Friday, 16 November 2012


Murderball is about wheelchair rugby, aka Murderball, played by paraplegic and quadriplegic athletes. The story centers on the battle between the American and Canadian teams as they compete for the gold medal.

Release Year: 2005
Run Time: 85m
Rating: R

For more information, view its pages at the Internet Movie Database and Rotten Tomatoes or purchase it from Amazon.

  • Disability: The entire documentary is about people with disabilities who play sport. Different types of disabilities are discussed and how different types of disability play a role in the sport, along with how able-bodied individuals will view and talk to people who have disabilities.
  • Injury: Throughout the documentary, the players talk about how they acquired their disability. For many of them, it was the result of a traumatic accident, like a bad car crash or motorbike wreck. Players also discuss the recovery period following becoming confined to a wheelchair.
  • Keeping Sport in Perspective: People talk about how sport helps them to keep a grip on their life.

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Little Big Men

Little Big Men is part of ESPN's 30 for 30 series. This documentary focuses on the 1982 Little League baseball champions out of Kirkland, Washington, their amazing run to the championship, and the aftermath of their fame.

Release Year: 2010
Rating: NR (no bad language)
Length: 55m

For more information, view its page on ESPN Films: 30 for 30.

  • Youth Sports: The focus of the movie is on the experience of the children who were a part of this team. Several youth sport issues come up throughout the movie, including practicing because they wanted to (not because they were forced to), developmental differences (Cody Webster could throw a 75mph fastball at age 12), burnout (baseball wasn't fun after the Little League World Series), and the amount of pressure placed on youth athletes following success (just because a kid is good at 12 does not mean that kid will be good at 18).
  • Parents/Family: Parents played a small role throughout the movie. The kids' parents were supportive and encouraged their kids to play, but they never forced them to play against their will. Following their success, however, parents (of opposing teams) turned nasty, directing insults and slurs towards Cody Webster, which ultimately caused him to stop enjoying the game.
  • Media: Because of the time period, this became a major news story across the country. Twelve-year-old kids were thrust into the national spotlight, and an inordinate amount of pressure and focus was placed on Cody Webster (he was dubbed "America's Youngest Folk Hero"). The now-adult players commented that the innocence of youth was stripped away by the superstar attention they received.
  • Underdogs: Taiwan was a heavy favorite. They had won 9 of the previous 11 LLWS titles (and one of those years all foreign teams were banned). They were on a 31 game winning streak at the LLWS, while Kirkland was this small unknown town that came out of nowhere. Despite this, the players on Kirkland always believed they could win.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Magic & Bird: A Courtship of Rivals

Magic & Bird: A Courtship of Rivals is a documentary produced by HBO that chronicles the parallel careers of two of basketball's most well-known and beloved stars, Earvin "Magic" Johnson and Larry Bird. From their humble beginnings to NBA championships to retirement, this documentary spans their rivalry, friendship, and relentless will to win.

Release Year: 2010
Rating: not rated, but there is some offensive language
Length: 85m

For more information, view its pages at the Internet Movie Database and Rotten Tomatoes or purchase it from Amazon.

  • Race: There are many, many examples of race throughout the documentary. Early on, Magic Johnson recalls that he wanted to go to a predominantly black high school, but because of desegregation, ended up at a predominantly white high school. Other NBA players interviewed talk about how many black players were racist against white players because they believed black players were superior, having the mindset of "let's see if he [the white player] can do it against us." Larry Bird was dubbed the "Great White Hope" early in his professional career because basketball was "too black," and the media played up their rivalry as "black versus white," which many fans bought into.
  • Class: Both players had humble beginnings. Magic grew up in Lansing, Michigan, the son of poor working class parents. Bird grew up in rural French Lick, Indiana, also the son of poor working class parents. Both players credit watching their parents work hard with why they developed a strong work ethic.
  • Illness in Sport, Sexuality: Towards the end of the documentary, it focuses on Magic's contraction of HIV. This forced him to retire, but he became an advocate for HIV/AIDS awareness. Interviewees discuss how many people questioned Magic's sexual orientation because at the time, HIV/AIDS was seen as a disease heterosexuals did not contract.
  • Injury: Towards the end of the documentary, it also focuses on Bird's playing style and various subsequent injuries, which ultimately caused him to retire. He managed an extreme amount of pain, which was mostly caused by an unstable spine.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

The Hard Road

The Hard Road is a documentary that focuses on a first year pro-cycling team in the United States. While each member (of the eight on the team) comes from a different background, they fight for a common goal. The Hard Road allows the viewer to see what it's like in the lives of a professional cyclist, from the hardships to the successes. The team members come to know what effort, hardwork and drive really are.

Release Year: 2004
Rating: Unrated
Length: 120m

For more information, view its pages at the Internet Movie Database and Rotten Tomatoes or purchase it from Amazon. 

  • Anxiety: After traveling to one of the National Calendar Races, the team worked out the strategy for race day. After getting back to hotel for sleep, one of the team members commented that there was no way he was going to be able to sleep. The following morning, he talked about how much he worried and thought about the race. He clearly showed some anxiety about his role on the team which in return could hinder his performance.
  • Career Issues: To some, pro-cycling sounds like it would pay well. However, the average first year salary is only $10,000. A rookie on the team commutes to work (via his bicycle) 25 miles so he can get some sort of training in. He works 12 hour shifts M-F. It's difficult to support yourself and manage your time especially when there are seven other people relying on you. Another rookie, is supported by his older brother (whom he lives with when the team isn't on the road). His brother supported him because he knew the salary of a pro-cycling team wasn't enough and he wanted to give him the chance at chasing his dream.
  • Focus: When you're riding alone or with a team, a certain level of concentration must always be maintained. The rider must know their role and position during that race. Even when oxygen levels go down and it becomes very grueling, you still need to know what's going on around you. If you aren't aware of the riders around you then you could get "spit out the back" of the pack of riders and be instantly put behind everybody. This was clearly shown in the video during one of the National Calendar Races. This would obviously put the team's success at stake as well as the position of the rider on that team. One of the veterans on the team commented on the sport of cycling itself, saying that the cyclist needs to think about a race intellectually, instead of the pain involved.
  • Going for your Dream: The six rookies who made up the majority of the eight person team finally had their chance to live their dream. Yes, they were put on the team but they literally went down a hard road to get there and they continue to go down that "Hard Road" throughout the video. One of the rookies, Jason, spent his younger years as a professional surfer and decided his time was up when he became passionate about cycling... now he's pursuing this new dream of pro-cycling.
  • Leadership: The veterans on the team are clearly playing leadership roles during the races. "Experience" itself is a key piece to racing and this is talked about throughout the entire video. One of the veterans commented on the rookies as a whole by saying they are "always trying way too hard." He was speaking of this in terms of experience; the rookies would get frustrated during some points in a race and it wasn't because they weren't physically fit, it had more to do with bike handling and special situations that could only turn out successful if the experience was there. Because experience is necessary, the veterans were willing and able to pass down knowledge and put the rookies in situations where experience was gained.
  • Parents/Families: This documentary took a look at the lives of these cyclists when they weren't competing and training. Some of the guys were married and you could definitely tell the time taken out to chase their dreams was taking a toll on their marriages. One of the newly wed's wives commented that she was ready for children whenever her husband was however, she said she couldn't wait much longer. It was evident that family was extremely important to her but the chance for the rookie to live his dream seemed to be taking a higher level of importance at that time.
  • Teamwork: After the team traveled to one of their National Calendar Races they went out to ride the course, before the day of the race. During the ride, they evaluated the situations that could/would occur and strategized by assigning each team member to a different job. The rookies were assigned the task of delivering the two veterans to the front of the pack. One of the team members was assigned specifically as a hill climber. Through teamwork, the riders would have a better chance at a successful outcome.

Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India

Lagaan is takes place during a dry year when the British commanding officer doubles the tax (lagaan) on the Indian villagers in the province he rules. The villagers resist, and the officer challenges them to a game of cricket. If the villagers win, the lagaan is canceled for three years, but if they lose, the tax is tripled. A Bollywood classic. (Note: Originally filmed in Hindi, depending on which version you buy, you might only be able to have English subtitles).

Release Year: 2001
Rating: PG
Length: 224m (yes, it's that long - not a typo)

For more information, view its pages at the Internet Movie Database and Rotten Tomatoes or purchase it from Amazon.

  • Cultural Differences: Each team has different "playing" styles, different dress, different values, etc. all of which are obvious; the commanding officer's sister helps the villagers and learns about their traditions; the players must also deal with an "Untouchable" who wants to join the team
  • Focus: During the match, a couple players become too amped up and lose their concentration, causing them to get out
  • Leadership: Bhuvan (the protagonist) must convince his fellow villagers the cricket match is a good idea and recruit people to play; Bhuvan is also looked to as the team captain and keeps everyone on track
  • Sportsmanship: During the cricket game, the British team engages in acts of unsportsmanlike conduct, such as deliberately throwing the cricket ball at the batters to injure them
  • Teamwork: All the villagers must work together to defeat the British team; each person has a role, but sometimes they must step up in order to succeed

Coach Carter

Coach Carter is based on a true story of an inner-city high school basketball team that only won four games the year previous to getting a new coach. Coach Carter comes in and changes the atmosphere of the team, trying to teach life lessons and change the mindsets of his players into student-athletes. He prepares them for the future through a bumpy road to success.

Release Year: 2005 Rating: PG-13
Length: 136m

For more information, view its pages at the Internet Movie Database and Rotten Tomatoes or purchase it from Amazon.

  • Commitment: This theme is depicted in the beginning when Coach Carter explains his rules to the team; they are not to use the word "n***a", must maintain a 2.3 GPA (even though the state only requires a 2.0), go to and sit in the front of all classes, and stick to a dress code. Coach says they will refer to each other as "sirs" and sign a contract to follow the rules if they want to play. They are required to make a serious commitment to the team.
  • Teamwork: In the beginning, after Timo Cruz gets kicked off the team he asks, "What do I gotta do to play?" Coach gives him the impossible task of completing 2500 pushups and 1000 suicides by Friday. When faced with failing, the team joins together in through teamwork and helps him finish the task. Lyle says "remember what you said coach, if one struggles then we all struggle, if one triumphs then we all triumph."
  • Sportsmanship: In the middle of the movie during a practice, Coach Carter says "That's me, I did that, I drew that play up." Here sportsmanship is depicted when Coach says, "since when is winning not enough? Now you have to humiliate your opponent? You won four games last year, what gives you the right to ruin the game I love? Play with class and act like a champion."
  • Education: At one point towards the end of the movie, Coach Carter notices that his athletes aren't putting student first so he locks the gym. He says that Richmond High School only graduates 50% and only 6% of students go on to college. He demands they get their grades up and forfeits games until they do. Education is the theme when he tells the boys to go home and "ask yourself, do you want better for your life?" He feels that school should be the highlight of their life, not basketball.
  • Life Skills: Coach Carter's theme in the middle of the movie is life skills. At one point he asks Timo Cruz, "what is your deepest fear Mr. Cruz, that you're inadequate?" He later gets a response that Timo has learned from his experiences that proves to Coach Carter that Timo is learning life lessons. Coach also says to the players "what is it that you want out of this season?" at which they say "to win a championship". Coach asks them "who won the championship last year?" and none know the answer. He asks them how they see themselves.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011


Miracle is about a coach, Herb Brooks, who embarks on a mission to assemble the perfect hockey team to beat the Soviet Union in the 1980 Olympic Winter Games.  The team goes through some initial growing pains, but soon comes together to attempt the seemingly impossible task of beating the best hockey team in the world.  Based on a true story.

Release Year: 2004
Rating: PG
Length: 135m

For more information, view its pages at the Internet Movie Database and Rotten Tomatoes or purchase it from Amazon.

  • Commitment: Herb Brooks addresses the team right after the team has been chosen and says, “take a good look gentleman, because they [the ones who did not make the team] are the ones getting off easy.  The final roster will have 20 names on it so more of you are going home."  (15m)
  • Leadership: Mike Eruzione shows his leadership when he tells Herb Brooks that he plays for the USA after they had been made to skate after an exhibition game in Europe.  Herb Brooks had been asking this question throughout the movie and the players kept giving their college names instead of saying they played for the USA.  (45m)  
  • Motivation: Herb Brooks uses a variety of motivational tactics throughout the movie.  He tells goaltender Jim Craig that he is thinking of benching him after the exhibition loss to the Soviet Union. (1h 16m)  During an intermission, Herb uses a player's bruised leg  as a way to fire the team up when they are losing by calling him a quitter and to be a hockey player.  Herb knows this will fire the rest of the team up because of how close they are to one another. (1h, 24m)  And finally, he gives his famous speech, starting with, "Great moments...are born from great opportunity." (1h 37m)
  • Politics:  Opening scenes show the Cold War problems, inflation, and around the Christmas party scene Jimmy Carter gives his famous speech discussing how there was a “question of confidence in America.” (65m)  It shows where the country was at this time and how the hockey game versus the Soviet Union meant everything.
  • Teamwork: Mike Eruzione and a few other players talk to Herb about bringing in an all-star college player three months before the Olympic Games and tell him that they are a “family” so Herb should send the all-star home even though he is an incredible talent. (61m)
  • Underdogs: Team USA are the underdogs in the Olympics, but primarily when they face the Soviet Union in the semi-final game, where they beat them.