If you’ve seen one sports movie, you’ve seen them all, right? Well, yes. There are staples that are included in nearly every sports movie. You could even go so far as to call these staples clichés and say that, had you seen Rocky or Rudy, you could predict what was going to occur in Hoosiers. You might be right, but there’s a really good reason why the clichés in sports flicks continue: they’re great. Take, for instance, these five sports-flick staples, all great enough to strip the negative connotation from the word “cliché.”
1. The Training Montage
Why is the training montage so awesome? It gives the audience a chance to kick back, listen to some good tunes, and watch practice and workout action while getting the message, “Hey, it’s all coming together for Rocky/Hickory High/Rudy.” Rocky does the training montage best — just think about Rocky getting ready for his big fight and running up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art to the tune of “Gonna Fly Now” or traipsing through snowy Siberian mountains and try not to get inspired — but Rudy, Remember the Titans, Hoosiers, and more all have the big training montage, and they all give you chills, don’t they?
2. The Big Speech
No sports movie can do without the big speech, whether pregame, at halftime, or ringside. They take all sorts of forms: Billy Bob Thornton’s truly rousing speech from Friday Night Lights and Al Pacino’s in Any Given Sunday are beautiful pieces of cinema. Want less-grave versions that still rock? The speech by coach Dan Devine (Chelcie Ross) in Rudy (“Nobody comes into our house and pushes us around!”) still plays in every arena in the country. And don’t pretend you don’t get all teared up by even the corniest of versions: James Van Der Beek telling his Varsity Blues teammates, “We have the rest of our lives to be mediocre, but we have the opportunity to play like gods for the next half of football!” Yep, the big speech is so great that it even works in the hands of Dawson.
3. He or She Believes in the Hero After All
There’s always one character close to our hero who just doesn’t believe. The person wants the hero to give up on his or her dream and go into the family business (usually), and the unbeliever says stuff like, “Get out of my house and never come back!” Without fail, this is the person whose approval the hero needs the very most. Adrian just doesn’t believe Rocky can beat Clubber Lang in Rocky III or Ivan Drago in Rocky IV. (Wow, she really is the worst!) Rocky isn’t alone. Rudy’s father and brothers don’t think the diminutive fella will ever play for Notre Dame. Yet when it comes down to it, they come to their senses and show up at the big game and cheer along as the crowd chants “Rudy, Rudy, Rudy,” and we get tears in our eyes.
4. It All Comes Down to the Last Few Seconds
Here’s one cliché so powerful that real-life sports are nearly ruined because of it. What’s better than a nail-biter that comes down to a tied score with just a few seconds on the clock? And it doesn’t get better than the climactic basketball game in Hoosiers. Coached by Gene Hackman, a ragtag team of underdogs makes it all the way to the state championship and, in literally the last second, scores the game-winning basket. Dare you not to stand up and cheer at the end!
5. The Underdog Wins
If a movie were about an unstoppable sports team that everybody thought would win and then won all the time, there would be no drama. Or it’d be a documentary on the New York Yankees. Instead, nearly every sports flick focuses on the guy or team nobody thought could win — and then does anyway. There’s funny ones like the Indians in Major League or the Average Joe’s team in Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story. (Heck, “underdog” is in the title.) Some underdogs are of the serious variety (Rudy or Seabiscuit). You know you love rooting for the underdog. So just appreciate that you get to at the movies. After all, real-life March Madness comes only once a year.