Sports stories are nearly all the same. They all have that David verses Goliath story line to them. Just before the great victory is the moment of truth. It may be the visit to the place of competition the night before when all is quiet and no one is around. No one believes in me (or us), but at least I’ve (or we’ve) made it this far. The little people believe in you, all of them. Just believe in yourself. It is for all the little people. They need a hero and it is you (or us). If you win the people can believe again. The big money fat cats don’t want you to win (the ones who are producing, distributing, and financing the movie).
One of my favorite sports movies was Hoosiers, although it used the same old formula. The game footage from the movie was authentic and very close to the style of play from the mid fifties. The one hand set-shots with the knee pump were prevalent for that period. The dialogue was realistic. In the movie when one player was injured someone said he was “racked-up,” an expression not heard in maybe fifty years.
Much of the rest of the movie was fluff; the love story, Jimmy Chitwood deciding to play for Hickory High at the last moment and lending his support for the tough, but misunderstood coach, and the alcoholic father who was drying out during the State finals. The fighting against all odds story line gets worn out.
The real story is much more compelling. The real Hoosiers was, in fact, tiny. It was Milan High School in Indiana, who already had a winning tradition. The real story is hard work and dedication and not just a set of circumstance that collided at a certain place and time to create a great high school basketball team. Those players played together for years and worked hard. They did not sit around and wait for someone to come along to believe in them. The message is ‘all that is needed is someone to believe in them.’ The reality is that sometimes no matter what, you just don’t have it. No matter who believes in you. Sometimes the message should be: live with disappointment. The real story of Milan High School is much more compelling than Hickory High from Hoosiers that leaves one with the impression that things just happen because you are the underdog. God wasn’t on the side of David because he was the underdog.
It is as if the real story is not good enough. The writer, because of ego or uncertainty feels he must display his abilities to create rather than let the story tell itself. Granted, sometimes several real characters must be rolled into one and what, in reality, might take weeks to play out must be done in a way that it seems days or moments. Certain elements, becuase of time restraints, must be discarded, but when plots and sub plots are added the integrity of the story is forever lost.
Some may argue; that is what documentaries are for – to set the real story to film. Documentaries use the real people, not the actors. If one is willing to barrow every aspect of the real event and package it as based upon the real event, why not tell the real story? What is creative about taking a real story and adding the same old formula used in scores of other sports stories and then say you are taking creative license? There is absolutely nothing creative about it.
The same treatment happens to books that become movies.
Many years ago I watched the movie, The Old Man and the Sea. It was so good that I read the book. To my delight the book and movie were very close. Later I read that Ernest Hemingway made a nuisance of himself on the set, demanding they stay true to the book. The Old Man and the Sea was remade in the 80’s. The writer of the screenplay decided to ‘spruce’ it up a bit. The movie was a piece of cinematic tripe. They added more adventure and love interest. It took away from the simplicity of a compelling piece of art. It was like putting a Dolly Parton wig on the Mona Lisa.
How many times have you heard, “The book was better than the movie?” Dah! I wonder why? Stay true to the book or the real story. It is the simple honest creative element that draws people to a story. It’s not the ribbon or the wrapping, it is what is inside.