Sunday, July 27, 2003

Sports flicks chock full of characters

From Drago to drunks, these memorable personalities will persevere until the end

By Ryan Ernst
The Cincinnati Enquirer

This weekend's release of Seabiscuit marked one of the most anticipated sports movies in recent memory. The movie, based on a best-selling book, revolves around four characters.

Those characters - a long-shot horse, a jockey, a trainer and an owner - are drawing people to the box office. But will they stand the test of time? Many sports movie characters have. Here's a look at some of the best:

• Ivan Drago from Rocky IV: What was scarier in the mid-'80s than the threat of nuclear war with the Soviet Union? Ivan Drago.

• Kelly Leak from The Bad News Bears: He rode a Harley. He was 14. People just don't write characters like that anymore.

• Rick "Wild Thing" Vaughn from Major League: Wonder what kind of role this character played in the history of sports movies? I almost got into a fist-fight with one of my buddies arguing about whether or not Vaughn could be considered a closer. Does that explain it?

• Jake LaMotta from Raging Bull: The real Jake LaMotta worked as an advisor on this film? Apparently, he just let himself be portrayed like that. What an animal.

• Jimmy Chitwood from Hoosiers: If you go by the evidence in the movie, this kid shot about 90 percent from the field for his high school career. He basically had only three speaking parts in the movie, but his "I'll make it" line at the end should have garnered an Oscar nomination.

• Johnny Lawrence from Karate Kid: No offense to Bobby D., who was really good as a bad-boy fighter in Raging Bull, but William Zabka just knocked this one out of the park.

• Roy Hobbs from The Natural: His theme music is the Hail to the Chief of sports movies.

• Carl Spackler from Caddyshack: Here's a quick test. Walk up to a random male between the ages of 18 and 35. While trying not to move your lips, say: "So I jump ship in Hong Kong and make my way over to Tibet, and I get on as a looper at a course over in the Himalayas." Then just sit back and listen as said male finishes the soliloquy. That's the kind of influence this character had, enough to unite an entire generation of males.

• Joe "Skip" Riggins from Bull Durham: This guy introduced the word lollygag to the American vernacular. What a legend.

• Daniel Reuttiger from Rudy: "Hey everybody, my son's goin' to Notre Dame!" Who doesn't want to yell that?

• Happy Gilmore from Happy Gilmore: Just try to play in a bachelor party golf outing without quoting this movie at least once.

• "Fast" Eddie Felson from The Hustler: The guy was cooler than Billy D. Williams in a Colt 45 commercial. Yet somehow this film lost to Westside Story for best picture in 1961. Apparently, no men voted for the Oscars that year.

• Ernie "Big Ern" McCracken from Kingpin: He has a rose in his bowling ball. Wrap your head around that.

• Louden Swaim from Vision Quest: Wrestlers, what an odd breed.

• Hamilton "Ham" Porter from Sandlot: He's the funny fat guy on your softball team - only he's 11.

• Jimmy Dugan from A League of Their Own: In the longstanding tradition of Paulie from Rocky and Shooter from Hoosiers, Tom Hanks takes the role of the sports movie drunk to uproarious heights.

• Gene Pingatore from Hoop Dreams: The guy recruits and exploits inner-city kids and completely ruins the confidence of one of the best players ever to come through his program. At a dozen points in the movie, you can tell he's about one stupid foul away from strangling one of his players. And it's a documentary. This really happened.



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