What's the Difference?

Mal Hartigan

Sports in movies gloss over a less exciting reality

Everyone’s seen it: the ending scene in a sports movie with five seconds left on the clock. The protagonist’s team is only down by two points. This crucial five seconds gives the main character the opportunity to win the game, but suspiciously, the time on the clock seems to last nearly five minutes.

The differences between sports movies and reality are vast. Most notably:

1) The protagonist’s team almost always wins.

2) The game almost always lasts longer than the time left on the clock.

3) The sport often represents or incorporates a character’s personal conflicts.

So how do sports movies get away with these unrealistic scenes? When viewers are invested in the movie’s characters, it seems easier to set aside any disbelief. However, some diehard sports fans may still be skeptical.

Several Disney movies are especially guilty of this. “Double Teamed,” a Disney Channel Original Movie released in 2002, gained popularity and frequently aired on television. Two tall twin sisters go out for their high school’s basketball team and develop into very skilled players.

At the end during a championship game with six seconds left on the clock, one of the twins has the ball by the three-point line. The shouting coach and audience are shown, along with teammates encouraging her to shoot. She proceeds to do several odd pump fakes and then passes the ball to her sister, who makes the winning shot.

All of this takes much longer than six seconds, and the win is predictable. However, viewers are likely rooting for the twins because they are invested in the characters. The win also represents the twins’ larger personal conflict of proving themselves at a new school.

In “Susie Q,” a ’90s movie starring Amy Jo Johnson (the original pink Power Ranger), the main character Zach refuses to play basketball at his new high school because it reminds him of his father’s death since his dad died while traveling to one of his previous games.

During the movie’s conclusion, he shows up at the end of the school’s final basketball game and decides to play, making a massive comeback and winning the game. This stunt would not have been allowed in reality, since he was not on the roster and did not have a jersey. For the movie’s sake, however, it shows the character overcoming a personal conflict.

Watching sports on television is a different story. Professional athletes are paid to play for America’s entertainment, and many fans do not have emotional attachments to the players.

The major difference is that a movie tells a fictional athlete’s story, using dramatic scenes to promote viewer interest, while a real sporting event proves entertaining because of the competition.

Real sporting events are not scripted or directed. Rarely in the NBA does a shot at the buzzer roll around the rim 10 times before finally dropping through the basket.

Even so, sports films entertain just as much as an actual sporting event, but do so by appealing more to viewers’ emotions. Sometimes an accurate representation is not necessary to provide entertainment.

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