Real Life Sports Movie: John Woodruff

If you were scripting an unrealistic Hollywood sports movie, what would the ingredients be?

You’d want a main character who came from humble beginnings. You’d want him or her to work their way up to some climactic event. You’d need a villain.  How about the event is taking place at a particularly momentous time in history, when the planet is gearing up toward its most devastating world-wide war?  And maybe you’d have the tyrant who is the leader of one of the aggressor countries be there at the event, looking on, with the event held in his own capital city, rooting against the hero character. Maybe that enemy leader, who is white, would be a legendary racial supremacist who was trying to prove the supremacy of his race – and maybe our hero would be black.

That’s a pretty wild set-up so far.  We might have lost our credibility with the script readers already.  Let’s press on anyway.

What else would you want? Maybe the key event would arrive, and the game — or match — or, let’s say, footrace begins. 800 meters. Less than two minutes total. Our hero wants to win it. Somehow our hero finds himself trapped and pinned in by the other competitors, back in fourth place, with nowhere to maneuver and time rapidly expiring. His whole life’s work, what he has been building toward, is starting to come apart at the seams, second by difficult second. Suddenly, our hero does something wild and unexpected to break out of the trap he’s in – he stops in his tracks, in the middle of the race… Everyone else zooms ahead and he attempts to catch up again with a mad dash up the outside of the pack.

At this point, the movie’s audience would groan. Could things get any more unrealistic (short of the hero sprouting wings)? First there was the dramatic situation and setting. Then this ridiculous mid-race maneuver? Against the most elite competitors in the world, all at full gallop? For our man to actually win at the end of the movie, well, that would just be too much, right?

Allow me introduce you to John Woodruff.

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Real Life Sports Movie: The 2014 Kansas City Royals

Everyone has their favorite comedies.  Mine happens to be an energetic and formulaic (but surprisingly smart) screwball1 comedy from 1989.  Major League, for the unfortunate few who have not seen it, is the story of a ragtag bunch of baseball players who are thrown together by malevolent Cleveland Indians owner Rachel Phelps with the intention that they will lose enough games to make attendance fall low enough that she can justify moving the team to Miami.  For various reasons, and by way of various dynamic personalities, the team improbably begins to win in spite of (and in order to spite) Ms. Phelps.  The flick culminates with a wild win-or-go-home game against the hated Yankees that involves, in no particular order, an infidelity ruse, a voodoo idol, and a sacrificial bucket of chicken.

One of the unspoken reasons that many comedies, including Major League, are so engaging is that they are not bound by realism or probability in the same way that our lives are.  In other words, Major League neither would nor could ever happen in real life.  Except…it very nearly did.


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