4 Sport Scenes in Movies (by People Who Don't Watch Sports)
Around the 80-minute mark of nearly every great sports movie in existence, a team sits sweaty and exhausted in the locker room following a punishing first half of the most important game of their lives, but something is wrong, they have lost their will. Enter our favorite fictional coach. He takes off his hat or rubs his eyes and decides it's time to get real with these kids. He explains that giving up now is the same thing as fading quietly into the shadows of the victors as they're hoisted onto the shoulders of people who will remember their names for eternity. His speech resonates with us as an audience because it taps into some primal truth we have always carried in our hearts, even while PE teachers and parents tried to disentangle it from our ventricles: that winning is more important than anything else in life, because winning is life, and losing is dying.
"Oh, you're hurt? Well then you might as well just lie there until the Earth reabsorbs you."
I mention that moment as the best example of movies using sports right. What follows is the exact opposite of that.
These films demonstrate such a fundamental misunderstanding of sports that just watching them will make you embarrassed on behalf of everyone involved. Granted, not all of the films are sports-centric, but quite honestly, that should be all the more reason for them to get at least the basics right. Instead, they fail so spectacularly, sometimes in only a few minutes, that it's shocking no one at any step of the production stood up and said, "Wait a second, maybe we should do a little research first."
Catwoman Doesn't Understand Basketball
Actors who are paid millions of dollars for their movie roles generally do a little preparation to ensure that they look believable in the part. Before shooting Taxi Driver, Robert De Niro worked as a cab driver for months to prepare for his role. Keanu Reeves poured hours and hours into martial arts training before becoming Neo in The Matrix. Halle Berry, however, clearly never touched a basketball in her entire life before someone pointed a camera at her and demanded that she play one-on-one for this scene in Catwoman:
The whole scene is chopped up into about 87 cuts because Halle Berry couldn't be trusted to look proficient with a ball for any longer than one tenth of a second. Although it's hard to pin all the failure here on her, because even the dialogue and the directing suggest that no one has any idea what they're doing. In fact, in the same way that some people are allergic to cats, I suspect that the entire movie Catwoman is allergic to basketball. Let's unpack it from the beginning.
It starts with a kid saying "One on one?" which is a fair question and not all that weird, aside from the fact that he's not asking someone to play against him. No, he wants to watch an adult man play an adult woman with his basketball. No kid has ever asked two adults to play against each other so that he can sit there and watch unless he's half expecting her breast to flop out. So let's just assume for now that that's what he was aiming for.
After the adults agree to play each other and that horny kid passes Halle Berry the rock, she immediately wows everyone by passing it back and forth between her hands, but really fast, then she hands it to herself under her crotch and runs up a wall. Had she punted the ball in the air and swallowed a lacrosse stick while solving a Sudoku puzzle, I'm not sure those skill sets would have been any more impractical for a game of basketball than the three she chose.
Finally, when they start playing basketball, it's immediately obvious that not only is basketball a huge blind spot for the writers, but so is sex. No one ever shoots the ball or tries to make a move around the other person; they just stand in one spot, dribbling and sort of writhing around until occasionally their butts touch, and that's supposed to be sexy. The whole game is treated as foreplay, but for a type of sex I don't think anyone actually wants to have, which makes it even stranger that they're trying so hard to fuck one another in front of all those cheering kids.
Is this a cat thing? Is this how cats do it?
The only actual basket in the game is by Halle Berry, in platform shoes, dunking over Benjamin Bratt from the free-throw line, which somehow signifies the end of the game. The kids have had enough after watching two points, and they want their ball back. Now, I get that she has special powers in this movie, but not even LeBron James could make a standing dunk from the free-throw line. There's a reason you never see Clark Kent hitting softballs into space or Steve Rogers destroying CrossFit workouts: It defeats the entire purpose of having a secret identity when you exploit your superpower on something stupid just to impress nobodies.
The Program Doesn't Understand Football
There should be a rule that anyone who decides to write a football-themed screenplay where the difference between the good guys winning and losing hinges on a single, convoluted play should make sure that play is legal first. The Program is the only sports movie I've ever seen that lets the protagonists win by accidentally cheating.
One of the first red flags indicating a dearth of football knowledge in the making of this film is the fact that any team could be a bowl contender with a wide receiver like Omar Epps. At 1:36, he runs directly into coverage, then turns around and shouts for the ball. The quarterback is scrambling through a broken play while his receiver stands still with a cornerback's hand on his ass, screaming for a pass.
Maybe ... maybe focus on your major instead.
It's at this point that the scene starts to look suspiciously like it was written by an 8-year-old remembering a particularly amazing game at recess.
But the crowning moment of absurdity happens at 1:42, when the ESU Timberwolves, the team we've been rooting for over the past 92 minutes of the movie, lose the game and no one seems to notice. The quarterback reels back to throw downfield, decides he doesn't like his option, and throws the ball into the turf instead. Now, if football isn't your game and it isn't immediately obvious why that play should be whistled dead, there's a very specific, widely known rule in football that if the quarterback's arm has forward momentum and he releases the ball, it's technically a pass, even if that pass happens to flutter into the ground 2 feet in front of him. Still, that doesn't stop this hero from scooping up the ball like it was all part of some elaborate play he called and then throwing to the end zone for the big win.
"But Soren," some of you may be bleating because you are happiest when you are arguing, "that's the tuck rule you're talking about, and it didn't exist until 1999. The Program was made in 1993, and I know all this because my Internet is different from yours." Well, good point, bemoaner. The tuck rule was instituted to account for quarterbacks who accidentally lose control of the ball as they're being hit during the release. This quarterback goes untouched, and very clearly spikes the ball at his feet.
Even if it wasn't an incomplete pass, he should have, at the very least, been called for intentional grounding. Either way, they still lose.
Now please enjoy Omar Epps' egregious voice-over at 1:52 while he's clearly wearing a mouth guard and decide if this is still a movie you want to defend.
Twilight Doesn't Understand Baseball
Generally I try to avoid being the type of person who fixates on one piece of garbage in a landfill because everyone already knows it's a landfill so who cares? But when that piece of garbage is, say, a human limb, I feel obliged to comment on it. Twilight is a landfill of a franchise, and even with all its profound and irrevocable problems, watching the baseball scene in the first movie is like stumbling over a severed, limp-wristed hand glimmering in the sunlight.
It's hard to watch the whole thing and not feel like someone, somewhere deserves to be punished for its creation. The scene immediately jumps the rails as soon as the hip-hop vampire playing outfield warms up with some shadowboxing. I don't mean to devalue the importance of warming up before any sort of rigorous physical activity, but dodging fake punches is pretty piss-poor preparation for baseball. Also, and this point seems crucial to the plot of the entire movie, he's immortal. Is pulling a deltoid really a common problem for permanently 18-year-old vampires?
Finally, when they've all presumably done enough air-boxing and pretend bicycling or whatever to get loose, the game starts. The pitcher winds up with a perfect dancer's toe-point, ready to bring the heat, then fires the saddest dawdling fart of a pitch anybody has ever bothered to capture in slow motion. Even 200 years of life isn't enough time to allow this girl the practice necessary to achieve mediocrity.
One of the first batters is the head vampire, and for a brief moment, it looks like maybe he knows what he's doing. He crushes the ball into the gap between outfielders, so they both have to try to make a play. It's possible that he, unlike all the other actors, has at least heard a game of baseball on the radio before. But just as quickly as he builds up our expectations, he topples them all to the ground: While the ball is still headed into the stratosphere, he slides.
Not the cool, power kind of slide, the regular feet-first kind.
He slides into some base, any base, it doesn't matter which one. The ball is 3 miles away and still heading in the opposite direction when he dives into the dirt because sliding is just what baseball player do, apparently.
But the real icing on this cake of colossal boners is at 1:57, when the left-handed girl vampire hits the ball so hard that it generates a shockwave in the face of the catcher.
Jesus, get a hair tie or something, you've done this before.
While I'm willing to believe that kind of power wouldn't do anything more to an immortal person than blow her hair back a little, that baseball is just an ordinary baseball. It's not made out of vampires or anything. If she hit it with enough force to create a shockwave, that ball should have exploded, or at the very least, Bella's eardrums would have exploded. In fact, if this scene would have ended with blood gushing down the sides of her face and the vampires rushing her to an ER, I would have forgiven every clumsy baseball inaccuracy, and probably every inaccuracy in the entire franchise.
The Room Doesn't Understand "Having a Catch"
If you've never seen The Room, I can only describe it as life-changingly awful. Tommy Wiseau is the writer, director, producer, and possible burn victim starring as the protagonist.
Just be thankful I didn't screen cap the nude scene.
And while his movie is full of problems, one of the most glaring and persistent is his preconceived notion of America's favorite pastime: playing catch.
Every time the men in the movie need to talk or handle a piece of fragile exposition, they do it while pushing a football through the air at each other. It's not even fair to call what they do throwing because there's absolutely zero effort put into ball orientation or consistency with each pass. Sometimes they throw it sideways, sometimes they just fling it underhand, but every single time that the ball makes it to its intended target feels like a miracle.
It's impossible to go through everything that's wrong in these scenes because they go wrong in every direction all the time. Instead, I'll just leave you with a montage. If you're looking for plot, don't bother. It's easier to just think of this as one 90-minute fever dream in which a bunch of aliens put on human skin suits (except for the one who prefers wearing a hunk of fruit leather and a wig) to recreate a hobby they've only read about in some scorched almanac they found in the remnants of our civilization. Enjoy!