Fictional Sports Characters (1st Ballot) Hall of Fame

Zac Wassink@https://twitter.com/ZacWassinkFeatured ColumnistOctober 11, 2016

Fictional Sports Characters (1st Ballot) Hall of Fame

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    Matt Rourke/Associated Press

    We cheer for fictional sports characters featured in movies with the same zeal we display during legitimate sports contests. 

    It makes sense. A lead character in a sports movie is portrayed as a babyface who experiences some sort of adversity. That individual overcomes whatever setbacks he or she faces to the delight of viewers watching at a theater or on their couches. Such feel-good stories make for easy watches, and thus they become tales replayed on television stations for years and, in some cases, even for decades. 

    Rocky Balboa is a prime example. Rocky is so iconic, in fact, that a movie studio resurrected the character roughly 30 years after he was first introduced to fans. We yearned for Rocky to win, just as we wanted Ray Kinsella to find peace and Jerry Maguire to get the girl in the end. 

    Any fictional sports Hall of Fame must include characters from a variety of sports and different backgrounds. We chose to include athletes and individuals who followed dreams that happened to include a particular sport on our first ballot. 

    Who, among fictional characters, do you believe deserves a spot in the first class of our Hall of Fame?

Jesus Shuttlesworth

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    As Bill Simmons wrote years ago when he was working for ESPN, the script for He Got Game is filled with flaws and moments that would never be allowed to occur in real life. The movie is also not an easy or light-hearted watch. 

    Life can be complicated, difficult and downright harsh. That reality makes the Jesus Shuttlesworth character so compelling. Part of you wants Shuttlesworth to attend the governor's alma mater so Shuttlesworth's father sees his jail sentence reduced. Another part of you roots for Shuttlesworth to turn pro so he can immediately escape poverty. 

    Ray Allen is excellent in the role of Shuttlesworth, to the point that younger viewers who don't actively follow the NBA may not realize an actual player is acting for the movie. As Bleacher Report's Adam Fromal once explained, Kobe Bryant turned down the opportunity to play Shuttlesworth. 

    No disrespect meant to Bryant, but we're glad he made the decision.

Harry Doyle

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    Harry Doyle is the greatest fictional sports announcer in the history of entertainment. One could argue Doyle, played by Bob Uecker, is also the most memorable character from the first two Major League movies. 

    Matt Snyder of CBSSports.com once offered his picks for Doyle's best lines from the original film. "Just a bit outside," maybe the best description of any pitch ever thrown in a real or fictional game, topped the list. Odds are that a passionate baseball fan has either used or heard that line at least once during a contest. 

    Those who love Major League may remember Doyle pouring himself some Jack Daniels while calling a Cleveland Indians game. Doyle presumably suffering through years of terrible Cleveland baseball makes us wish the character could enjoy the actual Indians playing postseason baseball this fall.

    The Indians should allow Uecker to introduce the lineups for a game if the Tribe makes it to the World Series. 

Jerry Maguire

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    Sports agents are perceived as heels by sports fans around the world. We blame agents whenever any athlete holds out for more money or leaves our favorite team so he can follow an opportunity elsewhere. Agents have often been portrayed as sleazy and dishonest in movies and television shows. 

    The lead and titular character in Jerry Maguire, played by Tom Cruise, deserves a spot in our fictional Hall of Fame because he managed to make us cheer for an agent. We want the agent to maintain his working relationship with his top athlete. We hope Maguire wins Dorothy's heart in the end. 

    The legacy of Jerry Maguire includes quotations known by individuals who've never seen the movie. Sports fans have probably heard "Show me the money!" yelled by a fan or television analyst during an event over the past two decades. 

    Those of us outside the sports world wish every agent could be like Maguire. We want to believe Maguire cares about his clients for more than the amount of money they add to his bank account. Maguire is the babyface sports agent, a character unlike any other in the genre.

Forrest Gump

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    Your age may determine how you view the lead character in Forrest Gump. Those who lived during the historical events of the film may feel nostalgia and see Gump as a contemporary. Younger viewers born in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s may, however, only look at Gump as a fictional character no different than many others spotlighted in this post. 

    Forrest Gump is more than just a sports movie, of course, but that doesn't mean Gump isn't a fictional sports character. Gump's ability to run faster than opponents is the only reason he earned a chance to attend the University of Alabama. Gump goes on to find international stardom as a table tennis player. 

    Gump is easily the most interesting character on this list. He is an accomplished athlete, a war hero, a successful businessman and an individual who jogged around the United States because he could and because he "felt like running." Our fictional Hall of Fame would be missing something special without Gump.

Tony D'Amato

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    Warning: Video contains NSFW language. 

    Many things about the movie Any Given Sunday are downright ridiculous. The camera cuts that occur during some in-game scenes could give a viewer motion sickness. Quarterback Willie Beamen releases a rap video after becoming an overnight sensation. We're still not sure if Christina Pagniacci, played by Cameron Diaz, is an incompetent owner of the Miami Sharks or merely somebody who is learning on the job as Beamen leads the Sharks to the postseason.

    Miami head coach Tony D'Amato, played by Al Pacino, is not an all-time great character, but he makes the fictional sports Hall of Fame because of the incredible speech he delivers to his players before the final game featured in the movie. It is arguably the best speech in the history of sports movies, and Chris Chase of USA Today wrote that it may be the "last great scene" of Pacino's legendary career.

    Those who coach student athletes could use parts of this speech while attempting to motivate younger individuals who may have never watched the movie. You may, however, want to erase the profanities while you are delivering your version of the speech.

Kit Hinson

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    As David Brown of Yahoo Sports explained, the Dottie Hinson character from A League of Their Own was based on a real person. There was, however, no Kit Hinson, and thus, Kit is inducted in our fictional sports Hall of Fame. 

    Who among us can't relate to Kit? Dottie, Kit's older sister, is prettier than Kit. Dottie is married, while Kit, as is explained during a part of the movie, is "as single as they come." Dottie is a better ballplayer, so much so that Kit receives an opportunity to play on a pro team largely because Dottie demands that her little sister join her. 

    Kit, not Dottie, is the true hero of the movie. It's Kit who is traded away after Dottie requests a move from the Rockford Peaches due to their sibling rivalry. Kit then scores the championship-winning run against Rockford when she knocks Dottie over at home plate during the final play of the season. 

    As Susan King of the Los Angeles Times explained in December 2012, A League of Their Own was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress. 

    Kit is the underdog of the film who emerges seemingly out of nowhere to achieve great success. We are excited to welcome her to our fictional sports Hall of Fame. 

Happy Gilmore

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    Happy Gilmore, Caddyshack and Tin Cup were the three golf movies that immediately came to mind when creating the fictional sports Hall of Fame. Of those films, Happy Gilmore seems to be the one that will live on for generations to come, and that is why the lead character from that movie earns a spot in our Hall of Fame. 

    Toronto Maple Leafs player William Nylander, per the club's official Instagram page, attempted his version of Happy Gilmore's well-known swing during an event that took place in September. Sergio Garcia mimicked Gilmore while celebrating making a putt during the 2016 Ryder Cup. The Gilmore character clearly legitimately affected the sport of golf.

    Casual sports fans would love a real-life Gilmore to take the PGA by storm. Such an individual would draw millions of television viewers to events, and he would make for must-watch entertainment among those who otherwise ignore golf competitions. We wish Gilmore existed, and that's why the character has to be in the fictional sports Hall of Fame.

Billy Hoyle

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    White Men Can't Jump remains a legendary sports movie, in part, because it doesn't have a happy ending. 

    We root for Billy Hoyle even though he's a lousy person. Billy is a hustler who is such a notorious gambler he puts himself and his girlfriend in danger because of his ties to mobsters. Unlike Sidney Deane, Billy refuses to get a steady job. Even when Billy earns a big win, he blows the money because of his desire to prove he can dunk a basketball.

    Billy's girlfriend leaves him, presumably for good, and we assume that leads Billy to realize he must make serious changes to his life. 

    We all know a Billy Hoyle. Some out there may see a version of Billy each time they look in a mirror. Billy is his own worst enemy, so much so that even his greatest victory is coupled with his biggest loss. Like us, Billy is not a perfect person, and his flaws help make him worthy of being on the first ballot for our fictional sports Hall of Fame.

Ray Kinsella

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    Any adult out there can sympathize with Ray Kinsella. 

    Ray, the lead character in Field of Dreams, is a man with a family, a farm and regrets about how his life turned out. He then hears a voice on one random and otherwise meaningless day, and the words "If you build it, he will come" lead Ray to mow over his corn fields so he can build a makeshift baseball field. Ray took a risk when the majority of people facing a similar situation would have played it safe, and doing so allows him to step back in time and ultimately enjoy one final game of catch with his departed father. 

    Field of Dreams is not merely a baseball movie. It's a story about relationships, personal struggles, nostalgia and following a dream when logic suggests doing so is crazy. We are all Ray Kinsella at different points in our lives. The hope is that we'll listen to whatever voice we hear when our important day arrives. 

    Baseball may no longer be our national pastime, but something about the sport and its history touches our emotions more so than any other game. It's why a baseball movie such as Field of Dreams remains beloved decades after it is released. Ray Kinsella deserves to be in the fictional sports Hall of Fame, as he serves as a role model for risk-takers everywhere.

Rocky Balboa

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    Rocky Balboa is the first name on the first ballot for any fictional sports characters Hall of Fame. There can be no argument about this. Anybody who disagrees can debate the topic with the statue dedicated to the character that currently resides in Philadelphia. 

    Rocky is the ultimate underdog. He is a guy trying to earn money as a struggling boxer in the Philadelphia area and also by working for a loan shark who happens to be chosen to face world champion Apollo Creed. We love Rocky so much that we often ignore the fact he loses the first fight to Creed before eventually winning the title at the end of Rocky II

    Movie studios are still attempting to capitalize on the success of the original Rocky film. Rocky Balboa hit theaters 30 years after the release of the original movie. Creed, the latest spin-off from the first movie, was released in 2015, and it may lead to a new series of boxing films. 

    Everything about Rocky, from the lead character to the training montages to the epic music, helped make the series iconic among those who flocked to theaters to see the first movie and also individuals who weren't alive back in the 1970s. Rocky Balboa deserves to be the first character inducted into our fictional sports Hall of Fame. 

    We just hope he has as epic a speech as he delivered at the end of Rocky IV.