I tend not to care about sports movies all that much. Sure, there are glaring exceptions, but for the most part they come off as hackish and predictable. For me, it's easy to make a sports movie. It's very difficult to make a great sports movie. Hoosiers. The Natural. Chariots of Fire. Seabiscuit. Pride of the Yankees. These are my favorite sports movies. I can also count those tangential movies, in which sports is a theme but little more: Brian's Song. Caddyshack... the list goes on.
But my favorite ever will always be Slap Shot. Because it's both realistic and absurd. Hilarious and somber at times. It was written by the sister of a minor league hockey player, featured actual players in nearly all of the roles, and contained what must have been an ungodly amount of swear words at the time. It carries itself with a look at the athlete's lives much less glamorous than was usually shown at the time. Long hours on the road, overblown contraversy put on for the fans, locker room discord... this wasn't the picture of superstars, these were the bums of minor league hockey. Which means that they're either on the way out or on the way up.
It also shows how a team deals with decreased interest in them as a local economy falls into decay. Filmed in Johnstown, PA (and based loosely on the Johnstown Jets) as the mills were all starting to get shut down, you get to see it in the exterior shots as plain as plain as possible. Notice how in the parade scene, which runs right along the square in the center of Johnstown, the movie theater is running Deep Throat. Why they set the movie in Charleston (claiming the loss of "factory jobs" and even going so far as to mention a flood there) seems pretty ridiculous, but then I guess things were pretty bad all over then and that's what they were trying to get across.
At the center of the whole story though, is Reg Dunlop, who might be my favorite Paul Newman role ever*. He's conniving, endearing and tenacious. He is unscrupulous and desperate to keep having a career. Kevin Costner stole much from him in Bull Durham a few years later. But of course he was no Paul Newman. Nobody ever will be again. Which is why I got super pissed off earlier today when I read that they're going to remake Slap Shot.
It's bad enough they made that sequel with the shitty Baldwin brother. To remake this movie doesn't even make sense anymore. Violence is no longer a selling point for minor league hockey the way it was back then. I don't think player-coaches have existed in any sport since about that time period, either. And Paul Newman is dead. I wish someone -ANYONE- had learned a lesson from that remakes of The Bad News Bears and The Longest Yard that these films are indicative of a certainl era and that attempts to remake or to relive those movies will result in failure and (hopefully, for the makers of that last movie) embarrassment. These movies all contain a sense of... crudity that virtually cannot be featured in films today. Usually for good reason, but to try and sterilize these plots now is just insulting.
There are millions of sports movies that you can make. Try one about that famous Willis Reed play. Make a movie about Tommy Carlos. Dock Ellis's career would be a great movie, even without the gimmick. I'm sure there's some Japanese baseball team that's earned the right to have their story told. Or even just make something up. But stop fucking around with the movies that are loved by millions of people and try to think up something new. Please.
Hell, remake Space Jam if you have to. But leave Slap Shot alone.
*I think this directly contradicts a previous post of mine about Mr. Newman.
Also, this means that pretty much every movie filmed in Western PA has been remade with 2 exceptions. I think The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh is safe for now, but I'm willing to bet that some idiot will take a shot at The Deer Hunter in the next few years, further provoking both my anger and rationality as a concept.
Here's some stuff that makes Slap Shot an even better movie than you thought.