The Saddest Sports Movie Moments Ever
Everyone's a big, burly stack of He-Man until Hard Ball comes on television.
Indeed, no matter how emotionally distant some of us may be, every sports fan has at least one film that breaks the padlock on their tear ducts and reduces them to an emotional wreck.
The following are a number of the usual culprits: the tear-jerking scenes from movies that manage to push our most well-guarded buttons.
I warn you, this is going to get a little rough. Just because we're watching snippets outside the context of a full viewing doesn't mean you won't start misting the moment G-Baby gets got behind the housing project.
Go ahead and let it out. Sometimes you need to treat yourself to a good cry.
Brian's Song: Gale Sayers' Acceptance Speech
"I love Brian Piccolo...and I'd like all of you to love him, too."
I, along with thousands of other American men, rediscovered my tear ducts when Billy Dee Williams delivered these lines from Brian's Song—one of the most touching stories of friendship and loss ever told on screen.
Released as a made-for-TV movie in 1971, the ABC-produced film tells the tale of Gale Sayers and Brian Piccolo, teammates on the Chicago Bears. The two men become fast friends in spite of society's racial fault lines, but ultimately face a bigger foe in the form of cancer, which strikes Piccolo early in his professional football career.
The eye-faucets begin to flow when Sayers (played by Williams) accepts the George S. Halas Most Courageous Player award and claims the committee picked the wrong person. Regardless of how many times you've seen this movie, you will well deeply at this moment.
Sure, the tears may be half dust due to inactivity, but they're tears nonetheless.
Friday Night Lights: Losing at State
When your high school talked about "leaving it all on the field," they meant looking like the Permian Panthers at the end of Friday Night Lights.
Beaten purple and bleeding from the mouth, quarterback Mike Winchell and his teammates lay on the playing surface completely broken. Tears are shed as the players absorb the loss, and your last resisting heartstring is pulled when Don Billingsley's father places his old state ring on his son's hand.
Anyone who's played any competitive high school sport knows the sadness of playing the final game of your senior year, making this last chapter of Friday Night Lights a square kick in the nostalgia.
Friday Night Lights: Boobie Breaks Down
Guys like Boobie Miles aren't supposed to crack.
Perpetual jokers with big-swinging egos don't allow the outside world to see their pain, which made watching the Permian Panthers running back break down over his torn ACL that much more difficult to stomach.
No matter how many times you've watched this scene, Boobie sputtering "Now what are we gonna do? I can't do nothing else but play football" hits you right in the soul.
Remember the Titans: Gerry Bertier Hospital Scene
Gerry Bertier being paralyzed in a car accident was bad enough, but the ensuing conversation at the hospital between he and his former enemy Julius Campbell ruined any chance of viewers leaving the theater with dry eyes.
Campbell (played by Wood Harris) tries to keep it together for Bertier's sake, but can't help showing his fear in the presence of his broken friend.
Warrior: Hotel Scene
Warning: Video contains adult language.
Nick Nolte barely says a word in this torturous scene from Warrior, but deserves an Oscar solely for the pain he holds in his eyes.
Nolte disappeared into his role as Paddy Conlon, a recovering alcoholic and father of rising MMA star Brendan Conlon.
The strained relationship between father and son presented many of the most memorable moments from the film, not the least of which includes this scene at the hotel where you can actually see Paddy's world buckle as his son throws coins in his face.
Hard Ball: G-Baby Dies
Warning: Video contains adult language.
I still cannot watch this defining scene from Hard Ball without misting up and/or tearing my robes in anguish.
G-Baby personified everything bright and redeemable about his neighborhood, which made watching him needlessly pay the ultimate price so difficult.
To this day, I can't help but shake a fist at Hard Ball's producers for taking my hero from me.
The Wrestler: Boardwalk Scene
"I'm an old, broken down piece of meat. And I'm alone."
Being nominated for an Oscar is a huge enough accomplishment on its own, but Mickey Rourke had a legitimate bid to win the Best Actor for his role in The Wrestler.
Portraying a world-weary washout from the ranks of pro wrestling, Rourke's character Randy "The Ram" Robinson showed a human vulnerability that had audience members tearing up before the end. Nothing hits harder than the idea of a life spent valuing the wrong things.
The Hurricane: Rubin Carter Breaks Down
Warning: Video contains NSFW language.
Denzel Washington's portrayal of Rubin "Hurricane" Carter might've been a touch whitewashed, but the actor managed to capture the inner torment the boxer felt during his 19-year prison sentence for murders he did not commit.
Watching Carter lose his mind needlessly in a cell is tantamount to visual torture, as you can't help but imagine what you would do if put into such a situation.
Rudy: Stupid Dreams Scene
"Notre Dame is for rich kids. Smart kids."
Watching Rudy's father torch his football dreams at the bus stop is difficult to stomach, regardless of how many times you've seen this classic.
Sure, his father's words are well-intentioned. He doesn't want to see his son fail. He's trying to protect him.
That said, watching Rudy's face as his father tells him his dreams are "stupid" is gut-wrenching material of the saddest order.
We Are Marshall: Six Sons Speech
Warning: Video contains NSFW language.
A wild, emotional ride, Matthew McConaughy delivered the speech of a lifetime in his portrayal of Marshall football coach Jack Lengyel.
Stepping in to coach the Thundering Herd in the aftermath of a catastrophic plane crash, Lengyel leads his players to visit the graves of six players killed in the wreck.
Calling the scene "emotional" doesn't fully cover it. It's about as moving as it gets.
Radio: Radio's Mother Passes
Skip to the 5:41 mark for the scene.
Radio was an emotional roller coaster of a film, with the lowest trough being the passing of Radio's mother due to a heart attack.
I don't think a single soul who's ever lost someone dear to them can watch this scene without feeling that sense of loss and helplessness.
Sorry, guys. I did warn you this was going to be a downer.
Brian's Song: Goodbye/Hospital Scene
I can't find a decent YouTube video of this particular scene, but rest assured, if you've seen Brian's Song, you'll know the parting exchange between Gale Sayers and Brian Piccolo in the hospital is an emotional back-breaker.
Put it this way: It's a crime that Billy Dee Williams and James Caan didn't share an Emmy for best actor after this movie.
Cinderella Man: Braddock Begs for Money
It's difficult to think of something more crushing than watching a proud man literally take off his hat to beg for money.
Russell Crowe wrung my tear ducts dry with his portrayal of Jim Braddock, a down on his luck boxer who turns to begging and lugging foodstuffs on the dock just to keep his family fed.
The moment Braddock begins apologizing to his former manager for begging is when I lose it entirely. Good Lord, Crowe. You may be a punch-happy jerk in real life but you killed this scene.
Raging Bull: Jake LaMotta Beats the Wall
Warning: Video contains extremely NSFW language.
While many fans would point to movies like The Godfather, Part II and The Deer Hunter as his best work, one could argue Robert DeNiro was at the height of his prolific powers in Raging Bull, a classic about the tormented spiral of professional boxer Jake LaMotta.
DeNiro becomes LaMotta, an endlessly paranoid and violent man with more demons under his skin than fathomable. In this particular scene, the boxer-turned-night-club-owner pounds the walls of his cell in despair after being arrested for introducing underage girls to patrons at his club.
The Champ: Death Scene
Call it "manipulative." Call it "hokey."
You can say a lot about the people who filmed The Champ, but no one will ever be able to claim they came weak to the rim with the emotional baggage.
They knew what they were doing when they wrote this scene showing a child begging his alcoholic, washed-up boxer of a father not to die. Might as well have just thrown cut onions into viewers' eyes.
I'm on Twitter, and I promise I'm not always a downer.
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