Outside of live sports and shows about sports, I don’t actually like that much on TV. Friday Night Lights was the exception because it fit perfectly into my TV watching requirements: it has character development, credible sports action (for the most part) and just enough touching family moments to convince my wife to watch with me. But they almost lost me in episode 1 of season 5.
As East Dillon Football coach Eric Taylor attempts to recruit basketball star Hastings Ruckell over to the football team, there is a scene where Ruckell shows his ‘skills’ on the basketball court. We are supposed to think, ‘what an athlete! lets get him to play WR on the East Dillon Football team!’ But, from the looks of his jump shot this actor has never seen a basketball before.
It was bad, real bad, like being forced to sit through Charlie Sheen’s stage show bad. Nothing is worse than getting lost in a movie or TV show, only to be rudely awakened by some actor’s athletic suckiness.
With that as our inspiration, we introduce you to the 10 Worst Actors in a Sports Movie:
This was actually Reeves’ second movie as a QB so I’m convinced he has some unresolved childhood football issues. The difference between his roles as Johnny Utah in Point Break and Shane Falco in The Replacements is that in the latter he was actually forced to put on pads and throw the football. Not good.
As research for this role, he spent some time getting pointers from former NFL Quarterback and ESPN NFL Analyst Sean Salisbury, which actually explains why he looked so awkward. The producers should have spent the big bucks and brought in Ron Jaworski.
Memorable Quote: “Pain heals. Chicks dig scars. Glory... lasts forever.” – Keanu Reeves as QB Shane Falco in The Replacements
I’m fully aware that my college roommates and I may be the only people that have seen this classic surfing movie. That said, any time you can see a young Gary Busey sticking his head in an oven during a party and fake surfing, it’s worth it. The late 70s was when they started relying on green screens to ‘fake’ shots and every scene with Busey on a surf board was terribly manipulated. Great movie, terrible surf scenes.
Memorable Quote: “I like fights, I've dove through windows, I've eaten light bulbs, I like sharks, any kind of blood.” – Gary Busey as surfer Leroy Smith in Big Wednesday
In 1986, Rob Lowe was a dashing young heartthrob cast as a hockey prodigy in this Canadian-based coming-of-age story. Only one problem … he had to be taught how to skate for the role. Lowe suffers in this film from being cast next to Patrick Swayze (who, by all accounts, could have given Chuck Norris a run for his money in feats of strength and world-conquering endeavors). Swayze was the only dancer I’ve seen who made me think, “Yep, he could kick the crap out of me”.
Keanu Reeves also makes an appearance in this film, but the Toronto-raised actor actually has real-life hockey skills, nicknamed “The Wall” in high school for his prowess as a goalie. Lowe looked handsome, but couldn’t skate worth a dime. There were never any shots where you saw his entire body skating, just chest/head shots then shots of someone else’s hockey legs. Movie magic at its finest.
Memorable Quote: “Where else could I get beaten up every day, treated like sh*t by prima donna Canadians, and get my nuts shaved?” - Rob Lowe as Dean Youngblood in Youngblood
(Editor’s note: I’m still not sure what hockey and shaved nuts have to do with one another)
Swings in golf or tennis are hard to fake. The more edits you see per swing, the harder the director is working to hypnotize you into thinking you’re watching the real thing. Here’s how a Tennis scene appeared in Wimbledon – tight shot of Paul Bettany’s face, cut to tight shot of an elbow tossing the ball in the air, quick movement on the screen, tight shot of the ball hitting the line, the crowd goes wild! glory! excitement! thrills!
Insert Kirsten Dunst’s mopey face and there you have it. Lots of tennis scenes, no real action, just a myriad of edits.
‘Go out there and decide who you are’. – Kirsten Dunst as Lizzie Bradbury
‘Who might that be?’ – Paul Bettany as Peter Colt
‘It might be a winner.’ - Dunst
Trivia from IMDB.com: Getting the actors to play professional-looking tennis proved much more difficult than anticipated. Eventually, it was decided to film them performing the strokes and digitally add the ball afterwards.
Tough call here between Sean Astin in Rudy and Anthony Michael Hall in Johnny Be Good. After deliberating for hours, the difference came down to this – the Rudy character was supposed to be un-athletic and half everyone’s size, so Astin actually nailed the part and could have been a sleeper Oscar pick.
Hall on the other hand was supposed to be the hot High School QB prospect, an 80s version of Cam Newton mixed with Sam Bradford. How in the world did casting directors say to themselves, “Let’s get that geeky kid from Weird Science to play a star Quarterback!” The scenes with Hall actually playing football were more Hannah Montana than Joe Montana. Nowadays this would be like Jonah Hill starring in “The Peyton Manning Story”, it’s just not going to happen.
Movie Tagline: Every college in the country wants Johnny. 'Cause when he's good he's very, very good. And when he's bad, he's better.
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I loved this movie growing up. Kathy Ireland as a field goal kicker and TV funny man Sinbad as a defensive lineman – laughs galore! Scott Bakula as the aging quarterback of a scrappy Texas State team – genius! But after over 20 years, this movie somehow got worse. Most of the failures of Necessary Roughness rest on the shoulders of Sinbad and Bakula. Bakula seems to think moving your body as fast as possible in various directions will look like a throwing motion, and Sinbad is about as athletic as he is funny. On the other hand, Adam Vinatieri has nothing on Kathy Ireland; she almost single-handedly saves the film.
Memorable Quote: “What we need to do is get crazy! What we need to do is get Wild! What we need to do is Parrrrtaaaay!” – Sinbad as Andre Krimm in Necessary Roughness
Even a decent movie can still have terrible sports performances. Since Crowe is Australian I didn’t expect Sidney Crosby out there, but in the scene where he is skating alongside his movie wife I swear she is holding him up. There are multiple game action scenes where if you stare at the puck instead of his NHL caliber mullet, you can see it’s nowhere near his stick. I put the over/under on shooting these scenes at about 122 ‘takes’ each.
I do respect his playoff beard and that he generally looks like a hockey player, but when you watch him skate, it’s less believable than Lady Gaga actually being a Lady.
Trivia: The entire New York Rangers roster portrayed in the film is fictional. Many players on the actual Rangers roster at the time refused to be in the film. (Editors Note: because they were too busy not making the 1999 NHL Playoffs)
The art of pitching took a major step back when Robbins took the mound as Nuke Laloosh in Bull Durham. Much like Bakula throwing the football, his body moves every which way and the ball pops out of his spaghetti arm like a feather from a cannon.
I imagine after the first few days of rehearsals the director realized “ok we can’t fake this, so we have to go way over the top … Tim, just move everything somewhat spastically.” The movie is classic, the dialogue great, but outside of Kevin Costner playing a credible catcher, the baseball scenes were pretty weak.
Memorable Quote: "A good friend of mine used to say, 'This is a very simple game. You throw the ball, you catch the ball, you hit the ball. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes it rains.' Think about that for a while." - Tim Robbins as Nuke LaLooosh in Bull Durham
I am convinced that the drawn-out dance scene in A League of the Own was only there to make Madonna happy, since on the baseball field she looked so uninspired. I just came across this quote that validates the assumption:
According to a handwritten letter she wrote to photographer Steven Meisel, Madonna was miserable. "I cannot suffer any more than I have in the past month, learning how to play baseball with a bunch of girls (yuk) in Chicago (double yuk). I have a tan, I'm dirty all day, and I hardly ever wear make-up.”
At first I wasn’t sure if that quote was from Madonna or current Chicago Cubs pitcher Kerry Wood, but Internet research has confirmed it was indeed Madonna.
Memorable Quote: “Hi, my name's Mae, and that's more than a name, that's an attitude” – Madonna as Mae Mordabito in A League of the Own
Even on a high school basketball court, Michael J. Fox looks as out of his league as my mom would playing one-on-one against Derrick Rose (sorry Glo, but D-Rose would totally dunk on you). When Fox isn’t dribbling the ball up to his chin, he’s demonstrating a jump shot that looks more like a whole body dry heave. Five year olds put less effort into getting the ball to reach the rim.
The former Family Ties star was actually a pretty solid hockey player growing up in Canada so we know he has a modicum of athletic ability. Unfortunately it was not on display in this 80s ‘teenage-high-schooler-turned-friendly-neighborhood-basketball-playing-werewolf’ classic.
Don’t believe me? Watch the video, if you can get past the booming soundtrack about 1:30 into the clip, there is a stellar ‘oh-god-please-make-this-layup’ breakaway. At around two minutes, there’s a jumper that took every ounce of his 110 lbs to hit pay dirt.
Congratulations Michael J. Fox, we salute you.
Written by Brian Clapp