Sports movies that taught me about fatherhood
Anton Marshall takes a look at the sport movies that made his childhood.
I love sports movies. Many of them are entertaining and sufficiently light to while away a weekend afternoon while basking in the fantasy of projected glory.

But I maintain that most GREAT sports movies are only partly – if at all - about sports. In these great movies, sports is usually a backdrop for a far more personal stories about life, its challenges, and hard choices. Importantly, most sports movies of this ilk are about fathers and sons.

I remember as an under-10, 12, 14 and 16-year-old, walking the few kilometres to the local sports fields with my friends to play league football – and the smell of and feel of wet grass on icy winter Saturday mornings.

I also remember how gradually that became the smell of deep heat and beer. But that's another story...

As an adult, I realise that an important element was missing from my junior sports life – my father. He wasn't sports-minded at all, and as a result never really felt an inclination to support me in it. Of course, we didn't really know how sports mentality translates into life in general either. I had to get that from the movies.

So it's not surprising that I pick up very strongly on these aspects of the "sports story". When many of our protagonists in these films encounter life problems, they are almost always conflicted by, guided by, or just plain redeemed by father-figures both real and surrogate. Here are just 3 mainstream films that make the case for recommended Parental  Viewing 101:

The Karate Kid

Yes, the seemingly cheesy 80s classic may be regular Sunday TV, but at its heart is a strong story about a displaced fatherless teenager (Ralph Macchio) who learns to deal with anger and isolation through a surrogate parent (the awesome Pat Morita) – and a mental, physical and emotional discipline. Similar themes were repeated in the Jaden Smith/Jackie Chan remake, to a lesser effect.

The Rookie

A Disney true-life drama about a 39-year-old high school teacher (Dennis Quaid) who tries out for a major league baseball team. Now the "hero" is 39, and the story – though true – is unlikely. But it's STILL about the relationship between a grown man, his young charges and his estranged father (Brian Cox), who always considered his passion for baseball as a fantasy - secondary to a family and responsibility. Not surprisingly, the prospect of quitting a good job to possibly play professional sports does NOT go down well.

Rocky Balboa

When all the excess of the 80s was done, Stallone returned to storytelling roots. Focusing on the relationship between the boxer and his son, Rocky V left fans slightly underwhelmed. The real pay off of this relationship happens in the final instalment, particularly in a moving and memorable monologue outside Rocky's restaurant. Of course, this moment comes pre-loaded with the fact that Adrian has died and Rocky is almost estranged from his distant, embarrassed son.

What are your favourite sport movies?

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