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What makes a great sports movie?

Wednesday - 7/23/2014, 10:52am  ET

WASHINGTON -- Sports movies are not like every other kind of Hollywood movie.

Sure, there are similarities. They tend to follow an ever-increasing rise in action and tension, building toward a climactic payoff. Almost always, there are good guys and bad guys, often portrayed less ambiguously than other genres.

But what makes a sports movie unique? The acting, for one, doesn't have to be amazing to make a sports movie great. It can help, as it does in "Bull Durham," "Raging Bull," "Hoosiers," and others. But sometimes corny, over-the-top performances work, like they do in "Major League" or "Caddyshack."

Some sports movies are funny; others are sad. Most are some combination of both. They can create moments of tension -- like an action movie -- and often include elements of triumph over adversity. But which one of these things makes a sports movie truly great?

We polled the WTOP newsroom to see what element they thought made a great sports movie.

Jonathan Warner, sports reporter: I believe realism is key in making a great sports movie. Otherwise, it just becomes a caricature of that event and greatly loses its effectiveness. However, some films can walk both sides of that line and still be fun, such as "Major League," "Slap Shot," "A League of Their Own" and "Caddyshack."

Chris Cichon, WTOP operations: Simply put, a great sports movie needs to inspire. Whether it's a movie about a group of amateur underdogs upsetting the Soviets or a film about an undersized guy with the heart of a lion fulfilling his dream of running out of the Notre Dame tunnel, you should feel goose bumps toward the end when an individual or team overcomes adversity and triumphs.

Rob Woodfork, sports reporter: What makes a great sports movie? Basketball, cursing, and sex.

Megan Cloherty, reporter: Tension. An underdog story. You've got to have a little romance in there as a side-story.

George Wallace, sports reporter: A good sports movie has to have some realism (story and characters), but I'm OK with the "sports" part of it being fiction ("White Men Can't Jump," for example) as long as I'm entertained.

As for me, I'll highlight the need for a compelling hero. Sometimes that hero takes the form of a full team, but more often than not, there is a singular character who represents whatever the struggle is that needs to be overcome in order to triumph. "Crash Davis," "Roy Hobbs," "Daniel ‘Rudy' Ruettiger": these are the names that we remember for generations.

What about you? What makes a great sports movie in your book? Leave your thoughts in the comments before you vote and let's keep the discussion going all week.

WTOP's Greatest Sports Movies of All Time bracket has been narrowed to the final 32 movies. Vote through 6 p.m. to choose which films will advance to the next round and check back each day this week to vote again.

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