Thursday, May 27, 2010

Top 20 Fictional Sports Figures

After last night’s atrocious Game 6 of the 2010 Eastern Conference Finals, it is only fitting that we lighten the mood with a sports headline as well as an absolutely ridiculous post about the Top 20 Film Sports Figures of All-Time.  This list will leave you laughing all the way through this Memorial Day Weekend (Hint: Rick Vaughn is not on it).  Let’s jump right into it shall we?

20.  Thornton Mellon (Rodney Dangerfield)
– “Back to School”: On the surface (no pun intended) a diver may not seem like an obvious choice for one of the Top 20 Film Sports Figures of All-Time. However, you have to take into account that in 1986, Thornton Mellon was well past his prime diving age when he perfected the “Triple Lindy” at the Atlantic City Boardwalk.  In 1986, Thornton Mellon was a 60ish businessman who had developed a thriving business of clothing stores for large men called “Tall & Fat,” and had no need to relive his glory days.  However, at the behest of Coach Turnbull of the Grand Lakes Diving Team, Thornton comes out of retirement to perform his legendary dive and help the diving team win the big meet.  Thornton executed the Triple Lindy (a dive that consists of the diver jumping from the high dive onto the spring-loaded middle dive, sideways onto a slightly lower spring-loaded diving board specially installed for the dive, where you then jump back to the middle board, do a flip and then spring off the board and finish the dive) to perfection – he even included his armpit fart warm-ups.  You may have heard of George Forman coming back to box at an old age, but he had nothing on Thornton Mellon.

19. Daniel Russo (Ralph Macchio) – “The Karate Kid”: Now, you may say that karate is not a sport, that it is a martial art and maybe you are right.  However, one has to take into account the extreme athletic achievements of Daniel Russo.  First, he only knew about karate from books he read at the YMCA.  Next, he only used the lunch-pail training techniques of Mister Miyagi (Wax on, Wax off, that’s called child labor disguised as training) and was able to take on the entire Cobra Kai dojo in the All Valley Karate Tournament and win the trophy over high school powerhouse Johnny Lawrence after receiving a hobbling knee injury.  If you take into account all of the beatings that Russo received from the Cobra Kai as well as from Chozen and his gang in Okinawa during Karate Kid II, you have to be pretty impressed at the kid’s resiliency. He showed signs of being a late-80’s Rocky Balboa, but for karate.  However, Russo fell on harder times as he had an affinity for the bottle and for salted Italian meats and only appeared as a shadow of himself, although still successful, in Karate Kid III.  We can always wonder what would have been.

18. Matthew/Martha (Jonathan Brandis) – “Ladybugs”
: We are sticking with teenage heroes here, and although Matthew may not have been as tough as Daniel Russo, he a) competed in a legitimate sport and 2) was a two gender athlete and first of all most likely went to Santa Clara, Michigan, North Carolina or UCLA on a college scholarship and may have been an NCAA champion at some point during the 1990’s had his story received the same lengthy scope as the saga of Daniel Russo aka The Karate Kid.  However, from what we have seen of Matthew in “Ladybugs” was that even weighed down by the burden of the blonde wig that transformed him into Martha, he was still a prolific scorer, who, like Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan, begrudgingly excelled as a passer as well. Some of Matthew’s moves are incendiary as he cuts through the feminine midfield of some of his opponents, much like he would be cutting through the feminine defense of the Duke Blue Devils soccer team at the college level.  Matthew (as Martha) elevated the play of the girls around him.  He even overcame the lackluster coaching of his stepfather Chester (Rodney Dangerfield) and his assistant coach (played by Jackee). Although much of Matthew’s ranking comes on potential as a soccer prospect, this ranking feels secure.

17. Forest Gump (Tom Hanks) – “Forrest Gump”
:  Due to the fact that Gump led such an eventful and overall prolific life, it is easy to overlook the fact that he was a two sport athlete – football and ping pong. Gump received a scholarship to the University of Alabama where he played under the legendary coach “Bear” Bryant.  Gump went to college back when it was much more frequent for home-state boys to go the to the State University.  If Gump were playing now, he would most likely have gone to Florida or USC.  Gump was a terrific kick-returner due to exceptional speed.  He did lack a sense of depth and direction, but luckily, he was coached by one of the best. His prowess as a runner was so great that he even predated Bo Jackson’s running through the end zone and into the entrance tunnel play.  Gump also excelled at ping-pong, which many may not consider a sport, but its worldwide attention definitely deserves merit.  Gump went to China to defend the honor of America in ping-pong and succeeded.  He was so good that there was even a marketing campaign designed around him featuring customized ping-pong paddles and even a life-size cardboard cutout.  You can’t deny a life-size cardboard cutout.  Although Gump went on to meet John Lennon, become a millionaire, help Lieutenant Dan find God, marry Jenny and have a son, one cannot overlook his athletic accomplishments.

16. Bobby Boucher (Adam Sandler) – “The Waterboy”: We will be seeing a lot of the Sandman on this list, but he first ranks in here with the Bayou Bonecrusher known as Bobby Boucher.  Although sharing the same low intellect and sensitivity as Forest Gump, when inspired, Boucher’s athleticism went beyond the finesse of the kick return – it featured some of the fiercest tackles and hits known to the game of football.  Boucher was naturally meek before he was able to gain the correct game time mentality of envisioning his enemies mocking him on the other side of the line of scrimmage in order to inflict serious damage on the opponent. Boucher was such a prolific defensive player that in the 1998 Bourbon Bowl, Coach Red Beaulieu had to implement the Boucher Rules, which consisted of his offense kneeling the ball on every possession in order to try to run out the clock and prevent Boucher from affecting the game.  However, Coach Klein soon learned that he could scheme Boucher on offense, making him a two-way player. Boucher led the South Central Louisiana State Mud Dogs to a stunning comeback in order to win the 1998 Bourbon Bowl. Although not documented in the film, Boucher was named to the NCAA All American Team after that season. Boucher could have taken the NFL by storm and perhaps surpassed LT as the greatest linebacker that ever played.  There were questions about his age (he was 30 years in his breakout freshman season), but we will never know what would have happened. Instead, he decided to become a teacher and marry Vicki Vallencourt.

15. The 1994 Anaheim Angels Outfield – “Angels in the Outfield”: Danny Hemmerling (Adrien Brody), Ben Williams (Matthew McConaughey) and Ray Mitchell (Stoney Jackson) were an outfield by committee and up until the 1994 season (remember this is fictional, there was no strike shortened season) lacked confidence.  However, although their play was elevated by angels, during that 1994 season each one gained confidence in their abilities as the season rolled along, helping the Angels to make the postseason in a legendary playoff game where Mel Clark (Tony Danza) got much of the headlines for his gutsy pitching performance. Although overshadowed in that game, Williams made the 1994 All-Star team as a reserve and then again in 1996 and 1997, when all three Angels were in the All-Star outfield. Hemmerling finished second in steals in 1996 and won a Gold Glove and made the All-Star Team in 1997.  Mitchell was slightly less accomplished although he finished 5th in batting percentage in 1995 and hit over 100 RBIs in 1997.  Even though their play was enhanced (albeit by angels from heaven and not human growth hormones) these three solid MLB players deserve to be on the list.

14. Happy Gilmore (Adam Sandler) – “Happy Gilmore”
: For some, Gilmore may count as a two-sport athlete, but his lackluster attempts a hockey do not factor in here. This may be too high of a rating, but I tend to value those players who burn brightly and who feature a large quantity of potential to keep you thinking after the credits roll.  Gilmore could hit a golf ball a ton, however his short game was lacking.  With the tutelage of Chubbs (Carl Weathers), a mini golf course, and a putter shaped like a hockey stick, Gilmore is able to go to his “happy place” and control his short game in order to win the Masters over Shooter McGavin.  Gilmore made quite a bit of money on the pro tour, enough to buy back his grandmother’s house from IRS, so we do not know if he continued on the tour in order to rack up a few more green jackets as well as other major championships.  We do know that he had a terrific chance to do so and that he changed the sport of golf perhaps more than Tiger Woods did. Although, we can never know if the same fate would have befallen Happy that has recently befallen Tiger.  However, with a girlfriend like Virginia Venit (Julie Bowen) you shouldn’t need Orlando area cougars.  But the same could have been said about Elin Woods.

13. Henry Rowengartner (Thomas Ian Nicholas) – “Rookie of the Year”
: Rowengartner loses points in my book due to the fact that the prowess of his pitching arm was due to a freak accident that bordered on magic.  It is also because he was only a dominant pitcher for about half of the 1993 season and only through the NLCS, when his arm healed and he lost his magic ability to throw almost 110 miles per hour.  However, you have to like Henry’s mental toughness.  He fought off an overbearing agent and a corrupt front office (Dan Hedaya) that was trying to trade him to the Yankees, jealous friends, and losing his powers and brought the Cubs to the World Series.  Rowengartner’s ability to pull off the hidden ball trick, the chicken trick, and to fool Heddo (pronounced by John Candy as “potato”) with the underhand lob to win the pennant, was truly masterful once his favorite pitch had disappeared.  Some of our finest MLB pitchers could learn a thing or two from Rowengartner about mental toughness.  The Chicago Cubs are a tortured franchise and in his one year of glory,  twelve year old Henry Rowengartner brought them a World Series Championship.  We can always dream.

12. Lou Collins (Timothy Busfield) – “Little Big League”: This is a bit of a sentimental pick because this is my favorite sports movie and because it features an in his prime Ken Griffey Junior as the bad guy who actually spoils the day.  Anyway, Lou Collins did not have a flashy career like Henry Rowengartner.  He played solid first base made the 1989, 1990, 1992 and 1993 All Star Teams and won a Gold Glove in 1990.  He was loyal to the twin cities and Thomas Heywood before he died.  When Thomas’ grandson, Billy, took over the team after he died, Lou knew that he was Billy’s favorite player so he began to press a little bit during the 1994 season when the change in ownership through off the team dynamics. Lou was also distracted by Billy’s mom, Jenny Heywood, who he had always had a crush on.  Lou and Billy butted heads over whether or not Lou could date Jenny, with Billy actually benching Lou for a period of time.  However, when the Twins made a late season run behind Billy’s knowledge of the game and surprising managerial skills for a twelve/thirteen year old, Lou was back in the lineup.  The Twins faced off against the Mariners in thrilling one game playoff.  Lou had a solid game and was in position to win it for the Twins when he was up to bat in the bottom of the 9th.  Lou got behind a lackluster pitch from a tired Randy Johnson who had pitched all nine innings and sent the ball flying into left center, however Griffey was roaming the outfield with his grace and excellence and skied up against the wall to make an insane catch and end the Twins’ postseason dreams.  Lou never got to the World Series in his career, but he did get to marry Jenny Heywood and have Billy Heywood as a stepson.  Not bad, Lou. Not bad.

11. Gordon Bombay (Emilio Estevez) – “Mighty Ducks”: The Legend of Gordon Bombay looms large. It even looms over Top Chef competitors like, Jeff, from Top Chef New York, who was the Gordon Bombay of the 2000’s.  Bombay could have gone pro, if it wasn’t for a knee injury he sustained after a vicious slash from Wolf “The Dentist” Stansson.  Bombay was a gifted goal scorer and playmaker.  He did go on to get a law degree and was successful as a corporate lawyer, as well as become the coach of the international sensation known as the Mighty Ducks, and finish his career as a coach in the NHL; we will always wonder what kind of records Bombay could have broken. Those that saw him play in college and in the Youth World Games only rave about what would have happened if he could have gone up against Gretsky, Lemeiuex or Messier.  He’ll always have that hair.

10. Jack Parkman (David Keith) – “Major League II”: This is another sentimental favorite because this is my favorite Major League movie of all time.  Parkman was one of the central antagonists in Major League II.  An All-Star cleanup hitter for the White Sox during the 1989 season, he was a major free agent pickup for the Indians heading into the 1990 season (although it seemed like and looked like there was an extra long off-season that year).  However, as it was well documented, financial issues, chemistry, and front office blunders quickly threw the 1990 season off for the Indians and Cleveland had to trade Parkman (who was having another All-Star season) back to the White Sox. Parkman eventually met back up with the Indians in the 1990 ALCS after another stunning late season surge by The Tribe.  Parkman did his little shuffle that made all the women in Cleveland sick and helped lead the White Sox from a 3-0 deficit to tie the series at 3-3.  In Game 7, Parkman looked to put the White Sox back in the World Series with a home run.  However, he was fooled by Willie Mays Hayes’ jumping slide when he stole home and was the victim of “Wild Thing” Rick Vaughn’s resurgence as the dominant closer in the game in the ninth inning when he struck out swinging.  Parkman was not a likeable guy, but he could hit the ball a ton.  Plus he had a great bad guy five o’clock shadow.

9. Paul “Wrecking” Crue (Adam Sandler) – “The Longest Yard”: Crue was also played by Burt Reynolds, but we remember the Sandman’s version better; not just because of dumb jokes like Cheeseburger Charlie putting the Archie comic on Caretaker’s grave, but because of the toughness of the modern Crue.  Paul “Wrecking” Crue was a Heisman Trophy winner and NFL MVP who went to jail because of betting on football.  In jail, he modified his game to a more extreme Arena Football style in helping to lead the Inmates over the Guards.  Crue was often criticized for his mental toughness.  He had the physical gifts to make him a Heisman winner and an NFL MVP, but many questioned if he wanted it enough to win a Super Bowl.  Crue was released from prison after betting the  warden during the Inmates vs. Guards game and returned to the NFL.  We do not know if he ever excelled at the same level as he did during his pre-incarceration period, but I believe he ended up as a second string quarterback on talented team with a young quarterback (Green Bay Packers or Atlanta Falcons) who got injured during the stretch run of the season, which jeopardized the team’s playoff hopes. However, Crue showed his old form and led the team to  the Super Bowl where the young quarterback got the start and led the team to a unified victory in a 17-10 win over the Miami Dolphins.  Crue got his ring, but as a part of the team.  That’s the way I see it happening anyway.

8. Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) – “Rocky, Rocky II, Rocky III, Rocky IV”: A modern day Muhammad Ali, Creed was all braggadocio, dancing and damaging hits. He was one of the longest reigning heavyweight champions of the world before he ran into Rocky Balboa. Although Creed was able to beat Balboa in their first fight by decision, he was not so lucky their rematch.  Creed was on the decline in those years and did not have the same speed and strength as he did earlier in his career.  However, Creed proved that he still had a great boxing I.Q. as he helped Rocky Balboa regain the heavyweight championship from Clubber Lang after the two exchanged the belt in 1983.  Training with Balboa gave Creed thoughts that he still had something left in the tank and when Ivan Drago came to America from Russia in 1987, a way over the hill Creed foolishly saw an attempt to get back into the public spotlight, which was always his vice. What resulted was a bloodbath that is too violent to repeat. But it was the end of Creed.  He died in the ring, which was where he would have wanted to die – either there or on the beach with Rocky maybe, there was something very homoerotic about Rocky III.  Creed was passionate about the game of boxing; he never gave up and could almost match Rocky Balboa’s legendary toughness.  He was a legendary champion who thought he could hold America’s starry eyes in his fists.

7. Neon and Butch McRae (Shaquille O’Neal and Penny Hardaway) – “Blue Chips”: Neon and Butch McRae were classic examples of the cheating in recruiting that was running rampant in the NCAA during the 1990’s.  Both Neon and Butch were underachieving students, but they were tremendous basketball players and Coach Pete Bell (Nick Nolte) of Coastal University wanted to bring them to his team in order to regain the glory of the program’s past.  However, once Coach Bell and Coastal were busted for providing the players with money illegally, both Neon and Butch had to transfer.  They each ended up in the NBA and had illustrious careers.  After three seasons in Phoenix, Butch was traded to Orlando and teamed up with Neon. In Orlando, the reunited friends captured three NBA Championships and multiple All-Star Team appearances.  Neon was voted MVP of the NBA in 1999, while Butch led the league in assists in 1996, 1998 and 1999.  Although they were frequently questioned for the events that went on at Coastal, the two were able to overcome their past and embrace being two of the biggest stars in the NBA.

6.  Hank Mertle (James Earl Jones) – “The Sandlot”
: A very underrated character because you do not see any footage of him in action.  However, his hitting prowess matched Babe Ruth’s and the two were close friends.  The tragedy as that Mertle’s career was cut short due to blindness when he was hit with a wild pitch on the side of the head.  At the time, he was 28 years old and nearing 400 home runs.  If he had played another 5-7 years he may very well have entered the realm of Ruth, Mays and Aaron instead of holding a wealth of baseball memorabilia, owning a ferocious but loveable dog, and living next to a Sandlot, where he met our next character.

5. Benjamin Franklin Rodriguez aka Benny “The Jet” (Mike Vitar) – “The Sandlot”: One of the best named and nicknamed characters in sports, “The Jet” was first a neighborhood legend due to his unfathomable speed, his base running ability and the fact that he pickled The Beast in the summer of 1969. After pickling the Beast (as Scott Smalls’ biography Benny and His Jets documents), Rodriguez’s reputation grew and soon scouts from colleges were picking to look at the kid “with all that speed.” By the time Benny was in high school, he had already been offered a scholarship to play baseball at USC.  He played at USC and was eventually drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1978.  Benny helped the Dodgers win the 1981 World Series as he lead the Major League in steals, batted over three hundred and had over 150 hits.  Most Los Angelinos still believe he was robbed of the MVP.  However, Benny got his MVP in 1985 when the Dodgers won the World Series in 7 games over the Kansas City Royals in what was dubbed as the “Battles of the Blues.”  When “Sandlot” shows Benny in the future, that shot is from the 1993 season, which was “The Jet’s” second to last year in the league.  Even then, he still had the speed that gained him such fame and accolades.  When interviewed upon his retirement, “The Jet” said that his greatest accomplishment was pickling the beast, saying, “I’ll never forget what the Babe told me.”  When pressed, “The Jet” would comment no further.

4. Air Bud (Buddy the Dog) – “Air Bud”: When you are talking about a triple sport athlete who isn’t even human, you know you are in the Top 5 of this list.  Buddy or “Air Bud” was first known for his basketball talents after he escaped from Norm Snively (Michael Jeter) and his clown act.  Buddy went on to not only help youngsters learn about friendship and teamwork in basketball, but also football and soccer.  I would go into details, but I don’t think you need anymore. He is “Air Bud.” Do the phrases, “Golden Receiver,” “Seventh Inning Fetch,” or “Air Bud: World Pup,” mean anything to you?

3. Willie Mays Hayes (Wesley Snipes/Omar Epps) – “Major League I and II”: One of the best leadoff hitters in Major League history, Hays was an undrafted rookie out of Fort Meyers Tech.  He stumbled upon the Cleveland Indians Spring Training in 1989 and the rest is history.  He led the AL in steals in 1989 and led the entire Major League in steals in 1991, 1992 and 1993.  He was the World Series MVP in 1990 and League MVP in 1992, although the tribe fell short in the World Series that year.  He stole every base during one inning in the 1990 ALCS, he famously did the jump slide over Jack Parkman, he made tremendous catches and won the Gold Glove in 1991, 1992 and 1993.  He lived with Rick Vaughn and Jake Taylor in one of the strangest grown men roommate situations of all time. Although prone to hitting for power rather than percentage at moments, he was one of the most charismatic baseball players of all time.  Many wondered what it would have been like if he and Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez had been at their primes at the same time.  We can only wonder about the hypothetical scenarios of two fictional characters that I has assigned fictional accolades and statistics to.

2. Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) – “The Rocky Franchise”: An iconic sports figure would be an understatement.  There is a statue of him erected in Philadelphia.  He defeated Apollo Creed and ushered in a new era of boxing champions.  He took back his title from Clubber Lang (who was later found to have used HGH) and ended his career in the process. Balboa took more beatings than any boxer, perhaps more than Muhammad Ali.  Rocky was the only person to defeat Ivan Drago (later found to have used HGH) and effectively ended communism and the Cold War in doing so.  A national hero in both America and in Russia, he also defeated Tommy Gunn in a streetfight and put George Washington Duke in the poorhouse in Rocky V.  In “Rocky Balboa,” his son was Jess from Gilmore Girls.  He has one of the most storied careers in sports as well as one of the most storied lives of all time.  Although sometimes incomprehensible there is no denying his greatness as a human being, a husband, a father, and an advocate of robots. Hey yo, we did it, Rock. Who would have ever thought that Mick once called him a bum back in 1977?

1. Teen Wolf (Michael J. Fox) – “Teen Wolf”: Perhaps the biggest “what-if” in Sports history is, “What if Scott Howard decided to remain the Teen Wolf for the rest of his life?”  He would have gone to the NBA straight from high school and perhaps interrupted the last two Showtime Lakers NBA Titles.  He would have gone head to head with Michael Jordan and might have even stolen a title or two from him.  Teen Wolf put up staggering numbers in his only season, averaging a Wilt Chamberlain-like 50.3 points per game, 13.7 rebounds, an unheard of 5.1 steals, but a very dismal 0.8 assists. Perhaps like Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant he would have grown more unselfish with age and the desire for titles.  However, with terrible coaching from Bobby Finstock (who was on the run from the IRS) and a not great supporting cast of Chubby and number 42, you can’t blame the Teen Wolf for being a little selfish.  He had a golden run for the Beacon Town Beavers in the 1985, but in the end Teen Wolf decided that the world needed another Scott Howard, so he chose the straight life and chose to get together with his childhood sweetheart Boof.  They both went to the University of Indiana, attended all the home games, got business degrees and with the help of Mr. Howard’s nest egg from the old town hardware store, opened up the National Chain, Howard’s Hardwood Hardware.  Sometimes the simple life is just better than fame.  Teen Wolf teaches yet another lesson.

Well, there you have it.  That was a time consuming and probably soul-stealing list, but I hope you all got a laugh out of it.  That will be the entire posting until after the Memorial Day Weekend.  Next week, tune in because I will have Paul Sicilian talking basketball with me (hopefully we will have that Celtics vs. Lakers Finals) and then, the moment you have been waiting for, Nick Mencia interview me for the “Puddles of My Own Podcast.” Enjoy the weather, get to the beach and drink a damn beer please.

Take care, my Puddlers.

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