GRAND RAPIDS — I almost hate to admit this.
I shed a tear last night watching a movie.
A Hallmark movie, of all things.
I know, I know. I mean, I wasn’t blubbering like a baby or anything like that; my eyes just watered up. I hope I don’t have to turn in my man card now. I blame my dad. I think I inherited that trait from him; he always cried during movies – either because it was a tear jerker or because it was hilarious. I was with him at his house once and we were watching “Naked Gun.” Leslie Nielsen was umpiring a baseball game and fell in love with the crowd cheering called strikes. If you’ve seen the movie you know the part; I think one of the most hilarious couple of minutes in movie history. Anyway, my dad was wiping away the tears for 10 minutes after the scene; he couldn’t stop laughing.
He’d even get all teary-eyed when he watched my brothers and I when we played high school sports. If we did something good on the court or on the field, his eyes would get watery and his face would just beam; you know, that fatherly pride stuff.
I’m not a regular watcher of the Hallmark movies, but this one happened to be about a hockey player, so I figured I’d check it out for a while to see what it was about. In the movie this hockey player was a bad boy, always arguing with the refs; so much so, that he became an embarrassment to the team. They suspended him for a dozen games and wanted him to straighten out his act.
Of course, there was a woman, a book shop owner, who was struggling with her store. Business was terrible and she was about to lose the family business. She hired a consultant to see what she could do to improve business, sell more books. It just so happened that this consultant was also working with the hockey player to help him improve his image.
The consultant paired up the two, figuring his popularity would help the bookstore sell more books and at the same time, make him look like a community-minded guy, thus giving his image and his team’s image a boost.
Like all Hallmark movies (I’ve been told because I really don’t watch them – ha) the two couldn’t stand each other at first, but gradually they fell in love. It was a sappy ending, the two of them standing on a platform in front of the bookstore kissing as the crowd of people that were gathered around cheered. That’s when it happened. I actually smiled when they embraced. Then my eyes watered up. How embarrassing!
Thing is, I didn’t consider this really a Hallmark movie; I’d like to call it a sports movie. There is absolutely nothing wrong with a guy shedding a tear over an inspirational sports movie.
You can’t tell me you know of any man who didn’t get goose bumps and all teary-eyed watching “Rudy.” I’ve seen it a number of times and it always ends up the same- I get goose bumps, shed a tear and sit in my chair yelling “Rudy!’ “Rudy!”
When the USA won the gold in “Miracle” and when Herb Brooks gave the “You were born for this speech” I know you teared up. It’s ok. “USA! USA!”
Kevin Costner’s “Hey Dad, you wanna have a catch?” in “Field of Dreams” probably brought back memories for every dad in the audience. Fathers and sons playing catch, the cycle of life. That’s why for me, baseball has always been a connector of sorts, bringing me back to those days of playing catch with my dad in the back yard. Then I in turn, playing catch with my kids in our yard. And on and on.
There have been many inspirational sports movies made. There have been hilarious sports movies made.
There are a few sports stories that need to be made into movies, either for their inspirational message, their humor or just because they’re interesting tales. Here are two.
I’d love to see a movie made about golfer John Montague, a mysterious fellow, and according to Grantland Rice and golfer Walter Hagen, the greatest golfer in the world. He was a trick shot artist; he lived at Oliver Hardy’s house. He was also considered the strongest man in the country and could supposedly lift Hardy up with one arm and hold him in the air for 30 seconds.
He had money. He had cars. He had women. He hung around and golfed with Hollywood celebrities. But he never entered tournaments; he would never allow his picture to be taken. Why? He really wasn’t John Montague, that was his alias. His real name was Laverne Moore and he had taken part in a roadhouse robbery and had beaten a man into unconsciousness years before.
The story of “The St Paul Thunderbolt,” boxer Billy Miske, was supposed to be made into a movie a few years ago but hasn’t yet. Miske was a Minnesota heavyweight who was diagnosed with a terminal kidney disease at age 24. He fought 30 fights after getting the death sentence. The boxer had a struggling car dealership in St Paul and the business was heavily in debt, mainly because Billy was too trusting. No one knew he was in debt; no one knew he was dying of the kidney disease. He talked his manager into arranging one last fight. Billy couldn’t train; he was too sick. He sat home and did nothing but eat bowls of chicken soup and boiled fish, rarely making it out of bed.
His last fight was late in November; he earned $2,400 and with that money bought his kids Christmas gifts. On Christmas morning his kids came running downstairs to a Christmas tree, a toy train, a piano and piles of gifts. The next morning Billy called his manager and whispered “come and get me Jack, I’m dying.” He passed away on New Year’s Day, 1924.
Yeah. I’d definitely be crying like a baby watching that one.