Why are we so skeptical of the things right in front of us? “Turns Out It’s Pretty Good” is a series that examines the path from resisting the well-known to wholeheartedly endorsing it.
I’m not a sports person. I don’t play sports. I don’t watch them. The times I’ve found myself in the crowd at a game were because I like to pay for good vibes, ones consisting of overpriced hot dogs and beers. Growing up, I was put in many sports and failed miserably at each one. All my memories of playing softball involve being hit by a ball on the field or benched in a dugout and somehow still being hit by a ball there. I guess when your head is a magnet for baseballs, it’s easy to lose interest.
Since hanging up my glove at the age of 12, I’ve avoided sports movies and shows. Why would I want to watch sweaty people chant phrases I don’t understand? Blue 42? Blitz? Hut, hut, hike? Plus, many sports movies seem set in locker rooms, and I had no interest in scenes where towels stay perfectly wrapped around perfectly fit bodies, partially because I firmly believe this is an outright lie. I’ve never fastened a towel around me so perfect that I could walk for longer than two seconds without having to do it all over again. And truthfully, sports terrify me. They’re called contact sports for a reason and that contact is dangerous. I mean, there’s literally a medic and stretcher on standby at games. Can’t we root for something safer, like knitting?
But I’ve spent this year alone in my studio, with more time than usual to consider entertainment categories I’d once dismissed. One night, I turned to sports movies. Their streaming category began with “feel good” and that’s exactly what I wanted to do.
I started with Bend It Like Beckham. It’s Indian and queer (okay, technically not, but the way Jules looked at Jess? Portrait of a Lady on Fire–level gazing), and therefore, I can relate. Why didn’t anyone tell me sports movies are about more than just sports? I didn’t know what I expected, maybe just athletes running around for two hours, but that is, in fact, a live game and not a scripted movie. We’re talking romance, hot bods, passionate pep talks — and I was hung up on some throws and kicks being made? I love to cry and a good rom-com, and honestly, sports movies are just rom-coms for people who know what lat muscles are.
Next, Love & Basketball. An emotional journey about chasing your dreams, but notably for me, also a scene featuring a clothes-stripping version of H-O-R-S-E. Man, I was naïve to think that sports movies weren’t also insanely sexy. They can also be tears-obstructing-my-vision emotional: Coach Carter. I love coaches who believe in their players more than the players believe in themselves. And I love movies that end with an L in the game but a W in life. And then, A League of Their Own. While I didn’t love seeing a mean Tom Hanks scratch his balls, seeing Geena Davis catch a fastball with one hand will forever loop in my brain in the form of serotonin. And Creed? A movie about a sport that makes me wince? (I’m not too fond of the sound of a knuckle meeting a skull, which is tough because the point of boxing is to continuously throw punches until someone falls to the ground.) Well, I laughed during a chicken-related training montage, cried when Donnie received a symbolic pair of shorts, and by the end, I needed him to continue fighting. Plus, seeing both Michael B. Jordan and Tessa Thompson on the same screen, flirting, just about broke my brain, and in a stunning display of the spectrum of my sexuality, I genuinely didn’t know which of the two characters I was jealous of.
Then there’s TV, providing seasons of tears and motivational speeches. After watching the pilot of Friday Night Lights three times over multiple years and being too emotionally distraught to continue, I finally did — and, sorry, but this 30-year-old California girl is moving to Texas and enrolling in high school! Good-bye! I also breezed through Ted Lasso, a show I wanted to hate — most simply, it’s about sports and a clueless American abroad — but simply couldn’t. Yes, a good amount took place in a locker room, but to my delight there were very few towels wrapped around waists, and Jason Sudeikis brought relentless dorkiness into a place that could use more of it. Both Ted Lasso and Coach Taylor have different approaches, but ultimately they have big hearts and give damn good pep talks, and maybe that is all I want in life, especially this year.
Here’s the thing with these movies and shows: They’re about being an underdog, coming together, inspiring hope, and proving the haters wrong. There’s always a hater who doesn’t believe in our main character or a jerk who is threatened by their potential, and in the end, the hater is wrong and the jerk often turns into a lover or friend. If there’s anything that motivates me the most, it’s proving my haters wrong, and unfortunately, my exact romantic type is “hot, reformed jerk.”
Now that I’ve given them a chance, I’m all-in on sports movies and television shows. I was yearning for togetherness and hope during a year where I needed it most and sports entertainment more than provided, opening me to a heartwarming genre I was skeptical of until I was in the throes of pandemic isolation. While I’m not ready to get out of my jersey sheets and into a team jersey, I’ll blissfully watch fictional athletes sweat it out on the court, supporting each other, from the comfort of my own bed.