Sports films and sports talk radio in LA

Nearly 20 years after its publication, Harvey Marc Zucker and Lawrence Babich's Sports Films: A Complete Reference (McFarland) remains a landmark book. Filmmakers have long embraced sports as a topic – one of Thomas Edison's first cinematic experiments at his Black Maria studios involved boxing – but with the exception of Sports Films (and such niche titles as Boxing Filmography: American Features, 1920-2003, also from McFarland), the genre has remained under-examined.

Finally, Zucker and Babich have some company. Local journalist Randy Williams has just written Sports Cinema: The Best of Hollywood's Athletic Heroes, Losers, Myths, and Misfits (Limelight Editions). Williams doesn't attempt to be as exhaustive as Sports Films; he doesn't write Maltin-like grafs about every sports film ever made. Instead, by narrowing the topic to a select 100 films, Williams gets to analyze themes, filmmaking technique, and acting prowess.

As the title suggests, this book is meant to provoke argument: not every cineaste or sports fan will agree with Williams' top ten picks: counting down from the tenth choice, Slap Shot, Requiem for a Heavyweight (the theatrical release starring Anthony Quinn, not the Playhouse 90 version with Jack Palance), Breaking Away, Rocky, Olympia, Raging Bull, Chariots of Fire, This Sporting Life, Bull Durham, and The Hustler.

I found Williams' Top 10 list refreshingly intriguing –- that is, ranking a film about pool number one and an obscure rugby movie from Britain third is atypical. Personally, I wouldn't include Sporting Life or Chariots in my Top 10; I'd have to make room for Fat City, When We Were Kings, North Dallas Forty, Caddyshack, Dogtown and Z Boys, Kingpin – well, you get the idea.

Meanwhile, ESPN and Wal-Mart (now that's a scary combination) are teaming up with a promotion asking fans to vote for their favorite sports films. Problem is, the choices are so vanilla as to be insulting. Forget Leni Riefenstahl and Olympia, forget Hoop Dreams: no documentaries make the list. And, some really bad films (like the remake of Bad News Bears) are on the list. As of now, the fans' Top Ten choices are (counting down from number ten): Brian's Song, Bull Durham, The Natural, Major League, Rudy, Rocky, Remember the Titans, Caddyshack, Hoosiers, Field of Dreams. Go figure.

* * *

And then there were two. Long Beach Press Telegram sportswriter Bob Keisser used his column to dissect the local sports talk radio scene –- these days, primarily KLAC (570 AM) and KSPN (710 AM) -- and proclaims: "the competition is getting good.

"Perhaps the best this town has heard, in fact, since sports talk became a 24/7 enterprise more than a decade ago."

Keisser notes that KLAC's daily lineup trends local, with such personalities as Jim Rome, Steve Hartman, Vic "The Brick" Jacobs, Fred Roggin, and Joe McDonnell. By contrast, writes Keisser, "KSPN has just two shows that are based in L.A. One is very good, "The Big Show" with Steve Mason and John Ireland; the other, "West Coast Bias" from 1-to-3 p.m., is tepid. It has one superb national show hosted by Dan Patrick, and one that's above-average hosted by Colin Cowherd."

November 4, 2006 12:02 PM • Native Intelligence • Email the editor

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