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Mark Twain died April 21, 1910, at the age of 74.
We started a new show at SI this week, where I get together with a panel — in this week’s case, HQ Trivia’s Scott Rogowsky, SB Nation’s Charlotte Wilder and former MLB player Fernando Perez — and have a fun hour-long discussion about it. It’s not the most original concept in the world, but when you get the right panel (and we had that), it can be both illuminating about the film and an absolute blast to be a part of. Plus, when you’re on TV, your guests have to pretend to laugh at your jokes.
The concept of the show is that we take a sports movie currently streaming on SI’s Amazon Channel and do a sort of Dinner and a Movie/Talking Dead deal with it, singling out certain scenes, figuring out what still holds up today and making fun of what desperately begs to be made fun of. (In this show’s case, Crash Davis’ “What I Believe In” speech, which plays now as the dorkiest list of old white guy shit imaginable.) You can, and should, watch it here.
As someone who writes a ton about sports and about movies, I’m often asked about what my favorite sports movies are. But my dirty secret is that, well, I don’t actually like sports movies very much. Or more to the point, the thing I like about sports and the thing I like about movies both vanish when they’re combined. The thing I love about sports is that it’s immediate and disposable; in the moment, every sporting event is the most important thing that’s ever happened, even though in a week you’ll be unlikely to remember almost any detail from what happened in that game. And movies to me are about originality, and permanence: My favorite movies surprise me in new ways every time I watch them.
Sports movies do none of this. They tend to follow a set formula by design, scrappy underdogs at first struggling to get along but ultimately coming together to upset the guys from the nice part of town and win the big game. (And there is always a big game.) Sports movies are predictable, unoriginal and formulaic: The reason I like sports and great movies is that they are neither of those things.
So sports movies don’t usually do it for me, which might make me an odd host for a show about sports movies. But I hope it will make me more rigorous, more skeptical of sports movie tropes, more likely to call them out and, mostly, funnier when we all mock them. So if I’m gonna be hosting a sports movie show, I should probably list my favorite five movies, and then note five sports movies I don’t like that everyone else seems to. We’ll go in alphabetical order so I don’t have to slice as thinly.
Bull Durham. Era cheesiness aside, this movie understands baseball better than almost any baseball movie I’ve eer seen.
Hoop Dreams. This is one of my favorite 10 films of all time, about anything.
A League of Their Own. The rare Big Game that has a thematic payoff. Plus: This is my favorite version of Tom Hanks.
Raging Bull. The people don’t consider this a “sports movie” is a good example of why most sports movies are terrible.
The Wrestler. Even if you don’t consider professional wrestling sports — and I’m not sure I do, myself — nothing has better captured athletes’ arrested development, their sadness and their inability to let go better than this movie.
(Apologies to He Got Game, Breaking Away and Kingpin.)
NOT MY BAG
42. Feels like a movie that would play on a loop in a museum rather than anything entertaining. I’m glad we’re finally letting Chadwick Boseman be charismatic again.
Major League. Bob Uecker and Randy Quaid are great. Everything else is pitched at the humor level of your average professional athlete, which is why it’s so dumb and why players love it so much. Also, Charlie Sheen was already gross then.
Moneyball. I still don’t get it. Here’s my original review.
The Natural. They should have kept the book ending and had Roy Hobbs strike out.
The Waterboy. I have no idea why this Adam Sandler movie, and in particular this Adam Sandler character, is supposed to be funny. Give me Happy Gilmore all week and twice on Sunday.
Next episode is Teen Wolf. I don’t think I’ve seen that movie in 30 years.
Here is a numerical breakdown of all the things I wrote this week, in order of what I believe to be their quality. (This is an attempt to have an objective look at the value of my work in a way that I suspect will be difficult to sustain.)
1. Bryan Price Is Another Doomed Manager Like the Rest of Them, MLB.com. There was some good stuff this week, and I do sort of think this is the platonic ideal of the sort of good off-the-news work I can do for MLB.com.
2. You Might Be Enjoying Ohtani, But Mariners Fans Sure Aren’t, MLB.com. I enjoyed finding the sad human interest angle in the Ohtani story.
3. Interview with 30 Newsletter, 30 Newsletter. This was a long interview I wrote out the answers for, so it counts, but since it’s just an interview this is as high as it can go on this list.
4. The Most Exciting Player on Every MLB Team, MLB.com. We’re going to regularly do The 30 bits on Mondays, I think, and I’m down: It’s fun to write, it’s simple and they do well.
5. Debate Club: Best Superman Actors, SYFY Wire. Everyone is in Reeve’s shadow, obviously.
6. Review: “I Feel Pretty,” Paste Magazine. I didn’t quite get this review right. The thing I was trying to capture, I didn’t quite grab it.
THE WILL LEITCH SHOW
This week’s guest was Judah Friedlander. We talked about soccer and comedy and Donald Glover. Watch it and all the others here.
Grierson & Leitch, “Rampage,” “Come Sunday,” “Borg vs. McEnroe,” “The Rider” and “A.I.: Artificial Intelligence.”
Seeing Red, Bernie Miklasz and I were a couple of days late, but it was worth it.
Waitin’ Since Last Saturday, G-Day preview episode!
Also, this was funny from this week, from my hometown newspaper:
Have a great weekend, everyone.