Although some sports-related films are preposterously predictable, it’s always a special moment when a fictional movie athlete overcomes his or her vast array of personal demons and unrealistically delivers in the clutch. Even alcoholism, torn rotator cuffs, ego-maniacal tendencies, small-town shyness, genetic deficiencies, gunshot wounds and feminine puberty couldn’t stop these characters from getting it done in crunch time.
Steamin’ Willie Beamen Gets His Head Out of His Ass in Time For the Playoffs
When third-string quarterback Willie Beamen is thrust into the starting lineup in Any Given Sunday, he displays unique Mike Vick-esque athletic ability. Of course, after a few big games for the Miami Sharks, Steamin’s cojones grow too fast, and he begins tuning out coaches and fellow teammates LL Cool J, Bill Bellamy and Lawrence Taylor.
The Sharks sneak into the postseason, and in the second half of their playoff game against the fake Dallas Cowboys, Beamen has an epiphany of sorts. He suddenly transforms into a team player, and even LL is doin’ it, and doin’ it and doin’ it well. In the waning seconds of regulation, Beamen escapes defenders and dives into the end zone for the winning touchdown. Al Pacino and Jim Brown rejoice. All is right in Oliver Stone’s seriously fucked portrayal of pro football.
Joe Kane Stays Sober For Long Enough to Make ESU Bowl Eligible
Ahh, The Program–an early ’90s look at major college football, starring Joe Kane, the Heisman hopeful quarterback who succumbs to alcohol and scaring people with his motorcycle when the pressures of stardom kick in. And can you blame him? He’s dating underwhelming Kristy Swanson while freshman tailback Darnell Jefferson (Omar Epps) bags Halle Berry.
Kane survives rehab and his deadbeat dad (no relation to TSJ folk) to conduct one of the greatest two-minute drills in the history of football, culminating with a touchdown pass to a streaking Jefferson. “Let’s put the women and children to bed and go lookin’ for some fucking dinner, alright?”
Billy Hoyle Breaks Through the Dunking Color Barrier
In White Men Can’t Jump, Billy loses a shitload of money to hustling partner Sidney Deane after failing to dunk on a non-regulation basket in South Central L.A. For some reason he decides to team up with Sidney again, this time wagering a portion of his girlfriend’s Jeopardy winnings on a two-on-two game with SoCal playground hoops legends “The King” and “The Duck” (who, by the way, are 45-years-old and look about 27 years past their prime).
At point game, Billy eludes either The King or The Duck (it’s always been unclear who is who) on a sweet back door cut and finishes a nice lob from Sidney with an emphatic jam, proving once and for all that with the right cinematography even small white boys from the ‘burbs can play above the rim.
Jimmy Chitwood’s Killer Crossover Wins the State Championship
Up until the last timeout of the final game, Jimmy Chitwood utters only two lines in Hoosiers, and he’s more of a quiet, asexual team leader. But when Coach Dale instructs the team that Merle will be taking the final shot, Jimmy takes control and pipes in with one of the more memorable lines in sports film history: “I’ll make it.”
The exchange in the huddle leads to Jimmy getting the ball at the top of key, waiting a few seconds too long to make a move, then executing a crossover that would have been stolen by anyone who has ever played basketball, but somehow is effective in freeing up some space for a jump shot. Game over.
The Ice Box Puts Off Womanhood For One More Day
Becky, a feared pee-wee football player aptly nicknamed “The Ice Box” for the pain she inflicts on the opposing team’s offense, returns from her brief stint as a cheerleader in Little Giants to lead her team to victory over the Cowboys. This video skips over scenes where she’s disturbingly able to make some highlight reel tackles, but it does include an uncomfortable moment between her and father/coach Rick Moranis, in addition to post-game celebratory hand-dancing with the Giants’s quarterback.
Roy Hobbs Turns Out the Lights on Pittsburgh’s Season
Hobbs is The Natural, the best player ever, until he gets shot by Barbara Hershey in a hotel room. He returns years later, literally tears the cover off the ball, and hits this mammoth home run to clinch the pennant for the New York Knights. The win keeps the team in the hands of all-around swell guy and manager Wilford Brimley.
All things considered, this may have been the most impressive of any of these clutch performances. The guy’s been told he may die on the field from lingering bullet wounds in his stomach, he starts bleeding profusely and he has to use the fat ball boy’s bat. Just incredible.
Chet ‘Rocket’ Steadman Brings the Hot, Stinkin’ Cheddar
Clearly this list wouldn’t be complete without a Gary Busey sighting, and here he is in Rookie of the Year as an over-the-hill Chicago Cubs pitcher, who befriends a kid with a freaky arm. Steadman’s career is basically over until he’s pegged to start a playoff tiebreaker against the Mets.
This video, which you’re sure to enjoy, attempts to prove that Steadman’s clutch outing was due to his affinity for airline Salisbury steaks. There are also some outstanding highlights from the end of the season while “Highway to the Danger Zone” plays in the background.