parents’ home. While at school Jesse along with his other African American friends has to endure racial slurs being thrown at them while in the locker room or on the field.
Jesse’s call to adventure begins when he left home to attend Ohio State to train under its track and field coach, Larry Snyder. The young African American athlete quickly impresses his coach with his tremendous potential that suggests he is Olympic material. Discussion between Jesse and his coach Larry led Coach Larry to ask, if Jesse can work and Jesse in return says, “I can work, and my records should speak to that.” Larry says “records don’t mean shit because some kid will come along and take those records away from you. Medals are what count.” Larry then asked if Jesse will go to Berlin in 1936 for the Summer Olympic Games. Jesse wants to, and coach says that he needs to be fully committed: when not in class Jesse is to be on the track. ‘You belong to me.’
Almost immediately following his call to adventure Jesse starts to experience some struggle. As Jessie is training hard it becomes difficult for him to manage practice, work and school, but he indeed is trying his best. When the coach catches up with Jesse, he explained his frustration with Jesse missing practice. In reluctance to accept his call to adventure, Jesse explains that he’s got to work his job to take care of his baby girl. Larry is surprised at the news. ‘You didn’t tell me you had a daughter.’ ‘You didn’t ask.’ Sometime went by then Jesse goes to coach Larry’s office where Larry gives Jesse a legislative page ID. The job gets $60 a month, and all Jesse has to do for the job is train, a win-win situation.
Jesse’s training starts in earnest, and coach starts training him to start low and improve his form and cadence. After practice, the team hits the showers, and the football team walks in. After having distracted Jesse in practice, the coach provokes them into hurling horrible insults to teach Jesse a lesson: block it out. He gets the message loud and clear. He celebrates later with some friends, all egging each other into a jumping contest. Jesse gets cocky and jumps over a pole but falls and hurts himself. Coach is upset with him, but tell him to rest for three days, and maybe he will be able to compete in Ann Arbor. This is when we first start seeing Coach Larry as a mentor to Jesse.
Owens goes on to break several records, including some of Snyders’, and begins a relationship with a woman whose attentions he attracts with his newfound fame. When Ruth threatens him with a lawsuit, Owens becomes distracted and loses a race to runner Eulace Peacock. Owens decides to return to Ruth to reconcile, convincing her to marry him. A representative of the NAACP comes to Owens’ home to try and talk Jesse into not going to Berlin, only because they need to show the Nazis’ that their discrimination in intolerable. Jesse asks if the representative runs. He doesn’t. Jesse explains that on the track race is the last thing that matters. It is just fast or slow, and in that there is freedom.
This is the first threshold Jesse really encountered, and the next morning Jesse is on a jog when Larry catches up with him in his car. He gets out, using a cane, and encourages Jesse to give himself the option to go to Berlin by at least going to the Olympic Trials. In July 1936, the American team arrives in Berlin and are given the royal treatment at the Olympic Village. This was Jesse overcoming his threshold through encouragement and also two of the tests that he faces along the way. Throughout this movie Jesse succession was displayed through the media, they had a big impact on Jesse mainly because it was also how his girlfriend Ruth found out he was involved with someone through pictures in the newspaper. Most of his triumphs were showed by the media in newspaper articles because back then that was their main source of media outlet.
In the ending Jesse Owens took home three individual Gold medals, thereby taking possession of their reward. Despite all the struggles he encountered, in the end he prevailed. On the return home, he experienced great praises from everyone around him, and he was basically considered a celebrity. This movie shows a great representation of the hero’s journey and can be broken down and analyzed through this technique. Jesse returning home as a celebrity was him returning with the elixir. Though everything for Jesse Owens did not change immediately, as we see that in the ending even with his newfound fame Jesse still experienced racial segregation. In this movie Jesse Owen is recognized as the hero of the story as he moves from home and goes to college in order to train to be eligible to participate in the Summer Olympics in Berlin regardless of all the hardships he may face. Also, this is a great example of how this movie displayed Arête, he became the best he could through determination and hard work. The mentor to Jesse was clearly exposed as Larry Snyder, his track and field coach, who stood by him, believed in him, and pushed to become better than he was at his age.
The Bad News Bears, is a originally-scripted comic saga about a no-hope Little League team from L.A.s’, San Fernando Valley, the film shocked and amused audiences with its uncontrolled vulgarity and unpolished portrayal of young kids playing baseball. The movie is about kids, but they aren’t the typical, bland, cute, and lovable Hollywood kids that we usually see in films such as this. These kids are unwashed, obnoxious in some ways, cynical, unrepentantly juvenile, and very untrusting of authority figures. They’re relatable and probably can be compared to kids we all know now. We all probably are familiar with a shit-talking kid like Tanner Boyle, or a nerd like Alfred Oglivie, an obnoxious fat kid like Mike Engleberg or a talented kid like Joey Turner.
In this movie we see a set of badly-behaved youngsters that like to fight and call each other names, but the adults in this movie aren’t much better. The Bears owe the existence of their team to city councilman, Bob Whitewood, who sued the competitive North Valley League to expand in order to allow less talented players like his son an opportunity to be a part of a team. Though it’s obvious that he’s more concerned about the team’s impact on his own personal image rather than caring about the kids being allowed to play baseball. The other league parents aren’t any better, they tend to criticize their boys from the stands for messing up plays but other than that pays no attention to them.
The Bears move from losers to championship contenders because of three figures, Buttermaker, who gets the team of misfits to believe in themselves. Amanda, the tough-talking tomboy and the team’s starting pitcher, and Kelly, a juvenile delinquent who becomes the most feared hitter in the Bears lineup. But despite what one would hope none of them are really in it for the love of the game. They all have their own reasons for being a part of the team, Buttermaker is merely there to make some extra cash. Amanda wants to bring back her father figure in her life, and Kelly is mainly doing it to piss off Roy, who keeps who keeps harassing him about loitering around the baseball field.
What I noticed throughout this movie is that the characters don’t possess the great transformative power that we usually tend to see in most baseball films. Amanda throws a mean curve ball, but she also is a cheater, throwing spitballs and is more prone to arm problems. Kelly is a great player but he still isn’t the player that hits home-runs with every hit. Buttermaker is often too drunk to make it through practice, and when he did finally try to give his big motivational speech, the kids realized that he was just being as much as a jerk as the other coach. But their characters’ flaws are what made them seem like the “anti” heroes in the movie, they’re not the typical one-dimensional people with skills, or motivation like those in most typical baseball movies. Instead, they’re complex and unpredictable just like the sport baseball itself. In the ending the Bears didn’t win the championship, which seems to go against most typical baseball films. The team that the film follows usually has to win it all, but is that really realistic? Despite what everyone watching the movie may want for the team all the effort and best intentions, sometimes you still get beaten by a better team.
The Bad News Bears and Race, both well-known sports movies that used many different elements of film techniques to conclude the movies as some of the best in history. The Bad News Bears we see many scenes of close-up shot, mainly used to emphasize the emotion displayed by the person focused on. In both movies we see many dolly shots, which is common for sports movies. These are the shots used to observe the players in action such as the camera moving as Jesse ran the track or while the Bears were playing. There are various components of a great sports movie, and I feel as if both these movies did display many of these elements. One significant element portrayed by both movies was the element of an underdog story they both started as unknown person or a crappy team and then through many struggles they in the end finally triumph not only by winning but also sometimes by learning a hard lesson.
Frank, Noah. “What Makes a Great Sports Movie?” WTOP, WTOP, 23 July 2014, wtop.com/news/2014/07/what-makes-a-great-sports-movie/.
“Race.” IMDb, IMDb.com, 2016, www.imdb.com/title/tt3499096/plotsummary.
Sims, David. “’Race’: The Jesse Owens Biopic Is Inspiring but Muddled.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 19 Feb.2016, www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive /2016/02 /race-jesse-owens-movie-review/463341/.