Become your own marquee player

MIKE BELL -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 12:28 PM ET

Have you seen the ads for the new film Invincible?

You'll laugh! You'll cry! You'll experience deja vu like you've never experienced in any other genre of filmmaking!

Ah, the sports movie.

Is there any film more predictable or cliched than those about the men and women involved in athletic endeavours?

Seemingly more than any other style of movie, you know exactly what's going to happen before you even purchase your $38 ticket and wedge your buttery arse into the cineplex seat.

Even the movies that are having fun at the expense of sports, if not the sport movie -- Dodgeball, Talladega Nights, Kingpin, Happy Gilmore -- stick to the sport movie formula.

Hell, so do sport movies with animals -- MVP, Air Bud and Ed, which features the wacky baseball playing antics of a lovable, disease-carrying monkey (played by Matt LeBlanc).

And, yet, still they come and still we go, knowing full-well what we'll see is a variation on the theme.

Like Invincible.

It's actually, according to press, the real-life story about bartender and Philadelphia Eagles fan Vince Papale (played by Mark Wahlberg), who one day attempts to live his dream by trying out for the NFL football team, which, against all odds, he makes.

If that sounds remarkably like the film The Rookie -- real-life, tryouts, baseball team, against all odds, big leagues -- that shouldn't be surprising considering they share the same producer.

But it's not just The Rookie.

It's Rudy, Lucas, A League of Their Own, Tin Cup, The Replacements, The Bad News Bears, The Mighty Ducks, Major League, The Natural, Hard Ball, The Best of Times, Over the Top, The Longest Yard, Bull Durham, Hoosiers, The Legend of Bagger Vance, Cool Runnings, Ladybugs, The Karate Kid, Wildcats, Days of Thunder, Caddyshack, Rocky and even the greatest sports film of all time, Slap Shot.

Think about it -- all of those films have more in common with each other than they do not. All of them follow the sport movie formula to a certain degree, which means, yes, they virtually write themselves.

Fortunately, though, someone needs to collect a writing credit and paycheque for filling in the blanks, such as deciding on the sport, adding the names into the dialogue and shoehorning an improbable and unnecessary love story into it in order for gratuitous boob shots and -- even more desirable -- the accompanying PG-13 rating.

And, yes, that someone could be you.

Fame and fortune await anyone who has a thirst for box-office mediocrity and 15 -- OK, 12 -- minutes of free time on their hands.

Because, personally, can't get enough of 'em, here are the five things every sports film needs.

And remember, the worst thing that could happen to you is they don't make it and you wind up failing at one more thing in your life.

That or it becomes a Rob Schneider vehicle.

STEP 1: PICK A SPORT

Now I know what you're thinking: "Oh, I should pick something really obscure, like, say, bass-fishing or boar-wrestling or competitive wishboning -- something unique that will make it stand out from all the others."

Oh, you poor, misguided fool.

"Obscure?" "Stand out?" "Unique?"

Those are loser terms.

Unless it's the unbelievably heroic protagonist in your film, winners don't aim high, they aim at the eye-level of the masses, which, ultimately, doesn't want to learn anything when it drops good coin to be entertained.

Basically you've entirely missed the point of this whole exercise and doomed your film to a quick death in the incinerator of which every studio intern or janitor has been assigned to read it.

And, besides that, unless you're the current belt-holder in full-contact crocheting or whatever other "unique" sport you've chosen, moron, even a minimum amount of research will be required -- moreso if you continue down your wrong-headed path in search of unique's younger, duller brothers "nuance" and "realism."

It's sports -- keep it simple.

Football is the one with the ball.

Basketball is the one with the tall guys.

Baseball is the one with the bat.

Hockey is the one with the puck.

You're off and running.

STEP 2: CHOOSE A HERO

This usually falls into the categories of player, team, coach/mentor or a combination of all three.

While the latter and team options allow for a veritable potpourri of characters and stereotypes -- perfect for comedies -- keep in mind you're dealing with about 82 minutes of film.

In that time, you'll have to establish each walking cliche and give them insulting dialogue to match, which could get confusing and cumbersome (eg:. Is here a good spot for the Asian player to say "More Gatorade, prease" or should the fat guy just fart?)

As for making the coach or mentor your protagonist, there's little to cheer about during an hour and a half of chair throwing, sleeping on couches, bleeding ulcers and the alienating of family members.

Your best bet is to focus on a single athlete, which also allows you the bonus of tossing in some of those stereotypes in supporting roles, including the coach, whose soul we can peripherally watch die a little more each day and whose heart is on a slow, short fuse.

(Note: Choosing a heroine provides for the opportunity to attain the more lucrative R rating via locker-room scenes or a Personal Best relationship. Not that you have to. We're just, you know, saying is all).

If you want to add a special something to your film, pick an athlete who's dead and has no litigious living relatives, take their name and use the "inspired by" tag.

As for a backstory for your lead role, most of that gets taken care of next.

STEP 3: ADD SOME OBSTACLES

The heroes in sports films are all meant to inspire Joe and Josephine Sofa into thinking they can also do great things in their

lives (i.e. lose weight, take a chance, bathe, etc.).

That means to attain a goal, the onscreen athlete has to overcome something, often the result of some murky earlier trauma that can be vaguely alluded to throughout the film.

That could mean any number or variety of obstacles such as age, a physical disability, resentment from fellow players, the verbal abuse of a Tums-popping coach or the golden egg: Addiction.

And here, again, stick with something most people can relate to. When it comes to getting hooked on something, alcohol remains the most accessible and plausible substance to abuse.

Besides, who doesn't love a drunk?

There's also the fact many successful presidents, captains of industry and, yes, professional athletes have actually drowned themselves in hooch.

And those who have almost drowned, come up for air, fallen back under and finally broken the surface and dragged themselves onto the banks for good -- entertaining and inspiring!

Sometimes the hero has to wait until the final act of the film to overcome that obstacle but it's best to get it out of the way and get everyone onscreen and in the theatre on his or her side.

STEP 4: GIVE YOUR HERO A BELIEVER

Someone to help our hero overcome the obstacle. And someone to fornicate with.

STEP 5: SET UP THE BIG PLAY/GAME

In every sport movie, everything always leads to that one moment of truth -- the big game or the big play.

Or the big play in the big game.

The tiebreaker, the first-and-goal, the full count, the final round, the birdie putt, the breakaway -- make it as cliched as the dying kid watching from his hospital bed.

True, Rudy and Lucas' moments came when the games were virtually over but, for the most part, no successful sports movie has hinged on an RBI in a 14-3 blowout or a buzzer-beater to cap off a 97-64 loss.

Create tension.

Make them want it.

Make them wait an extra 10 minutes with that litre of Coke pressing on their bladders.

STEP 6: CHOOSE THE RIGHT OUTCOME

This can be summed up by: Win, lose or die. The obvious route is to go for the win in order to send the paying public back to their sad little lives feeling good about things.

Less obvious but still tempting is to sacrifice the protagonist -- usually during a win -- making his or her actions even more heroic and, possibly, setting up a bloody deathbed passing of the torch (a.k.a. the Oscar monologue).

But, and here we learn the lessons of past films as well as the basic understanding of the sport film in general: It's always best to go for the maddeningly close loss.

The reason?

Sequel, baby, sequel.

And all the hard work has already been done.

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WHAT'S THE BEST SPORTS MOVIE?

-SLAP SHOT (1978)

-BULL DURHAM (1988)

-FIELD OF DREAMS (1989)

-THE LONGEST YARD (1974)

-RAGING BULL (1980)

-ROCKY (1976)

-THE NATURAL (1984)

-THE BAD NEWS BEARS (1976)

-CADDYSHACK (1980)

-HAPPY GILMORE (1996)

-COOL RUNNINGS (1993)


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