What If Athletes Were Movies?

What If Athletes Were Movies?

The NFL season is less than a week away from being over, and now I’m faced with the same predicament I face every single February … the “what now?” predicament.  I am fully aware that other sports exist; the NBA is in full swing, March Madness is right around the corner, and hockey is, um, well … yeah.  I miss the NFL already.

The NCAA basketball tournament is always entertaining, but the jam-packed scheduling of the first two rounds makes it feel as though it’s over as soon as it begins.  The NBA can be great, but the lockout combined with the newest trend of creating “super teams” has made the league far less enjoyable than I once remember.  And until they implement dynamite and handguns, hockey will always be “eh” to me.

The time between now and baseball season has always been the time of year I use to catch up on my movie watching.  With the Oscars less than a month away and sports season being in its short-but-consistent dip, there is no better time to get those Netflix envelopes back into steady rotation.

During a recent movie-watching marathon, I began to think about the connections between sports and film.  It may have been because the marathon consisted of Cool Runnings, Space Jam, and Seabiscuit, but that’s neither here nor there.  The connection between sports and film is one that has always existed.  Besides the obvious connection of movies being made about sports, there is also the “athlete-as-actor” connection.  Whether it’s Howie Long (Broken Arrow), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Airplane), or Shaquille O’Neal (ShaShamWow, or whatever the hell it was called.  Oh yeah, and Blue Chips), athletes have been appearing on the silver screen for decades.

And then you get the occasional “actor-as-athlete” thing; Mickey Rourke (Boxing), that guy who played Screech (Celebrity Boxing), and Ben Affleck (if you’re one of those idiots that considers poker a sport).  There’s a reason I could only think of these three examples: it’s because it never works.

But what if we were to compare athletes to movies?  Think about it … what qualities can you find in an athlete that would translate to the quality of a film?  What traits do both athletes and cinema have that would even be comparable?  What film would you use to describe Patrick Ewing?  Danica Patrick?  Wayne Gretzky?  Here’s how I see it:


Dennis Rodman = Donnie Darko :  Of the people who have seen either Rodman or Donnie Darko, most of them can agree they were both pretty damn good.  But even people who are actual fans of these two don’t really know what either one is about.

Anna Kournikova = Avatar:  Both of them look unbelievably amazing, both of them made a shit-ton of cash, but ask yourself one thing, “Are either one of these things good?”

Shaun White = Fried Green Tomatoes:  Honestly, I’ve never seen Fried Green Tomatoes, but it has the word “tomato” in the title and so does Shaun White’s nickname.  Ok, fine, that was a lame comparison.  How about Problem Child?  No?  Ok, what about Annie?  Problem Child 2?

Jamie Moyer = The Saw franchise:  Just when you think it’s finally over, it comes right back at you with another installment.  In case you didn’t hear, 49 year-old pitcher Jamie Moyer signed a minor-league contract with the Colorado Rockies.  He’s 49 years old.  FORTY NINE.  There are Phillies fans who saw him pitch in 2009 and thought, “I’ll be perfectly fine if I never have to watch that again.”  Just like there are Mariners fans who watched him pitch in 2004 and thought, “I’ll be perfectly fine if I never have to watch that again.”  Just like I watched Saw in 2004 and thought, “I hope they make 17 more of these!”

Barry Sanders = porn : Fine, I’ll admit “porn” isn’t a specific movie, but whenever I watch either one I’m simply amazed that human beings can physically do those things.

Shaquille O’Neal = American History X:  American History X was a great flick, but not nearly as great as Shaq was a basketball player.  O’Neal is one of the top-5 players in the history of the sport, while American History X is nowhere near the fifth-best film ever.   Both of them are great, however, and both of them have one part, one tiny part about them, that is so ugly, so horrendous and gross that in becomes unwatchable.  For American History X, it’s the extremely graphic “curb-stomping” scene.  For Shaquille O’Neal, it’s shooting free throws.  I swear to you, those “hack-a-Shaq” seasons made me feel like Malcolm McDowell being tortured in A Clockwork Orange.  (Damn you, Don Nelson!)

LeBron James = Pulp Fiction: When Pulp Fiction hit the scene in 1994, it was immediately recognized as something the world had never seen before and instantly became a pop-culture phenomenon.  The critics loved it, the fans loved it, and even people who didn’t necessarily like it still had to admit that it was ultimately great for what it was.  And what may be the most impressive thing about Pulp Fiction is the fact it actually became better over time.  As of this moment, I’ve seen Pulp Fiction roughly 1,487 times.  Put it on a television within my line of vision, and I will gladly make that number 1,488. No matter how many times I watch it I always seem to find something I hadn’t noticed before.  I can watch it by myself or in a living room full of friends and enjoy it just the same.  It is one of those rare pop-culture tsunamis that actually lived up to the hype.

Other than the year 1994, every word of the last paragraph holds true for LeBron James.  Although he hasn’t won a championship yet (Pulp Fiction won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay), he will.  Probably this season.

I would also like to say, just for the record, any nerd who claims to have watched all of LeBron’s televised high school games is exactly like those nerds who claim to have seen Reservoir Dogs before watching Pulp Fiction.  I am both kinds of nerd.


Sean Anderson

Writer/Stand-Up Comedian


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