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Sports scandals in the movies

Baseball is deal with a fresh PED scandal, and who knows how all of this will play out. With guys like A-Rod facing the possibility of massive suspensions, the integrity of the game is at risk again, and baseball has learned from past scandals that you have to go all out to squash these things. For example, baseball hates the idea of gambling, but we all know guys love to bet on sports. In today’s world it’s much more mainstream, and you can check out this advice before betting on sports and there are many ways to enjoy this hobby. But baseball hates it of course of players, umps or coaches get involved and threaten the integrity of the game. Just ask Pete Rose.

If you’re looking for a cool Netflix option, check out “Eight Men Out,” a quality baseball film about the Black Sox Scandal which was another time in baseball history where the integrity of the game was questioned. The 1919 Chicago White Sox were a great baseball team, and yet they were basically paid off to throw the 1919 World Series. Making the story even more dramatic, Commissioner Judge Landis banned all eight players allegedly involved from professional baseball for life, including the immortal Joe Jackson. The movie captures the drama of the situation and it’s an interesting backdrop to today’s issues.

People invariably get caught up in the moment, but the repercussions of harsh penalties can have an impact for years – good and bad. But sometimes sacrificial lambs are necessary. Baseball was able to eradicate gambling problems until the Pete Rose scandal, and perhaps harsh punishments here can finally put the PED era to bed for baseball. Someday we’ll probably have movies about this as well.

You can follow us on Twitter @moviebuffs and on Facebook as well.

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Hidden Netflix Gems – Goon

Hidden Netflix Gems is a new feature designed to help readers answer that burning question, “What should I watch tonight?” It will be updated every Saturday before the sun goes down.

I am not particularly interested in professional sports, generally ignoring all games except the occasional Olympics or Super Bowl viewing, but every year or so there is a sports movie that comes along and deeply and unexpectedly resonates with me. Four years ago, there was Darren Aronofsky‘s The Wrestler, a beautiful, heartbreaking film that was easily among my favorite films of 2008; the following year, there was Big Fan, written and directed by The Wrestler writer, Robert D. Siegel. This year, the unexpected sports movie that finds a place in my heart is Michael Dowse‘s Goon, a movie about hockey that mostly ignores the game itself in favor of the fights that so often break out on the ice.

Seann William Scott delivers his best performance yet as Doug Glatt, a sweet, lovable Canadian bar bouncer who is troubled by the fact that he doesn’t have a “thing” that defines him. His father (Eugene Levy) and brother, Ira (David Paetkau), are both doctors, and his best friend, Pat (Jay Baruchel, who co-wrote the film with frequent Seth Rogen collaborator Evan Goldberg), has a public access show about hockey, but Doug feels aimless, searching for his life’s real purpose. That changes one night at a hockey game, when he knocks out a player who climbs into the stands to beat up Pat, who has instigated the fight by being his usual loudmouth self. The fight in the stands garners more attention and applause than the game itself, and Doug soon finds himself recruited as an enforcer for a local minor league hockey team.

As an enforcer, Doug’s job is to injure successful players from other teams, as well as to protect his own teammates by beating up the other teams’ enforcers. It is the sense of being a protector of his team that resonates with Doug and makes him feel like he’s found his calling. It also helps him to earn the love of Eva (Alison Pill), a woman he meets one night in a bar when he knocks out an obnoxious drunk who is hitting on her, and the friendship of his team’s star player, Xavier LaFlamme (Marc-Andre Grondin). Ultimately, though, what the film is building to is a showdown between Doug and his idol, Ross “The Boss” Rhea (Liev Schreiber), a brutal enforcer from the majors who has been demoted for his unsportsmanlike conduct. Though Goon follows the expected beats of a classic sports movie, its formulaic nature does not detract from its quality, and by the time Doug “The Thug” Glatt inevitably faces off against his rival, Scott’s charismatic performance and the film’s surprising likability should have even the most ambivalent viewer ready to cheer.

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Hidden Netflix Gems – The Grand

Hidden Netflix Gems is a new feature designed to help readers answer that burning question, “What should I watch tonight?” It will be updated every Saturday before the sun goes down.

While most sports movies tend to take themselves very seriously, with triumphant underdogs and platitude-filled speeches in their third acts, some sports just inherently lend themselves to comedy. Bowling is a great example of this, as evidenced by the success of films like the Farrelly brothers’ Kingpin and the Coen brothers’ The Big Lebowski. Poker is another, though the game itself is so relatively inactive that it’s debatable whether it should even be called a sport, and Zak Penn‘s underrated improvisational comedy The Grand takes full advantage of a poker tournament’s many humorous possibilities.

Similar to the revered work of Christopher Guest and his regular ensemble of actors in films like Waiting for Guffman and Best in Show, Penn assembles a talented ensemble cast and gives them direction on who their characters are, then leaves the dialogue and the development of situations largely up to them. In fact, the poker tournament at the center of the film is a real tournament, and its outcome was undetermined in the script; the winner at the end of the film actually just beat the other actors, regardless of narrative expectations. This approach gives the film extra vitality and excitement, and with so much room to breathe, the cast creates lively, hilarious characters that often riff on and expand their real public personae.

Woody Harrelson stars as “One Eyed” Jack Faro, the owner of The Rabbit’s Foot casino, which he hopes to save by winning an annual tournament called The Grand. Of course, it is the drug-addled, 74-time divorcée Jack’s own bad investments and reckless behavior that has jeopardized his ownership of the casino in the first place, but despite his many vices, Jack is a charming and lovable rogue worth rooting for. His main competition in the tournament includes the Schwartzman twins, Larry (David Cross, who had a good real-life run on Celebrity Poker Showdown) and Lainie (Cheryl Hines); the Rain Man-like genius Harold Melvin (Chris Parnell, best known as 30 Rock‘s incompetent Dr. Leo Spaceman); and oblivious newcomer Andy Andrews (Richard Kind).

As funny and well-developed as all these primary characters are, however, it is the bit parts that really shine in The Grand. Legendary filmmaker Werner Herzog brings a deadpan menace to his character, “The German,” a ruthless cheat who brings a small menagerie of animals with him to the casino’s hotel because, as he says, “To feel alive and to get this energy, it is essential for me to kill something each day.” Dennis Farina is also particularly memorable as LBJ “Deuce” Fairbanks, a Las Vegas veteran nostalgic for a less family-friendly time in the city’s history; as he fondly remembers it, “It was a place where the Jews and the blacks had to enter the casinos through rear entrances. By the way, on this corner right here, I stabbed a bum.” Though barely released in theaters and largely ignored, The Grand is a consistently funny, anarchistic good time for poker fans and novices alike.

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25th anniversary of “Hoosiers”

“Hoosiers” is one of the best basketball movies and sports movies of all time, and this year we reached the 25th anniversary of its release. Barry Locke at ESPN has a pretty funny article about the movie, arguing that Gene Hackman’s Norman Dale wasn’t a great coach, but we don’t have to buy that argument.

It’s been 25 years since “Hoosiers” immortalized the legend of Hickory High, the small school that beats long odds to make underdog history by winning the Indiana state basketball championship. Yes, it’s been a generation since we were inspired by the story of a coach seeking redemption, a team coming together and a town being transformed in one of the greatest sports films ever made.

But every time I watch the movie — and who hasn’t seen it at least five times — I come to the same conclusion:

Norman Dale can’t coach.

There, I said it. The Wizard of Hickory High, at least as he was shown in the film, manages a game about as well as Shooter manages his booze. Sure, Dale took an undermanned, undersized, undisciplined group of farm boys all the way to the state title. But watch closely. Time and again, they won in spite of their coach.

Regardless of your thought’s on Norman Dale’s coaching ability, this movie definitely gets most people fired up about basketball. It’s a great game for kids and adults as well, and it offers a great way to get in shape. There are so many ways for people to get involved, whether they join gyms or buy in-ground, adjustable basketball goal systems for their home driveways. For kids it offers valuable lessons in teamwork, but it also gets them out running around, and in today’s world with obesity problems that’s a great thing.

So rent the movie and watch it with your kids, and then play some hoops outside!

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The Winning Season

Sam Rockwell might just be one of the most consistent actors of his generation, delivering solid work for the better part of the last decade with little recognition to show for it. But while his performance in “The Winning Season” can hardly be considered a career best, the film is a lot better because of his involvement. After all, most underdog sports movies rarely aspire to more than just crowd-pleaser status, and though the story is as predictable as they come – a washed out basketball prospect (Rockwell) is given a second chance at life when he’s offered the coaching job for a girls’ high school team – it does its best to avoid the typical genre clichés and offer something beyond those schmaltzy, inspirational moments.

That’s not to say that the film is entirely successful, but director James C. Strouse keeps those moments to a bare minimum, focusing less on the basketball team and more on the man in charge. It’s a lot like “Hoosiers” in spirit, but hardly a classic in the making. Still, Rockwell is always a joy to watch, and he’s surrounded by a great supporting cast (including Emma Roberts, Rob Corddry, and the ever-reliable Margo Martindale), so unless you’re just sick of the genre as a whole, there’s no reason you won’t enjoy “The Winning Season” for the piece of feel-good entertainment that it is.

Click to buy “The Winning Season”

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