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Top 6 Life Lessons from Great Sports Films

The greatest sports films ever to grace the big screen are not purely for entertainments sake. Whether based on true events or fiction, each movie imparts to us some valuable life lessons. Let’s look at six of my all-time favorites:

6. Rocky III (1982) The public loved this movie for its heroism and Rocky Balboa reeks of heroism. Basking in the limelight of fame, Rocky becomes complacent and depressed. He eventually regains the “eye of the tiger” and wins the big match with fervor and a ton of hard work. We are forced to root for Rocky as he boxes his way into our hearts forever.

Life lessons: Overcoming defeat and depression in favor of determination, hard work, and the “eye of the tiger” in whatever our life mission is.

5. The Pride of the Yankees (1942) It is possible to be humble and a sports icon, as Lou Gehrig exemplified in his life and death. At the peak of his baseball career, he was struck down by Amytrophic Lateral Sclerosis, (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). He was valiant in life, considering himself ‘the luckiest man on the face of the earth.’

Life Lessons: Remain humble in our greatness, we can overcome physical tragedy to live a life of honor. Our attitude determines our altitude.

4. Million Dollar Baby (2004) This fictional account tells the story of Maggie, a determined amateur boxer who fights dysfunctional family dynamics and the lack of a good trainer. Her resiliency and determination deliver a power-packed punch to audiences, even in her fight to die.

Life Lessons: Resiliency always pays off, determination wins our fights, and overcoming dysfunctional family dynamics builds a strong internal force within us.

3. Brian’s Song (1971) A classic true story of the strong bond of friendship in spite of racial obstacles and injury. Brian Piccolo and Gale Sayers of the Chicago Bears form an unlikely friendship when forced to room together. When Gale is injured, Brian relentlessly prods him on to full recovery. Then, when Brian is struck with cancer, Gale supports as only a true friend can.

Life Lessons: True friendship is to be valued, overcoming injury (internal or external) is possible with a heavy dose of love, support, and humor.

2. Remember the Titans (2000) Based on true events, the movie tells the story of how coach Bill Yoast was replaced by Herman Boone in the Titan’s 1971 season. Conflicts in coaching styles continue on and off the field. An inspiring story of how a high school football team dealt with racial tension, learned how to work as a team, overcame personal differences, and turned many hostile youth into champions.

Life Lessons: Racial ignorance can be managed with education and patience. For effective teamwork; overcoming differences and compromise is necessary.  Resentment and mistrust can be replaced with tolerance, love, and patience if we live with open hearts and minds.

1. The Express – The Ernie Davis Story (2008) A challenged childhood prepared Ernie Davis for his greatest triumph; being the first African-American to win the Heisman Trophy. Inspired by Jim Brown, supported by family, and mentored by his coach, Ernie’s quest for success in the game of life is fueled and a strong character is built in the process. Even when Leukemia strikes; Ernie passes his torch of excellence to Floyd Little.

Life Lessons: Racial inequality and speech challenges are overcome with internal strength, resilience, and the right role models. It’s important to remember where we came from in the midst of our successes. Achievement is possible in the face of any adversity.

As you can see by now, there’s an overall theme running through each of these movies. Most sports movies portray the athlete overcoming some type of life obstacle or challenge – an internal change takes place within their heart and mind. Personalities mature and learn. Mindsets change and grow. Life lessons are learned in the crucible of pain.

Weigh in on your all-time favorite sports movie. What life lesson did you learn from it?


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3 Responses to Top 6 Life Lessons from Great Sports Films

  1. Sam April 16, 2010 at 6:28 pm #

    Can't believe Coach Carter didn't make the list! One of my favourites.

    Also, Jerry McGuire.

  2. Rob Smith April 20, 2010 at 6:57 pm #

    Great Post Michelle:

    These are great reasons why sport movies will never get old. We can always learn lessons from the playing field and apply it to everyday life.

    I like your top 6. However, there are only a couple of things I would change. First, I would put Remember the Titans at Number 1, but only because I have never seen The Express.

    I might get some heat for this but I’ll take out Rocky and move it down a little and replace it with Rudy. The guy show determination followed him dream and stuck with it to the very end. If I was the coach I would have gave Rudy some more playing time.

    In addition, I would put Glory Road on as a Honorable mention.

  3. Elaine DeBassige D'Amato April 28, 2010 at 5:17 pm #

    I would add Rudy to the list as well. I'm surprised it didn't make the list.

    Focus. This is one quality that can define an athlete–his or her ability to keep their eyes forward. Admittedly, this can also lead to downfall as is anything in extreme. Even after he gets into Notre Dame, he takes his game one step further and fulfills his greatest dream. I choke up every time.

    I have not seen The Express either. It has not withstood the test of time yet to say if this is the best sports movie. The others have been around and can hold their own as classics.

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