Posted on: February 24, 2013 2:11 am

Caddyshack & 199 Better Films

On that diamond of dreams we call cinema, the subject of sport is usually a spot player. Though a capable hitter with a reliable glove, even when it manages to make the cinematic line-up card the sport theme rarely hit’s a home run.

That’s not to say there aren’t some fine flicks that employed the sport-vehicle to tickle our funny bone (Tin Cup), tug at our heart strings (The Natural), expose human frailty (The Hustler) or inspire us to greater heights (Rocky). It’s just that, superb sport films come along about as often as the Cubs or White Sox make the playoffs. Not very.

Most have fallen into two categories: slapstick (Kingpin (‘96) / Slap Shot (’77) / The Great Race (‘65)) and sentimental fare (The Pride of the Yankees (’42) / Jim Thorpe: All-American (’51) / The Winning Team (’52)). Heart-felt or fun to watch and usually not worth $14.95 to add it to your DVD collection.

But in the spirit of this year’s 85th Academy Awards gala (ABC / 2-24 / 7E), I present an alphabetical list of the 200 best films this writer has seen on American TV, including that handful of terrific tales of tumultuous merriment that can hold their own against any of moviedom’s finest, from Waterloo Bridge (’40) to Dances with Wolves (’93).

Because I am, like Drew Barrymore, Laura Dern, Regis Philbin, Oprah Winfrey and Alec Baldwin, a fan of Ted Turner’s enormous film library at TCM, the majority of these movies fall into the category of classic. That means I can see a personal movie premiere once, twice, sometimes even three times a week.

So if you can think beyond sabermetrics and revel in the competition of sport, you can enjoy these films. Think of it like this: sport is action, action can be dramatic, drama goes hand-in-hand with romance which, at times, becomes comical or can turn horror-filled where you just wish Scotty would beam you up to sci-fi‘s most luxurious spaceship.

Everything’s connected.

A Cry in the Dark (‘88)
A Face in the Crowd (‘57)
A Family Thing (‘96)
A Raisin in the Sun (‘61)
Alfie (‘66)
Alien (‘79)
Aliens (‘86)
All the President’s Men (‘76)
American Graffiti (‘73)
Amores Perros (‘00)
Anatomy of a Murder (‘59)
Anne of the Thousand Days (‘69)
Annie Hall (‘77)
Apocalypse Now (‘79)
Atlantic City (‘80)
Barfly (‘87)
Ben-Hur (‘59)
Big (‘88)
Blackboard Jungle (‘55)
Body and Soul (‘47)
Bonnie and Clyde (‘67)
Boogie Nights (‘97)
Born Yesterday (‘50)
Brian’s Song (‘71)
Bringing Up Baby (‘38)
Bound for Glory (‘76)
Bride of Frankenstein (‘35)
Bull Durham (‘88)
Caddyshack (‘80)
Captains Courageous (‘37)
Charade (‘63)
Chinatown (‘74)
City Slickers (‘91)
Clash of the Titans (‘81)
Close Encounters of the Third Kind (‘77)
Contact (‘97)
Cool Hand Luke (‘67)
Crime in the Streets (‘56)
Cross of Iron (‘77)
Dances with Wolves (‘90)
Das Boot (‘81)
Deliverance (‘72)
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (‘88)
Doctor Zhivago (‘65)
Dog Day Afternoon (‘75)
Dr. No (‘62)
Dr. Strangelove (‘64)
Empire of the Sun (‘87)
F/X (‘86)
Fargo (‘96)
Fat City (‘72)
Father Goose (‘64)
Forbidden Planet (‘56)
49th Parallel (‘41)
French Connection II (‘75)
Gigi (‘58)
Godzilla (‘54)
Gone with the Wind (‘39)
Good Fellas (‘90)
Green Card (‘90)
Groundhog Day (‘93)
Harold and Maude (‘71)
Hell is for Heroes (‘62)
High Noon (‘52)
Highlander (‘86)
Hobson’s Choice (‘54)
How Green Was My Valley (‘41)
Inherit the Wind (‘60)
It’s a Wonderful Life (‘46)
In the Heat of the Night (‘67)
Invasion of the Body-snatchers (‘56)
Ironweed (‘87)
Jackie Brown (‘97)
Jason and the Argonauts (‘63)
Jaws (‘75)
Jean de Florette (‘86)
Jeremiah Johnson (‘72)
JFK (‘91)
Jurassic Park (‘93)
King Kong (‘33)
King Rat (‘65)
Knife in the Water (‘62)
La Strada (‘54)
Lawrence of Arabia (‘62)
Little Big Man (‘70)
Lonely Are the Brave (‘62)
Los Lunes al Sol (‘02)
M (‘31)
Mad Max (‘79)
Marie Antoinette (‘38)
Marty (‘55)
Matewan (‘87)
Meet the Parents (‘00)
Midnight Cowboy (‘69)
Midnight Run (‘88)
Miller’s Crossing (‘90)
Monte Walsh (‘70)
Mr. 3000 (‘04)
Multiplicity (‘96)
Murder, My Sweet (‘44)
Murphy’s War (‘71)
My Brilliant Career (‘79)
National Velvet (‘44)
On the Waterfront (‘54)
One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest (‘75)
Overboard (‘87)
Paper Moon (‘73)
Papillon (‘73)
Patton (‘70)
Planes, Trains & Automobiles (‘87)
Planet of the Apes (‘68)
Platoon (‘86)
Raging Bull (‘80)
Ronin (‘98)
Ray (‘04)
Red River (‘48)
Sands of Iwo Jima (‘49)
Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (‘60)
Shane (‘53)
Some Like It Hot (‘59)
Soylent Green (‘73)
Spartacus (‘60)
Stalag 17 (‘53)
Swing Time (‘36)
Tender Mercies (‘83)
Terminator 2: Judgment Day (‘91)
The Adventures of Robin Hood (‘38)
The African Queen (‘51)
The Bad News Bears (‘76)
The Bicycle Thief (‘48)
The Big Country (‘58)
The Breaking Point (‘50)
The Bridge on the River Kwai (‘57)
The Cable Guy (‘96)
The Clock (‘45)
The Corn is Green (‘45)
The Day of the Jackal (‘73)
The Deer Hunter (‘78)
The Exorcist (‘73)
The Fly (‘58)
The Fugitive (‘93)
The Glass Key (‘42)
The Godfather (‘72)
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (‘66)
The Goodbye Girl (‘77)
The Grapes of Wrath (‘39)
The Great McGinty (‘40)
The Hidden (‘87)
The Hitch-Hiker (‘53)
The L-Shaped Room (‘62)
The Last Detail (‘73)
The Last Picture Show (‘71)
The Last Round: Chuvalo vs Ali (‘03)
The Longest Day (‘62)
The Love Bug (‘69)
The Maltese Falcon (‘41)
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (‘62)
The Man Who Would be King (‘75)
The Night of the Iguana (‘64)
The Naked Prey (‘66)
The Nutty Professor (‘63)
The Out of Towners (‘70)
The Party (‘68)
The Pianist (‘02)
The Pope of Greenwich Village (‘84)
The Poseidon Adventure (‘72)
The Purchase Price (‘32)
The Quiet Man (‘52)
The Red Shoes (‘48)
The Remains of the Day (‘93)
The Searchers (‘56)
The Sound of Music (‘65)
The Sporting Life (‘63)
The Station Agent (‘03)
The Terminator (‘84)
The Thing (‘82)
The Thing From Another World (‘51)
The Third Man (‘49)
The Three Faces of Eve (‘57)
The Verdict (‘82)
The Virgin Spring (‘60)
The Wizard of Oz (‘39)
The Year of Living Dangerously (‘82)
They Made Me a Fugitive (‘47)
Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (‘74)
To Have and Have Not (‘44)
To Kill a Mockingbird (‘62)
To Sir, with Love (‘67)
Tootsie (‘82)
True Grit (‘69)
Twelve O’Clock High (‘49)
Viva Zapata! (‘52)
Waterloo Bridge (‘40)
When Harry Met Sally (‘89)
West Side Story (‘61)
Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (‘71)
Winchester ‘73 (‘50)
Witness (‘85)
Working Girl (‘88)
Yankee Doodle Dandy (‘42)

Steven Keys
Macro Sport
Posted on: July 18, 2012 4:20 pm

The Best of ESPN

With new technologies in telecommunications, computer and social networks exploding onto the consumer scene, you’d think television would be on the ropes, fighting to survive. But you’d think wrong.

The fierce competition for consumer coin, coupled with horrifically bad TV potpourri that revolves around corpsel-ooze and faux reality-snooze, may have the Nielsens ebbing low but ‘the telly’ still has plenty of power left in that championship punch.

The tube is here to stay.

Texting may be all the rage and the worldwide-web a wonder but neither will ever be, to borrow the words of Sam Spade (Bogart), “the stuff that dreams are made of (Maltese Falcon),” i.e., talking-pictures.

I do the internet daily for my fix of sportology but sometimes you’ve just gotta’ have that injection of audio / visual. And who’s my supplier? ESPN, of course.

Though all the majors now have their own network, all remind me of a Dangerfield-ism from Caddyshack (‘80): “snobitorium.” I don’t know if it’s the superior syntax of jock-laden line-ups or the laid-back, laugh-it-up style, but I’m often left feeling like an intruder, an uninvited guest. Best of the lot: Speed Channel and NFL Network.

Born in Bristol, CT in 1979, then acquired by ABC / Capital Cities (‘84) and today owned by Disney (’96), the Entertainment and Sports Programming Network has lived up to its billing as the “Worldwide Leader in Sport.”

No stranger to criticism in its 30-something lifespan, ESPN has, in large part, met its leadership responsibility by keeping its product uncomplicated, inviting and faithful to the belief that a thread of humor should run through its SportsCenter scripts.

Think of ESPN as the McDonalds of sport media. Often maligned by culinary snobs for their uninspired menus and flavor-challenged fare, the fast-food king is loved worldwide for its reliability and those delectable French fries. Wherever you may be, when you see those golden arches you know what to expect. Same holds true for ESPN, sans the fries. 

Continuity counts plenty in a time when mores are changing with the wind. Tradition may be toxicity to the agents-of-change who strategize in steel towers on Michigan & Park Avenues, but to Main Street America, yearning for something familiar, the expectancy maintained by McDonalds and ESPN is a welcome friend.

Anything as big & diverse as media giant ESPN is gonna’ have a few clunkers mixed-in with the showpieces. As much as I’d like to vent about the Broadcast College coach who trained Tony Kornheiser, Michael Wilbon, Tedy Bruschi, Marcellus Wiley, Mark May & Mark Schlereth to first, love themselves, this write is not about the misfires.

This piece is about those people & programs that hit-the-mark, the glittering gems that comprise the best of ESPN.

Aces of the Airwaves

Doris Burke: NBA sideline reporter

In a time when reporter questions (‘You played great tonight, how does that make you feel?’) are as uninspired as dialogue on The Office, Doris breaks the mold. No pedestrian queries from Ms. Burke. She knows the game & business of basketball, knows the players, asks the questions fans want answered and then the stars seem relieved to hear. No “clown” queries when DB is courtside. A breath of fresh air.

John Clayton: NFL Insider

At first glance you’d think John was a late fill-in from accounts. Though not your typical wide-neck, square-jawed, ex-player analyst, John knows more about the goings-on in the NFL than most GMs. That’s not surprising, given that he’s been covering the game since working the Steelers’ beat back in the mid-70s. Others at ESPN like Chris Mortensen, Ed Werder, Sal Paolantonio, Adam Schefter and charming Rachel Nichols are top-notch, but John is that rare TV hire most fans will look at and say, ‘He’s a civilian, he’s one of us.”

Tim Kurkjian: MLB reporter, story-teller

Whether recalling a by-gone ball-player like Stan Williams (heaven help the hitter who liked to hog home-plate when 6’4” Stan took the mound) or weighing-in on an umpire issue, Tim reminds me why I love the game. Maybe because he loves the game so. It was a grand day when Kurkjian moved into ESPN‘s top spot a few years back. Sensible enough to not step on toes but brave enough to fulfill his social-contract with fans by giving honest opinion, TK appreciates the balance most others dismiss as trite.

Hint: Solid state. That describes ESPN’s baseball telecasts whose production & play-by-play is second to none. But like all the national broadcasts, their endless analysis of balls, strikes & strategy is enough to bore the bejeebers out of you. It’s a sin when a venture as vibrant and rich in history as baseball will demand so little color from its commentators.

Best in Show

1st and 10 (First Take, Presented by Bass Pro Shops)

If it works, don’t fix it. That expression used to carry weight. Not anymore, not with today’s fidgety TV producers. Such is the case with ESPN’s foray into the morning-show genre as somebody just can’t stop tinkering with this popular segment.

Veteran writer Skip Bayless is the star of 1st and 10 and not averse to hitching his wagon to other stars on the rise (Tebow / Lin). As elder statesman, Skip is resident doormat on the set but takes it like a pro because the slot and pay are sweet. Cocksure Stephen A. Smith was recently seated opposite Skip to give the segment an edgy feel. If mollified, Steve can be an insightful, congenial foe, but his loud, bombastic, often mocking style is best suited to AM radio. Tube watchers want smart, light-hearted debate and that means the pairing of Skip and Rob (“I’m not buying it”) Parker. Like Skip & Steve, Rob can homer on occasion (favorites) but keeps it real in reminding the big-suits that one need not be an ex-player to have a valid view.

Host Jay Crawford can break neutrality but keeps the peace, while Cindy Brunson makes a terrific back-up. Show’s appeal likens to Howard Cosell’s MNF re-cap of NFL’s Sunday slate in the 70s. Monday Night Football was always a bit of a snoozer (even with Dandy Don), but America stayed tuned long enough to hear the best 3-minute sport-wrap ever.

Hint: One of ESPN’s defining traits has been its inclusiveness, putting out the welcome-mat for everyone. Fixing on one music motif, whether it be jazz, pop, country-sex or in this case, hip-hop rap, goes against that proven policy. Target one audience and you’re bound to lose another. Besides, it’s not the right thing to do.

Outside the Lines

We fanatics aren’t the dullards many would have us be. Like the cultured set, we can appreciate a clever quip, have been known to say ‘good morning’ and will even put out recyclables. And some of us watch OTL, ESPN’s tribute to 60 Minutes (CBS). Hosted by charter member Bob Ley (’79) with talented back-ups Steve Bunin, Jeremy Schaap and T.J. Quinn, this show takes head-on those topics deemed too weighty for the “be-boppin’ & scottin’” guys (Cowherd / Rome) or the witty banter of Sportscenter.


The show that changed it all. It too has changed over the years. Those standard-issue blazers in the 80s were special. But there’s been one constant that’s made it all gel: the anchors. Though a few got too big for their britches (Eisen / Olbermann / Patrick), on the whole, the hosts stick to the clever-copy, ad-lib when apropos and stay outta’ the way. The toppers: Linda Cohn, Chris McKendry, John Anderson and Stuart Scott.


1) Retire ESPY name. Is there a worse award-tag in the business than this gobbler?

2) Bring back Classic ESPN. Sport & history go hand-in-hand. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been drawn-in by its usurper, ESPNU. Take a poll, y’all.

3) Ditch AXIS (camera) title. If I’m the WWII generation I’m a bit miffed. Heck, all of America should be insulted. The fact the colors (red & black) match the Nazi flag, maybe by accident, is nonetheless doubly-offensive. Destroy the AXIS-moniker and require the persons responsible for its existence to watch the entire British TV documentary, The World at War (1973 / 24 episodes).

Note: These are the observations of one person. No doubt there are other individuals in front of and behind the cameras that I have yet to discover or chosen to omit in the interest of style (length) that help to make ESPN worth watching.

Steven Keys
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or