Sports lead to great American movies onscreen

Sam Sayler / Washburn Review

As Americans, sports are embedded into our culture. There is an art to the fans that tailgate before each game, paint their faces and chests and give their favorite teams the spirit to soldier on.

Unfortunately for them, their favorite sports are only on so much each year.

For years, Hollywood has capitalized on the emptiness in American hearts and brought great struggles of athletic ability and triumph to screens big and small.

Friday Night Lights

Without a doubt, “FNL” is the single greatest sports program to appear on TV. More so than anywhere else in the country, Texas takes its football seriously, especially at the high-school level. The show begins by following Eric Taylor, played by Kyle Chandler, as the new head coach of the Dillon Panthers.  The show deals with the special treatment given to star athletes and the pressures placed on the team and coaches to perform exceptionally and succeed on the field. Players are injured and fall off the right path, but Coach Taylor is always there to serve as an inspiration. Over its five-year run, “FNL” naturally had characters graduate and move on while new classes of characters were brought in, but Taylor and his family are always anchoring the show and reaching new heights in serial storytelling.

Slap Shot

Hockey may not have taken off as the most popular sport in the states, but it is still fertile ground for cinematic entertainment. Just inching out “MVP: Most Valuable Primate” and “D2: the Mighty Ducks,” Paul Newman’s turn in “Slap Shot” is at the top of the list for great hockey movies. Newman stars as Reggie Dunlop, player-coach for the Charlestown Chiefs, a washed-up team losing money and games. Dunlop is forced to bring in thought-to-be goons the Hanson brothers, out of obligation.

Once the Hansons start playing, things start to turn around for the Chiefs. The brothers’ unconventionally brutal style of play is adopted by Dunlop and the team. The Chiefs have a major turnaround and start winning games, but not every player is pleased with the new mission statement.

Primarily known for roles as a man’s man and tough guy, Paul Newman easily makes the transition to comedy while still keeping the drama intact without missing a beat.

The Wrestler

Director Darren Aronofsky resurrected Mickey Rourke’s career with the yarn of has-been pro wrestler Randy “the Ram” Robinson. “The Wrestler” shows Robinson years after his heyday in the 1980s when he suffers a debilitating heart attack.

Robinson eschews medical advice and mounts his big comeback on the anniversary of his most famous match. While Robinson portrays the tough hero, in real life he needs a hearing aid and glasses, falls madly in love with a stripper and struggles to reconnect with his estranged daughter.

Aside from all the awards and nominations, “The Wrestler” still exceed Hulk Hogan’s turn in “No Holds Barred.”