Propaganda works. If you want to produce propaganda, you make movies. Movies come from Hollywood. Hollywood is a Leftist dreamland. Put it all together and what do you get? A country flooded with Leftist propaganda, except in one category: sports.
Sports are by necessity a living display of the free market. There are winners and losers, hard work and dedication, trials, sacrifice, and individual accountability–at the end of the day, you have to answer for your own efforts. You might also notice that sports films are almost always true stories, because that’s how the real world works! Effort. Sacrifice. Payoff. Capitalism.
No one wants to see a socialist sports movie where he’s, she’s, and ze’s of all ages come together to play a friendly game of everyone’s choosing (while being careful not to appropriate another culture, so lacrosse is certainly out), impose handicaps on the best players for the sake of “equality,” and resolve all penalties and fouls through compromise so no one is offended. Then, in the end, everyone wins!
For right now, sports movies are securely fixed on the triumphs of meritorious contenders. And while they’re at it, since there are no Leftists movie-goers to stop them, these filmmakers usually throw in a few other conservative ideals that it would be hard to fit anywhere else, even if the program is successful (consider Tim Allen’s prophetically titled hit series, “Last Man Standing”).
The Right is no match for the Left in terms of propaganda and indoctrination, but we do have this one corner to ourselves. If we want to stand a chance in this cultural war, we’re gonna need to start consuming and creating a demand for sports films, and we need to show them to our children and instill these morals of perseverance and individual responsibility in the rising generation.
Lucky for us, there’s already a pretty good stock of cinema to start with, so I’ll be listing off the eleven most important sports movies (and their lessons) that could truly save America. It was supposed to be ten but I couldn’t decide which one to cut.
Two disclaimers before I start:
One that’s sure to disappoint only my father, there are no horse movies on this list. Sorry, Pops. I figured it would be best to let you down early.
Two, this is not necessarily a list of the best sports movies–just the ones that I think best teach the most vital lessons our country needs to learn right now. Some movies promote similar values, though, so I’ll give them an honorable mention in their respective categories.
11. Glory Road
This 2006 Walt Disney Pictures and Jerry Bruckheimer Films production tells the story of the Texas Western college basketball team 50 years after their legendary NCAA championship victory using an exclusively African-American lineup. Amid the ugliness of 1960’s racism, Coach Don Haskins tells his squad, “You shut them up. Win.” No matter the opposition, the low blows, the fear, and the threats against you, sometimes the best revenge is to ignore the detractors and win anyway. President Trump could certainly learn this lesson and ignore the biased media coverage and go enact some winning policies. CNN could definitely afford to stop taking every single criticism from Trump, his supporters, and indeed any rational person witnessing the Leftist news meltdown as if it were a call to physically decommission them. Everyone is trolling everyone, and everyone is falling for it. We need to grow some thicker skin and spite our opponents by walking away and being the best we possibly can be.
10. Rocky Balboa
The entire “Rocky” series deserves to adorn this list, and yes, I’m including “Rocky II” (which is actually among my favorites). The central moral of each movie becomes progressively deeper and more vital to our sense of self as the years pass. At first it’s a classic underdog story, then Rocky has to find the real purpose for fighting. In “Rocky III,” he loses sight of that vision and has to regain it by relinquishing his pride, and in “Rocky IV,” that purpose changes entirely. It’s no longer just about himself, his goals, and his family–it’s about honor and sacrifice and love of country. These were the glory days of America.
But I think the installment that best represents where we are and what we need to learn right now is “Rocky Balboa,” the story of a tired, lonely old man who’s been beaten down by life and is just trying to make it through and push aside the residual pain. But with one more mountain to climb, that sorrow is no excuse to give up. I can’t say it any better than Sly himself:
“Let me tell you something you already know.The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place, and I don’t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done! Now if you know what you’re worth, then go out and get what you’re worth! But you gotta be willing to take the hits. And not pointing fingers saying you ain’t where you wanna be because of him, or her, or anybody! Cowards do that and that ain’t you! You’re better than that!”
9. Cinderella Man
Aside from being a tremendous sports film, this Ron Howard masterpiece captures genuine emotion, longing, and helplessness better than almost any other movie ever produced. This is a boxing movie, sure, but taking place in the heart of the Great Depression, it’s equally about what it means to be a man, how to be a father, how to provide, how to keep going when hope is lost–many of the same lessons in “Rocky II” and “Rocky Balboa.” This movie is about accountability. Russell Crowe’s James J. Braddock never attributes blame to anyone or anything, simply working with what he’s given and owning it: “I have to believe I got some kind of say over our lives.” He tells his son possibly the most anti-socialist line in history: “Just ‘cause things ain’t easy, that don’t give you the excuse to take what’s not yours.”
But I think my favorite lesson in this movie comes from an exchange between Mae Braddock and Lucille Gould, the wives of Jimmy and his trainer, where Mrs. Gould admits, “I never know who it’s harder on, them or us. We have to wait for them to fix everything. And every day, they feel like they’re failing us.” We have a very big problem in America right now of not listening to each other and always assuming that we’re right and that we have it worse. These are tough times and it’s not easy for anybody. We don’t want to break apart any more than we already have, and that means that eventually we’re gonna have to come together. That will only happen if we learn to validate each other’s struggles.
8. We Are Marshall
Following the devastating plane crash in 1970 which killed 75 members of the Marshall University football team and coaching staff, the school was faced with a choice: bury the football program with its members, or start from scratch and lose repeatedly and embarrassingly until they could bounce back. This story is about honor, legacy, and doing the right thing no matter what the outcome. This is about respect for those who have come before and for the very principle of the thing that you’re doing. I wish we could have seen more of that among voters during the election when faced with two unspeakably awful candidates. I wish we could see more of it in Congress right now, where we will likely never see any significant cuts to Medicaid and other unconstitutional, budget-draining entitlement programs because our representatives are too afraid of losing their seats to uphold their oaths to defend the Constitution.
Honorable Mention: The Final Season
7. The Blind Side
If you ever dare to bring up entitlement cuts or pretty much free market anything, the Left will cry out for the people you’ve effectively sentenced to death. Unfortunately, America largely believes that if the government doesn’t do something, nobody will. This is patently untrue, and we’ve seen countless times the generosity of simple folks, including in the ongoing case of Charlie Gard, the 11-month-old sentenced to death by socialized European courts, whose parents had raised $1.6 million for Charlie’s treatment before universal healthcare stepped in to save the day. We see it again in “The Blind Side,” the story of NFL offensive tackle Michael Oher and the compassion of the Tuohy family, who takes him in off the street, provides a home, sponsors his athletics and academics, and helps him get into college. Communities are filled with kind-hearted individuals who will step in where they see a need and lift those around them, and there is always room for more. No need for the government to coddle us.
Honorable Mention: Radio
Say goodbye to privilege and patriarchy. Just about all sports stories have an underdog angle of some kind, but this one is particularly applicable to modern debates on socialism and societal advantage. Rudy is tiny, he comes from a poor family, and he’s dyslexic. If anyone deserves an equality boost, it’s him (except of course for being a white cisgender heterosexual male). Every hero has to succeed through personal merit, but even the normal amount of hard work that might lead others to greatness only amounts to making Rudy average. He has to push twice as hard, work twice as long, and do it on his own. He goes to college and makes his own living to pay for it himself. Rudy’s boss lets him sleep in the office for free–another example of private kindness–and he arranges a deal with a tutor (the director of “Elf” and “Iron Man”) so he can get the grades he needs. He’s resourceful and resilient, and that’s why his triumph is so sweet. If you don’t cry at the end of this movie, you have no heart.
Honorable Mention: The Greatest Game Ever Played
5. Forever Strong
Even in sports, winning isn’t everything if you’re not becoming a better person. Talent is no excuse for taking advantage of others and ruining your life–it’s not the justice system’s fault if you break the law. It’s yours. In the third movie on this list featuring Sean Astin, rugby star Rick Penning learns that the most fulfilling victories–the only ones, actually–are the moral sort. As PragerU recently pointed out, America was not designed for a secular people. We need a higher source of values and guidance if we are to achieve the level of freedom, peace, and equality that our Founders intended. As stated in our honorable mention for this category, “Winning football games is too small a thing to live for.” Without God engrained in our lives and our society, nothing else will be worth it.
Honorable Mention: Facing the Giants
4. Coach Carter
This movie is fantastic, and not only because it has a bald Channing Tatum before he was famous. Many people, especially minorities, feel predestined to a course of misery and struggle. Criminal behavior is all too common, and gang violence still plagues many cities throughout the United States. Coach Ken Carter, played by Samuel L. Jackson, informs his basketball team that one out of every three of them will end up in prison between the ages of 18-24 unless they proactively choose another road. There are no magical socialism fairies to fix their problems. Even with every opportunity afforded to them, they have to work for it. Athletic ability is not an excuse for academic neglect, and individual sloth will yield individual consequences, which peers can only help you overcome if they choose to; the burden for your problems lies primarily with you. Few other movies teach personal responsibility so powerfully.
Honorable Mention: Gridiron Gang
3. Field of Dreams
More so than any other sport, baseball is about far more than just baseball. It’s about family, small town America, and simpler times. It’s a representation of the American way. It should come as no surprise that my favorite baseball movie of all time isn’t really about baseball either. Kevin Costner’s Ray Kinsella carves a baseball diamond into his Iowa corn crop, but it’s not the visits from baseball greats like “Shoeless” Joe Jackson or famed writer Terence Mann that fill him with meaning and a sense of accomplishment. It’s the long-awaited catch with his dad. America needs this lesson now more than ever: no amount of heroes, no books, no stories, no other successes will ever replace the need for fathers. According to stats amassed by the FCLU, fatherless homes account for 85% of children with behavioral disorders, 71% of high school dropouts, 63% percent of youth suicides, 71% of teen pregnancies, and 70% of juveniles in state-operated institutions. Children who grow up without fathers are “5 times more likely to commit suicide, 32 times more likely to run away, … 14 times more likely to commit rape, … 10 times more likely to abuse chemical substances,” and “20 times more likely to end up in prison.” Where too late for fathers to become involved, uncles, grandparents, coaches, mentors, teachers, and other leaders should step in to fill the void. But where possible, far and away the greatest boon will be fathers.
Honorable Mention: Friday Night Lights
2. Remember the Titans
From the same studio and producer that would later bring us “Glory Road” comes the epitome of what a sports movie should be, thematically and cinematically. 1970’s Virginia presented its share of racial challenges, and sadly, we don’t seem to have solved them. Race relations have fallen sharply since the beginning of Obama’s presidency, with drastic declines just in the last two years, as even The New York Times reports. We are still “fighting the same fight.” And that doesn’t just apply to races. American politics are plagued by ideological tribalism and perpetual demonization of the other side. As Glenn Beck notes, we are in a “cold civil war.” And I pray that it won’t get “hot.” But if we’re going to stop that inevitable violent outbreak, we need to learn from the past. I’ll just let Denzel say it:
“This is where they fought the battle of Gettysburg. Fifty thousand men died right here on this field, fighting the same fight that we are still fighting among ourselves today. This green field right here, painted red, bubbling with the blood of young boys. Smoke and hot lead pouring right through their bodies. Listen to their souls, men. ‘I killed my brother with malice in my heart.’ ‘Hatred destroyed my family.’ You listen, and you take a lesson from the dead. If we don’t come together right now on this hallowed ground, we too will be destroyed.”
It’s hard to find a good hockey movie. Most of the time you end up with fun but silly ones like “The Mighty Ducks” or “H. E. Double Hockey Sticks,” and occasionally you’ll find a gem like “The Rocket.” But nothing is quite like “Miracle.” Maybe that’s because it’s not really about hockey after all. According to Jim Craig, the goaltender for the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team, “This is not a hockey movie. This is a story about being American.” I grew up in a family that liked to skip opening sequences because they’re “boring” and “unnecessary.” It took me years to finally recognize the power behind the beginning scene of “Miracle.” Don’t skip it. It presents years of context that frame why this moment in sports was about so much more than just an Olympic medal. This is a movie about an America that has lost hope in itself, faith in its government, and trust that its leaders are honorable and deserving of their office. Sound familiar? The movie includes excerpts from President Jimmy Carter’s speech about America’s “crisis of confidence.” These words might well have been said last week for their relevance:
“The erosion of our confidence in the future is threatening to destroy the social and the political fabric of America. The confidence that we have always had as a people is not simply some romantic dream or a proverb in a dusty book that we read just on the Fourth of July. It is the idea which founded our nation and has guided our development as a people. Confidence in the future has supported everything else. … We’ve always believed in something called progress. We’ve always had a faith that the days of our children would be better than our own. Our people are losing that faith. … For the first time in the history of our country a majority of our people believe that the next five years will be worse than the past five years. … There is a growing disrespect for government and for churches and for schools, the news media, and other institutions. This is not a message of happiness or reassurance, but it is the truth and it is a warning. … We were taught that our armies were always invincible and our causes were always just, only to suffer the agony of Vietnam. We respected the Presidency as a place of honor until the shock of Watergate. … These wounds are still very deep. They have never been healed. Looking for a way out of this crisis, our people have turned to the Federal Government and found it isolated from the mainstream of our nation’s life. Washington, D.C., has become an island. The gap between our citizens and our government has never been so wide. The people are looking for honest answers, not easy answers; clear leadership, not false claims and evasiveness and politics as usual. … Whenever you have a chance, say something good about our country. With God’s help and for the sake of our nation, it is time for us to join hands in America. Let us commit ourselves together to a rebirth of the American spirit. Working together with our common faith we cannot fail.”
The United States of America is the greatest country that has ever existed on the face of the earth. But it is divided. We’ve forgotten what it means to be Americans, focusing only on our factions of religion, sexual identity, race, education, and ideology. But I hear Coach Herb Brooks in my head: “The name on the front is a [heck] of a lot more important than the one on the back.” Above all else, we are Americans. If we can at least come together and remember what America stands for–what it was designed to do–then we can disagree all we want, but we’ll have a common goal, and then we can piece our country back together again.
For more movies that didn’t make this list, check out “Cool Runnings,” “Little Giants,” “Victory,” “Invincible,” “Invictus,” and the original “Karate Kid” trilogy.