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Best Sports Movies Ever, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

The Culture Blog

There's a speech in the 1985 high-school wrestling film Vision Quest that sums up the essence of what sports is all about — as well as what makes a great sports film. The speech is delivered by Elmo, a middle-aged fry cook with no prospects for the future. He explains to high-schooler Louden Swain (Matthew Modine) why he shouldn't quit wrestling. Elmo describes watching a soccer player he'd never heard of jump in the air, flip into a somersault, and kick the ball, while upside-down and backward, into the goal. Elmo admits to Louden that he cried: "That's right, I start crying. Because another human being, a species that I happen to belong to, could kick a ball, and lift himself, and the rest of us sad-assed human beings, up to a better place to be, if only for a minute... Let me tell ya, kid — it was pretty goddamned glorious."The best sports films, like the best of any kind of art, lift us "sad-assed human beings" up to a "goddamned glorious" place by showing us what we are capable of. Whether it's Jesus or Jordan or Jobs, we are inspired by those people of extraordinary achievement to become extraordinary ourselves. The best sports films also use sports as a metaphor for some larger theme. The reason sports is such a rich source is that it mirrors our attempts to impose order, morality, and fair play on an otherwise chaotic and selfish world. We use sports as a training ground to teach our young moral lessons: try hard, be disciplined, play fair.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar playing for the Lakers.
We see sports films constantly preaching that winning isn't the achievement, that perseverance, being a team player, and fair play, are the achievement. But where sports films go wrong is in usually finding a way to contradict themselves by telling us that once you've learned those lessons, you will go on to win. In that way, even many of the best sports films cheat. They aren't so much sports films as feel-good-about-how-far-we've-come sociological fantasies that are built around sports. Remember the Titans, The Blind Side, Glory Road, and others "based on a true story" are mostly about racial issues and less about the sport. Some highly praised sports films — Raging Bull, The Natural, The Color of Money — are bloated and self-conscious. Some fan favorites — Rudy, Field of Dreams — overly sentimentalize sports. These films are all good; they just aren't among the best sports films.
With that in mind, here are what I consider the five best American sports films, each featuring a different sport, plus why they excel, and when they commit flagrant fouls. (Warning: Spoilers throughout.)
1. The Hustler (1961)
What they got right: This is the best sports film ever made because it conveys the athlete's passion for his sport better than any other film. Granted, pocket billiards is technically more a game than sport, but none of that matters in this story of "Fast Eddie" Felson's (Paul Newman) fall from grace and redemption as he realizes that winning just for personal glory has a cost greater than the gain. His wolfish hunger and raw competitiveness is most evident in the bus-station scene and bar scene in which he tries to pick up the emotionally damaged Sarah Packard (Piper Laurie). That he knows she's an alcoholic and uses that to have sex with her shows that he's willing to do anything to win. The winning-at-all-costs ethic is embodied in the shady character of gambler Bert (George C. Scott), who wins in order to crush others because he's emotionally dead inside. Never in any other sports film have the stakes been so high or the outcome so satisfying. Fast Eddie's redemption doesn't come by winning in the end; it comes by his willingness to sacrifice himself for what's right — which he learned from Sarah.
What they got wrong: Nothing.
2. Hoosiers (1986)
What they got right: This film is rightfully beloved by many because it's not about basketball as much as it is about, like The Hustler, personal redemption. Norman Dale (Gene Hackman) only gets the job of coaching in the small Indiana town of Hickory because he's friends with the principal. Since he lost his last coaching job for hitting a student, this is pretty much his last chance. But it's not just about his redemption. It's also about the redemption of Shooter (Dennis Hopper), the alcoholic parent of one of the high-school players. Wait, there's more: It's also about the socialization of the town's best player, Jimmy Chitwood, giving him something worth playing for rather than just self-aggrandizement. The basketball scenes are spunky and entertaining, but they are just a light meant to illuminate the characters.
What they got wrong: The film is "loosely based" on real events. As much as I find last-second baskets to win the championship cheesy, that actually happened, so I can't complain in this case. What they did get wrong was trying to rewrite racial history by showing integrated teams and stands in the early 1950s when that wasn't the case. They could have presented a realistic portrayal of the racial tensions, thereby showing that basketball was a means of social salvation for African-Americans at the same time it was a means of redemption for the white characters.
3. Vision Quest (1985)
What they got right: The speech I quoted above pretty much tells you what they got right: the social significance of sports. The film actually questions some of the clichés of sports films. For example, in an early scene, the wrestling coach gives a speech about how anyone who wants to wrestle in a weight class has to beat the current ranking wrestler in that class and how fair that system is. When Louden, who is the top wrestler in his weight class, announces that he's dropped weight and will continue to do so in order to wrestle the state's unbeaten champ, the coach pulls him aside to talk him out of it. When the "fair" system goes against what those in charge want, people get upset. This is echoed when Louden, who wants to become a medical student, writes an article for the school newspaper on the clitoris and the newspaper is shut down. Freedom of speech unless you say something we don't like.
Another idea the film takes on is the familiar one about teamwork. When Louden's teammates discover he's going to take on Shute, they are angry at him because his personal mission doesn't help the team win. To which he replies, "In case you haven't noticed, westling's not a team sport." But he does go on to inspire his teammates with his single-minded pursuit of doing the impossible.
What they got wrong: This coming-of-age story gets most of it right — until the ending. The novel that the movie is based on got it right by ending the story just as Louden is about to wrestle Shute. He thinks, "I'm calm as I enter the circle. Behind me trails a brief tradition. It's made up, but it's mine. Win or lose, the river flows again." He has won by facing Shute. It doesn't matter what happens in the actual match. In fact, that's also what the film is telling us all along. But Hollywood doesn't trust audiences and thinks that we need to see him beat Shute, so they show him winning and being carried out by the team, which kind of spits in the face of the rest of the film.
4. Bull Durham (1988)
What they got right: This movie is revolutionary in many ways: It's a baseball story narrated by a woman, Annie (Susan Sarandon); it's not about the glories of winning but about passion for the game; the main character, "Crash" Davis (Kevin Costner), doesn't triumph over adversity, but matures into understanding that baseball has a role in his life, but isn't his entire life. The film incorporates quotes from William Blake and Walt Whitman to reveal the poetic attributes of sport. Though the structure is familiar, the individual scenes are surprising and refreshing. The love of baseball is evident throughout.
What they got wrong: Nothing. Director-writer Ron Shelton (White Men Can't Jump, Tin Cup) is the best sports filmmaker around. He recognizes both its personal fascination and its social influence.
5. Breaking Away (1979)
What they got right: Like Vision Quest, this is a coming-of-age story about four buddies from Bloomington, Indiana, who have given up on the American Dream. The opening scene introducing the four friends is one of the best in sports films, revealing their cynical, disillusioned, or falsely romantic take on the world. These "townies" are marginalized by the university in their town, and seem destined to watch other people's children come in, get educated, and go on to be successful, while they can only watch. A bicycle race at the end gives them another shot, and shows their problems are caused by their own attitude more than outside reality.
What they got wrong: The film has some basis in fact in that the character of Dave Stoller is based on a real guy who did ride 139 of the 200 laps of the Little 500 and crossed the finish line as the winner. Having the four pals win the race against the spoiled university students is meant to be a boost of self-esteem telling them that they are capable of achieving anything. However, it rings a bit hollow and contrived, a feel-good ending to make us forget the reasons they were so beaten down in the first place: bad economy, no job opportunities, parents barely scraping by.
The Honorable Mentions
There are many more sports films that are terrific. Here are 10 more, in no particular order:
Bang the Drum Slowly (1973): One of the most touching sports films ever. The story of a dying catcher played by Robert De Niro and the profound effect he has on the team.
The Boys in Company C (1978): Haven't heard of this one? Plus, it's set in Vietnam during the war? No, I haven't gone nuts. This story of American soldiers in Vietnam in 1968 uses soccer to reveal the battle between honor and corruption.
A League of Their Own (1992): There is crying in every sport, whether anyone admits it. In this tale of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League in 1943, the disparity of women's roles in American society is just as poignant today as it was when this was made.
Downhill Racer (1969): Robert Redford stars at an arrogant, self-centered skier whose desire for personal success leads him on a downhill course in which sports victory equals personal loss.
Personal Best (1982): Mariel Hemingway plays a track-and-field athlete striving to join the Olympic team. Her conflicts with coaches, lovers, and teammates provide a realistic portrayal of the sport.
White Men Can't Jump (1992): It's about basketball, but it's not about basketball. It's about how basketball is a kind of language in male relationships, and how that can get in the way of more mature relationships.
Tin Cup (1996): This film gets to the heart of an important aspect of sports: the personal challenge of doing what's never been done, even if it's not the smart play. Again, it's about the passion for the sport and how that reflects the athlete's passion for life.
Rocky (1976): Most people don't remember that Rocky doesn't win the Big Fight against Apollo Creed. The fact that he doesn't win is proof of filmmakers' convictions.
Champion (1949): Kirk Douglas as a fighter who starts out a decent guy but is destroyed by his own ambition captures the demons pros are still fighting today.
The Great White Hope (1970): On one level, this fictionalized account of early-20th-century boxing champion Jack Johnson explores racism of the time. On another level, it reveals what a sports icon is to people — what they want, what they will accept, and what they won't.


Boston on the DL

I don't have a monopoly on gratitude or humility, but my face is in it right now. Travelling across country with my husband, his leg cast, scooter, crutches (yes, you need both) and our two young sons has given me a new taste. 
The wheelchair accesses are in the dirty bowels of buildings, always a mile out of the way of anything. Crowds are hard but most people are wonderful. 
My husband is proud and independent but now I must scout ahead to be sure we can get into bathrooms, restrooms, museums...
I now know what a bridge plate is...the difference between getting on a train, subway, or bus.

My resentment about this foot accident has evaporated. Instead, I now see my husband's sweet spirit. Our sons are experiencing a realistic dose of caring for their father, as millions of other children care for their parents daily, for years on end. The oldest has stepped up to lift and carry...not embarrassed once.
A lady on our flight had no legs. And yesterday we rode the hotel elevator with a cheerful school teacher, who had major burn scars on her face and arms, missing fingers. She had just walked 2 miles to see Fenway stadium. 
I only notice because of our predicament. Life is fragile. People are amazing. I hope to be kind. 



New PTSD Support Group Beginning in September

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Support Group

o   Men and Women Seeking Peer Support (Co-ed)
o   Reinforcement of Learned Cognitive Behavioral Skills
o   6-Weeks of Guidance, Support and Education
o   $40.00 per session
o   Limited to 8 members

Goals: identify triggers, self-acceptance, personal integration, exposure, accessing resources, engagement with community, physical well-being.

Begins Thursday, September 12th

Christina Neumeyer, M.A.
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
2777 Jefferson, #201
Carlsbad, CA 92008

Appropriate for those individuals who have received prior therapy for PTSD related symptoms, including Anxiety, Major Depression, Chronic Pain, and Substance Abuse.


Cool (free) Smart Phone App - FOODUCATE

 A friend was raving about this cool app today. We went through my freezer, fridge, and grades to my items via bar code and her smart phone. 
My saddest surprise...Trader Joe's Blueberry wholegrain waffles got a C-. :(
Check out your food.


There are two types of people in the world: those who can extrapolate from incomplete data…


Free Classes at REI -

There are several good classes, but  I'd like this one...

8/21/2013 6:30 - 8:00 PM PDT
Backpacking Basics II: What's Inside Your Pack
So you have your backpack loaded with all the "necessary" items for your next backpacking trip. Still think you might be carrying too much? Join REI for this small group session on how to cut weight and tailor your gear to best suit your needs.
Location: San Diego REI


Meditation Class Starting Soon - Encinitas, September 9th, 2013

Rublev 1400's
Please join Christina and learn the ancient technique of meditation. Meditation is a user-friendly, affordable, and always accessible way to manage stress and improve our physical well-being. Research has consistently proven that mindful meditation guides us to better sleep, less physical complaints, and reduced interpersonal tension. Christina Neumeyer, M.A., a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, incorporates into this popular class Cognitive Behavioral Therapy skills, as well as an informative discussion on factors that lead to depression, anxiety, and insomnia.

Class ID: 20652
Monday 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm; 3 sessions starting September 9, 2013, ending September 23, 2013
Tuition: $45.00
Instructor: Neumeyer
Location: San Dieguito Adult School , Rm. AE-1       Map
Registration Closes On: September 24, 2013 12:00 AM


What is Hoarding? (the new DSM5 Criteria)

Topics: Hoarding, DSM, DSM 5
Published: June 03, 2013
The DSM V has arrived, and the world is largely unchanged. The new iteration opts for the status quo, which is what happens when you have to please those with competing agendas. If you are looking for something more dramatic you will have to wait another decade for the DSM VI.
For biblical counselors, an overarching principle still applies: psychiatric diagnoses can open our eyes to see real human struggles, and these same diagnoses can distract us from Scripture’s insights and spiritual causes or contributions.
With this in mind, I’ll dive into DSM V and grab one of the new diagnoses—hoarding.

Video Series

One more interesting article


Don't Ask This At Your Next Farmer's Market Visit

1) Was this picked fresh this morning?

Is it Fresh?
When did you wake up
Can I have a discount?
Can you open earlier?


Premarital Counseling

Why Premarital Education/Counseling Matters

Why Premarital Education/Counseling MattersCurrently, divorce rates hover around 50%. It’s not a pretty figure. But the good news is that marriage and relationship education (MRE) or premarital counseling can help. In fact, premarital counseling can help reduce your likelihood of divorce by 30%. Studies have found that premarital education can increase communication and lower conflict. Despite these compelling statistics, most people continue to be blasé—or downright resistant—toward marriage and relationship education (MRE) or premarital counseling. Why are we so wary of activities with so much potential to enhance our marriage and overall happiness?
Before we explore the reasons behind this resistance, let’s define the terms. Most people are already familiar with premarital counseling. Most people are not as familiar, however, with the idea of marriage and relationship education (MRE). In short, MRE teaches skills, attitudes and behaviors to help individuals and couples achieve long-lasting, successful marriages and intimate partner relationships. Most MRE programs are conducted in structured group formats, using widely tested curricula. Unlike counseling, MRE is not defined as a clinical practice and emphasizes the prevention of relationship problems rather than their “treatment.”

Tackling Premarital Phobias 

During the chaos of planning a wedding, it can be hard to find the time or energy for MRE or premarital counseling. Weddings are expensive, lavish and complicated—they can easily consume all your attention. But while the longing for a beautiful wedding is understandable, a beautiful marriage should be even more coveted. Couples who participate in premarital education or counseling generally enjoy happier marriages. Don’t let the pursuit of the “perfect” wedding distract you from your ultimate goal: a loving and lasting marriage.

The Invincibility Myth
Engagement is a stressful, but often euphoric time. Despite the very real possibility of divorce, enraptured couples often persist with an “it will never happen to us” mentality. Perhaps it won’t, but MRE or premarital counseling are among your best defenses against divorce. Don’t just think your marriage is indestructible; help to make it so.

Overcoming Male Resistance
Men may be especially resistant to premarital counseling, at least initially. They may be hesitant to discuss their inmost feelings and relationship struggles with a stranger. For such men, marriage and relationship education may be a less threatening alternative to premarital counseling. MRE workshops are generally held in group settings and focus on building core relationship skills such as communication and conflict resolution. MRE’s skill-based, solution-oriented approach may be more appealing to men who perceive counseling as too “touchy feely” or too personal.

Alternatives to the Dreaded ‘Counseling’ Word
Women can also be put off by the term “counseling.” To some, this term implies there is something fundamentally wrong in their relationship, which is not necessarily the case. But for those who are bothered by the term—or who want to try a different approach—marriage and relationship education (MRE) can be a great solution. MRE is focused on building the core skills that facilitate healthy relationships.

Not Knowing Where to Turn
Many people simply don’t know where to turn to find good MRE or premarital counseling. Most couples typically receive premarital counseling from a religious advisor. Some religious institutions, such as the Roman Catholic Church, even require it. However, premarital counseling is also available from non-religious sources as well. Research available MRE or premarital counseling services in your area or review the list of relationship resources, sorted by state, featured on our website.

Lack of Funds
Many churches and community organizations offer free or low-cost premarital services. Admittedly, not everyone across the country has access to free premarital counseling or education. Still, when you compare the relatively minor costs of premarital preparation to the costs of divorce, MRE or premarital counseling is a much better bet. A little money up front can potentially save you a lot of money later on. If you truly can’t afford it, consider asking for an unconventional wedding gift from your closest friends or family: MRE or premarital counseling. Many people will jump at the chance to give a wedding present with the potential to last considerably longer than those bath towels.

Benefits of Premarital Preparation

MRE or premarital counseling will give you the chance to enhance your core relationship skills. Additionally, premarital preparation may provide you and your partner the opportunity to: 
  • Assess potential conflict areas stemming from different views on money, sex, parenting, religion, etc. (Many MRE classes provide inventories/assessments to help identify and address these differences)
  • Better understand how personality and family history can influence your relationship 
  • Strengthen your communication and conflict resolution skills
  • Openly discuss your respective views on love, infidelity and divorce 
  • Define and discuss expectations for marriage, finances, work and children
  • Potentially get a discount on your marriage license—many states provide this incentive for couples who complete a designated number of premarital preparation hours
Too often, those considering premarital education or counseling view it as a chore, rather than a privilege. But premarital preparation is one of the most powerful tools for ensuring the love you and your currently partner feel continues throughout a lifetime.
thetwoofus website


Human Trafficking - Bilateral Safety Corridor Coalition - Balboa Park, August 24th

Bilateral Safety Corridor Coalition 
represents 16 anti-Human Trafficking groups.
Balboa Park
Awareness Event
Saturday, August 24th, 2013


International Rescue Committee, Del Mar Fundraiser

 (I'm going)

A Taste of the IRC - Sept 26, 2013

Please join the International Rescue Committee in San Diego for A Taste of the IRC.


This is the annual fundraising event for the IRC in San Diego.   At the event, you will enjoy

  • Ethnic dishes prepared by refugee-owned restaurants
  • Special dishes created with produce from the IRC New Roots Community Farm (in past years, the Linkery created a special sausage using amaranth greens, bell peppers, and onions from the IRC Farm)
  • Wine and special craft beer made just for this event
  • A special program about the IRC in San Diego and opportunities to financially support our work

Thursday, September 26, 2013
6:30 - 9pm 

Hilton San Diego/Del Mar
15575 Jimmy Durante Blvd, Del Mar, CA
(exit Via de La Valle from the 5 freeway)

$50 per person 

Special group price - 5 tickets for $200


For more information, please contact Sharon at or 619 641 7510 x249.


Special thank you to our sponsors:

  • San Diego Del Mar Hilton