Right, folks! Time to strap on those kneepads and get ready to … spit snot, or whatever, as we dive into the world of sports. Or, more specifically, as we take a look at how Hollywood gets its sports movies wrong. From the incessant use of slow motion during action scenes to casting actors who clearly aren’t that sporty, sports movies often require some substantial stretch of the imagination. Honestly, don’t even get us started on Air Bud ... (Golden retrievers have no post moves. Everyone knows this.)

In Sport Films, Rules Don’t Apply (Or Have To Make Sense)

Love or hate Oliver Stone’s Any Given Sunday, the movie has cemented itself as one of the most famous sports films of all time. Al Pachino acts the blitz out of it, and the film managed to project how concussions and head injuries would become a major problem within the NFL.  Also, many of the action scenes are done pretty well, portraying the speed and often chaotic vibe of the game — especially from the players’ point of view.

Hot damn, that’s a banger of a scene. The only problem is, that guy who takes a late hit on Jamie Foxx’s Beamen right at the beginning goes unpenalized for some reason. That’s what it looks like, at least, because Stone cuts away to keep the action going. This is fine, but for people like me who didn’t grow up watching football, I only learned later that that’s not actually allowed and will almost always get flagged in modern-day football. (Especially if you're name rhymes with “Dom Shady.”)

The Replacement has a scene (that, in fairness, is obviously played up for laughs) where the referee tries to stack multiple penalties, even though the NFL Rule states that only one foul should be enforced on plays where multiple flags are thrown.

Tom Selleck should’ve been called out for veering off the base path to shove down a fielder trying to tag him in Mr. Baseball.

And it’s probably unnecessary to even mention the myriad of interference penalties involved in The Mighty Duck’s Flying V play.

The lesson here is simple: Never think you can learn the rules of any given sport from a Hollywood movie. That, and do not expect referees to be on top of the rules they're literally there to enforce. Which leads us to …

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Boxing Referees Never Intervene (When They Totally Have To)

A sports match can go completely pear-shaped if the referee in charge of the match is subpar and has no control over proceedings. Sure, refs make mistakes, but in some movies, it might be tough figuring out why they’re really even there. Most boxing movies are guilty of this, always featuring a referee that doesn’t step in to stop the pummeling but, instead, stands and watches like he’s just another spectator. Or worse, whatever the hell this ref did:

In Southpaw, during the first bout of this clip, the referee takes forever to intervene, even though he’s, like, right there:

Perhaps the worst reffing award should go to the guy in Raging Bull because although this was a wonderfully shot and edited scene, no referee will ever stand idly by to allow such carnage to unfold. 

Yes, I know, it feels cheap to pick on refs in movies when the point is to feed the action, not put a stop to it. But, as every sports fan knows, sometimes you just need to go off about the darn ref.

Any Old Horse Can Be Trained To Become A Race Horse

Sure, Seabiscuit is based on the actual horse with the same name that was so small that no one believed he would ever become the number one money-maker at the race tracks. If Seabiscuit could do it, any horse can! Only, no. Seabiscuit was still a Thoroughbred, and there’s a reason why these so-called “hot-blooded” horses are specifically bred for racing.

Look at that little biscuit go. Go, you biscuit. Anyway, the point is that it may be fun watching a movie where some wild horse gets tamed to perform a stunt or win a race or whatever, but it’s hardly how it ever goes. It’s also much less how Black Stallion imagines it:

Breaking a horse is an extremely time-consuming process, and the idea that a kid can just jump on the back of an adult wild horse and ride it is, as the trailer puts it, magic.

Clint Eastwood Has No Clue How Rugby Works

Ask South Africans what they think about Clint Eastwood’s Nelson Mandela movie Invictus, and many of us will groan and switch to talking about the weather, probably. Morgan Freeman did a fine job, but some of the other castings were quite laughable. Casting an actor like Matt Damon as the South African Springbok rugby captain Francois Pienaar is like casting Kevin Hart as Sugar Ray Leonard. It just isn't the right fit.

But dumb casting and sugarcoating South Africa’s many race problems aside, the big issue lies in the portrayal of the epic and thrilling 1995 World Cup final rugby match against the Springboks and New Zealand. I watched that game as a kid, I remember how we yelled and screamed and afterward took to the streets to celebrate the legendary win of what was one heck of a nail-biter. The movie plonked on all of it. The choice to do everything in slow motion made it seem like the dullest game ever, and the awkward editing of random shots confused many a rugby fan. Imagine someone directing a football match, only it’s all in slow motion, and the ball manages to stay in the air for what feels like three minutes before someone catches it to score a touchdown.

Sure, the victory part of that scene is killer — South Africa’s Shosholoza song will always aim for the feels — but there’s just so much head scratching going on from a technical point of view. Those scrums sound like a herd of wildebeest on trek (which, most fittingly, is called a confusion of wildebeest). The angles of the scrums are bizarre, and there are moments when the players look like they have no idea what they’re doing or which side of the scrum they‘re supposed to be on.  And while the movie stretches it out to try and build some tension, that scrum only lasted seven seconds in real life.

Scrums certainly play a big part in a rugby match, but the movie makes it seem like that’s all rugby really is — scrums and kicks. Nah. Just look at these exciting clips from the actual game:

It’s one thing to try and create drama by blowing up aspects of anything based on reality, but Invictus ended up relying so heavily on slow motion that you can’t help but wonder if it was employed to hide its technical errors. What it ends up showing is a lack of understanding the rhythm of the game. You know, the part that makes it thrilling, and not like you just want to take a nice long nap.

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Thumbnail: Warner Bros. Pictures / Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

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