Everyone knows about iconic sports movies like "Field of Dreams," "Hoosiers" and "The Natural," but there's a surprisingly large list of great films with terrific scenes full of suspense, humor and sheer awesomeness that don't get the recognition they deserve. Here are my top seven underrated sports movies and scenes.
"Rookie of the Year"
I must have gone to see this movie in theaters three times that summer, and I spent the rest of July and August trying to mimic Henry Rowengartner's odd throwing motion. Needless to say, it didn't work.
"A League of Their Own"
Tom Hanks is just tremendous in this film (and his character, Jimmy Dugan, has the iconic line "There's no crying in baseball"). Geena Davis has never looked better, Madonna gives a great performance, and Rosie O'Donnell is hilarious. Honestly, I've never really seen the comedic value she adds other than her work in "Sleepless in Seattle," and this movie, where she is simply divine.
Dugan is a washed-up drunk who doesn't care about anything or anybody, with the exception of the game itself, and even then he's constantly degrading his own players. Nothing better exemplifies this better than when he pisses in front of his team, a scene that still has me in hysterics.
"Love and Basketball"
It still amazes me when people tell me they haven't seen "Love and Basketball." It's like me telling a Star Wars nerd I've never seen "Return of the Jedi" -- it's just criminal. The scene when Quincy (Omar Epps) beats Monica (Sanaa Lathan) in a pivotal one-on-one game is sensational. His "double-or-nothing" line evokes everything that is right with this movie, as does the role of the State Farm guy, you know Dennis Haysbert, who plays Zeke McCall to a tee (so much so, that I could never buy State Farm Insurance now, because I just don't trust him). Also, the soundtrack in this movie is insanely good. Zapp and Roger's "I Want to Be Your Man" and MeShell's "Fool of Me" add tangible value to what was my go-to date movie throughout high school and early college years.
On a semi-related note, I met Lathan over vacation in Hawaii last year. It turns out I'd been beating up on her boyfriend pretty badly on the hoops court every day, but I didn't know who he was until the last night when I saw them eating dinner together. When I met them that night I said to her, "I heard you play a little bit," desperately hoping to entice her in our afternoon pickup game. "Nah, you guys are too competitive," she joked. She came out to watch the next day, and all I wanted to do was ask her about the movie. I couldn't pull the trigger however.
Eddie Simmons (Steve Guttenberg) steals the show, for me. Before their wedding, he makes his fiancee pass a surprisingly extensive sports trivia quiz.
Instead of a trivia quiz, why not go all the way and make your wife-to-be pass an athletic combine test. Seriously, what better way to manufacture a pro athlete than run the lady through a series of tests. So you want an NBA player? Test her in the cone shuffle and vertical. A baseball player? She's got to throw a ball relatively well or game over. And with football, she must have a full comprehension of both the slant and drag routes.
Just a heads-up: This is a young Mickey Rourke -- honestly, the guy is quite handsome and talented.
My question is, which real-world athlete can best match Rourke's career trajectory? Who could start to a career, take a drug-induced hiatus, and then reach the pinnacle again? (Looking at you, Josh Hamilton.)
"Searching for Bobby Fischer"
I'm the last person in the world to pick up chess. After this movie, however, I gave it a valiant effort. When Josh Waitzkin (Max Pomeranc) offers a draw to his evil opponent -- seriously, that kid still scares me -- we as the audience see the power of film. A book cannot capture such a chilling scene as this. The fear and shock in the eyes of "Mr. Evil" (his new nickname) breathe life into chess, making it more than just a game. This movie has never really received the respect it deserves, and neither did this powerful scene.
"Little Big League"
Has anybody seen this movie, let alone heard of it? So long as you can put aside the mere fact that a 12-year-old could never manage a major league club, this film hits gold because it fulfills every child's dream. Old footage of the legendary Metrodome is fantastic, as are the Ken Griffey, Jr., scenes and Randy Johnson moments. Junior's wink at the end of his home run trot still makes me smile, even if he is long gone. Being from Seattle, I must have watched the final 15 minutes of this movie a dozen times, just to see Griffey make that sick grab (watch from 7:00 clip) on Lou's final at-bat.
Then again, I also found myself rooting against my home club because I loved the Twins that much in this movie. Nevertheless, it's the math scene that steals the show. Just minutes before the biggest game of the season, the team is huddled in the locker room trying to figure out some stupid geometry (algebra?) problem for the kid's big test the next day. I'm not sure what's funnier -- the actual scene, or the fact that I still don't know the answer.
"Finding Forrester" may not be a classic sports movie in the same sense of its peers, but this scene still has me guessing. With the city title on the line at Madison Square Garden, Jamal Wallace (Rob Brown) -- the team's best player and best free-throw shooter -- bricks both. But given the drama and social inequities in the film, along with his glance into the stands at Professor Crawford, we are left pondering whether Wallace missed the shots on purpose. After watching this earlier scene from the film, it's easy to understand why.
On another note, this scene with Professor Crawford is just as sensational. Wallace's recital of Charles Dickens and Mark Twain is epic. If you haven't seen this movie yet, see it ... if just for Sean Connery riding a bicycle. Also, Matt Damon makes a great and oft-forgotten cameo, and Busta Rhymes plays a Yankees parking lot attendant and ticket scalper. It just doesn't get better than that.
I know, I know, it's not a movie scene. But really, does it get much better than Tom Brady, Turtle and Mark Wahlberg?
To have Brady come on the show with Turtle ready to bash him, only to fall in love with him, is sheer genius. It's so Brady too, isn't it? The golf course, the perfect outfit, the ideal swing. Then the Wahlberg line just tops it off. Um yeah, I'm just a little excited for the final season.
Plus, check out my brand new HuffPost sports blog, The Schultz Report, for a fresh and daily outlook on all things sports.