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Thursday, February 5, 2004
Which sports teams should be made into a "Miracle" movie?


After watching "Miracle" about the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey squad, Page 2's Eric Neel gave us his movies of sports teams we need to see. Readers responded by the dozens, and Neel shared his thoughts on their suggestions. Here's the best of what you told us:

1986 New York Mets
Dave, Hoboken, NJ:
Are you kidding me? The 1986 World Champion New York Mets take the cake. You've got two superstars in their prime treating their careers like doormats (Straw and Gooden, both doing coke); an unhinged redneck leaving gobs of spat-out chewing tobacco in center field (Dykstra; an opponent once referred to center at Shea as a minefield, where the mines already went off).

Kevin Mitchell (who once ended a heated argument with his girlfriend by sawing her cat's head off in front of her and teenage teammate Gooden); an aging vet also pulling down large quantities of the uncola (Keith Hernandez); and a team so despised they brawled frequently with the opposition and themselves: a melee once broke out during the taking of the team picture (Wally Backman vs. Strawberry). This won't be a movie, this would be a Ken Burns miniseries for the Spike Channel.

Eric Neel: I had the same problem with the '86 Mets I had with Lance. Too big for the big screen. I tell you what I'd like to see: Lenny, Mookie, Kevin, Roger, Doc, Straw, and Co. doing a Mystery Science Theater sort of gig, trash-talking over other movies, maybe on the Spike Channel, or better yet, on Lifetime.

1992-93 UNLV Running Rebels
Jason, Carlise, Pa.:
Sex, drugs, gambling, basketball, players out of control and a coach with no control of the team. Plus, it's in Vegas!

Eric Neel: The Vegas teams seem like a natural. I see Anthony Hopkins as Tark. And John Turturro doing that professional but always vaguely annoying Coach K thing.

1983 North Carolina State Wolfpack
Mike, Philadelphia:
Jim Valvano and his boys with their miracle run through the NCAA's and their defeat of a juggernaut Phi Slamma Jamma Houston team for the title? It BEGS to be made into a movie. And even though "Any Given Sunday" is the perfect argument against such a casting, Al Pacino would still make a damn good Jim Valvano.

Eric Neel: You're right, of course. But see, it's not just the Pacino "Any Given Sunday" bad mojo you have to contend with, it's also the Anthony LaPaglia as Jimmy V ("Never Give Up," made for TV in 1996) miscasting that must be reckoned with. Great as the story is, it might be too late to right this ship.

1984-85 St. John's Redmen
Andy Stitzer, San Diego
Danny DeVito would need slim down to play Louie. The wheelchair guy from "Heat" who gives DeNiro the bank job plays big Bill Wennington. Chris Mullin, who looks better now than he did back then, plays himself, as does backup point gard Mark Jackson (Mike Moses was the starter). Don Cheadle plays Walter Berry. Darth Vader plays John Thompson.

John Daly
Josh, New York:
Two words: John Daly. Phillip Seymour Hoffman as Daly. Oh wait, they already made it. It was called Billy Madison.

1954-55 Crispus Attucks High School
Bill Pitcock, Indianapolis:
How about the 1954-55 Crispus Attucks High School basketball team when it won the Indiana Championship? Attucks was a school that was built for black students to keep them out of the mix with the white students. Oscar Robinson was the star on that team, so you would have name recognition.

Eric Neel: I know it's sacrilege to say, but this sounds like the movie "Hoosiers" should have been.

1986 Cleveland State Vikings
Kevin, Cleveland:
An inside look and what it does to a team, college and city when an enormous underdog defies the odds (as one does almost every year) and almost knocks off the admiral to advance to the Elite 8. The interesting story with this team, though, was coach Mackey being heavily involved in drugs, sex and violence, so it has to make a good movie.

1982 Milwaukee Brewers
Jon, West Bend:
How about the 1982 Brewers? Harvey's Wallbangers? Uecker reprises his Bull Durham-like role, the cocksure young kid "Rockin" Robin Yount in the field, Molly's drugs, Vuke's Cy Young performance with a terrible ERA, Harvey's constant huge wad of chew, the soon-to-be commish of baseball, the soon-to-be manager of the 2003 Brew Crew, and of course, a big fat guy going down a slide into a giant mug of beer. ... Oooh, the drama.

Eric Neel: I like this idea based on big, bad hair alone. Benicio del Toro as Vukovich, don't you think?

1972, Canada-Russia Summit series
Simple. 1972, Canada-Russia Summit series. Incredible locales, awesome subplots, great games and the biggest West-East sporting event of the time.

Eric Neel: This is hockey, yes? Sounds good. Maybe we double-header it with the US-USSR Gold Medal hoops battle in the Olympics.

1980s Edmonton Oilers
Chris Whittaker:
While i was tinking about it, a movie about the early-to-mid 1980s Edmonton Oilers would work, too. Matt Damon as Mark Messier, Will Smith as Grant Fuhr, and the issue of who would work as Gretzky factors into this tale of a bunch of young guns that changed the way that hockey was played on this continent, and even more so, proved the validity of the Outlaw WHL. Another team in this vein would be the 1950 Cleveland Browns, coming from an upstart league to shock the established order and win the NFL championship in their first year.

1900 Chicago Cubs
Phil, Des Plaines, Ill.:
How about the dynasty that was known as the "1900 Chicago Cubs?" 1906-1908 were good years, so I've read. As a Cub/Sox fan, I would like to know how it feels like to see a Chicago baseball team win a championship.

1999 St. Louis Rams
Radinski, St. Louis:
It's not just because I'm from St. Louis, but the 1999 Rams team that went from worst to first would make a remarkable movie. With a washed-up old coach who cries at the drop of the hat, to the absolute disbelief of our top dollar free agent going down in a preseason game, to a former grocery store clerk leading the Rams to the most remarkable and memorable Super Bowl victory. Better yet, the memories of that season are too good. I don't want them ruined by Hollywood. But if they did make a movie, I'd be the first in line to see it.

Eric Neel: I thought about this team, but then I thought about Mrs. Warner, and the prospect of seeing her on the big screen was too horrifying. I was picturing Glenn Close. Got the shakes. Couldn't sleep for days.

1948-49 Boston Red Sox
Devin, Green Brook, N.J.:
You've got Ted Williams, back when everybody hated him, Joe McCarthy, trying to reclaim his glory after being kicked out of New York (and still hitting the bottle), almost an All-Star starting lineup. Then for antagonists you've got the Indians in '48, with Bill Veeck and Satchel Paige, ending up in the playoff and one of the most second-guessed decisions of all time. And in '49 it's the Yankees, with Stengel's first year, DiMaggio's midseason return (at Fenway), and the decisive final two games at Yankee Stadium. I should probably pick one year, but it's impossible to choose - do it in two parts like Kill Bill.

1976 and 1977 Tampa Bay Bucs
Kevin P., Oswego, Ill.
A movie has to be done with the 1976 and 1977 Tampa Bay Bucs. John McKay's great humor. The looks on the players' faces when they are shown the pumpkin-colored uniforms they are going to wear. The near win against the state rival Dolphins in the first season. The 26 straight bumbling losses and the tear-inducing first victory in Game 27!

Eric Neel: My bad. This team should have been at the top of my list. Winners stories are cliched rehearsals of who we want to be. Losers stories are deep in the American grain, they tell us who we truly are. Plus, there'd be the chance of a retro tangerine comeback, which would, of course, be great.