My top two favorite sports films are “The Bad News Bears” (1976) and “North Dallas Forty” (1979).
This is not the embarrassing admission.
It's this: While I love sports films, I have never watched “Slap Shot” (1977) until now.
This is embarrassing because “Slap Shot” is considered one of the greatest movies made about sports.
I now understand why it is.
“Slap Shot” is the story of a down-on-its-heels minor league hockey team, Charlestown Chiefs, as they try to reverse their fortunes by resorting to playing “goon” hockey.
Paul Newman is Chiefs' player/coach Reg Dunlop and this could be his last shot at a winning team.
The film is directed by Academy Award winner George Roy Hill and written by Nancy Dowd, based her brother's experiences playing for the Johnstown Jets and stories from the minor league hockey circuit.
Newman and Hill had worked together twice before — “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” (1969) and “The Sting” (1973) — in two of the greatest films of all time.
“Slap Shot” is not like either of those two films, mainly because “Slap Shot” is full of foul language, but it's like “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” and “The Sting” because “Slap Shot” is one of the most honest and authentic depicts of its subject — professional sports and sports news coverage — ever filmed.
Hockey can be a tough game to follow, but “Slap Shot” starts by counting down most of moves that will send players into the penalty box. It's an odd start, but it helps the movies' non-hockey fans understand all the dirty play the Chiefs are about to indulge in during the rest of the film.
In the midst of a big game, sportscaster Jim Carr (Andrew Duncan) comments on the greatness and horridness of the players' play and their actions on the ice. Within periods and moments on the ice Carr contradicts himself and every turn. It is very much like the hypocritical commentary often seen and heard by profession commentators and analysis on ESPN and the like.
Then, of course, there are the Hanson Brothers — Jeff Carlson, Steve Carlson and David Hanson as Jeff, Steve and Jack Hanson — three possibly mentally disturbed brothers who are some of the brutish, thuggish hockey players to ever take the ice. The actors who played the Hanson Brothers were so effective in their performances that they have been able to be the Hanson Brothers in real life, maybe not so much on the ice, but in personal appearances. When you watch hockey coverage on ESPN, you are more than like to hear a Hanson Brother reference when the ice play isn't so nice.
“Slap Shot” is a movie that has permeated my understanding of hockey and appreciation of sports movies without me ever seeing the film.
I'm still embarrassed it took me this long to see “Slap Shot” but now not as embarrassed by all the sports movies I've already seen starring Kevin Costner.
“Lost & Found” is a weekly column and review of films the author Seames O'Grady, self-professed movie expert, has in his DVD collection or on his Netflix queue, but just hasn't got around to watching until now.