50 Sports Movie Facts That Will Blow Your Mind
Think you know everything about your favorite sports movies? Think again. Just because you've seen Happy Gilmore or Raging Bull or Talladega Nights 250 times doesn't mean you've caught everything.
The plot and dialogue are one thing—hopefully you've got those down after 250 viewings. If not, there are probably much bigger issues in play here.
What you might not know is the story behind the story. Changes in script, casting or title that could have completely changed the movie. Little bits of trivia can only enhance the future viewing experience.
So you can thank me later for arming you with all this awesome information that can be used to impress your friends and family at a later date.
Let's get started.
The Karate Kid
The Sandlot, a beloved '90s baseball classic, ends with the narrator telling the audience how the future played out for the very colorful cast of characters.
Among them was Bertram Grover Weeks, who was said to have gotten "really into the 60s, and no one ever heard from him again." Which ended up being true.
Grant Gelt, the actor that played Bertram, appeared in the TV miniseries The '60s in 1999—the last project that appears on his IMDB page. Spooky.
Bend It Like Beckham
Much of the Bend It Like Beckham plot line revolves around the opportunities Jules and Jess would have to play soccer professionally in the U.S. because of the Women's United Soccer Association (WUSA).
Although they both got to go to school in California, any dreams of playing in the WUSA would've been immediately dashed (assuming this was real life, which it isn't).
The cash-strapped league suspended operations just seven weeks after the movie was released in the U.S.
The Blind Side
Ravens left tackle Michael Oher wasn't entirely thrilled by the "Forrest Gump-like" depiction of himself in The Blind Side, the movie in which actress Sandra Bullock won an Oscar for her portrayal of his adopted mother, Leigh Anne Tuohy.
The film portrayed him as quiet and unskilled at his position, as if he had never played the game before. But he was an experienced player when he enrolled at private high school attended by the other Tuohy children.
He's more or less a constant presence in Happy Gilmore after Happy makes it onto the pro tour, but the homeless caddy, played by Allen Covert, he plucked from the parking lot is never addressed by his name in the film.
Although it seems completely plausible that he'd be referred to simply as "dirtbag caddy" in an Adam Sandler script, he actually had a name—Otto. His named was spoken just once in a deleted scene.
Field of Dreams
Field of Dreams was filmed in Iowa during the middle of a drought, which required the baseball field and iconic cornfields in the area to be heavily watered during the production.
As a result, the crops grew at such a fast rate that it actually outgrew several of the shots. In at least one scene in the movie Kevin Costner is walking on an elevated plank through the corn to account for the difference in height from the previous shot.
Speaking of Kevin Costner—he nearly missed out on the career defining role of Ray Kinsella. The part was initially offered to Tom Hanks, who turned it down. Not that Hanks wouldn't have been good in the movie, but Costner needed it more.
Bring It On
In Bring It On, the school attended by the main characters is Rancho Carne, which sounds Spanish.
Well…the English translation of the name is "Meat Ranch."
Blades of Glory
One of the most popular movie posters for Rocky featured the title character and Adrian holding hands. It remains one of the film's most iconic and enduring images.
It's such a shame it was taken from a scene that was cut from the movie! Although, considering Cher was almost cast as Adrian, it's clear the producers got more right than wrong.
He Got Game
In the script for He Got Game, the scene in which Jesus and Jake play one-on-one for the letter of intent originally called for Jesus to win 15-0.
But director Spike Lee encouraged Ray Allen and Denzel Washington to play for real, so the game reflected in the film is legit.
Toward the end of Blue Crush, a rainbow appears behind Kate Bosworth after the big competition. It was nearly edited out because producers felt it looked too "cheesy," but they decided to leave it because it made sense in the context of the Hawaiian setting.
What makes less sense is actress Michelle Rodriguez's insistence on doing all her own stunts. She performed all her own stunts on the jet ski, including towing Bosworth's stunt double out into the massive surf.
White Men Can't Jump
In White Men Can't Jump, stars Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson got so good at basketball that, according to their instructors, they were good enough to start for an NCAA Division III team.
Thankfully it was Woody Harrelson. Apparently Charlie Sheen was the first choice for the role of Billy Hoyle. David Duchovny was also considered.
Coach Carter had the highest opening weekend gross of any previous release from MTV Films, bringing in nearly $25 million in January 2005.
Channing Tatum, who was one of the movie's co-stars, had never played basketball prior to filming. He required personal training to bring him up to the level of the other actors.
Any Given Sunday
Oftentimes when we see who was almost cast in a movie, it feels as if the public dodged a major bullet and casting directors narrowly avoided ruining an otherwise fine film with their terrible decisions.
That's not really the case in Any Given Sunday. The "what could've been" cast looks stunningly similar to the "what was" cast. You've got an even swap with Al Pacino/Robert De Niro and Aaron Eckhart/Edward Burns.
The only potential downgrade would be trading out Jamie Foxx for Sean "Puff Daddy" Combs. Although, that one is an absolute unknown. Foxx has since won an Oscar, but was very green at the time, and we have no idea what Diddy would've brought to the role.
Bend It Like Beckham
Playing on their parents' worst fears, Bend It Like Beckham was originally supposed to end with Jess and Jules together as a couple, which better explains the two "lesbian scare" moments each family has in the film.
The ending was deemed too controversial and was changed before filming got off the ground. Had it not been changed, it's hard to imagine Bend It Like Beckham would have been the first Western film allowed to be shown in North Korea.
In Jerry Maguire, the hateful a-hole Bob Sugar, played by comedian Jay Mohr, is known to be based on a real life a-hole.
The real life a-hole being sports super agent Drew Rosenhaus, who is kinda like Bob Sugar…only, from all accounts, much worse.
In The Hurricane, Rubin "Hurricane" Carter was depicted as returning from his military service as a hero, donning various medals of valor and insignia.
In actuality, Carter faced an Army courts-martial four times in less than two years. He was considered "unfit for military service" and discharged after just 21 months.
The Karate Kid
It's almost impossible to imagine The Karate Kid without Ralph Macchio. Sorry to Hilary Swank and Jaden Smith, but they proved some classics don't need to be remade or reimagined.
But this classic could have an entirely different look if Charlie Sheen hadn't turned down the part. He seems a lot more right for the Johnny Lawrence part than the Daniel LaRusso part—am I right?
That reminds me…how awesome was Billy Zabka? He always played the villain…but I think he was just misunderstood.
Bring It On
Thankfully Darren Aronofsky was willing to fight for his first choice (Mickey Rourke) to play Randy "The Ram" Robinson in The Wrestler, because we really dodged a couple of bullets.
Hulk Hogan has claimed he was approached about the movie, but was ruled out because his very being could be too distracting for the audience. Aronofsky has denied his claims.
The actor the studio really wanted was Nicolas Cage, who was seen doing research for the part at a Ring of Honor wrestling event. Eventually they came around on Rourke. Phew.
Despite what you may have gathered from watching the movie Cool Runnings, the international bobsledding community (which, apparently, exists) was not combative and/or resistant to the Jamaican team in real life.
In fact, the Jamaicans were met with open arms by their fellow competitors. One team even loaned them a backup sled so that they could qualify.
A League of Their Own
Any Given Sunday
Director Martin Scorsese has said that one of the main reasons black and white film was used in Raging Bull was to differentiate it from Rocky, which was released four years prior.
Another reason had to do with the amount of blood in the movie. Scorsese didn't want to depict so much blood in color—and this allowed them to substitute it for Hershey's chocolate, which showed up better on film.
The beloved classic Hoosiers was released under the title Best Shot in Europe because most people outside the U.S. have no idea what a Hoosier is.
I'm not even sure how many people in the U.S. are totally clear on that one.
On a number of occasions, the late, great Paul Newman said Slap Shot held a special place in his heart as his favorite of his own films, insisting that he had more fun making it than any other movie he starred in.
Thankfully the role went to Newman, rather than the equally great (but couldn't be more different) Al Pacino, who was very interested early on. Eventually he was ruled out by director George Roy Hill, who was more than a little concerned about his on-ice ability.
When Hill asked his would-be star if he could ice skate, Pacino considered the question "facetious" and completely dismissed it. Which is the most Al Pacino thing that has ever happened.
Any Given Sunday
Believe it or not—and I had a very hard time believing it—Al Pacino's epic final rallying cry at the end of Any Given Sunday was inspired from a real-life speech once given by a substantially less fiery personality.
It was inspired by a speech from former NFL coach Marty Schottenheimer.
A League of Their Own
In the classic A League of Their Own, all of the actresses had to prove they could play baseball in order to get cast. They all actually played ball and even performed all of their own stunts—except for one.
Geena Davis, who played catcher Dottie Hinson, needed the assistance of a stuntwoman for the iconic sliding split scene. Davis was able to do the split as shown in the still images, but was unable to slide into it on the move as was depicted in the film.
The reason for the split was to advance the plot point that the league was unprofitable and unpopular early on, which actually wasn't true in real life. The small Midwestern towns in which the teams played embraced the league with open arms—for many baseball fans it was the only live professional game they'd ever see.
Ultimately it was televised MLB that doomed women's baseball.
The beat-up, old Ford truck on the poster for Varsity Blues was never actually used in the movie. Billy Bob's monster truck is definitely more befitting of West Canaan royalty.
Speaking of the king, quarterback Jonathan "Mox" Moxon wears the No. 4 jersey as a tribute to retired great Brett Favre, the favorite football player of actor James Van Der Beek.
And speaking of Dawson (of Dawson's Creek, duh), his BFF Pacey, also known as Joshua Jackson, was one of the other actors considered for the role of Mox.
The entire ending to the movie Fever Pitch had to be rewritten after the Red Sox defied history in 2004 and won their first World Series in 85 years. The original plot assumed the Sox would lose in the playoffs, which was a pretty safe bet after they went down 0-3 to the Yankees in the ALCS.
Not only did they come back against their mortal enemies in pinstripes, the Sox went on to sweep the Cardinals in the World Series. Co-stars Drew Barrymore and Jimmy Fallon were briefly seen celebrating on the field with the team following the big win, causing many fans to wonder "WTF?"
The Farrelly brothers had to rewrite the entire ending on the fly, as well as shoot additional scenes in St. Louis to account for the Red Sox's sudden change in fortune.
Of all the movies on this list, Cameron Crowe's Jerry Maguire seems like it may have been the most difficult to cast. The lead roles were written for Tom Hanks and Winona Ryder, but Crowe thought Hanks was too old for the film by the time he finished writing the script. (It took him three years!)
It didn't take them long to land on Tom Cruise for Jerry, but countless actresses were considered for Dorothy Boyd before they settled on Renee Zellweger. Ryder was ruled out because she and Cruise looked like siblings, but they considered Parker Posey, Jennifer Lopez, Mira Sorvino, Cameron Diaz and Molly Ringwald, among others.
Though it may be hard to imagine now, Courtney Love was a serious contender coming off her role in The People vs. Larry Flynt. Also in serious contention was comedian Janeane Garofalo, who Crowe offered the role if she would be willing to slim down for the movie. Apparently she wasn't interested.
Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby
According to IMDB, producers of Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby pitched the movie idea to studios with a simple, yet very descriptive phrase:
"Six words: Will Ferrell as a NASCAR driver."
Actor Joe Pesci starred in three of director Martin Scorsese's most famous films: Goodfellas, Raging Bull and Casino.
Raging Bull is the only one in which he doesn't die. And keeping with Pesci's character, the "F" word was used an epic 114 times in the movie.
The Wrestler was shot in just more than30 days, which is pretty tight in terms of a movie production. That means the stars had to just dive right in.
The first scene on the first day for actress Marisa Tomei was the once in which she gives Mickey Rourke a lap dance.
Remember awhile back when Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana proved himself to be a soulless, heartless human being, completely devoid of sentiment when he spoke out about former Notre Dame teammate Rudy Ruettiger, referring to him "not as a joke"...but kind of a joke?
Well, apparently Montana isn't the only one with a bone to pick about Ruettiger's portrayal in the movie Rudy. Former coach Dan Devine was reportedly displeased with the scene in which a number of starters laid down their jerseys on his desk in protest for not letting their diminutive buddy suit up against Georgia Tech.
Devine said not only did the incident never take place, but if it had he would have booted anyone who participated off the team. His tenure at Notre Dame lasted just five years and it was the last coaching job he held.
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