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
According to singer Joe Esposito, The Karate Kid's signature song, "You're the Best," was actually written for Rocky III. Ultimately, it was tossed in favor of "Eye of the Tiger," a song that has become synonymous with the movie.
This is definitely one of those times when everything falls into place just as it should. Either song would have worked in The Karate Kid, but there's something about "You're the Best" that captures the ridiculousness of being a teenager in the '80s.
He may have been a big fan in Big Fan, but in real life comedian Patton Oswalt is more of a history buff than a sports enthusiast. He had to be given cheers in the film because he didn't know how to cheer for a football team on his own.
And according to director Robert D. Siegel, Oswalt was the only member of the cast and crew that didn't enjoy the entertainment of the ladies at the strip club between takes. Apparently he spent that time watching episodes of HBO miniseries John Adams on his iPod in a private room.
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
It's strange how much the title of a movie can change the perception of it after the fact. If Blades of Glory had been released as Partners, which is the title it had when shipped to theaters, it would seem completely normal. Now it seems completely strange.
Speaking of completely strange! Co-star Jon Heder, who broke his ankle while training for the movie, actually spent two years in Japan as a Mormon missionary. While there he learned to speak fluent Japanese, which is how he responded to a reporter's question in the movie flawlessly in the language.
"If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball." If you're like me (and I hope you aren't), that line —and that line alone—was solely responsible for your decision to see Dodgeball in the theater. It was for me, and I've never regretted it.
In the scene, all the wrenches Rip Torn threw at Justin Long were actually made of rubber, but apparently one was unexpectedly harder than the others. Long's eyebrow was cut open by the first wrench that made contact with his face.
In The Hurricane, Rubin "Hurricane" Carter was played by actor Denzel Washington, who is about four inches taller and about 40 pounds heavier than the man himself.
Despite the fact that Washington trimmed down substantially for the film, he (and the actors who played his opponents in the ring) would be classified as heavyweights, while Carter was actually middleweight.
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.
Apparently the concept of a high school basketball star who's only good at basketball when he turns into a werewolf wasn't as readily embraced abroad as it was in the U.S. It helped in Brazil and Italy to associate Teen Wolf with another popular Michael J. Fox film of the time.
In Brazil it was called Garoto do Futuro, which translates to The Boy From the Future. In Italy it was released under the title Voglia di Vincere, or It Wants to Win—and the main character's name was changed from Scott to Marty.
As in...Marty McFly. Jeez. People in those countries who actually went to see this movie must have been very confused.
BASEketball the movie is actually based on a game that director David Zucker and his friends used to play in the driveway of his home. Many of his friends were used as extras.
The movie's producers were able to secure commitments from Trey Parker and Matt Stone to star in the film because they were operating under the assumption that South Park would surely be canceled prior to the start of filming.
Total miscalculation. Parker and Stone ended up working on the movie by day and producing South Park by night—which was more than a little exhausting.
Oh! And during the Robert Stack Unsolved Mysteries scene, you'll notice that all the computers in the background have Solitaire up on their screens. Memories of a simpler time...
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.
Having been a quarterback at Ohio State—who played a former quarterback from Ohio State in Point Break—Shane Falco's role in The Replacements wasn't that much of a stretch for actor Keanu Reeves.
The film was set in Washington, D.C., but was filmed predominantly in the Baltimore area—including the use of the Ravens' stadium. Someone with the Ravens must have liked what they saw because Reeves was offered a tryout with the team during filming.
So next time you hear a Ravens fan complaining about Joe Flacco, you might want to give them a reality check about what the offensive situation used to be in Baltimore.
Bring It On
In the cheerleading movie Bring It On, the three members of the rival Clovers that weren't Gabrielle Union were Shamari Fears, Brandi Williams and Natina Reed—members of a girl group put together by the late Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes called Blaque.
The girls actually sang a song called "As If," which was featured on the movie's soundtrack. Tragically, Reed was killed when she was struck by a car while crossing an Atlanta street in October 2012. The accident came a decade after Lopes, her mentor, died in a car accident in Honduras.
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
The success of Penny Marshall's A League of Their Own in 1992 is one of many films to spawn a blink-and-you-missed-it sitcom, an uncreative way to capitalize on the surprise success of a movie.
It was a clunky comedy that aired from April 10, 1993, to April 24, 1993. Marla Hooch and "Betty Spaghetti" Horn were the only two characters to reprise their roles for the TV series.
Any Given Sunday
Oliver Stone tried in vain to get the NFL's permission to use the league's actual team and stadium names in Any Given Sunday. (They probably objected to all the profanity...you know what high standards for conduct they have...)
He did, however, get permission to use one thing from former NFL quarterback Dan Marino. The house belonging to Cap Rooney, who was played by Dennis Quaid in the film, is actually owned by the former Dolphin.
Social ladder-climbing cheerleader Darcy Sears' whipped cream bikini is permanently etched in the mind of pretty much everyone who has ever seen Varsity Blues.
But that bikini isn't nearly as tasty as it looks. It turns out that whipped cream doesn't hold its shape (or position) very long, which is why shaving cream had to be used.
The trial-and-error process must have been riveting.
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.
Rudy marked the first time actors Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn appeared together on screen. The first of many times.
It was one of just two movies ever shot on the Notre Dame campus. The other was Knute Rockne All American.
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.
Actor Mark Wahlberg was about as committed to his role of Micky Ward in The Fighter as was humanly possible. He began training in 2005 and kept it up through July 2009, when filming finally began.
Early on in the project Matt Damon and Brad Pitt were attached to the project to play Dicky Eklund, which ultimately went to Christian Bale—who prepared for the part by eating next to nothing and disappearing for hours at time.
Wahlberg waived his entire salary to get the movie made and Bale was paid only $250,000 for his part. They were both rewarded handsomely on the back end, and Bale was rewarded with an Oscar.
It's like the part of Ricky "Wild Thing" Vaughn was tailor-made for bad boy Charlie Sheen, who was once offered a baseball scholarship to the University of Kansas. Although his fastball wasn't 101 mph as it was portrayed in Major League, Sheen could actually hurl it 85 mph.
Not too bad. Not too bad at all.
Of course that wasn't all natural. Two years ago, Sheen admitted during an interview with Sports Illustrated to using steroids to prepare for his role. That might be the least jarring revelation about Charlie Sheen ever.
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.
Sylvester Stallone's Rocky character obviously took his nickname from the real-life boxer Rocky Marciano. Balboa goes by his nickname throughout the series of films.
But his real name is actually Robert. Robert Balboa. There was a reference made to his name in a rough version in the second movie's script, though it's never mentioned in the films.
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.
Another "working title" that benefited from some more work.
Major League was initially pitched as Dead Last, a very literal interpretation of the movie villain's intention.
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."
It seems the actor playing Shooter McGavin in Happy Gilmore didn't have to reach very far to embody the character's notoriously (and hilariously) awful persona. According to Adam Sandler, actor Christopher McDonald had to be convinced as to why Shooter would be afraid of fighting Happy.
After all, McDonald has about six inches on Sandler in real life. The pair debated the issue for awhile until Sandler finally convinced him that Shooter would be more afraid of Happy's violent temper than his overall size or fighting ability.
Or...uh...how about because it's in the script! Classic Shooter McGavin.
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.
In the 2004 film Miracle, the World Trade Towers in New York City were depicted in 1980. Of course that was a few years after they fell during the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
This marked the first time the twin towers had to be created digitally, rather than just filmed, following the destruction. A sobering milestone, but not unimportant.
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.
Field of Dreams
As if one Ray Kinsella in the world wasn't already one too many. In the W.P. Kinsella novel Shoeless Joe, which is what Field of Dreams is based on, Ray is reunited with his identical twin brother, Richard. The whole subplot was scrapped in the movie.
Speaking of the movie. It was originally intended to be released as Shoeless Joe, but the title tested poorly with audiences. It seems the term "shoeless" made people think "homeless" and of course "homeless" is just too icky.
(That was sarcasm. People are the worst.)
Speaking of dreams: It's my dream for you to follow me on Twitter, which is my Field of Dreams: Follow @blamberr