There's a new sports movie out called "Glory Road." It's about the 1966 NCAA Championship game where Don Haskins' Texas-Western team fielded a starting five of all-black players to beat Adolph Rupp and Kentucky.
Oh wait a minute. That's NOT what the movie is about.
The movie is really about changing factual history to fit a social agenda. And yet, some people still want to call it a "great" movie.
See, here's the rub. The movie has Haskins telling his team the night before the big game that he was going to go "all black" in order to "make a statement" about race relations. Problem is, Haskins has said time and again, in every instance where he's been asked about it, that such a thing was NEVER on his mind!
No, get this. Haskins just wanted to WIN the game. Imagine that. And his five best guys, just happened to be black. Again, imagine that?
But that didn't stop Jerry Bruckheimer from bastardizing sports history, just to make a movie. Hey, why let facts get in the way?
This again points to why sports movies about ACTUAL sporting events and moments in history, are often the cheesiest, lamest, least enduring pictures in the genre. Because incredible things that happen FOR REAL, are always more compelling than anything Hollywood can slather on top of it.
Take the Miracle on Ice. The real thing in 1980 shall be remembered forever by anyone old enough to have seen it happen live (or actually, taped, as the game vs. Russia was). I did. And I was 12.
HBO did a documentary on it, which is perhaps the single finest 60 minutes in sports video history.
Disney did a movie about it, and it was, well, a nice paycheck for Kurt Russell.
But if we are going to take historic sports events, and just totally re-write the facts around them, then let's go ahead and have a field day! Here's a few movies I'd like to see.
"The Mexico City Stretch"
Juan Carlos and Tommy Smith take the medal stand, raise their gloved fists to the sky. But instead of claiming it was a social statement about racism in America, Carlos and Smith instead say it was an effort to kick start their fledgling glove business they planned to start with the money made from their medals. The two struggle to gain a foothold in the racist glove industry, but finally get the last laugh by founding what is now known as Isotoner, Inc.
On the eve of Villanova's would-be upset of Georgetown in the NCAA Championship, Coach Rollie Massimino finds guard Gary McLain snorting a massive 8-ball of cocaine in his hotel room. Tortured over what to do, Massimino suspends the guard, and goes on to lose the game by 30. The next year he's fired, but is shocked and angered to find out that McLain has won the lottery, using a ticket purchased with the team meal money at the Final Four. McLain then hires a down and out Massimino to clean the pool at his mansion, and the two men strike up an uneasy friendship as they try to untangle their unfortunate past.
"Broadway Joe's Change of Heart"
Joe Namath says before Super Bowl III that he "guarantees" the Jets will win the game. Unknown to everybody however, is that Namath had so little faith in his team, that he wagered his entire year's salary on the Colts that day. As the game progresses, a conflicted Namath struggles with whether a historic win will be worth more than his wager, or if he should just tank it and cash the ticket. The defining moment comes when Namath catches a glimpse of his bookie in the end zone, who gives him a thumbs-up with a sleazy smile. Sickened at what he's about to do, Namath leads the Jets to a win. Running off the field, he is seen wagging his finger in the air. Historians took it to mean "we're number one" but in reality, it was Namath signaling to his bodyguards to start the car, so he could make a safe getaway from angry bettors who thought the fix was in.
A despondent Ben Crenshaw, having just buried his longtime mentor Harvey Penick, goes on to win the Masters years after his best golf was behind him. Historians call it one of the most amazing "karma-inspired" wins in golf history. However in this Hollywood blockbuster, it is found that Crenshaw cheated that week, using an undetectable silicone based grease on his driver to keep balls in the fairway. Crenshaw is caught in the lockeroom afterward by an irate Jack Nicklaus, and stripped of his green jacket. Crenshaw returns to the grave of Mr. Penick, and tearfully confesses, saying to Penick's tombstone that he only wanted to do it in order to "honor his teaching accomplishments." Suddenly, Penick's rotting arm comes up through the ground like in the movie Carrie, and strangles Crenshaw to death.
Look, I know all these so-called Hollywood "script changes" might seem a bit radical or somehow "sacrilegious" to true sports fans. But come on people, lighten up. We're making movies! Let's live a little and get creative.
Steve is a native Washingtonian and has worked in sports talk radio for the last 11 years. He worked at WTEM in 1993 anchoring Team Tickers before he took a full time job with national radio network One-on-One Sports.
A graduate of UC Santa Barbara, Steve has worked for WFNZ in Charlotte where his afternoon show was named "Best Radio Show." Steve continues to serve as a sports personality for WLZR in Milwaukee and does fill-in hosting for Fox Sports Radio.