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Heroes in Sports: Overcoming Adversity and Beating the Odds
Throughout time, athletes have been both revered and admired for their prowess in not only their respective sports, but also for their great deeds they have done off the field. In no other venue of American culture is there such a diverse following; sports can transcend racial, ethnic, and political boundaries and the athletes involved become larger than life. There are countless examples of players and teams that have been battered, berated, and humiliated, and yet they rise above the pressure, and become heroes. In America, we tend to love this type of hero – the one who overcomes adversity and beats the odds – because it is analogous to the American Dream. When an ordinary person or team begins as the underdog and emerges as the hero, this sparks inspiration in the hearts of people nationwide with no restraint based on age, gender, race, or political ideology. Because this “American Dream-Sports Hero” hybrid encompasses all generations, it will never lose those aspects of awe and mystique. Heroes who have overcome seemingly impossible odds have been ingrained in our culture and nowhere is it seen more so than in American Sports. While heroes in different sports obviously have different obstacles they must overcome, their monomyth is the same general format: initially they are the underdog, but through numerous trials and tribulations they emerge as a larger than life hero whom their fans come to admire. Inevitably we learn to not only cheer for our athletes, but to respect and even love them.
The video clip below is Lou Gehrig’s farewell speech at Yankee stadium. There was no ball game that day, only his speech, and yet the stands were filled to capacity. Not only is the love of the fans for Gehrig apparent, but Gehrig’s love for them is clearly reciprocated. It is that love that sets sports heroes apart from all others.
(Lou Gehrig Speech)
There have been many stories and films produced to explain stories of football heroes that rise to the top and beat the odds. Rudy Ruettiger and a boy named Michael are two examples of football heroes found in literature and film. These men battled against everyone and everything that said they would not make it and they made sacrifices in order to follow their dreams.
Rudy is a film inspired by a true story of an unlikely football hero. Rudy’s path toward becoming a sports hero is explained in the movie Rudy. Rudy grew up aspiring to be a football player for Notre Dame. His whole life people told him that he would never make it because he was too small and did not have enough talent. Throughout Rudy’s journey to become part of the Notre Dame football team, he showed heroic qualities of determination, courage, and reliability through his superior work ethic. Rudy attained his dreams and earned admiration and respect from his coaches, teammates, family, and friends.
Although Rudy started his quest to be on the Notre Dame football team to achieve his life long dream, we can see that he is taking the first step as part of his monomyth by creating a destiny for himself. After graduating high school, Rudy worked four years to save money to pay for an education at his dream school: University of Notre Dame. Rudy’s best friend, Pete, was the only person that had faith in Rudy’s goal, and when Pete is killed in a tragic work accident, Rudy becomes more determined to follow his dream. Pete was similar to the wise old person of a monomyth, who gave Rudy not only hope and support, but a Notre Dame jacket as a charm. Rudy set out on his quest with little money and no plan, only a dream. He went to school at Holy Cross and worked hard to get good grades. He found himself a job, but still could not afford a place to sleep. Rudy became friends with one of his Teaching Assistants, who helped tutor him and had faith in Rudy. Although Rudy was rejected from Notre Dame three times, each time he kept applying and did not give up. After the fourth application to Notre Dame, Rudy was accepted. He then battled his way to a walk-on position on the football team through his passion and determination. Rudy showed strength and courage each day at practice because he took beating after beating with no complaints. Rudy never missed a practice in two years in his effort to receive a spot on the team that suited up for games. At first his teammates thought he was stupid for trying so hard because they knew someone as small as Rudy could never make it in such an intense and competitive football program, but in the end his teammates learned to love and respect him (Rudy).
Rudy Fights Back
Almost everyone said that Rudy could not make it, but Rudy fought to the finish. This clips shows a few of the important battles Rudy faced, but also shows Rudy reaching his goal. This clip sums up the whole aspect of Rudy defeating the odds.
Rudy’s final battle could be considered in many combined scenes. The final battle that ended his journey happened after he quit the team, because it was his last game and was not given the opportunity to suit up. After an inspirational talk with his employer Fortune, also known as a former Notre Dame player, Rudy went back to practice and showed courage by sticking with the team until the end. The teammates realized his selflessness and passion and they soon learned to admire him. As a result of this, each player on the team told the coach to play Rudy instead of them. Once Rudy learned he was going to suit up for the last game, he knew all his hard work had not been for nothing. He reached his goal of being a part of the team when he was given the honor of leading the team on the field. When he took the field late in the game, he had already proven himself to his coaches and teammates, but when he made the last tackle of the game he managed to prove himself to all of the Notre Dame fans, his family included. His monomyth concluded with a victorious celebration where he was carried off the field by his teammates. Rudy put everything he had into attaining his ultimate goal and he battled to the finish to achieve it (Rudy).
“You're 5 foot nothin', 100 and nothin', and you have barely a speck of athletic ability. And you hung in there with the best college football players in the land for 2 years. And you're gonna walk outta here with a degree from the University of Notre Dame. In this life, you don't have to prove nothin' to nobody but yourself. And after what you've gone through, if you haven't done that by now, it ain't gonna never happen. Now go on back.” - Fortune (Rudy)
Caption: Fortune’s speech to Rudy. This speech was the paradigm shift that made Rudy finally realize and understand himself.
Patrick Busteed explained a similar story to Rudy, in the short story "Heart of a Champion," in which this boy Michael never gives up and beats all odds. Michael was a small boy, five feet ten inches and only 108 pounds. He was sick as a child and never participated in sports. He insisted to his parents that he wanted to play football at school, and the coach gave Michael a chance. At the first practice Michael showed his dedication by being the first one on the field. Every time Michael ran the mile with the team he would fall, but Michael kept trying. The coach felt he needed to show Michael special attention. As the season continued, Michael grew both physically and socially stronger. The season ended with Michael completing the mile without falling and with the team cheering. Michael approached his coach that day and asked for training plans so he could be better next year. Every day Michael worked hard at training. The next season Michael ran the fastest mile on the team and worked his way to a guard position. At one of the last games, Michael was the only one who had courage enough to help his team believe they could come back from a two touchdown deficit, and they did come back and won by one point. Michael inspired the team to keep fighting. At the end of that year, Michael’s points were not enough to win him the most productive player award, but both the coach and his teammates realized he deserved it. The recipient of the award was Steve who spoke out and announced that someone else deserved it. Steve said, “Michael you used to say that I was your hero. If I were half the man that you are, I would be proud, because there is no doubt that you are my hero,” (Busteed, 318). Michael had never played sports until he played for this team. He was socially awkward, physically underdeveloped, and picked on by other students because of it. Despite the overwhelming odds against him, Michael persevered and became a hero to his family and friends (Busteed).
Rudy and Michael were just two ordinary boys who had a dream and fought for those dreams. They faced extraordinary circumstances that sculpted them into heroes. The courage Rudy and Michael exhibited influenced everyone around them. While these football heroes did not physically battle another person to become a hero, they battled themselves. They proved to everyone who doubted them that they could succeed. These two football stories are a perfect example of how the sports hero can accomplish great things, even if he or she is an underdog.
"Football Hero" This piece of artwork shows the battle that a player must go through to reach the top. Standing on top of a mountain can be viewed as a symbol of rising up from the bottom as an underdog and reaching his goal. As we saw in both Rudy and Michael, they fought adversity and beat all odds in order to make it to the top. The way this picture shows how torn up his jersey is can show the physical, mental, and social challenges that a football hero must battle through. Holding the jersey of an opponent can represent not only defeat of another team, but proving to the world that he did the unpredictable, beating all odds.
While some sports heroes are often glorified as champions who live extravagant lifestyles, in boxing that is rarely the case. Boxing heroes often live in poverty, fighting for their chance to earn money. The common themes in boxing films are poverty and overwhelming odds. In the films Cinderella Man and the original Rocky film, the heroes, Jimmy Braddock and Rocky Balboa, respectively, both overcome serious odds and hardships and stick to the monomyth.
Cinderella Man (2005: takes place in 1933-1935)
“In all the history of the boxing game you find no human interest story to compare with the life narrative of James J. Braddock…” – Damon Runyon
Boxing has never been he easiest sort to make money in. Most boxers go for months in between matches, and in that interim are training, so they must rely on money made from purse to purse. Jimmy Braddock from the film “Cinderella Man” was once a light heavyweight title contender until he hit a slump where he was frequently losing and injured. The great depressing hits America hard, but the Braddock family feels the hurt just as much as anyone else. When Jimmy breaks his hand and is disbarred from the professional boxing league, his troubles increase. He cannot afford to pay for heating or electricity, and his wife Mae even sends their children away to live with relatives. Jimmy is so heartbroken at this that he applies for financial help from the bank and even begs his former boxing associates for help. His life isn’t glamorous. He is barely holding on, and can’t even afford to eat before his first big match.
Jimmy Braddock certainly a hero who follows along with the monomyth. While his birth isn’t delved into, we learn from the film that he was a very prolific boxer at a very early age. He was born with massive talent. He aspired to be number one, and set out to do so. However, when he got married and had kids, there were more things to think about than just himself and his boxing. When he breaks his hand and is disbarred, he has to work hard just to survive and keep his family warm and fed. This transforms him into something stronger than before. So strong, in fact, that he wins a match that he was supposed to just be a punching bag in without training at all before the fight. His journey home to the comfortable life that he led before is wrought with peril. He has to climb to the top once again and win, which he does. He has to conquer many foes beforehand, and he has to do so against the wishes of his wife, who is terrified of him getting severely hurt in boxing. In the end, though, Braddock wins the title, overcoming 10-1 odds, and finally gets to settle down with his wife and children in comfort, something he had always longed to.
Jimmy Braddock became a hero when he fought back against adversity. In the very beginning of the film he is a successful boxer and a title contender, but he isn’t a hero, he is merely a boxer. When he discovers what he has to fight for, and when he realizes that boxing may be the only way to allow his family to live on more than a slice of bologna per meal and keep the heat on during the bitterly cold New Jersey winter, he becomes a hero. The viewer sees Braddock make a transformation from a pitiful shell of a boxer into a stellar underdog. The viewer barely sees footage of Braddock before his fall, but his match with the amateur boxer where he breaks his hand shows just how far he had fallen. As his skill improves, so does his confidence, and in the final fight against the champion, Max Baer, he isn’t swayed by any taunts, and fights through all the adversity to claim the victory.
Rocky (1976: takes place in 1975-1976)
His whole life was a million-to-one shot.
Rocky Balboa was always a small-time boxer. He also worked as a collector for a local loan shark. Times were not as rough for Rocky as they were for Jim Braddock, but at the same time Rocky wasn’t living through the Great Depression. His apartment isn’t lavish, the gym he goes to is run down, and he trains mostly outdoors using nontraditional means. When he finally hooks up with a professional boxing trainer, he begins training for a match that could change his life forever. He is set up to fight against the reigning undefeated heavyweight champion of the world, Apollo Creed. However, due to his low financial means, he trains by punching meat carcasses in a walk-in freezer and running up the stairs of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, while Creed trains very little. In fact, Creed is more focused on giving the fans a show than actually preparing for the fight, showing how little he thinks of Rocky as an actual competitor.
Rocky Balboa is definitely in tune with the monomyth. While he may not have been born into unusual circumstances, he was definitely in the right place at the right time. The only reason he got the opportunity to prove himself was because Apollo Creed’s scheduled opponent got injured and was unable to fight, as if everything that Rocky did up to that point was so that he would be in that position to fight Apollo Creed. He enlists the aid of an older trainer named Mickey who guides Rocky along his journey. Things get dicey when Rocky Falls for his friend’s sister, Adrian, but with the help of Mickey, Rocky tries to keep away from her until after the fight. However, he still finds the need to confide in her with his ultimate goal: not to win, but to go the distance and fight all fifteen rounds with Creed, a feat that nobody has done before. In the final battle, when he does actually fight Creed, he goes the distance, even getting back up from a vicious uppercut in the fourteenth round, a blow that everyone thought would end the fight. After his personal triumph, he gets the girl, and Adrian is seen running into his arms.
Rocky is a hero because he is a seemingly regular guy who shows that through hard work and perseverance anybody can achieve his goals. He transforms in front of the viewer to a down in the dumps guy in Philly to a world-class boxer. He starts out the film with a slew of failures in the boxing world, and is very disheartened, but he keeps on trying. He keeps his morals straight, even while working as a debt collector. He is seen trying to help a neighborhood girl stay away from questionable characters that she hangs out with. Even though he eventually loses to Apollo Creed, Balboa’s tenacity and hard work make him the apple of the viewer’s eye.
("Rocky 1 Final")
There have been a few different movies and books that have been written about tennis heroes. Most of the novels and movies written pertain to overcoming particular challenges in their athletic careers as well as facing adversity.
is an example of a movie that was made to portray the tennis stars monomyth. Along with the movie
, three famous tennis players that have overcome adverse situations in their careers include James Blake and Andre Agassi.
is a movie about talented young tennis player named Peter, who has been ranked 119 in the world. He earns a wildcard into the Wimbledon tournament. He resolves to quit after the last tournament when he is tired of dealing with the stress of playing a professional sport. He makes a vow to make the 2004 Wimbledon the last one he will participate in and carries on with his life by getting a job at a country club as well. As Wimbledon draws closer Peter becomes infatuated with a girl called Lizzie Bradbury a young American tennis pro. Peter falls in love with Lizzie and starts to actually get better at tennis as well. While their relationship evolves their tennis abilities evolve too. Peter eventually advances into the semi-finals and wins that match in straight sets and much focus. On the other hand we see Lizzie who loses her match because a lost of focus and she ends up heading back to America. Peter’s final match is incredibly intense in that it is against a player with whom he had fought with about Lizzie. He ends up winning the title with Lizzie by his side to cheer him. The story goes through a whole world wind of trials and tribulations consisting of the love for tennis and the love for another person. Peter faces a true monomyth throughout this decision to quit tennis because of his frustration with not being good enough. He then decides to take on a relationship, which could have gone either way.
(Wimbledon Movie Trailer)
James Blake has overcome substantial adversity in his lifetime. He is an American professional and number 138 in the world currently. His life has for sure not been easy, which is why many consider him a hero. At the age of five him and his brother started playing tennis. At the age of thirteen was diagnosed with sever scoliosis, which left him wearing a full length back brace for 18 hours a day excluding when he would play tennis. Yet he knew that it was not time to give up on tennis. In 2004, while Blake was ranked 43 in the world he broke his back in an accident on the court. He was running at full pace and hit the net post headfirst. Breaking his spine, he was forced to go through a grueling surgery. Not only was this a setback in his tennis career but his father and role model was also suffering at the same time with stomach cancer. Blake’s father slowly passed away after this. The worst was still to come, shortly after his father's death, Blake contracted Zoster, a rare virus that paralyzed half of his face and threatened to end his already jeopardized tennis career.
The book written with reference to his life after these horrific events, is called
This book descriptively explains the three years that followed his accident and how he persevered through to become one of the best tennis players of all time. Blake quickly recovered from his injury and has peaked back to the athlete he was before he got injured. Just a year after he fell into the net post he was back on court and ended up beating No. 2 ranked Rafael Nadal in four sets. The amount of tournaments that he won after this were not even countable on one hand. His true power and perseverance to play a sport was shown in his recovery from an extremely hard injury. Blake states, ““I think I have found a balance partly due to a different perspective.”
Andre Agassi is among one of the greatest tennis players of all time. He is one of seven men to have achieved a Career Grand Slam (winning all four grand slams of tennis- Wimbledon, the Australian Open, the US Open and the French Open). His accomplishments though have also been mirrored by his setbacks.
Open: An Autobiography
by Andre Agassi describes just this, a memoir of his life on and off the court. It discusses how his father as moody and demanding as well as determined to make him a champion. By the age of twenty-two Agassi had won the first of eight slams and not only achieved fame, but also wealth and honor. His passion out on the court was shown through the shots he hit. But little did people know his anger and resilience off the court. He was often described as being unhappy and confused, unfulfilled by his own great achievements. He talks specifically about the sport that he had come to resent. This is followed by his use of Crystal Meth, a drug which increases It increases alertness, concentration, energy, and in high doses, can induce euphoria, enhance self-esteem and increase libido. Along with his drug use and a failed drug test, he won no titles and his ranking sank to World No. 141 in 1997. Yet he didn’t let this bring him down, realizing his fault he decided he would come back out and fight for every point on the court. Agassi retired from his tennis career in 2006 after suffering from Sciatica caused by two bulging discs in his back and a bone spur that interfered with the nerve. Agassi states after his career ended, “Nothing can substitute for just plain hard work. I had to put in the time to get back. And it was a grind. It meant training and sweating every day. But I was completely committed to working out to prove to myself that I still could do it. “
Agassi is a hero to many, yet he plays the role of the reluctant hero. We can call him a reluctant hero because he played tennis not thinking that he was good enough to be out on the court. He suffered from a lack of confidence in his ability to play. Not only did he battle all odds and face some of the toughest parts of his life, he doubted his ability and proved himself wrong. The reluctant hero is one that doubts, Agassi for years was a doubter till he proved to himself that he could still do it and be out there on the court.
The “Miracle” of the 1980 United States victory over the Soviet Union in the Winter Olympic hockey semi-finals perfectly displays a true and extremely unlikely underdog story on many different levels. It is still known today as one of the greatest American victory against the odds that history has ever known. Books like “The Boys of Winter” have been written about it, and in 2004 the movie “Miracle on Ice” came out as a biographical sports film revealing the entire story behind the players, coach, and team in their road to victory.
On February 22, 1980, twenty players for the United States Olympic ice hockey team, coached by Herb Brooks, took the arena to face the powerhouse USSR team. The Soviets were the Olympic gold medalists in 1964, 1968, 1972 and 1976 and had a reputation of ruthless might. The American team, on the other hand, was made up of primarily amateur athletes who were picked from an open tryout. The team had no professional athletes, and was composed of “Twenty players who were the youngest Olympic hockey team the United States has ever put together, with eighteen of them still in college” (Coffey 18). Little did they know it at the time, but these men were soon to become poster boys for the American Dream.
Herb's Pregame Speech
The Time Period:
In the years before and surrounding this game, the Cold War was raging between the Communist world and the Western world after World War II. Everything was a competition, and for the most part the United States seemed to be losing. This is why the victory was such a symbolic win for America, making the team heroes for their country and a beacon of hope for the future. They helped the common man see that victory is always reachable and maybe closer than it seems, and there is something within each and every one of us that gives us hope for a brighter future.
: [voiceover] Two days later the miracle was made complete. My boys defeated Finland to win the gold medal, coming from behind once again. As I watched them out there, celebrating on the ice, I realized that Patti had been right. It was a lot more than a hockey game, not only for those who watched it, but for those who played in it. I've often been asked in the years since Lake Placid what was the best moment for me. Well, it was here - the sight of 20 young men of such differing backgrounds now standing as one. Young men willing to sacrifice so much of themselves all for an unknown. A few years later, the U.S. began using professional athletes at the Games - Dream Teams. I always found that term ironic because now that we have Dream Teams, we seldom ever get to dream. But on one weekend, as America and the world watched, a group of remarkable young men gave the nation what it needed most - a chance, for one night, not only to dream, but a chance, once again, to believe.
For the people living in this era, it was one of those moments where you remember exactly where you were and exactly who you were with when the victory occurred. The players and coaches instilled pride back into the hearts of the American people when they needed it the most by playing and winning a simple game of ice hockey. The whole country was swept with emotion, and E.M. Smith explained in Sports Illustrated, ““It was an Olympian moment, the kind the creators of the Games must have had in mind, one that said: Here is something that is bigger than any of you.” After the game, Communist Party members went into the locker room of the Soviets and stated, “You guys just made the biggest mistake of your lives…Ten years from now, twenty years, everyone will still remember this game” (245). And they do.
Players Transformed into Heroes:
In The Boys of Winter, Coffey explains, “In a profoundly pessimistic time, they brought hope. In a time of malaise, they brought spunk and spirit. The best part was they didn’t even know they were doing it. They thought they were just trying to win hockey games” (249). After this single game, the players were transformed from ordinary men playing hockey into heroes playing for the pride of their nation. Some heroes are obviously great from birth, while others become heroes as ordinary men thrust into extraordinary circumstances. This team, full of young men with athletic talent and a lot of determination all became heroes as they inspired their nation and reminded everyone that there is always hope for dreams to come true. Like the 1980 Olympic games, other sporting events such as the New England Patriots' victory in the Super Bowl the year after the terrorist attacks of September 11th, and the New Orleans Saints first Super Bowl win shortly after the destruction of Hurricane Katrina also serve as symbols of hope for a brighter future. Athletes and teams inspire thousands of people, therefore asserting their role of modern day heroes.
Although not as popular as football, baseball, or basketball movies, there have still been a few substantial golf films that have been released. The idea of an “underdog” is prevalent in films about golf, due to the sport’s inherent emphasis on respect and etiquette instead of physical prowess. Since golf is also stereotyped as being a rather snobbish game for wealthy, upper-class men, golf films usually deal with the issues of elitism, segregation, and the clash of social classes. These conditions make underdog stories very popular, usually involving a younger, lower-class golfer “beating the odds” and triumphing over adversity.
The Greatest Game Ever Played (2005)
A perfect example of a golf underdog story is
The Greatest Game Ever Played
, a Disney-produced sports film starring Shia LaBeouf. In the film, Shia Labeouf stars as Francis Ouimet, a twenty-year-old boy who, at a young age, took an interest in golf after meeting his idol, British golf legend Harry Vardon. As a child born into a working-class family, the closest Francis gets to playing golf is his caddying job at the local country club. His luck changes one day when one of the men he is caddying for offers to let him play with him. After showing off his impressive golf skills, Francis is invited to participate in a tournament hosted by the country club that he works at. He needs to pay the entrance fee of $50 first, though, and asks his father to lend him the money to do it. His father, however, does not look kindly upon Francis’s preoccupation with the game of golf. Being a working-class immigrant, his father believes that the best thing Francis can do with his life is get a job and bring home an honest wage, instead of meddling in games for wealthier men. He agrees to spot Francis the money to enter the championship on the promise that if Francis does not qualify for the tournament, he give up the game of golf forever, and seek other employment opportunities. After failing to qualify for the tournament, Francis keeps his word and gives up golf to work in a golf store instead. One day, he’s given an opportunity to play in the U.S. Open against his old idol, the legendary Harry Vardon. Francis initially declines out of loyalty to the deal he made with his father, but eventually gives in and agrees to secretly play in the open as an amateur. Francis does well in the opening rounds of the tournament, eventually leading into a three-way tie between himself, Harry Vardon, and Ted Ray, another professional British golfer. This leads to a shoot-out, and on the last hole sinks a birdie putt to win the 1913 U.S. Open.
Is Francis a hero? Yes, several aspects of his story coincide with the monomyth. Francis may seem like a kid born under rather ordinary circumstances, but it can be argued that being born into a poor, working-class family would be extraordinary circumstances for a championship-winning golfer. His “call to adventure” would be to play in the U.S. Open, which he initially refuses due to loyalty to his dad, but he eventually does anyway. Francis faces many adversaries along the way. On the surface level, his competition is the other golfers he is playing against, mainly Harry Vardon and Ted Ray. But, his main adversity he faces in the movie is overcoming the prejudices against his social class, and the expectations and his close-minded father. His father is a man who understands and complies by the rules of social structure in early 1900’s America, and is initially strongly against his son playing golf. But, in the ending scene after Francis wins the Open, his father is there in the cheering crowd, smiling at his son and proud of his achievement. In this way, the father can be seen as a sort of mentor for Francis. Francis’s young and upbeat caddy, Eddie, also serves as an aid, or sidekick, for Francis in his story, and he also shares a romantic moment or two with Sarah, an upper-class girl that takes a liking to him. Finally, Francis’s story also parallels with Harry Vardon’s story, told through flashbacks throughout the film. Like Francis, Vardon was born impoverished, and was treated poorly due to his lower social status in Victorian Britain. Despite of this, he rose to become one of the greatest golfers of all time, and despite his competition against him, he respects and supports Francis, unlike the other upper-class men.
The Legend of Bagger Vance (2000)
Rannulph Junuh, played by Matt Damon in the 2000 film
The Legend of Bagger Vance
, is another unlikely golf hero, but in a different way than Francis Ouimet. Junuh used to be the most promising golfer in Savannah, Georgia, sometime before World War I. During the war, Junuh participated in a dangerous mission, of which he was the only survivor. This experience greatly traumatized him, and he returns to Savannah fifteen years after he originally left. Soon after he returns, his old girlfriend, Adele, proposes an idea to have a grand golf tournament between the two best golfers in the world, Walter Hagen and Bobby Jones in memory of her father that died during the depression. When the people of Savannah want one of their own people to participate in the tournament as well, Junuh reluctantly agrees. He soon realizes that he’s lost his perfect golf swing over the years that he was away, and is about to give up hope when a mysterious man named Bagger Vance enters his life. Bagger promises to fix Junuh’s swing before the tournament, which he does, and Junuh plays in the tournament. Thanks to the sage-like advice that Bagger provides to him throughout the match, Junuh is able to hold his own against Walter Hagen and Bobby Jones and is in the lead going into the final hole. At one point during the 18th hole, however, Junuh accidentally moves his ball while trying to improve his lie, which nobody sees but him. Despite this, Junuh does the honorable thing and reports his accident to the officials, costing him a stroke and his lead. Seeing this as a sign of Junuh finally becoming more mature and responsible, Bagger leaves just as suddenly and mysteriously as he came, much to the confusion of everyone present. Junuh finishes the final hole, ending the game in a three-way tie between all the participants. Adele and Junuh get back together, and the film ends in the present day, where Junuh’s young friend Harvey, now an old man, spots Bagger Vance again while playing golf.
Junuh is more of a reluctant hero than Francis. Unlike Francis that willingly chooses to play in the Open, Junuh is pressured into doing it, despite his traumatic experiences in the war and the “loss” of his swing. The most obvious part of the classic monomyth present in the film is the presence of Bagger Vance as a “supernatural aid” for Junuh. Due to his sudden, mysterious entrance and exit from the film, as well as his ageless-ness shown by his appearance at the end of the film, Bagger Vance can be considered a supernatural character. He also guides Junuh and gives him advice throughout the film and without him, Junuh could not have fulfilled his “quest”. Other elements of the monomyth are present as well. Junuh’s former girlfriend Adele serves his the romantic interest in the film, who he eventually wins back as a result of his experience. Unlike Francis that succeeded against prejudice and parental disapproval, the main adversity that Junuh overcomes is himself. The things he witnessed in the war still haunt him for years afterwards, transforming him from a young prodigy into an alcoholic bum, and by “winning” the tournament and getting his swing back, he overcomes his internal struggles and changes for the better.
The main protagonist of the 1980 movie
is Danny, a teenage caddy at Bushwood Country Club. Danny works to try and raise money to go to college, knowing that his father can’t afford to send him. When an opportunity for a “caddy scholarship” arises, Danny tries to go for the scholarship by getting on the good side of the club’s founder, Judge Smails. After Danny takes the blame for one of Smails’s rage-induced accidents, Smails invites him to play in the caddy tournament for the scholarship, which Danny wins. Unfortunately, Danny’s chances for the scholarship are dashed when the Judge returns home to find Danny in bed with his niece, Lacey. The next day, Smails forgives Danny and says that he can still have a shot at the scholarship. When Smails is challenged to a $20,000 game of golf by Danny’s friend Ty, Danny chooses to caddy for Smails instead of Ty to try to win back the scholarship. A few holes into the competition, Ty’s partner feigns a broken arm, and he chooses Danny to replace him in the game. Danny accepts, despite Smails’s threat that he will lose all hope for the scholarship. Danny sinks the winning putt of the game, thanks to Bushwood’s psychotic greenskeeper, Carl, and wins Smail’s money.
Despite being a slapstick comedy film, there are still common elements between Caddyshack, other golf films, and the monomyth. It's also a good example of many stereotypes associated with the game of golf. Much like Francis Ouimet, Danny works as a caddy for his local country club, and is looked down upon by the stereotypical, overly-snobbish club members because of this. Danny’s main motivation throughout the film is to win the caddy scholarship to go to college, and at times puts this objective over helping out his friends. A good example of this is his choosing of caddying for Smails instead of his friend Ty. Since he is mostly motivated by his own self-interest, it would be easy to classify Danny as an anti-hero, but it can be argued that he is a reluctant hero instead because he eventually drops his selfish goals and becomes a hero. This is evidenced by the final part of the film where Danny decides to play with Ty against Smails, despite losing his scholarship chances in the process. Ty, who Danny usually caddies for, also serves as a mentor for Danny throughout the film, offering him advice and motivating speeches at every turn. Danny has two love interests in the film, his regular girlfriend Maggie and Smails’s niece, Lacey. In contrast with other love interests discussed, Lacey serves as a sort of evil temptress for Danny. She distracts him from his goal by seducing him and because of his involvement with her, he threatens his chances for the scholarship. In the end, Danny emerges a victorious hero. Despite losing the scholarship he ends up winning money for college anyway, and defeats the evil, snobbish Smails.
Baseball is widely known as “The American Pastime.” With such a title, it is inevitable that the certain elite that play the sport become idolized by the American people. These men and women come from diverse social and economical backgrounds and at first glance they may seem incredibly different, but they share one defining characteristic: the love for the game. The dedication put forth by ball players throughout the decades has been inspiring not only to the American public, but citizens nationwide. Several examples outlined below will show how ordinary athletes playing for the love of the game have become heroes to millions.
A League of Their Own
(A League of Their Own Trailer)
A League of Their Own is a film based on a true story about the All American Girls Professional Baseball League which was started up in 1943. At this time, most of the men were off fighting in World War II and so they were obviously unavailable to play baseball. The loss of many of the best players at the time resulted in a drastic decline in interest in baseball in America. In order to maintain baseball in the public eye, a league was started up exclusively for women. The movie follows the course of the inaugural season, specifically telling the story of two sisters who happen to be the best players in the league.
Throughout the first season, the league was plagued by economical woes. People did not want to watch women play baseball, a man’s sport, and so they didn’t come to the games. Clearly this became a problem, as ticket sales are the main source of revenue for a sporting event. When it became clear that the league would have to shut down due to financial deficits before finishing out the year, many of the women (who had quickly grown to love playing the game) began to alter their game play. One entertaining example is that they deviated from traditional baggy baseball pants to wearing skirts, resulting in a sharp increase in the amount of male spectators, specifically those veterans who were returning home from the war after being wounded or discharged or those who were about to ship out.
Many of the women on the teams have husbands away fighting in the war. Naturally, they are in a constant state of worry for the lives of their husbands and so baseball becomes a way of distracting them from that worry. It is important to note as well though, that there were millions of other Americans, men and women, who had loved ones fighting abroad. Those people needed a distraction as much as the women participating in the league. In this way, the women in the league became admired and loved by the American public. When a country was in turmoil, saddened and grieving over the loss of its sons, these women of baseball brought it together and kept it alive.
At first glance it may seem difficult to assess the monomyth for an entire group of people rather than an individual, but it is certainly not impossible. The women in the All American Girls Professional Baseball League banded together to fight a greater evil. They became cultural heroes who battled depression, anxiety, and social and economical pain. They inspired the masses that despite the fact that they were all women, they could play a “man’s sport” just as well, and in many cases, better. Women have struggled throughout history to be on an even playing field with men and the story portrayed in A League of Their Own is an example of one of their greatest triumphs. When they had been counted down and out, they fought back as true heroes always do and succeeded in asserting themselves as not just great women, but great Americans. Truly this is one of the most compelling examples of overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds.
When most people think of baseball, the Negro Leagues, and racism, their minds immediately jump to Jackie Robinson. While he was a hero to many, there is one player that tends to be overlooked. Satchel Paige was born into a very poor family in Mobile, Alabama on July 7, 1906. Obviously, growing up in the south during the early 1900s, he experienced a great deal of racism directed toward him and his family. When he was twelve years old he fell into trouble with the law – he was arrested several times for shoplifting and eventually committed to a juvenile detention center for Negroes until he was eighteen. Normally, this would be considered a very low point in his life, but it turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to him. While he was at the center he was introduced to baseball and was taught the mechanics of pitching. After his release from the center, Paige continued playing baseball for several semi-pro teams. He became the best pitcher in the league and was inevitably brought attention on himself. Because he was black he was not allowed to play for Major League Baseball, rather he began his career in the Negro leagues. When he signed his first contract he was being paid only $250 per month, most of which he would send home to help support his mother. Before too long, he became known by and large as the best pitcher in the Negro leagues with white stars like Bob Feller and Joe DiMaggio touting his skill saying that he was the best pitcher they had ever seen. Satchel Paige spent twenty-one years in the Negro leagues before Jackie Robinson became the first black player in Major League Baseball. One year later, Paige was signed by the Cleveland Indians thus becoming the seventh black person in history to play in the Major Leagues. This point may seem trivial since six other men had helped lay the path before him, but with the story of Satchel Paige, there is another aspect: at the time he became a major leaguer, he was forty two years old – the oldest rookie in the history of baseball. Not only that, but he continued to play for the next seventeen years earning two All Star appearances and one World Series championship. Finally, in 1971 he became the first Negro Leagues player inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Clearly, Satchel Paige lived a unique, fascinating life along with producing an impressive career in a sport that, at the time, didn’t want him. His “defeating the odds” monomyth is relatively straightforward, albeit it has many different aspects. Firstly, he started off in a poor family in a poor area of the country, not to mention the fact that he was a member of a black family in the south. To add on to their financial issues, a source of income was lost when Paige’s father died when Satchel was still young. This directly resulted in Paige resorting to theft in order to help support his family, which ultimately landed him in a juvenile detention center. Instead of giving up and caving in to societal norms, he bettered himself while in the detention center and upon release, never had trouble with the law again. The fact that he was able to learn the game of baseball, and more specifically the art of pitching, while incarcerated is a tribute to his perseverance. That perseverance is exactly what people admired in him throughout his career. In fact his perseverance is what eventually landed him in the Major Leagues. Despite the fact that he was a black man in a white man’s sport, he wanted to play and he wanted to play at the highest level. So despite the fact that he was forty-two years of age – quite old for an athlete – he was willing to push through the rigors of playing professional baseball and play for seventeen more years. As a result of his talent, and other players’ and coaches’ admiration of his drive and talent, he was able to make one last title for himself: the first African American in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Where Jackie Robinson paved the way for blacks to play in the Major Leagues, Satchel Paige paved the way for them to be loved, honored, and respected forever more. His fantastic achievements provide inspiration for not only blacks, but any person who at one point was “down in the dumps.” His heroic life is an incredible example of overcoming adversity on multiple levels, and for that he will be revered by many for years to come.
Ty Cobb is one of the most unique people in baseball history. His story is not a traditional “defeating the odds” tale. He was a middle-class, white male who was born barely two decades after the civil war. When he was nineteen years old and just beginning his baseball career, his mother accidentally shot and killed his father. Initially, and understandably, Cobb fell into an intense state of depression. Instead of letting this depression consume his life, he threw himself into the game of baseball and became one of the greatest of all time. He played harder than anyone, and would do anything to win. For example he sharpened the spikes on his shoes in order to hurt any infielder that was covering the bag when he slid in. Because he was such an angry, dirty player, everyone else in the league quickly came to hate him. Even the fans hated him. But no matter how much he was hated, he was always greatly respected for his work ethic, his passion, and his talent. As a testament to how hated he was, despite the fact that he played baseball for twenty-three years and met thousands of other players along the way, only three former teammates attended his funeral.
It is not immediately clear how Ty Cobb’s monomyth displays characteristics of one who overcame the odds. In fact, it is not even always clear that he is a hero at all, but rather such an unpleasant person might be viewed as a villain. After a careful examination of his story though, it becomes clear that he is baseball’s prime example of an anti-hero who had very real obstacles to overcome throughout his life. Losing his father was the first form of adversity that he had to overcome. Although the death of his father was a terrible part of his life, he used that event as a source of inspiration that helped him throughout his career.
From simple observation, Cobb’s father’s death is the only negative aspect of his life. However, we can all agree that without the love and support of one’s friends and family, life can be quite difficult. Cobb’s surly nature was not conducive to making and maintaining friendships, even with his teammates. This lack of support throughout his career took a great toll on him, and yet he persevered. Even though it was an obstacle brought about by his own faults, it was still one he had to overcome and he did so with poise and excellence. His path clearly was one of hardship and loneliness, something that was accentuated at his funeral, and his anti-hero qualities are quite clear. While he was hated by many, most even, he is still considered one of the greatest baseball players of all time. Even those who hated him emulated him and aspired to be as great as he was. As George Sisler once said “The greatness of Ty Cobb was something that had to be seen, and to see him was to remember him forever.” Truly he will be remembered forever as one of the greatest sports heroes of all time, who overcame both physical and mental obstacles to achieve greatness.
American culture has idolized and admired athletes for their determination and courage. The most widely admired sports heroes have accomplished unthinkable tasks and overcome adversity. While every sports hero does not face the same obstacles as another, it is important to understand a sports hero’s journeys on their road to success. Society tends to be more amazed by those athletes that face adversity and come out as stronger people. The sports heroes that we have discussed are the best of the best, exemplifying all the courage, perseverance, ambition and hard work that can be displayed in modern American sports. They are the heroes that we most want to be like and the heroes that we see that have changed lives.
Football- Melissa Astone
Boxing- Max Harknett
Tennis- Kaylyn Smialek
Ice Hockey-Jordan Scahill
Golf- Brennan Stewart
Baseball- Tony Rizzuto
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Group 2: Heroes in Sports
Good clear thesis & structure: the worship of athletes as heroes
nice introduction to both group members and their topic – clear thesis * ideas
good selection of clips as well
need sturdier connection to clip of Lou Gehrig
as a man who became more than an athlete – slow down and make a clearer connection on this – heroes in sports last long (er?) when they show themselves to be more than exceptional players, but exceptional people
Heroes in baseball (awk transition)
in history – being a barrier-breaker for gender and for race take the time to define these as CULTURAL HEROES
Women in a sport became a symbol for? How is this applied to the monomyth?
(prior to Civil Rights) 42 year old rookie
this is a much stronger connection to your HERO theme than the
League of Their Own
Ty Cobb as
an anti-hero – nice background and life details (good research)
make a clear connection here to the monomyth? No funeral attendees despite his playing record (because he was a mean dude) – compare to Gehrig (good player, beloved)
(1980 Olympic play-offs)
Cold War context needed to be discussed prior to the clip – very important element to this narrative Americans viewed themselves as heroes and underdogs (a defining cultural viewpoint for Americans) and Russians were demonized in our culture – so defeating them in a sports arena had greater significance (symbolism) –
good clear connections - these men became more than players, but heroes to a nation
nice transition to
“Heart doesn’t win football games” - the total commitment to a higher/greater end (which type of hero is not about personal glory but about a larger goal?) make clear connections between heroes who are born great (Gehrig) and those who work for it (Rudy) there are different kinds of heroes – even in the sports world – make sure you are presenting this clearly (good to have clips, but you have to connect them with original ideas/language)
The tale of
clearly follows the hero’s journey (monomyth)
The story of Michael needed a bit more, Rudy a bit less (could have streamlined this language)
are there graphics for Michael (rather than the cover of the book?)
Jason McElwain Autistic Basketball Player
– consider similar narratives that can be pulled from modern news stories:
Cinderella Man – nice concise summary and connections
sports heroes with varied motivations
Rocky- the ultimate underdog tale?
Heroes who have poor backgrounds, crappy jobs, and questionable histories
(did you know Stallone wrote this screenplay in two weeks’ time?)
GREAT slide of connections HWY are they Heroes – although need more appropriate tone & language in them (they “stick to” the monomyth)
Heroes don’t necessarily want to win the prize, but consider themselves winners when they accomplish personal goals (sometimes just surviving is winning)
– stand up straight to deliver your portion of the presentation
good summary of obstacles – but need to emphasize how these made him a hero?
Could have summarized Blake and discussed Agassi, then moved on
– excellent part of the presentation – clear connections to the elements of HEROES – cultural heroes who overcome the big obstacles that were (are?) inherent in being good at this elitist sport)
magical elements included – clear connection to the traditional monomyth
Caddyshack – film highlights the stereotypes of golf – Noonan as an anti-hero? (smoke pot, tries to win a scholarship by using “diplomatic” networks rather than faith in his playing ability) I like this addition but better in the wiki than in the presentation?
Greatest game – good example consider clip rather than Caddyshack addition?
Less summary and more connection
Your group didn’t really consider putting all of your research together in a cohesive way – smashed all of each person’s contributions in which resulted in a Loooooong presentation (longest of the day, in fact!) Since there were so many members, one each would have been the best path to take.
PPT – film clips integrated and working (yay!)
some of the slides were too crowded (too many word) you want your audience to listen rather than read
Also – TOO MUCH – the challenge here is to take the “best bits” of the wiki and put them into a presentation not ALL of the wiki elements…
ONE or TWO (tops) of each sport would have been plenty to fulfill the presentation time!
Body language – very nice overall - don’t use the podium as a crutch
Take hands out of pockets
Uh/um – awful lots of these
Some Class Notes:
video clip used to illustrate points – hockey clip was best
interesting topic – and they seemed interested in it too
I thought the presentation was put together well and inspirational
don’t lean on the podium while you speak – this makes you look lazy & sloppy
Miracle speech was cool but she took too long to explain how it connected to the main idea of the overall presentation
good speakers, SLOW pace
too long/way too long – X8
nice relatable topic – interesting
could have been more clear with the underdog connections
Miracle speech was cool/best/good example – X6
everyone loves an underdog!
opening speaker needed to be more concise
first speaker has too much responsibility (?)
groups members need to relax (smile) a little
very prepared, overall good body language
Rudy clip was cool/best – X2
boxing section very well done – very energetic
Golf section – enthusiastic, knowledgeable, really really well done
both videos supported perfectly the unspirational elements of sports heroes
tennis segment was weakest – too much Unimportant detail – too many examples
All seemed very knowledgeable and prepared
each seemed interested in the other members while they spoke – very ncie
Lou Gherig speech was best/best connection – X4
speakers seemed comfortable (maybe TOO – leaning on the podium)
I liked the Cinderella Man connection
the first person spoke for 21 minutes – that’s the whole original time slot dude!
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