Sports In Film- Low Score At The Oscars

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Hollywood released plenty of sports films over the decades but few managed to score an Oscar.  Since 1929 when the annual prize gala debuted, 89 Best Picture awards were handed out and only three went to movies in the sports genre- (2004) Million Dollar Baby, (1981) Chariots of Fire, (1976) Rocky. 

Overall, 19 sports films won Oscars and 33 trophies were awarded.  Boxing, with its familiar subject matter of grit and hardship, leads the category with 16 statuettes. 

(1931) The Champ was the first to hold up an Oscar, winning Best Actor and Best Story. Clint Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby tops the trophy count with four- Picture, Director, Actress, Supporting Actor.  Chariots of Fire is second with Picture, Original Screen Play, Original Score, Costume.  (1999) One Day In September is the only other Olympics winner, receiving Best Documentary for examining the terrorist massacre at the 1972 Munich games.  

The classic and iconic Rocky landed three- Picture, Director, Editing.  (1980) Raging Bull, a black and white masterpiece directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Robert De Niro as middleweight prizefighter Jake Lamotta, picked up only two.  (2010) The Fighter and (1956) Somebody Up There Likes Me were additional themes on fisticuffs that received two Oscars each.  Ali and Foreman’s captivating “rumble in the jungle” championship bout won Best Documentary in (1996) When We Were Kings. 

Beyond portraying the grueling struggles inside and outside the ring, Hollywood found fertile ground depicting life around smoke filled, seedy pool halls.  (1961) The Hustler cast Paul Newman and took Cinematography and Art Direction.  Twenty five years later, Newman resurfaced with an Oscar in another billiards piece, (1986) The Color of Money. 

Closer to family oriented  productions, (1944) National Velvet starring Elizabeth Taylor galloped away with two figurines.  The horse found popularity again in a Disney Documentary winner, (1960) The Horse With The Flying Tail; a generation later, (2003) Seabiscuit would take seven nominations, but no trophies. 

Since the early 1930’s, there was no shortage of baseball pictures on the big screen but only one film hit an Oscar home run - for Editing, (1942) Pride of The Yankees, a tribute to Lou Gehrig who died a year earlier; Gary Cooper portrayed the hero while Babe Ruth played himself.  Three football films scored an Oscar touchdown- (2009) The Blindside with Sandra Bullock for Actress, (1978) Heaven Can Wait for Art Direction, (2011) Undefeated for Documentary.  1979 coming of age comedy-drama Breaking Away cycled off with Original Screenplay and (1996) Jerry McGuire clinched with Cuba Gooding Jr. as Supporting Actor. 

(2016) O.J.: Made In America is nominated this year for Best Documentary- will sports have its 34th Oscar trophy ?

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THIS WEEK

10 years ago

BASEBALL April 2, 2010  Former MLB pitcher Mike Cuellar dies at the age of 72. A 2x World Series champion and 4x All-Star, Cuellar started off with the Cincinnati Reds in 1959 and played for 5 teams, spending the most years with the Baltimore Orioles. He won the AL Cy Young award in his first season with the dynastic Orioles and was their starting pitcher at the 1969 World Series against the NY Mets. Cuellar closed his career with an ERA of 3.14 and 1,632 strikeouts.

20 years ago

BASKETBALL April 2, 2000  At the 19th Women’s NCAA Basketball Championship, the Connecticut Huskies defeat the Tennessee Volunteers 71-52. Led by their famed coach Geno Auriemma, the Huskies claimed their second national title. They would win another 9 championships and become the nation’s most successful women’s basketball program to date. The Connecticut ladies dispatched Penn State at the Semi-finals before taking on Tennessee for the crown.

30 years ago

GOLF April 8, 1990  Nick Faldo wins the 54th annual Masters Tournament held in Augusta, Georgia. Shooting a 278 (-10) and tying Raymond Floyd in the final round after the latter bogeyed on the 16th hole, Faldo emerged victorious in the playoff showdown. It was his second consecutive win at the Masters and third of what would be six career majors. Born in Herdforshire, England, Faldo turned pro in 1976 and has won more majors than any other modern European golfer.

40 years ago

OLYMPICS April 12, 1980 The U.S. Olympic committee announces their boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics. A total of 66 countries chose not to attend the games due to the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan. Nevertheless, 80 other nations did agree to send their athletes to the first Olympics that were held in a communist country. Four years later, the Russians and their East European allies would follow-up with a boycott of the Los Angeles games.