The Mercury News
Staff picks the best alternatives with no sports on TV
If you check our TV listings on Page 2, you’ll see your viewing choices for today. If bowling is your game — to watch — this is your time.
For the rest of you, we offer our staff’s favorite sports films to help pass the next few weeks.
My first choice is “Eight Men Out”: I’ve been forever fascinated by the 1919 Black Sox scandal, and this film — a cinematic documentary based on the excellent book by Eliot Asinof — takes a serious look at the men and their motivations. Director John Sayles was true to the book and true to the times. The uniforms are detail perfect and, unlike Anthony Perkins in “Fear Strikes Out,” the actors know how to throw a baseball. Shout out to Charlie Sheen and especially to John Cusack, to whom I’ve been partial since “The Sure Thing” (1985).
Its timelessness gives it the edge over two other favorites, “Field of Dreams” and “Hoosiers.”
For laughs, “Blades of Glory.”
Elliott Almond, sports enterprise reporter
“Bull Durham”: It has humor and wit and stars Kevin Costner, Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins in epitomizing a slice of America through the lens of minor league baseball.
“Slap Shot”: Well, shoot, Paul Newman willing to have fun in a zany B-movie that has so many classic lines it’s like the Airplane of sports filmography.
“Caddyshack”: Any movie that casts Bill Murray, Chevy Chase and Rodney Dangerfield around a golf course is worth watching.
“Murderball”: A wonderful documentary that brings viewers inside the Paralympics.
“The Endless Summer”: a travelogue that captures the timeless vibration of the sport of surfing. Sure, boards are different now but the passion of riding waves is the same.
Cam Inman, 49ers beat reporter
“Bad News Bears”: Nothing defines American sports better than this 1976 classic, most definitely not to be confused with the Billy Bob Thornton remake in 2005. Social diversity abounds. They’re the ultimate underdogs
And yet they bond together for the thrill of victory, and ultimately they learn they can celebrate their accomplishments and sportsmanship even amid the agony of defeat. Now go stir me and Buttermaker a martini, a Coors and a Lucky Lager.
Jerry Mcdonald, Raiders beat reporter
“Miracle”: Does Disney take some liberties with storytelling? Absolutely. But Kurt Russell’s portrayal of coach Herb Brooks engineering the most memorable sporting event in our country’s sports history is must-see viewing every time it’s on. Al Michaels’ signature “Do you believe in miracles, yes!” is thankfully intact.
Kerry Crowley, Giants beat reporter
“Remember the Titans”: It’s been 20 years since Remember the Titans was released and in my opinion, no one has made a finer sports movie since.
Based on a true story, Denzel Washington is brilliant as Herman Boone, the African-american football coach tasked with integrating the T.C. Williams High football team alongside his assistant and the school’s former head coach Bill Yoast, played by Will Patton.
There’s clashes between players, turmoil in the community, and a compelling look into the harsh racial tensions that were standard for players, coaches and schools as teams were being integrated.
Shayna Rubin, A’s beat reporter
“The Sandlot”: The perfect baseball movie. About a group of friends enjoying the game at its purest: playing whenever they can, however they can, even on a dirt patch.
There’s suspense -- wresting a Babe Ruth-signed baseball from “The Beast.” There’s laughs — like when chewing tobacco meets carnival roller-coaster.
Every few years I watch it and enjoy it all the same.
“The Big Green”: This is a Disney movie about a group of small-town-texas middle schoolers who find purpose when a substitute teacher from England teaches them how to play soccer.
It’s beyond corny, but funny and features many of the actors from “The Sandlot.”
Wes Goldberg, Warriors beat reporter
“Space Jam”: As a millennial, I am required to acknowledge the existence of this one. There are some iconic scenes and quotes — “He’s fixing a divot!” — and an essential performance by Daffy Duck.
Dieter Kurtenbach, sports columnist
“The Big Lebowski”: This Coen Brothers cult classic has, simultaneously, nothing and everything to do with bowling. As we all hunker in for these strange times, we can look to the ever-aloof Dude as an inspiration. I know I’ll watch it a few times — when sports return, I certainly don’t want to be “dragging this negative energy into the tournament.”
“Kicking and Screaming”: Will Ferrell’s kids movie about youth soccer is tremendously watchable for adults without kids.
“OJ: Made in America”: We all have some time on our hands, so Ezra Edelman’s five-part masterpiece is a must-watch. It’s one of the finest films I’ve ever seen.
“Slaying the Badger”: An ESPN 30-for-30 documentary that details one of the great — and most dramatic — events in the history of sport, the 1986 Tour De France. You will leave this film with at least a healthy respect for the sport of cycling. I left a fanatic.
Phil Jensen, high school sports reporter
“Chariots of Fire”: At the time, I was a budding high school distance runner and gravitated towards anything in that genre. Being a Christian, I also gain inspiration from Eric Liddell’s stand.
The slow-motion sequences really resonated with me about the feeling of all-out effort during competition. The silence in parts of it also accurately reflected the focus needed to maintain a high level of effort. The movie spoke personally to me, and still does.
Nick Roth, TV listings
“Field of Dreams”: One of the greatest baseball movies of all time. Brings out the dreamer in every oneof us. The E.T. of sports flicks.
“Eight Men Out”: True story, best documentary reenactment about gambling in sports. Features terrific actors and storyline.
“Major League”: With some great actors (when they were young), this movie felt somewhat realistic but also had a funny factor.
“Mighty Ducks”: A bunch of hockey misfits that won with a special duck formation flying V (and hockey team was named after it)
“Caddyshack:” Bill Murray, Chevy Chase, and Rodney Dangerfield in one movie. ‘Nuff said.