The real sports movie list

By Jeffery Armstrong

The year 2004 will go down as the year of the list. Every time you turn around, there's some sort of list being tabulated. The American Film Institute just recently put out its 100 Greatest Film Songs of All Time, with "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" from the Wizard of Oz being number one. Whoopee. I would've picked "Holiday Road" from National Lampoon's Vacation (starring Chevy Chase) and most every song from "Purple Rain" instead of that boring song. But that's just me.

Most of the lists this year have been by ESPN, since it's the sports network's 25th anniversary. Tuesday night, the network listed the 25 greatest sports movies of the last 25 years. Yesterday, my colleague Anthony Rhoads listed his top 10 sports movies and of course, yours truly had to jump on the bandwagon. But instead of my top 10 greatest sports movies, i'm going to list some of my favorite less popular sports movies, a few older than 25 years.

1. The Longest Yard: This 1974 classic has long been one of my favorites, especially since i was a big Burt Reynolds fan as a kid. Reynolds stars as convict Paul Crewe, a former football player doing time in a prison controlled by two sports fanatics. Crewe forms a football team with his fellow inmates to challenge the team of prison guards. The dilemna for Crewe is either throw the prison title game and win his freedom or win the game and stay in prison.

2. Gus: Another one of my favorite old-school sports movies. This 1976 Disney comedy was about a last-place football team, the California Atoms, which is turned around with the help of their new star player, a mule who can kick field goals. The competition then attempts to kidnap Gus to stop the Atoms from winning. The kidnap scenes are very funny.

3. The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars and Motor Kings: The longest sports movie title in history was another retro classic (1976). Richard Pryor, Billy Dee Williams, and James Earl Jones starred in this comedy about a group of black baseball players who defect from the 1930s Negro National League.

4. Cool Runnings: This 1993 Disney movie is based on the 1988 Jamaican bobsled team and it's extremely funny. It stars comedians Doug E. Doug (whose name in the movie was Sanka Coffee) and John Candy. I crack up every single time I watch it.

5. Above the Rim: A very well done urban sports movie about a high school basketball player who has to choose between staying on the straight path to Georgetown University or hanging with street toughs who play for a competitive basketball team. This 1994 movie featured a talented cast, including Bernie Mac, Duane Martin, Marlon Wayans, Leon and Tupac Shakur.

6. The Last Boy Scout: This 1991 movie was more drama than sports, but it had enough pro football action to qualify as a good sports movie n to me. Bruce Willis, a detective, teams with former pro football player Damon Wayans, to solve a murder. Wayans and Willis have great lines in this movie and i thoroughly enjoyed the action and sports scenes.

Jeffery Armstrong is a sports writer for the Daily and his column appears on Thursdays. He can be reached at jarmstrong@news-daily.com.