POWER RANKINGS – UNDERDOG STORIES
With the 2009 NCAA Tournament underway and the Cinderellas fighting the clock, wouldn’t it be nice to give them another dose of hope? These are the teams that make March what it is. The teams we know nothing about, but root for relentlessly to take down the Goliaths. The doe-eyed kids who seemingly forget their rightful place in the basketball universe.
It’s one of the few yearly sporting events where critics, commentators and analysts don’t take anything away from the lesser-known victor. Unlike the MLB Playoffs, the system isn’t conducive to determining the “best” team. There are no second chances—just ask anyone who lost to George Mason in 2006 or God Shammgod’s Providence in 1997. Unlike the Super Bowl, few people care about who “should have” won and why they didn’t. When we talk about the 1985 tournament, all we care about is Villanova’s impressive run, not Georgetown’s regular season dominance. It’s just not the kind of thing the tournament cares about.
So, in honor of these inspirational lesser-thans, I’m offering up my top underdog stories. These movies are the cinematic embodiment of the feel-good stories we look forward to every spring. Just ask Wake Forest, because Cleveland State was obviously paying attention.
12. The Mighty Ducks (1992)
The film that spawned a long line of underdog sports films for kids, The Mighty Ducks initiated a formulaic approach to a familiar storyline. If you don’t believe me, just think about it: a talented, good-looking kid, reluctant to be a star; a fat kid for comedic relief; the nerdy kid who’s just happy to be part of the team; and the hard-nosed coach who must undergo a lifestyle change in order to relate to his ragtag team of misfits. If you haven’t seen that formula before, you’re probably Amish.
11. The Bad News Bears (1976)
Buttermaker!!! This is the story of an alcoholic has-been trying to teach baseball—a game he once loved—to a bunch of screw-ups who couldn’t care less. Nobody was cooler in 1976 than the cigarette-puffing, dirt bike shredding Kelly Leak.
10. Little Giants (1994)
Otherwise known as the “Ozzie Canseco Story,” Little Giants revolves around the competition that exists between a former sports superstar and his less successful, but uber-lovable younger brother. No matter how much you may have wanted Devon Sawa to die in Final Destination, you’ve got to love his ability to throw toilet paper rolls into a shopping cart.
9. Cool Runnings (1993)
Feel the rhythm! Feel the rhyme! Try not to cry when the Jamaicans carry their rickety bobsled across the finish line and all their former doubters do the requisite slow clap. I dare you.
8. Angels in the Outfield (1999)
It’s a little known fact that Big Soda wrote a 20-page paper about Disney’s portrayal of religious symbols in Angels in the Outfield. There was more than one underdog in this film, with not only the team on the field, but also young Roger, the unloved foster child who sees angels. Who’s your favorite Angel player: Matthew McConaughey, Adrien Brody or Tony Danza?
7. Major League (1989)
Can you believe it only cost $11 million to make this movie?!? What an all-star cast: Tom Berenger, Charlie Sheen, Corbin Bernsen, Wesley Snipes, and President David Palmer (err, I mean, Dennis Haysbert). I can’t tell you how many times I yelled “DORN!” during co-ed softball this season.
6. Chariots of Fire (1981)
I assume that this is the one movie on the list that most people haven’t seen. For those that haven’t, it’s the story of British runners training for the 1924 Olympics. The theme song is probably the most famous aspect of the film. To prove it (and to keep up my string of Kel Mitchell references), the song from the opening credits was even used in a scene from Good Burger, where the dynamic duo delivers a burger to none other than Shaquille O’Neal.
5. Seabiscuit (2003)
Sure, a horse’s heart is technically 16 times larger than a human’s, but Seabiscuit’s was 100 times bigger. In a sport where bigger, faster, and stronger are the only criteria, Seabiscuit was the most unlikely of all champions. For a horse that everyone said was too small to compete, Horse of the Year should have been an impossible achievement.
4. Rudy (1993)
Don’t let the fact that the real Rudy Ruettiger bums around bars in South Bend, using his “celebrity” to score free drinks between speaking engagements at grade schools, sway your opinion of this film. Also, don’t let the fact that barely anyone in the stadium knew who he was convince you that the “Rudy” chant was embellished for the sake of filmmaking. Just take the movie for what it is, and try to forget that a hobbit could make the Notre Dame football team.
3. Hoosiers (1986)
Which character is more inspirational: Jimmy Chitwood, the sheltered, quiet sharpshooter; Ollie MacFarlane, Hickory’s team manager who saves the day by sinking two game-saving free throws; or Wilbur “Shooter” Flatch, the town drunk who overcomes his addiction to become a vital part of the team’s success?
2. Rocky (1976)
For a man who can barely speak the English language, Sly Stallone wrote one hell of a movie. This film is proof that you don’t always have to win to be a champion—just go the distance, fool.
1. The Karate Kid (1984)
What’s better than an undersized new-kid-in-town, learning karate through everyday chores from an Asian man with whom he shares subtle homoerotic tensions? Daniel LaRusso kicking the crap out of the Cobra Kai Dojo to the tune of “You’re the Best” by Joe Esposito. “Get him a body bag! Yeeeeaaaaah!”
*** Questions? Comments? Hate mail? Nude photos? Big Soda can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org***