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If The Upcoming Pitt Basketball Season Was A Sports Movie

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We’re just 11 days away from the start of the men’s basketball season, and plenty of fans are hoping it’s a season worth remembering in a positive way. Personally, I am really looking forward to attending games, writing recaps, and breaking down the on-court action for the next five months. However, there’s still time to squeeze in a few fun articles while every team in the country currently sits at 0-0.

That brings me to sports movies. I’d imagine most of us enjoy them, and I’d venture that quite a few of us have a top-10, or even a top-20. Maybe your list is full of childhood favorites, or ones that have the most dramatic and compelling moments. Whatever your criteria may be, there’s something about sports movies that resonates with most fans in a way that no other genre does.

With those things in mind, let’s combine preseason hopes with the plot of a sports movie and see where it goes. I could probably turn this isn’t a chapter book because I’ve watched an inordinate amount of sports movies. This includes classics such as The Natural and Hoosiers, sports movies that are also dramas such as Remember the Titans and Brian’s Song, romantic comedies disguised as sports movies like Juwanna Mann, and family-friendly films that range from The Sandlot to Lady Bugs.

Sports movies about basketball make the most sense at first glance. However, of the first five hoops movies that came top of mind, more than half had plot lines that revolved around sketchy recruiting methods (Above the Rim, Blue Chips, and He Got Game). The other two just don’t apply for obvious reasons – Love & Basketball and White Men Can’t Jump. Coach Carter applies at a very general level, but doesn’t at all with the personal story lines. Space Jam would be awesome, but that’s about as farfetched as Air Bud.

Rather than put the cart in front of the horse, let’s back up for a second and try to apply the potential plot of this season to a sports movie rather than the other way around. We have a new head coach that is accomplished and by all accounts setting the foundation to create an exciting, new culture. We have hardworking returning players, albeit with limited upside, and we have some intriguing new players who will hopefully help steer the team in the right direction. Lastly, let’s throw in a passionate fan base that loves their team so much they’ll read articles like this before the season starts.

I desperately wanted Cool Runnings to work here: A passionate group of individuals who get a second chance, at another sport, after stumbling (pun intended) across a down on his luck, ex-athlete. They fight to gain respect at every turn, and nearly become Olympic medalists before coming up just short (another pun intended). Heck, let’s even throw in one team bonding moment at a roadhouse.

Sadly, this falls apart quickly because this team isn’t entirely comprised of collegiate athletes from another sport. Additionally, John Candy played a discredited player turned “coach” and was generally disliked by everyone. That’s not the case with Capel, at all. Logically, the only choice left here is The Karate Kid; the original, not that blasphemous remake.

I know, I know. The Karate Kid was about one person, not a team. Still, it hits all the right beats. Remember Daniel initially wanted to study under John Kreese and the Cobra Kai, but that coaching style wasn’t for him. Sure, Kreese had a few followers but was poorly received by virtually everyone over the age of 16. Stallings wasn’t exactly a hit with the players that he inherited, but he definitely recruited several that remained loyal to him.

But he wasn’t right for the Pittsburgh Panthers…I mean Daniel. Enter Mr. Myagi. Who would have thought that an apartment maintenance man would be the answer to Daniel’s problems? While Capel came from a much more esteemed place, he wasn’t really on Pitt’s radar until he was. Like Myagi, Capel is making an immediate impact. No, Myagi didn’t hit the recruiting trail (the Hilary Swank movie doesn’t count) but his teaching methods miraculously taught Daniel karate (probably the most inconceivable plot line in a sports movie, but whatever). All the reports about Capel’s practices are completely different than the ones from last year. There’s a new, contagious energy about the way the team is practicing.

I haven’t read every player interview this year, but players seem to feel like they can play a brand of basketball that caters to their strengths. Last year, it was like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole, like when Terry Silver told Daniel to punch boards until his hands bled in The Karate Kid III. Capel seems to have a grounded understanding about the makeup of this team, particularly how thin they are in the frontcourt. Myagi knew that Daniel could never learn karate through conventional methods, so he had him do household chores instead. Win win.

Clearly, we need to throw out the side plot of Daniel awkwardly courting Elisabeth Shue (maybe that's the most improbable sports plot line), but that would apply to 83% of all sports movies. The important part here is the ending.

The montage leading up to Daniel fighting Johnny Lawrence in the finals of the All-Valley Karate Tournament is the best montage is sports movie history. This isn’t debatable and I’ve included a link here. We should all hope that no opposing coach pulls a “sweep the leg” moment on any player this season, but of course the team will face some adversity. Capel will likely need to dig deep into his bag of coaching knowledge to get them back on course (likely during ACC play) like Myagi somehow healed Daniel’s leg with his bare hands.

Are the Panthers going to win the NCAA Tournament, the odds aren’t in their favor. That doesn’t mean as an underdog that the stars can’t align under magical circumstances. That’s the best part about a good chunk of sports movies, past and present. In the last week full week of October, it’s fun to imagine all the possibilities, and it’s nice to be excited about the upcoming season. Best of all, it’s refreshing to be able to spend time comparing Pitt to a sports movie that has nothing to do about basketball, as opposed to a “brace for impact” article like last fall.

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