Story by Cloe Maurer
Associate Feature Editor
Illustration by Talulla Chow
The sun sets on a small town. Stadium lights shudder on, illuminating the football field. The bleachers erupt in cheers as the players sprint onto the turf. Some variation of this scene is featured in every quintessential sports movie. It’s cliche, but that’s okay.
Many studio executives have deemed classic sports movies a dead genre. But, the movies have too much money making potential to abandon completely. In an effort to breathe their corpses back to life, writers, producers, and directors pump sports movies full of plot twists and new angles, thus birthing box office monsters like The Blindside or Moneyball.
Sure, these movies do well. They do exactly what they’re supposed to do: present new themes against a familiar sports game background. But, innovation isn’t always the way to go, especially if it is at the expense of a movie’s heart.
Sports movies are generally very uncomplicated. They feature a clear protagonist, antagonist, and a basic plot that climaxes at the ‘big game.’ In recent sports movies, the genre’s unique simplicity is overcompensated for, instead of embraced.
There seems to be a misconception that simple is synonymous with poorly made, but a movie doesn’t need to be jam-packed with nuances and difficult themes to be worth making. A straightforward, relatable plot is the best way to tell a story especially when a universally accessible theme, like sports, is at its center.
Sports are real-life movies. There’s varying levels of unpredictability, but there’s always a winner and loser and each season brings a boatload of narratives that fans watch play out in real time. It’s the perfect topic to translate to the silver screen.
Even better, regardless if it’s from a love for professional sports or the pride of attending a high school football game, everyone already knows how to watch and relate to sports. No time needs to be wasted setting up the story because the audience already knows what they are supposed to do: root for the protagonist. Sports movies capture the same competitiveness and uplifting experience its audience would feel when watching a real game.
Nothing does this better, both in real life and in movies, than the classic underdog story. It’s hopeful, inspiring, and heartwarming all wrapped into one very neat package. The combination of hard work with a game of chance keeps the underdog’s chances of success low enough to keep people on edge but when their efforts inevitably pay off, their victory is the audience’s too.
Sports movies exist in a world where the good guys always win. Whether anybody likes to admit it or not, it’s a world that people want to live in, even if it’s just for the duration of a movie.