OK, you survived Thanksgiving Day with the family/in-laws. And, you made it past the Black Friday assault on the mall. You are still lucid, vertical and taking nourishment – - that is indeed the trifecta you really do need to hit every day – - but you still have not completed all of your Holiday shopping. Never fear. I have an idea that can solve a part of your problem.
Everyone here is a sports fan to some degree. If you had no interest in sports, you would not waste your time reading this “deathless prose”. Moreover, because you are a sports fan, you have to have someone on your Holiday shopping list that is also a sports fan; fans do not live in isolation from the rest of “fandom”.
Now all you need to do is to identify those people on your Holiday shopping list who fit three criteria:
1. They are sports fans.
2. They like movies.
3. You have not already purchased their present for this year.
With that sorting of your Holiday shopping list done, my recommendation to ease your shopping angst is simple:
The Ultimate Book of Sports Movies by Ray Didinger and Glen Macnow.
USG Mandated Full Disclosure
I have known Ray Didinger for almost 40 years since his days with the now defunct Philadelphia Evening Bulletin. He is probably most widely known as one of the football writers enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton Ohio and as a producer/writer for NFL Films. He currently co-hosts a radio program on WIP in Philadelphia – the first sports radio station in that city. I have told Ray on several occasions that his program makes sports-radio safe for people who live under the right end of the bell-curve…
I do not know Glen Macnow except as a disembodied voice on WIP. He too has been with that station for many years teaming with several of the other personalities there. Currently, he and Ray work together on WIP.
My recommendation is based on reading the book and knowing the author. There is no compensation of any kind involved here. You may recall my hiatus from writing back in August when I served on a jury for 8 days. This book – - and a few Sunday New York Times Crossword Puzzles – - got me through the myriad and sometimes lengthy breaks in that trial.
The Ultimate Book of Sports Movies reviews and ranks the authors’ list of the 100 greatest sports films of all time. Stop right there and think for a moment about the discussions/arguments you can have with your sports fan friends over the list itself. Then imagine how many similar discussions/arguments your sports fan friends can have with their friends over the list itself. Forgetting entirely about the content of the book – I’ll get to that in a minute – having this book in plain view when visitors/guests drop in can get a sports related argument going. Aren’t such arguments the foundation pieces of sports fandom…?
Notwithstanding the instant value of the book mentioned above, this book is fun to read. Each one of the movies on the list has its plot line summarized with strengths and weaknesses therein. What is most interesting is that there are recurring sidebar items that appear for the movies listed such as:
Sports-Action Grade: The sports action in each film is graded from A to F. In some movies the sports scenes are painful to watch; Ray and Glen pull no punches in their reviews. For example in assessing the sports action in The Bad News Bears, they say,
“D-plus. If you’ve ever watched 11-year-olds play Little League, you know how brutal it can be.”
“I Know That Guy”: For most of the films, the authors point you to someone in a small or a cameo role who you have seen somewhere else but you may have trouble remembering just where. For example, in Jerry Maguire the character of the Arizona Cardinals’ GM is played by the guitar player and vocalist for the rock band, The Eagles.
Reality Check: The authors go to the records to check and see if certain events referred to in the movie ever actually happened or they draw on their extensive experience as sports journalists to assess how real players would behave in circumstances portrayed in the film.
There are lots of other insertions in the book that are very interesting such as:
Ten actors who were credible athletes in the movies they made.
Ten actors who were brutally bad at the athletic scenes in the movies they made.
A list of the worst sports sequels and remakes ever made.
Interviews with actors, writers and sports figures juxtaposed with the discussions of films with which the people are associated. [My favorite here is the interview with Bob Uecker right after the review of Major League.]
You and the sports fans on your list will love this book. In addition, you will be able to use it as the basis for banter and interaction for a long time. For example, one of my favorite sports movies of all time is Eight Men Out. I still cannot believe they ranked that all the way down at 41st and put it 27 notches below uber-boring Chariots of Fire.
I am going have to call into Ray’s and Glen’s radio program sometime soon to ask them what the hell they were thinking there…
Here is the link to Amazon.com where you can buy the book. If you order two, you qualify for free shipping…
Even though it has been 50 years since I had any association with the Boy Scouts, I feel as if I have now done my good deed for the day.