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Love of the Game: Sports Movies Set in Michigan

July 22, 2016

Why are so many sports movies set in Michigan? Uncle John’s not sure, but he likes them.

PAPER LION (1968) Paper Lion (and other Michigan-based movies)

Could writer George Plimpton hack it as a football player with the Detroit Lions? He tried it once, for a story he was writing. This film is based on his experience at the Lions’ training camp, with a pre-M*A*S*H Alan Alda playing Plimpton. For realism, the film uses a number of real-life football players of the time, including Alex Karras and Frank Gifford, and also features a cameo performance by Vince Lombardi.

THE LIFE AND TIMES OF HANK GREENBERG (1998)

One of the nation’s first Jewish sports stars, Hank Greenberg helped the Detroit Tigers win four pennants and two World Series titles in the 1930s, all while maintaining his faith. This engrossing documentary blends archival interviews with Greenberg and contemporary footage of notable admirers, ranging from Alan Dershowitz to Walter Matthau.

For the love of the game (and other Michigan-based movies)FOR LOVE OF THE GAME (1999)

Kevin Costner plays a Tigers pitcher at the end of his career who reminisces on the last five years of his life, contemplates the wreck of a relationship he’s having with costar Kelly Preston, and tries to pitch a perfect game.

HARMON OF MICHIGAN (1941)

Michigan Wolverine football legend and Heisman Trophy winner Tom Harmon plays a fictional version of himself in this film, in which he goes from recent college grad to head football coach during the course of a season (or so it seems; the film’s timeline is a little fuzzy). It was designed to appeal to fans who couldn’t get enough of “Ole 98.” Harmon went on to establish himself as a topflight sports announcer for many years before his death in 1990.

Uncle John's Bathroom Reader Sports Spectacular
 

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