It’s been a full month since the field of 64 was first announced and over the weeks that mirrored the real “March Madness,” there have been favorites who held true while some upstarts have risen above expectations. But we have now reached the Final Four and it is fair to say that while many films are deserving, these four are here on merit. So, here are the final results from the made-up tournament of my Top 64 Sports Films of the past 50 years.
Semi-Final #1: Rudy (#2 Mid-West) vs. Remember The Titans (#1 South)
Great sports films not only tell a story, they inspire us. And that is precisely what both of these films did. But here are a few tidbits about each that you may not have known. Rudy’s non-football friend, D-Bob, was played by Jon Favreau. He went on to play SWAT team officer turned linebacker Daniel Bateman in “The Replacements” and then directed both “Iron Man” and “Iron Man 2.” The star of “Dodgeball” and Wedding Crashers,” Vince Vaughn, also appeared in “Rudy” as Jamie O’Hara. But the film was carried by Sean Astin, who has appeared in over 100 films (Including “Lord of the Rings”) but will always be best known as Rudy. Aside from all-time acting great Denzel Washington, “Remember The Titans” also included performances by Ryan Gosling (who played ill-equipped defensive back Alan Bosley), Wood Harris (who played Julius Campbell but went on to play the menacing Avon Barksdale in the incredible crime series, “The Wire”) and Ryan Hurst (who played Gerry Bertier but later was remarkable as “Opie” in “Sons of Anarchy”). But did you know that Sheryl, the scene stealing daughter of Coach Yost, was played by Hayden Panettiere? She grew up to be a super hero in the TV series “Heroes,” playing Claire Bennett, and now plays a country music star in the TV series “Nashville.” She is also known for being engaged to and having a child with World Heavyweight Boxing Champion, Wladimir Klitschko. Ok…so now you know some trivia about each film but there is nothing trivial about either. In a battle of two greats, the chants of “Rudy, Rudy” muffle the chants of “We are the Titans, the mighty, mighty Titans.”
Semi-Final #2: Rocky (#2 East) vs. Karate Kid (#3 West)
Both “Karate Kid” and “Rocky” spawned sequel after sequel, some of which should never have been made. But that does not take away from the greatness of the originals. “Karate Kid” is probably among the best of the “coming of age” genre and has stood the test of time. But it cannot stand toe to toe with our introduction to characters like Paulie, Adrian, Mickey, Apollo Creed or The Italian Stallion. “Rocky” goes on to fight for the championship.
Championship Match-Up: “Rudy” vs “Rocky”
From a field of 64, two films still stand. I have covered a great deal of detail about each film over the course of this fictional tournament. So, I will get right to it. “Yo Adrian, I did it.” Rocky wins as the best sports film of the past 50 years.