If I have learned anything about myself through these past couple weeks of chaos, it is that sports play an even bigger role in my everyday life than I had imagined. Being cooped up in the house for long periods of time can always be a bit of a drag, but it becomes even tougher to tolerate when forced to do so without your go-to source of entertainment.
Rather than letting myself go crazy, I started digging around for new things to watch on Netflix that might scratch the itch. I was actually surprised by how much I found and how much I learned along the way. For any fellow sports junkies who have found themselves in the same boat, I’d like to recommend some of my favorites.
Just for clarification, this is not a list of what I would consider the greatest of all time. I don’t believe I would really be helping anyone by simply listing the classics that most of us have already seen countless times (Rudy, Hoosiers, Remember the Titans, etc.). My hope was to maybe introduce you all to some new things that might pique your interest and help carry you through this bizarre period of time.
10. Chuck (2016)
If you asked 100 people who the story of Sylvester Stallone’s character Rocky Balboa was based on, most of them would likely respond with “Rocky Marciano” or “I thought he was a fictional character.” Contrary to popular belief, Stallone drew his inspiration from Chuck Wepner, the ultimate underdog of boxing who fought Muhammad Ali for the World Heavyweight Title in 1975. Wepner shocked the world by going 15 rounds with the greatest of all time. This movie tells the true story of Wepner, the man who inspired the creation of the most beloved fictional character in all of sports.
9. Amateur (2018)
This movie gives an example of how sports can often be tainted by big businesses and their endless pursuit of money. Terron Forte is a fictional 14-year-old budding basketball superstar. He’s recruited to play for an elite prep school, being guaranteed a better shot at making it to a Division 1 college and ultimately providing a better life for his family. Unfortunately, sales pitches are never as good as they seem, and Forte learns this the hard way as he navigates the under-the-table world of amateur athletics.
8. Icarus (2017)
If you’re a documentary buff like me, I think you’ll really enjoy this one. While exploring the option of doping to win a cycling race, Bryan Fogel meets Russian scientist Grigory Rodchenkov, the director of Russia’s anti-doping laboratory. Rodchenov helps create a method for Fogel to take banned substances in a way that cannot be detected by drug tests.
The two eventually become friends, and Rodchenov reveals that he’s been overseeing a state-sponsored doping program for the Russian Olympic team. The documentary follows Fogel’s quest to shed light on the issue of illegal doping in sports, which eventually led to changes in how athletes were tested in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
7. Basketball or
This is a six-episode documentary about the Chinle Wildcats, a high school basketball team from a Navajo reservation in Arizona. To say these guys are passionate about hoops is an understatement. Their stadium seats 6,000 fans in a town that has a population of only 4,500. The Wildcats aren’t the tallest or the most athletic, but their passion for the game drives them to accomplish things you’d never imagine.
While following their quest to bring Chinle its first state title, the documentary sheds light on the issues that are still faced today by the Navajo and other Native American tribes.
6. Friday Night
One of the more easily recognized options on my list is Friday Night Tykes, a docuseries that shows just how intense and competitive football can be in Texas, even for small children.
The show follows several teams within the Texas Youth Football Association, one of the largest independent youth football leagues in America. The amount of scrutiny faced by the coaches — and even the kids — is almost impossible to believe without seeing for yourself. Through four seasons on air, you get to watch the teams go through extreme training, compete for titles and prepare kids to play football on higher levels in the future.
5. Notorious (2017)
One could fairly argue that Conor McGregor has become the most recognizable person in combat sports since Mike Tyson. He’s a charismatic Irishman who loves to talk the talk, but he’s also proved definitively that he has no problem walking the walk. If you enjoy watching him fight, you’ll be amazed by the story of just how far he had to climb to reach fame.
Notorious is a documentary about McGregor’s journey from being an unemployed plumber to becoming a multiple-time UFC champion and the most must-see mixed martial artist in the world.
4. All American (2018)
If I had to sum up this show in one statement, I’d say it is Los Angeles’ version of Friday Night Lights. The main character is Spencer James, a standout football player from South Crenshaw High School who is surging through the ranks as one of the nation’s top prospects. James transfers to a school in Beverly Hills after being recruited by head coach Billy Baker, who allows him to move in with his family.
James has to juggle his football career, his transition to Beverly Hills and all the issues that remain for his family and friends in the inner city. Season 2 of All American was recently released and its popularity is growing. I finished watching it last week, and I highly recommend it for high school football fans.
3. The Battered Bastards
of Baseball (2014)
I really enjoy watching movies and shows that teach me things I didn’t already know. This one taught me a wild part of baseball history that took place in the 1970s.
It’s about the Portland Mavericks, an independent minor league baseball team with absolutely no affiliations to any major league franchises. Owned by actor Bing Russell, the squad competed on the Class A level for five years and made a lot of noise throughout the world of baseball. Because of their relatable roster, their unorthodox way of doing things and their emphasis on putting fun back into the game, the Mavericks shattered attendance records and changed the way fans perceive professional baseball to this day.
2. Zion (2018)
No, this isn’t about Zion Williamson of the New Orleans Pelicans, but this guy might be even more impressive. Zion Clark was born with caudal regression syndrome, which caused him to lose his legs at birth. On top of his physical challenges, Clark was forced to grow up in the foster-care system after being put up for adoption as an infant.
As if overcoming all of that was not enough, Clark used those obstacles as motivation to pursue his dream of being a wrestler. The documentary follows his journey through high school wrestling, which led to him enrolling at Kent State and becoming one of the highest ranked college wrestlers in the nation. Yes, this is a very true story. Look no further if you want to watch something that will inspire you to run through a brick wall.
1. Undefeated (2011)
Of all the great things to watch on this list, I would say Undefeated is definitely the most intriguing option for sports fans in our area. It actually takes place not too far away.
The Oscar-winning film follows the struggles of the Manassas Tigers, an inner city high school football team in Memphis. Having been notorious losers for years and years, head coach Bill Courtney helps them turn things around both on the field and off as they fight to earn a winning season and a playoff victory for the first time in the school’s 110-year history.
The challenges that are overcome by Coach Courtney and the Tigers in this show are incredibly similar to things we see in our own local schools and communities, making it easily relatable and extremely fun to watch.