Houston Sports Movies: The Top Five

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Houston likes to fancy itself a sports town, and we have a few championships to prove it. The Rockets won back-to-back NBA titles in '94-'95, the Comets four-peated in '97-'00, while the Dynamo took the MLS Cup in '06-'07 (and lest we forget, the Aeros won in '99 and '03, albeit in different leagues each time). Not too shabby for a city that has to shield its other two major league franchises in giant air-conditioned stadiums so they don't get too sweaty.

Unfortunately, we're not much of a sports movie town. Aside from the aforementioned Tin Cup, the list of prominent flicks depicting Houston as an...athletics supporter is depressingly brief.

5. Night Game (1989)

So many questions are raised by the prospect of a serial killer killing hot blondes in Galveston every time a certain Astros pitcher wins a home game. For starters, wouldn't Art Howe just bench the guy during their Dome appearances, or at least pull him before the start was official? And if you were retired ballplayer/current detective/not the guy from Growing Pains Mike Seaver (Roy Scheider), would you really let your hot blonde girlfriend wander around the Seawall when the Astros had a home series?

4. Murder at the World Series (1977)

Somebody in Hollywood has it in for the Astros, for what other reason could explain basing two movies (okay, one of them was a TV movie) on the idea of deranged whack jobs terrorizing Houston baseball fans? In this, Bruce "Tron" Boxleitner plays a wannabe ball player who takes out his anger over thwarted big league dreams on unsuspecting women, one of whom happens to be played by Tamara "Cleopatra Jones" Dobson.

Aaand that's all I could find out about this long-forgotten gem. But to help stoke your murderous urges, I'm including this pic of the Mets celebrating following their win in Game 6 of the 1986 NLCS:

3. Rollerball (1975)

In the future, the ideal athlete won't resemble Terrell Owens or Michael Phelps but rather...Houston rollerball star James Caan?

Norman Jewison's vision of a future in which individuality and national identity have given way to corporate government and extreme sports doesn't sound all that far-fetched, and seeing Caan square off against Jonathan Houseman is nearly as gratifying as seeing those mountains in the SE Texas background. Rollerball was filmed in Bavaria and set in Houston, which leads me to believe the location scout was one silver-tongued mofo.

2. Friday Night Lights (2004)

The venerable Astrodome is the beneficiary of artistic license here, since Odessa Permian played Dallas Carter (in what was actually a semifinal game) at UT's Memorial Stadium in 1988 and not in the Dome as depicted in the film. Director Peter Berg (cousin to the book's author H.G. Bissinger) can perhaps be forgiven for such oversight, and for ignoring league and playoff structure (Permian didn't play Dallas Jesuit in the playoffs) because after all, it isn't like anyone takes high school football seriously in Texas.

1. The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training (1977)

Remember pre-strike baseball? When crowds for MLB games were huge and Hollywood would be happy to stock a movie with cameos by the likes of Enos Cabell, César Cedeño, and Bob Watson? If so, you're pretty damn old.

The good news is, this sequel featured the above cameos, but also the return of Tanner and Kelly Leak, and the famed "Let them play" finale took place in our beloved Astrodome. The bad news is, no Walter Matthau, no Tatum O'Neal, the original Engelberg lost so much weight they had to recast the role, and the only clip I could find of that famous scene doesn't have any sound. Uh, enjoy?

-- Pete Vonder Haar

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