In sports movies, as in sports themselves, there is generally a very distinct line drawn between heroes and villains. Between good and bad. And between those that contribute and those that are just along for the ride.
That easily discernible distinction is what separates the satisfaction that your average viewer enjoys from the morally unambiguous ending of a movie like Hoosiers, to the questions that linger after seeing something a bit more complex like Inception.
The fact of the matter is that the public, in general, is more comfortable when clear lines are drawn between good and bad. People prefer black and white to shades of grey, every day of the week and twice on Sunday.
And in sports movies, because the lines are so clearly drawn, it's not just the villains who are easy to hate on. Anyone who isn't clearly the hero, or that isn't a fully functioning contributor in the camp of the hero from start to finish, is susceptible to our disdain.
That holds especially true for those who aren't villains, but offer little to no additional benefit to the movie itself. It's much easier to appreciate a capable adversary than a useless character whose presence wouldn't be missed in the slightest if his or her part ended up on the cutting room floor after the final edit.
Yet, ultimately, it doesn't matter whether they are there to move the plot along, create an obstacle for the protagonist or simply fill up dead air with the occasional inconsequential dialogue—we dislike them all the same.
Here are some of the worst and most universally unlikable characters in sports movie history.
In Happy Gilmore, you've got the not-so-obvious hero Happy Gilmore and the hilariously hostile villain Shooter McGavin, his adversary. There is never any question that Shooter is behind most of the problems that plague Happy in the movie, but he doesn't always do the dirty work himself.
Despondent over such an uncivilized amateur with absolutely no interest in the sport making the pro tour through a play-in tournament, Shooter employs the help of a friend-turned-stalker named Donald—who has a strange attachment to Red Lobster—to get inside Happy's head.
As it turns out, the only thing it takes to get in Happy's head is showing up all over a golf course and calling him a "jackass!" when the heat is on. Not only does Happy hate Donald (not to mention Shooter), but the audience does as well.
There were a lot of seriously unlikable characters in Jerry Maguire, including the title character through most of the movie, but that's really to be expected in a movie about sports agents. Particularly when the early villain, Bob Sugar, is said to have been based on the real-life loathsome super-agent Drew Rosenhaus.
So standing above them is actually a really impressive feat. And that's exactly what two-faced client Kathy Sanders did.
One of the movie's opening scenes depicts Jerry Maguire in a mad dash to secure his clients from Sugar, who was on the phone trying to steal them after firing Maguire over lunch. Sanders feigns empathy for her former agent, but cheerfully changes course when answering her call waiting.
Realizing it was still Jerry on the line, she immediately flips back to sobbing. The Sanders character proved that agents aren't the only snakes of the sports world.
With all due respect—and I do mean all due respect—Larry Dennit Jr. is an extremely capable villain in Talladega Nights, because I will never be able to separate Greg Germann, the actor, from the character he played in this movie.
Not that I've actually seen Greg Germann the actor very often, but he really bothered me on the episode of Law & Order SVU I saw him in last season.
Dennit Jr. is particularly terrible as the son of someone who ends up in his position of power thanks to the hard work of generations before him. Basically…he's the Paris Hilton of NASCAR—minus the drug problems and STDs.
We all know that suspension of disbelief is one of the most important necessities required to truly enjoy most movie experiences. But we all also know that sometimes it's easier said than done.
So I really hate to get nitpicky on Rookie of the Year's Dr. Lester. Unfortunately, that's about to happen.
Obviously his negligence is what facilitated the entire film, but seriously! Since when does a doctor let a kid with a serious medical complications just leave the office after he seriously injures his attending physician?
Never. In reality (even though this isn't reality), Henry Rowengartner wouldn't have to worry about all his lost pay with the Cubs, cause that malpractice lawsuit would keep him comfortable for quite awhile.
I don't want to get too down on DodgeBall's Justin "If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball" Redman too much. After all, the poor bastard has been through enough as it is.
Even though he finally has some luck with the ladies at the end of the movie, "finding romance with Amber," Redman's character really only exists to be used and abused.
Which makes it easy too root for him…maybe a bit too easy. In a movie stacked with morally questionable characters, Redman is the naive goober who is all too content to take their abuse. Stand up for yourself, dude.
No offense to Ty O'Neal, the actor who played Dwayne Robertson in the second and third movies in The Mighty Ducks franchise, because he played the ridiculous cowboy character to the best of his abilities. Unfortunately, he wasn't given anything but tired stereotypes and an exaggerated accent to work with.
Choosing to bring Robertson back for the third film was an odd choice, given that characters were known to disappear from one movie to the next. He added nothing to the story aside from his over-the-top Southern twang, which was grating on its best day and downright wretched and barely tolerable on its worst.
There are plenty of people worth disliking in Bring It On, but no one in the entire film comes close to being as loathsome as Torrance Shipman's college-bound boyfriend Aaron, a male cheerleader she dated in high school. There are a few close seconds, though.
There's a reason her parents are thrilled this jag is heading off to college—in a movie filled with only relatively unpleasant characters, he stands out as, by far, the most unlikable.
First Aaron doesn't believe in Torrance and hands the squad over to Courtney and Whitney because she's not "captain material"—which is actually kind of understandable, because she really does a piss-poor job for awhile. But then he cheats on her with some skank.
Hopefully he enjoyed his time in college, because an adult Aaron would be appealing to exactly zero percent of the adult female population. If he was real, he'd probably be on the local sex offenders registry list before graduation.
Assuming he graduated. Which he probably didn't.
Please don't get me wrong. I wasn't super cool in high school, and the last thing I want to do is beat up on a nerd. Seriously—I walked away from Ferris Bueller's Day Off with a hopeless and eternal crush on Cameron Frye.
So I really don't want to needlessly pick on a "nerd." It's just that The Mighty Ducks' Lester Aberman isn't just a nerd, he's every nerd stereotype rolled into one—including being bad, to marginally bad, at sports. Which might work if he wasn't a character in a sports movie franchise.
Aberman serves as nothing but the occasional comic foil: "Aaaaaaaaberman!" And it's not even very funny when it happens. With all the characters that came and went from each movie, it's stunning that he was one of the very few that remained through all three.
On one hand, it's not hard to understand why Johnny Moxon's girlfriend Jules Harper is such a freaking downer in Varsity Blues. It's only natural having watched her brother Lance grow up under constant pressure from their father to succeed where he, himself, had failed.
And, although never specifically addressed within the movie, it's not much of a stretch to think she had felt a little neglected living in Lance's shadow.
On the other hand, does she have to be that much of a downer? The switch flips on her mood the second Mox is named the starter, when she begins to make it clear at every opportunity that she never intended on dating an actual football player. Which is pretty mean considering he resisted Darcy Sears in that whipped cream bikini.
Jules was likely written to be as unpleasant as she was because it would give the audience no reason to feel bad for her when Mox carries on his life without her—at least initially. If that's the case, it definitely worked.
In BASEketball, the titular sport is invented by Joe Cooper and Doug Remer in the driveway of high school hottie Brittany Kaiser, at an unofficial reunion—to which neither of them were invited—years later. Considering their behavior, it's no surprise they weren't on the guest list.
Trying to show up the med school boyfriends of Brittany and Heather, Coop and Remer invent a game on the spot that wouldn't be as skewed to those with actual physical capabilities. It almost works out, except neither of them get the girl.
All four characters basically embody everything you likely still hate about the popular kids in high school. It may be more palatable to portray those people as unsuccessful losers who got what they deserved in life, but in reality many of them cruise through life much the same way they did in high school.
The audience is supposed to hate these people, because the whole movie would fail if they weren't siding with Cooper and Remer from the get-go. Mission accomplished.
In Bend It Like Beckham, the parents of the main characters Jess and Jules have both got their own unpleasant sets of prejudices. Of course, not all prejudices are created equal.
The difference being that the problems Jess encounters with her Indian parents are largely cultural and overcome at the end. They stem from her desire to play soccer, when her family thinks she should be focused on finding a husband.
While the conflict Jules has with her mother Paula is far more deep-seated and unrelated to cultural issues. Although her mother does have an issue with her dedication to sport, it stems from an unfounded concern that Jules is a lesbian.
Ultimately, both sets of parental problems are overcome at the end, but you get the sense that Paula Paxton was the only character who walked away the exact same person she always was. And that person...was terrible.
Fired Up! is one of those rare movies in which pretty much every single character is unlikable. But there are none more unlikable than main characters Nick Brady and Shawn Colfax, two popular football players who decide to join the cheerleading quad in an attempt to meet girls.
Even though there's no reason to assume these two turds would have any trouble meeting the vapid women they so desire in their regular life as football players.
In the movie, Brady and Colfax eventually grow to like cheerleading and develop stronger feelings for the girls they manipulated and lied to in an effort to get in their pants…but somehow, it just doesn't seem like nearly enough growth to make up for their insufferability early on.
Of all sports movies aimed at kids, there may be no villains more inexplicably maniacal than those in Rookie of the Year. The boyfriend of Henry Rowengartner's mother, Jack, is allowed a very disconcerting amount of control over the life of a child whose mother he seems only vaguely connected to.
Larry "Fish" Fisher's temperament as the unscrupulous general manager of the Cubs is particularly noticeable contrasted with that of likable elderly owner, Bob Carson. Unlike in Little Big League, a similar fish-out-of-water kids movie about baseball, Rowengartner is very much at the mercy of every adult in his life.
Billy Heywood, as the owner/manager of the Twins, is in control of his own life and everyone else around him. That makes the adults in Rowengartner's life, who are all too willing to exploit a child, all the more wretched, while it's often Heywood who looks like the villain in Little Big League.
Having been born in the very early '80s but having grown up predominately in the 90s, much of my sense of the "yuppie culture" of the '80s has been shaped from a single scene in Major League, one of my all-time favorite movies.
In the film, the main character is Jake Taylor, an over-the-hill catcher with chronic knee problems who is signed by the Indians to play for the league minimum and help them to a last-place finish, which will allow the team to move to Miami.
Taylor's ex-girlfriend is Lynn Wells, a well-read librarian who obviously still loves him but has become engaged to an unpleasant and uptight yuppy she knows won't cheat on her—if only because he could never do any better than her.
Midway through the movie, Taylor follows Wells back to what he thinks is her apartment, but it turns out to be that of the vile fiancé, who just so happens to be hosting the worst dinner party of all time.
Not only do the guests shamelessly ask Taylor about his salary with the Indians, it seems they all go out of their way to make his beer-drinking self feel like an outcast, making it even sweeter when Taylor snags Wells in the end.
It certainly isn't any wonder that boxer Mickey Ward's real-life sisters were none too fond of their portrayal in The Fighter. Knowing nothing about the women, having seen the movie I'd assume they were simple-minded and violent.
Combined with volatile tempers and comically thick Boston accents, the picture painted of the women in the film was not a pretty one.
Then again, their fictional counterparts' universal assertion that Mickey's lady love Charlene was one of those "MTV girls" is one of the greatest putdowns the history of cinema. Said Charlene, "Oh, stop callin' me an MTV girl, whatever the f*** that means."
They never did explain what the f*** that means.
This one is almost too easy. There are a lot of complex characters in both the film and television versions of Friday Night Lights, but the abusive alcoholic father played by Tim McGraw in the movie is easily the most unlikable.
Father to Don Billingsley, a fullback on a high school team in Odessa, Texas, Charles is a pathetic shell of the person he still imagines himself to be—that person being a high school football star. In reality, he's just an overgrown has-been in a dead-end job who was unable to get into college himself, so he's taking out his frustrations on his own son.
Even after he gets drunk and throws his championship ring away in a moment of revelation—supposedly when he first realizes his own failures are what drives his behavior, rather than anything his son does—it's more than just a little bit difficult to get on his side.
Particularly when he points to fatherhood as one of the main obstacles of success. Even in Charles' finest moment, he leaves no question that any future success Don enjoys will be despite his father, not because of him.
This isn't the last slide in the slideshow, but the idiot homophobic football players from Bring It On were actually the final addition to this overall list. It came down to a decision between these guys and old Mr. Harvey from A League of Their Own.
As you may recall, Harvey was the character in the movie that formed the women's baseball league in an attempt to capitalize on the void in the sport left by the men fighting in WWII. But he was just as quick to turn on the league he created the moment it looked like the war was ending.
And although his role as a villain was largely fiction, at least it provided a necessary plot point for the film. On the other hand, the homophobic, winless Rancho Carne Toros football team was nothing more than the understandable butt of the jokes of the male cheerleaders they felt they were somehow above.
The male cheerleaders had won countless national championships, while the football team had never won a single game, yet they persisted with their insults. The only reason these guys exist is to make you hate them and like the male cheerleaders more by comparison, and it really works.
If there is any character in sports movie history that is a prototype villain, it has to be Johnny Lawrence in The Karate Kid. Actor Billy Zabka was so convincing that he played pretty much the exact same character in Just One of the Guys a year later.
They were the roles that would define his career. In both movies, Zabka has a shockingly short fuse, is more than willing to throw down with a woman and is stunningly mean-spirited for a kid of his age. He is truly reminiscent of a young Ted Bundy.
Which, as you can imagine, is not a great reference. Is he a great villain? Absolutely—one of the best. Is he redeemable on any level whatsoever? Nope. Not one.
Good luck finding any likable characters in an Oliver Stone movie—they're few and far between. In Any Given Sunday, there weren't many characters worth rooting for, but Cameron Diaz's Christina Pagniacci is easily the most unlikable.
First of all, she's said to be based on Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, which should tell you all you need to know about the character, whether or not you've actually seen the film.
Being a woman in what is almost entirely a man's world doesn't do Pagniacci any favors, either. Every misstep she makes in the movie—of which there are many—seems doubly amplified, simply by the fact that she's female.
As a woman myself, I can say without doubt that it's unfair. But I also can't deny how much I disliked Pagniacci.
Will Arnett and Amy Poehler are masterful at what they do, which is why it's so damn easy to hate figure-skating siblings Stranz and Fairchild Van Waldenberg in Blades of Glory.
The movie's main characters are Chazz Michael Michaels and Jimmy MacElroy, played by Will Ferrell and Jon Heder respectively, actually have relatively few redeeming qualities themselves. Making it all the more essential to hate the Van Waldenbergs.
And the audience does hate the over-privileged, incestuous-seeming siblings (who ultimately prove to be actually incestuous in the end, to nobody's surprise), while at the same time rooting for their sister Katie, who sides with the film's "heroes" early on.
So unpleasant are they that their very existence somehow makes an unpleasant pair of male figure skaters seem all the more palatable by comparison.
In the world of NASCAR, is there any better conceivable villain than a gay French race car driver sponsored by Perrier? Talladega Nights' Jean Girard was obviously created to embody everything your average fan, if not your average American, hates.
Producers of the film must have known they had hit all the right notes after the three stars appeared in characters at the UAW Ford 500 at Talladega in 2005, prior to the movie's release.
According to IMDB: "Cal, Ricky and Girard were all actually introduced during driver introductions at the [event]. Ricky and Cal were cheered, but when Girard was introduced as a driver from France driving the Perrier car, the entire crowd started booing without any prompting."
It seems we are all genetically predisposed to hating characters like Girard, a walking, talking, unapologetically condescending French stereotype.
In Spike Lee's He Got Game, Denzel Washington plays Jake Shuttlesworth, the father of a high school basketball star named Jesus, played by NBA star Ray Allen. And…he's pretty terrible.
Washington's performance is great as a father in jail for accidentally killing his wife, who is temporarily released by the state's governor in order to convince his son to commit to the Governor's alma mater—which would've been an easier task had Jake not killed his son's mother.
Of course the audience should very easily understand the idea of self-preservation, but because we tend to put ourselves on a pedestal above anyone facing criminal circumstances, it's far more comfortable to side with Jesus.
Jesus is understandably put off and combative with his father throughout the film. And, although you can't help but appreciate his efforts, it's almost impossible not to side with the son and his initial reservations.
Deep down, everything Jake does seems to be about one person: Jake.
Not since The Goonies has there been an adult villain in a kids movie as loathsome as Hawks coach Jack Reilly in The Mighty Ducks. Of course, Reilly was worse because the story seemed a lot more plausible than the epically wacky hijinks in The Goonies.
His vile nature was necessary to move the plot of the movie along and explain why Gordon Bombay gave up hockey in the first place. And seriously—after seeing the psychological torture he endured playing for Reilly—who could blame the guy?
Every popped collar, finger-pointed admonishment and nasty scheme cooked up by Reilly only serve to illustrate a point that was hit home the very first time he's on screen. This guy is the worst person in the world.
There's a reason why The Brady Bunch's Jan Brady has been one of the longest-running jokes in entertainment. Her whole "Marsha! Marsha! Marsha!" act has never played well with the general public, who largely have seen her as an emotional basket case with a serious victim complex.
The same goes for Kit Keller in A League of Their Own, whose one-sided rivalry with older sister Dottie seems to be nothing more than the product of her own insecurities.
Although it's clear early on in the movie that Dottie had been, quite obviously, the favored sister by their parents growing up in their hometown—not to mention the sister favored by everyone else in the rest of the town—but all the baggage Kit brought with her to the Peaches seemed oddly out of place.
Eventually, it just became too hard to root for her at all. Even when Racine defeats Rockford in the end, there's still that looming question as to whether Kit actually won or Dottie just finally decided to let her little sister win one. I think most people assumed Dottie tanked it, which makes Kit all the more unlikable.
Aside from the angelic Dorothy Boyd and Satan incarnate Bob Sugar, in Jerry Maguire it's not always clear who are the heroes and who are the villains. Early on, it seems like Rod "Show me the money" Tidwell could be the end of Jerry Maguire's career and that Frank "Cush" Cushman could be its salvation.
Eventually that's all turned on its ear, when Cush abandons his agent and Tidwell remains loyal. The whole 'our word is our bond' act by Cushman and his father prove to be nothing more than a soulless tactic, aimed at hedging their bets, while Tidwell's loyalty speaks louder than the man himself, who is loud as hell.
Be it player or agent, Cush represents everything soulless and evil in sports today.
**Speaking of everything that is soulless and evil, you should definitely follow me on Twitter, for reasons unrelated to the beginning of this sentence: Follow @blamberr