Film School: What to do if your underdog team of misfits is headed to the big game

You may encounter situations in your life for which there is no possible preparation. Luckily, movies are a great substitute for real-life experience. In Film School, we look at what television and movies can teach us about these unexpected scenarios.

Due to a series of poor decisions on your part, you may one day find yourself forced to coach a team of ragtag little losers as they struggle to compete in a sport that they’re not good at and you don’t like. Oh well, children’s sports seasons aren’t that long, just wait out the series of humiliating defeats until your community service/professional/family obligations are satisfied.

But then the stakes are raised. A side bet of some kind is made. Something important is on the line. Now you need to transform these nerds and fatties into a team of winners. What do you do? As always, let’s turn to Hollywood for the answers.

So many reluctant coaches. So many terrible children to whip into shape. 

Hockey: The Mighty Ducks

“Hahaha…we’re terrible.”

Summary: Emilio Estevez, otherwise known as Charlie Sheen’s less-winning, less-bleach snorting brother, stars as defense attorney and jerk (you can tell from the slicked back hair) Gordon Bombay. When he’s arrested for drunk driving, he’s sentenced to coach the local PeeWee hockey team because he’s clearly a great role model who, if anything, should be spending more time around children.

When he meets the team, he realizes that they have no equipment, no uniforms, no hockey skills and no believing in themselves. So he gives them all of that.

“My confidence now outweighs my abilities ten-fold! I feel like I could be governor of Alaska right now.”

He gets his lawyer boss, Mr. Ducksworth (ha!), to sponsor the team in order to get them uniforms and equipment, and they henceforth become the Ducks. Then he gets the team to believe in themselves by…gerrymandering the districts so that he can steal the star player from another team.

“Wow, that’s a real dick move, Coach.”

The team, now armed with someone who can actually play hockey, goes on to beat their arch nemesis the Hawks. The Hawks, coincidentally, happened to be Gordon’s team when he played PeeWee hockey. It was their mean coach that made Gordon feel so badly about missing a penalty shot that he gave up hockey forever and was forced to become a rich attorney instead. But with the Hawks and their evil coach soundly defeated, the curse is lifted and Gordon decides to quit his job and try out for a minor league hockey team. What an inspirational and misguided career move.

Lesson Learned: No matter how good your uniforms look or how much believing in yourselves you do, you are going to need at least one kid who can actually play the sport at hand. Think one player can’t make that much of a difference? Ask the Cleveland Cavaliers.

And when you have to bench a terrible kid or two to make room for the talent, just explain to these kids that if your team wins, everyone gets a trophy whether they played or not. If these kids are as bad at life as they are at sports, they’re going to need to learn the art of coattail riding. Teach them young.

Soccer: Ladybugs

Can we all take a moment to appreciate what the extras in the background are wearing? The early nineties were truly the golden age of fashion.

Summary: Rodney Dangerfield plays Chester, a man so desperate for a promotion that he tries to get on his boss’ good side by pretending to share his love of soccer. But he does such a good job pretending that his boss pressures him into coaching his daughter’s soccer team, the Ladybugs. If they win the season, Chester could get that promotion. Yup, just how regular business is done. Has anyone in Hollywood actually had a job before?

Chester quickly learns that the team is terrible. With his promotion riding on the success of this girls soccer team (again, what?), he convinces his girlfriend’s son, Matthew, to dress up as a girl and join the team.

Jonathan Brandis, R.I.P.

“Martha” turns out to be the star player and helps turn the team around, even becoming close friends with the boss’ daughter. But when Chester’s girlfriend finds out about the situation, she  makes Matthew quit the team right before the championship game. Oh no, how can the Ladybugs beat a team of girls if all they have is girls? They can’t, it seems. They’re down by three at the half, when “Martha” shows up to reveal that she is actually a dude.

After some Crying Game-style puking, everyone is inspired to get back out there and play their hearts out. The Ladybugs win the game, Chester gets his promotion, and the boss’ daughter quickly gets past the whole cross-dressing thing and starts going out with Matthew.

Lesson Learned: Listen, ladies, we’re good at a lot of things. We can have babies, graduate from college at higher rates than men and make the most delicious sandwiches. But we can’t play sports. We let our emotions get in the way of strategy and our brains aren’t big enough to hold all of the rules. So if you find yourself in charge of coaching a team of girls, you need to find yourself a boy. Preferably one with a delicate bone structure that can put on an unconvincing high-pitched voice.

Football: Little Giants

Summary: Rick Moranis plays Danny O’Shea, who has lived his whole life in the shadow of his brother, Al Bundy, who is a local hero and coach of the town’s PeeWee football team, the Cowboys. But when Danny’s daughter Becky, aka “Icebox,” tries out for the Cowboys, she gets cut from the team even though she’s really good. Al Bundy explains that, because she’s a girl, everyone’s worried that she’ll get stumped by a math problem on the way to a game and miss it.

After getting cut, Becky convinces her dad to start a new team called “The Little Giants” to include all the kids who were cut from the Cowboys. Unfortunately, PeeWee football operates under the same rules as the Highlander so there can only be one. The two teams decide to compete in a playoff game to determine who will be Urbania’s team.

The day of the game comes and the whole town shows up to watch for some reason. Apparently Urbania is the most boring place on earth because there is no way all of these people have kids in this game, and who wants to watch children’s sports if you don’t have to? Anyway, the kids play and the Little Giants are losing terribly by halftime. This is partly because Becky, their quarterback, got some pretty sexist advice from her uncle and decided to become a cheerleader instead of playing.

But after an inspirational speech from their coach and Becky’s realization that no amount of spelling words loudly could help her team as much as having an actual quarterback, she joins the team and they come out of halftime ready to win. They pull some trick plays, fake an incident of rabies and fart at the other team. And it works! They win the game.

Lesson Learned: If you don’t have access to a kid who can actually play or, God forbid, your best player is a girl, then you’re going to need to get creative. Find out what these terrible athletes are good at and figure out how to use those skills to your advantage. Have a nerdy kid on your team? He might be good at strategy. A gassy kid? Point him at the other team and let him fart away. Think outside the box.

Unrelated lesson: I certainly hope that it’s too late for Hamsterdam readers to learn this lesson, but here’s something to tell your children. Be nice to the tomboys in your class.

Becky “Icebox” O’Shea: Then and now

Of course, it doesn’t always work out that way. I was pretty nerdy back in school, and I grew up to look just as expected.

Good thing I’m funny!

Baseball: The Bad News Bears

Functional alcoholics make the best role models.

Summary: Walter Matthau plays Morris Buttermaker, former baseball manager and current drinker, who is recruited to coach a new Little League team, the Bears, that is composed of all of the players that were cut from other teams. After their first game, where the Bears give up 26 runs without recording a single out, Morris realizes the situation calls for drastic measures.

Those drastic measures are to go out and recruit two people who can actually play. With them on their team, the Bears start winning games and, amazingly, make it to the championship. That game turns out to be ruthless, and after watching their opponents’ coach freak out on his own son, Morris decides that what really matters is the love of the game. So he pulls his best players to give the benchwarmers a chance to play and they…lose. Obviously. But they win the league title in fun!

Lesson Learned: Go ahead and ignore the previous rules. Make it about fun, give everyone an equal chance to play, worry about players’ feelings. But know this: you will lose.

Overall Lesson/tl;dr: Above all else, believe in yourselves. Unless you want to win, in which case, above all else, get some talent on your team.

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