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Hitting The Links: On Cinema

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When sports and movies mix, cliches surface and tropes abound. Can the two worlds join to create something universally adored? Does the narrative heart and sentiment make sports movies less real? Can Bill Murray come back for a second Space Jam? What do we think of Rudy as a film?

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Earlier this week, the SBNation main page had an article regarding a basketball movie from the 80's about an Indiana team. People have lots of opinions about that film. Unfortunately, I don't believe I have ever seen the film in question . As I am also neither Steven Spielberg nor his non-union equivalent, my analysis of a film with which I am not familiar would be amateur at best.

This movie talk got other folks talking. On various corners of the internet, people engaged in discussions, nay, debates about sports movies. In such discussions, Rudy often comes up. The fine folks of The Shutdown Fullcast discussed Rudy (they are not fans!) for a bit in their latest podcast. Then, Penn State dropped the most #Ether tweet of the week not sent by a Whataburger social media intern.

As noted by Jason Kirk, Rudy was not really offsides. However, it is fun to tease and joke. People/ brands/ universities have fun on Twitter.com. But back to Rudy the film. I have not seen the movie in a while. I have probably not seen it in full since first-year of college. All the talk, all the tweets, everything had me wondering - is Rudy a terrible movie?

In re-watching Rudy (available on Netflix, home of the new Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp series and like forty different My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic cartoons), I was looking for a few different degrees of terribleness.

In terms of the surface and composition of the movie, Rudy is not terrible. The camerawork, shots ,and acting are all of a quality expectedt from a standard Hollywood film released in 1993. While watching Rudy, you might think "Oh, I can see that actor as a Hobbit, or that actor as a Chef, or that actor Crashing Weddings. But that last actor definitely would not be a Detective, Truly."

When we get to the plot and and emotional thrust of the movie itself though, things get a little murkier.

(I pause here to assure you that I am not going to reach the conclusion that Rudy is trash. I am going to move into how sports movies in general are weird and filled with things we can't believe in other movies. First, I have to go through some Rudy things, so bear with me. Thank you for your time.)

The most disconcerting part of the film is the playground football scene featuring a young Rudy. Who plays with an all-time center? Just tell the little guy to buzz off! The second oddest thing about the movie is how much it is about Rudy.

"Hey John, the movie is called 'RUDY.' What were you expecting of the titular character?"

To clarify, I mean how the movie is absent of substantial characterization other than Rudy. Every other character and thing is an object to Rudy. His family is an obstacle that initially discourages his dreams. Pete, D-Bob, and Fortune are there to nurture and encourage Rudy's dream more than any of their own interests. Charles S. Dutton is great! He can do so much more than encourage Sean Astin.

Astin's Rudy has an unrelenting determination and focus. People could relate and aspire to both traits, which becomes one of the emotional entry points into the film. Hard work pays off, and if you have a dream, you should chase it. But on its face, the movie has Rudy act like a crazy person. He just walks into Coach Parseghian to let him know he is going to walk on. He leaves his friend's funeral before it ends so he can go to South Bend. He is pummeled day after day by football players for principle. This fictionalized version of Daniel Ruettiger almost has more in common with  someone from a David Fincher movie than, say, a Mighty Duck. His purpose is so singular.

In the movie, Rudy has an ideal of Notre Dame that many of the other characters point out is short-sighted. When he's not playing football, the non-discouraging characters around him remark that he is getting an education, both at Holy Cross and Notre Dame. Not to get into the value of education in college athletics, but for a person in Rudy's situation - living in the stadium maintenance room - the college education seems like a sweet deal. However, Rudy has all his emotion and sentiment tied into playing football for his favorite team. I think this is also where one of the points of entry falls off. Liking or disliking Rudy becomes matter of fact in terms of fandom. When Rudy's father looks at the field in Notre Dame Stadium and remarks on its beauty, fans relate while others roll eyes.

When sport and its happenings, both wild and typical, get shifted into a film narrative, they become almost unbelievable. Is the reality of Rudy playing made more important but more stylized with the chants and soundtrack surrounding him?Space Jam might be one of the well-regarded sports movies because it is a literal cartoon. At that point, exaggeration and embellishment are expected in ways movies like Rudy and Miracle cannot deliver.

Instead of actual cartooning, Rudy bends the reality of both Ruettiger's story and the sport of football. At the heart of the movie, there's a message encouraging determination but sometimes the points around it are unclear. Rather than just a love letter to Notre Dame, Rudy works better focusing on the more universal and abstract notions of hope and persistence. Early in the film a priest gives Rudy a harsh dose of reality, saying the secret to happiness is being grateful of the gifts bestowed upon us. He means this to discourage Rudy from going to college. Can't hope be a gift as well? Can't we dream? Sometimes dreams do come true.

The third strangest thing about Rudy is that people used to dress up to take long bus rides.


NATIONAL LINKS

The New York Times ran a chapter from Monte Burke's new book on Nick Saban. This chapter concerns Saban and the University of Texas's head football coach job. Not mentioned in this chapter is that the deal fell apart due to UT Austin's inability to supply the large amounts of Little Debbie Oatmeal Pies Saban requires as fuel each day.

Stewart Mandel runs down what teams he believes are underrated and overrated in the preseason Coaches Poll. While polls do not really matter so early, they make for fun reads and good starting points for friendly conversations. A fun thing to call overrated teams might be Animal Collective. A cool thing to call underrated teams is Mark Ruffalo. Let's see if this sticks!

Speaking of which, here is the preseason Coaches Poll.

SBNation has a new college football award: The Piesman Trophy! The trophy will be awarded to the lineman who makes the most extraordinary non-typical lineman play of the season. For example, remember when Stephon Tuitt ran more than seventy yards after a fumble recovery for a touchdown against Navy?

While we are talking about service academies, Bruce Feldman has a profile on Air Force's Troy Calhoun and the Falconssurprisingly multiple offense. Bob Davie makes a cameo, sort of like a movie cameo but only in a college football article.

ICYMI ON OFD

We're still coming up with dream football schedules, and darn if we are not dreaming BIG (Not B1G thought - there are only five instances  of Big Ten opponents in this crop). Check out the latest schedules now.

You want big boards? We've got 'em! Offensive backfieldsecondarylinebackersdefensive linetight end/ offensive line, and athlete/ wide receiver.

Hunter Johnson might be great, but his college enrollment is still a ways away. So let us collectively take a chill pill about quarterback recruiting. For comparison, we are closer to a Doctor Strange movie featuring TIlda Swinton than we are to Johnson playing quarterback at the collegiate level. Tilda Swinton just gets things done.

Football season is much closer thank you think, so catch up on all that is going on with defensive position battles. Let me warn in advance that you will spend hours watching the vine of Jaylon Smith at the end of the post.

Can you imagine a team full of Mark Ruffalos? You will be able to imagine that after checking out the 2015 All-Underrated team.

Please research your compliments before buttering up the mailbag, thank you. While you are researching, you can also check out this week's mailbag for wide receiver talk, alternate history of the 2005 football season, and linebacker theories and corollaries.

♫ I'm like "Hey, what's up? Hello!"/ See a lot of games on this year's schedule/ Team just wants to win, get some sacks and make some throws/ Got a deal with UMass, introduced by Charley Mol/ Nar. Navy coached by Niumatalolo/ could be trap games, don't overlook these folks/ You could look ahead, watch how far the wins go/ teams just set a goal, talkin' national champ-o's/ one game at a time, twelve games total though/ Swarbrick has high hopes for how this year can go/ hit Fenway Park for series shamro/ Gary Pinkel hatin'. Dan Wetzel tells him "No."/ In love with the football, just mind the schedule ♫ - "Trap Games", an unreleased and unsolicited song written for "Weird" Al Yankovic by an unnamed blog writer that was rejected for being weirdly specific and hinging on people pronouncing "schedule" as "sched-u-ole"

The thing about being in a conference is that it means week in and week out, your team is battling some tough opponents. What's that? Yes, I would like to strike that from the record in light of this breakdown of the early slate of games for the above Power 5 teams.

IRISH LINKS OF NOTE NATIONAL LINKS

Hey, you know how lots of coaches want Notre Dame to join a conference? To paraphrase the Rock, it doesn't matter! As Dan Wetzel and Peter Berkes point out, this is an odd thing for coaches to be focused on this year.

If I lost my home due to a lightning strike, I would not take it as well as Lou Holtz.

Irish247 runs down the top five story lines from this summer. Another great story was Mad Max: Fury Road but I believe that is a movie, and not a football goings-on.

The Elkhart Truth goes over Notre Dame's ten indispensable players. The most indispensable piece of football equipment remains the football, for about the 150th year running.

Pete Sampson goes over some of Notre Dame's new starters in a handy video. It's a video! You can take off your reading glasses and relax. Then you can put your reading glasses back on and looks like a real cool librarian.

You made it to the end. Charles S. Dutton congratulates you!