Long gone are the glory days of sports movies. In the 80’s, 90’s, and even 2000’s, the sports world had a much larger share of the box office than it does now. Box office numbers don’t really tell the story, however the sheer volume of sports’ movies is, demonstrably, way down, and the hits are much further apart.
Maybe the tropes got old, maybe our collective consciousness is expanding, or maybe sports don’t represent what they used to, whatever the reason may be, those stories that made our hearts and competitive spirit sing aren’t on the big screen like they used to be. Luckily, there are a few great shows and streaming options to keep us going.
4 Shows That Hit All the Sports Feels
While we hurt for the classics, there has been some signs of hope for the genre in recent years, and programs that get to the heart of sports in ways that almost everyone can relate to while also still delivering on the gritty, underdog stories that keep sports fans coming back.
Heralded for its first two seasons, Ted Lasso is about an American football coach who falls into hijinx when he’s hired as the coach of a British soccer team. Not understanding the sport or the culture, there are both predictable gaffs and some knowledge to be gathered about how American and British culture overlaps or not. While Ted’s team is working its way up as the underdog—they did hire a coach from the completely wrong sport after all—the show delivers lots of laughs and doesn’t take itself seriously enough to chaff those who think sports programming has too much implied machoism or heroism.
Last Chance U
Last Chance U is a show on Netflix about young athletes from various backgrounds that are all dealing with hardship and competing to keep their sports dreams alive. With both football and basketball versions, the show is emotionally raw, not only for former athletes, but for anyone who’s had to pull themselves out of hardship. Shit is real at Last Chance U. Young players’ tempers and social circles get in their way, drug use and mental health problems are a real threat, and the realities of poverty are on display without being grandiose or pitiful.
Winning Time, a show about the Jerry Buss-driven rise of the Lakers in the 70s, just wrapped up its first season on HBO about a month ago, and it creates a stark contrast with a show like Last Chance U. However, in some ways it brings a refreshing amount of honesty to its subject.
The first thing I should say, if we’re talking honestly, is that some aspects of Winning Time are wildly inaccurate. Jerry West and Jerry Buss probably aren’t as awful people as the show suggests, and some of the basketball factoids are completely fabricated to play into the drama of the show. However, it’s authentic in its inauthenticity, as it shows in graphic detail how much some men need to win and how inconsiderate, if not ruthless, they can be in the pursuit. Touching on that need in regards to fame, sports, capitalism, and more, the show is very thought provoking for anyone interested in American society.
Hustle is a new movie, released last month on Netflix, that could deliver on a variety of levels. For Adam Sandler fans, this is another passion project, and for basketball fans it’s a movie that brings in the culture, real-life figures, and the love of the game that keeps so many playing and participating long after the last buzzer. This movie brings the phrase “basketball is life,” full circle for many. Again, it touches on the good and bad in sports.
Outside the sports-realm that most people know, the movie spotlights what it can mean to be a “lifer” in basketball, without ever having touched the highest level. Sandler plays a scout who’s hit a low point, and who takes on coaching a long-shot but talented prospect. It’s a powerful insight that might make some understand the coaches, scouts, journalists, trainers, and athletes in their lives who just can’t walk away.