Athletic Anecdote: Long live sports movies

By Andrew Klegman
Published: December 2008

I was sleeping one night a few years ago when Babe Ruth entered my room through my closet. After sharing many words of encouragement and taking my Hank Aaron baseball card, he abruptly turned to go, leaving me dumbfounded with many unanswered questions. Yet before he vanished into my closet, he turned to me and said, “Remember kid, there’s heroes and there’s legends. Heroes get remembered but legends never die, follow your heart kid, and you’ll never go wrong. The next morning, I woke up and pickled the beast, and from that moment on, I became a legend.

Unfortunately, this did not really happen to me. Hopefully, most of you knew from the start that this is one of the many famous scenes from the classic baseball movie, The Sandlot, and if you were completely oblivious to the fact, please put this paper down and head to your nearest Blockbuster or log onto Netflix immediately.

Like most children growing up, I worshipped sports, especially baseball and hockey. But though I had very high hopes of playing both sports professionally’€they fell in opposite seasons, so I knew it was possible’€I never felt I could connect with these much older men in the MLB and NHL.

These players were just names on a jersey, and I had no idea who they were outside of sports. They may have become all stars and hall-of-famers in their respective leagues, but they were never big role models for me. My sports heroes were the kids and teenagers we grew up with on film, and these child sports movie stars still hold a special place in my heart.

Finally, a group of kids my age performing miracles before my eyes; what more could I ask for? I knew that professional sports were many years away, so at the time, these kids were my only hope. I fell in love with these stars, living vicariously through their lives on the big screen, and praying every night to become one of them. Watching movies like The Sandlot helped improve my own drive and desire as I participated in my own organized sports leagues.

No, I knew I couldn’t hit towering homeruns like Mo Vaughn or scale the Green Monster like Troy O’Leary, but whenever I stepped up to the plate in little league, I thought about Benny “The Jet Rodriguez and played with the same confidence and success.

Sure, I knew I had no blistering slap shot like the great Al MacInnis of the NHL, but playing with Coach Gordon Bombay and the Mighty Ducks seemed like a reachable goal. In the first years of youth hockey, I wore a Ducks jersey and skated circles around kids who could barely move on the ice, pretending I was Charlie Conway or Adam Banks.

These kids provided me with entertainment and hope throughout my entire childhood, and today I look back fondly on these classic movies. Though that’s not to say I no longer watch them. Any time The Sandlot, The Mighty Ducks, Angels in the Outfield, or any other great kids’ baseball film shows up on my TV guide, I immediately change the channel without hesitation.

These movies aren’t just movies about sports; they are movies about life, and they are movies about growing up. As I grow older, I not only understand how ridiculous each movie’s plot is, but I also realize the great message they send to children who watch them.

Yes, breaking your arm so your tendons fuse together in recover allowing for you to throw a 100 mph fastball is ludicrous, and of course, managing a hopeless major league baseball club at the age of 12 from dead last to a game away from winning the pennant is very unlikely, but learning team work and responsibility can never be stressed too much. Call them bad, call them corny, but they are truly some of the greatest kids’ movies of all time.

And, as I finish my high school career, I have finally accepted that my hopes and dreams of playing both professional hockey and baseball simultaneously will certainly not come true, but I am thankful that I never have to let go of the heroes that gave me hope and excitement as a child.

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