Actors who could join Sly in a sports hall of fame
Yes, Sylvester Stallone is actually a member of the International Boxing Hall of Fame. But If Sly belongs in a hall of fame for creating and portraying Rocky Balboa, what about other actors and other sports? Here are 10 suggestions.
Jeff Bridges, bowling
“The Dude” abides, and he also bowls. Jeff Bridges’ unforgettable character in the 1998 Coen brothers movie The Big Lebowski (Bridges is at right, with fellow keglers Steve Buscemi, left, and John Goodman, center) loved White Russians, marijuana and bowling (not necessarily in that order). The cult-classic film has spawned several annual “Big Lebowski” fests, which take place in — what else — bowling alleys.
The Hanson brothers, hockey
The most memorable characters from Slap Shot, Jack, Steve and Jeff Hanson (in real life, David Hanson, Steve Carlson and Jeff Carlson) enjoy the same kind of sports-film cult status as Bill Murray’s Caddyshack character, Carl Spackler. It’s a good bet that no North American who ever has laced on a pair of skates has not uttered the phrase “old-time hockey.”
Vince Vaughn, dodgeball
We’re kidding, right? Au contraire. Even while school districts across the country were banning the one-time gym-class staple as too violent, the 2004 film DodgeBall starring Vaughn and Ben Stiller sparked an assortment of adult recreational leagues. Let’s face it — if you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball.
Gene Hackman, high school basketball
Hoosiers, in which Hackman stars as a high school basketball coach in Indiana, is another film on this list that has consistently been ranked among the best ever made about sports. It’s loosely based on the story of the Milan High School team that won the 1954 Indiana state championship.
Robert De Niro, boxing
Goodness knows there have been many excellent movies about boxing, but no more memorable performance than De Niro as the talented but tormented middleweight, Jake LaMotta, in Raging Bull. De Niro won a Best Actor Oscar and Raging Bull has consistently been ranked in various “top 100” lists of films.
James Caan, pro football
What’s the biggest tear-jerker sports movie? That’s easy — Brian’s Song, which tells the story of the friendship between Chicago Bears running backs Gale Sayers and Brian Piccolo. Piccolo, played by Caan, dies of terminal cancer. One mostly forgotten fact about the film: It was made for television, and released to theaters only after its initial broadcast on ABC.
Ronald Reagan, college football
When a president of the United States goes by a nickname he acquired from playing a character in a sports movie, you know something’s up. The man once known as “Dutch” became “The Gipper” after playing Notre Dame’s first All-American, George Gipp, in the 1940 movie Knute Rockne, All American.
Kevin Costner, baseball
Starring in either Field of Dreams or Bull Durham likely would be enough to put Costner on this list. Starring in both? Priceless. Everyone has their favorite between the two films, but Bull Durham was ranked the No. 1 sports movie of all time by Sports Illustrated. Which means Crash Davis was a more memorable character than Ray Kinsella. Or maybe it was Susan Sarandon’s Annie Savoy who made the difference.
Bill Murray, golf
The most famous golf-course maintenance worker in cinematic history is Murray’s Carl Spackler from Caddyshack. He of the “Cinderella story” flights of imagination. Yes, Chevy Chase, Ted Knight and Rodney Dangerfield had memorable roles in this cult classic, too, but Murray is the main man. So he’s got that goin’ for him, which is nice.
Paul Newman, billiards, hockey, boxing, auto racing
Who could ever forget Reggie Dunlop from Slap Shot, or Fast Eddie Felson from The Hustler and The Color of Money, or Rocky Graziano from Somebody Up There Likes Me? But Newman’s role in a lesser-known movie — 1969’s Winning — led to his best sports role: a real-life auto racer. In 1979 he was a driver for the second-place team in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and in 1995, at age 70!, he drove for a class-winning team in the 24 Hours of Daytona. He also co-founded the open-wheel team, Newman-Haas Racing.