March Madness is arguably the greatest sporting event of the year. And year in, year out, we marvel at the drama of the NCAA Tournament. So College Magazine decided to join in on the action … sort of. Our sports staff put together 64 of the best characters in sports movies, seeded them and pinned them up against one another in an effort to determine who the best character is. Today we're unveiling the first round winners in the East Region. Tomorrow we'll head down South.
(16) Ernie Davis
Rocky against Ernie Davis of The Expressis like Kentucky facing off against Eastern Illinois — a cake-walk. Sure, Davis overcame racism in sports to capture a Heisman Trophy and Syracuse’s first national championship. Come on. Rocky went from a low-life thug to a chicken-catching, raw egg-eating, Apollo Creed-bashing fighter who took the boxing world by storm. It’s the greatest underdog story of all time, and that’s a scientific fact. Here’s to the southpaw cruising on his way to round No. 2.
(8) Billy Beane
(9) Daniel Larusso
Here’s the thing: The Karate Kid matching up against Moneyball is old school against new school. My theory is old school always prevails. Moneyball loses credibility because although Billy Beane was able to construct a competitive team, the A’s didn’t win anything, and isn’t that what we care about? Last time I checked, Daniel Larusso won a tournament and secured a moral victory in the always-prominent battle on bullies.
(5) Francois Pienaar
(12) Hurricane Carter
is a story of a boxer falsely imprisoned for a murder. Francois Pienaar was the hero of Clint Eastwood-driven filmInvictus. Maybe it’s just me, but I recall Invictus more being an unapologetic Academy Award crusade rather than an actual movie. Matt Damon, while a rather impressive rugby player, seems to do better as an MIT-turned Janitor turned cross-country motorist. Denzel on the other hand, rocked that role like a hurricane.
WIN: Hurricane Carter
(4) Roy Hobbs
(13) Billy Joyle
As the title of the movie suggests, Billy Hoyle proved that white men can’t jump after failing to dunk three times in a row. Even though he can surely ball, Hoyle still can’t jump. Roy Hobbs, on the other hand, broke the clock at Wrigley Field with a mammoth homer and shattered the lights after a walk-off home run. In addition, Hobbs did this while visibly bleeding through his jersey, recovering from a gunshot wound. With that, all I can say is Hobbs has swag in doing what he did.
WIN: Roy Hobbs
(11) Michael Oher
Forget Sandra Bullock, Michael Oher (aka Quinton Aaron) was the real genius in The Blind Side. But is Michael Oher better than Cuba Gooding Jr.’s Radio? You bet. To be honest, Radiowas a very average movie. If you were going to throw a different Cuba Gooding character into the mix – let’s say Rod Tidwell –we would have a different story. But as it stands, Oher is a more memorable character than Radio, so he will be moving on.
WIN: Michael Oher
(3) Mike McDermott
(14) Al Czervick
One of the most famous, classic sports movies of all time goes up against an equally classic, less famous poker movie. Both of these individuals prove their willingness to raise the stakes and overcome improbable odds. Al Czervick wins an $80,000 golf bet thanks to a miraculous dynamite-aided last putt. A young but experienced Mike McDermott travels back in the devils lair to face his demons and ultimately outplays, outwits and outlasts the Oreo-eating Teddy KGB. The main difference here is McDermott did not need a string of outrageous, unbelievable and unrealistic string of events that an overrated corny 80s movie did to get paid. WINNER: Mike McDermott
(7) Walter Abrams
(10) Ricky Bobby
Ricky Bobby is winning this round. Abrams’ slimy sports consulting can’t hang with Bobby’s need for speed and all-or-nothing attitude. Even if Abrams had a double-digit lead in this game, Bobby would pull off some insane comeback sequence to go up on the scoreboard. Bobby knows what adversity and teamwork is. Abrams has had it easy and would crumple under the pressure with Bobby surging back. Abrams also wouldn’t be able to stop shake-and-bake. Cal Naughton Jr. is the perfect complementary piece to Bobby, and together, they’d be too much for Abrams to handle. Shake and bake, baby.
(2) Ray Kinsella
(15) Scotty Smalls
And there always is that underdog story, that upset; this is one of those cases. It’s not that Ray Kinsella isn’t a great inspiring character; he just has a place in the classic sports movie genre. Scotty Smalls is that quiet giant that is so relatable and believable there is no way he can’t win. Smalls is that kid in the neighborhood that everyone liked and always participated, but never the hero. We’ve all been there. So when he isn’t good enough to go anywhere with his baseball skills, he does the next best thing to stay close to the game he loves; he becomes a broadcaster and recalls a summer to remember with carnivals, lifeguards and a big dog. WIN: Scotty Smalls