NEW ORLEANS – Picked up a magazine a few days ago and saw where it had christened "The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters" as the top sports movie of 2007.
I couldn't agree more.
If you missed it in theaters, the documentary follows a Seattle family man Steve Wiebe in his quest to break the all-time high score in the '80s arcade game "Donkey Kong." Sounds dull and corny, I know. But give it a chance.
The flick has received nothing but glowing reviews – and I’ve even heard reports of audiences standing and applauding as the credits roll.
I bring all of this up because King of Kong's greatness led to an interesting discussion the other night at Bailey's First and 10 Sports Bar, one of my favorite Dallas watering holes. For three hours, a group of us talked non-stop about sports movies, the actors and actresses that make them great and the moments that etch a place in our memory.
By the end of the night we'd comprised the nominee list for the First Annual Sports Movie Awards, an event the Academy of Arts and Sciences will surely adapt after perusing the lists that Jen, Todd, Eric, Brandi, Justin, Shawna and I scribbled on a napkin from the bar.
I realize this list is somewhat silly and light-hearted in spots, and that some classics (Raging Bull, Tin Cup, Slap Shot, Field of Dreams, etc.) aren't represented. But so what? This is our list. We'd love to see yours.
Wilford Brimley, The Natural – Pop Fisher had some mad tobacco-spittin' skills.
Walter Matthau, Bad News Bears – Cursed incessantly, taught a kid to throw a curveball, drank during games and cleaned pools out of a Cadillac. Greatness.
Goldie Hawn, Wildcats – Will daughter Kate Hudson stalk the sidelines in Wildcats II?
Pat Morita, The Karate Kid – Was I the only one itchin' for a pre-card fight between Mr. Miyagi and Cobra Kai Sensei Jon Kreese?
Dennis Hopper, Hoosiers – Before he entered rehab, Shooter took 'em home.
BEST SYMPATHETIC FIGURE
Derek Luke, Friday Night Lights – Couldn't help but tear up when Boobie Miles cleaned out his locker and then broke down in his uncle's car.
D.B. Sweeney, Eight Men Out – Poor Shoeless Joe couldn’t even write his own name – unless you count 'X'.
Michael Madsen, The Natural – First he lost his girl to an overage rookie. Then Bump Bailey died after crashing through the outfield wall. Poor guy.
Hilary Swank, Million Dollar Baby – I wanted to hug Maggie Fitzgerald, but she'd have probably socked me in the face.
Jake "The Snake" Roberts, Beyond the Mat – Drug addict and alcoholic wrestler delivered a candid quote after greeting a teenage fan in North Platte, Nebraska: "She was such a kind little thing. She's going to live here for the rest of her life, probably, and have seven kids by seven husbands and wind up being a lady truck driver who cross-dresses. But she'll always remember the night she met Jake the Snake"
Bill Murray, Kingpin – Hard not to root for Ernie McCracken in the 1979 Odor-Eaters Championship.
The Gopher, Caddyshack – I smell varmint poon-tang.
Craig T. Nelson – All the Right Moves – Man, capital "J" for jerk.
Mr. T, Rocky III – I pity the fool who doesn't vote for Clubber Lang.
Rob Garrison, Karate Kid – Made audiences' skin crawl when delivering his famous quote: "Put him in a body bag, Johnny!"
Danny Noonan, Caddyshack – Get Michael O'Keefe a Fresca for sticking it to Dr. Beeper and Judge Smails!
Meat, Porky's – No one could set a pick like the pride of Angel Beach High.
Marla Hooch, A League of Their Own – "Megan Cavanagh: What a hitter!"
Savoy Special, The Natural – Wonder Boy wasn't mourned for long.
Finch, Wildcats – Who'd have thought Tab Thacker – a 447-pound lineman/gambler/scholar – would've keyed the city championship victory?
MOST MEMORABLE PLAY/MOMENT
Robin Williams' Catch, The Best of Times – Replays show he indeed had possession.
Rudy's Sack, Rudy – Some parts of the movie were embellished – but not this one.
Lamar's Javelin Throw, Revenge of the Nerds – Wormser deserves all the credit.
Radio's Touchdown Run, Radio – There are plenty of better movies, but few better moments.
Roy Hobbs' Home Run, The Natural – The thunder and the blood on the jersey made it even more dramatic – but he forgot to call 'bank' – I mean 'lights'.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Billy Barou, Caddyshack – I know – it's a golf club. But 'Ooohhh Billy, Billy, Billy!'
Donald Gibb, Revenge of the Nerds – The Ogre may still be urinating.
Billy Mitchell, King of Kong – Nominated solely because of his mullet.
Dennis Haysbert, Major League – Jobu got the cigars and rum – but will Cerrano get the Oscar?
Tim McGraw, Friday Night Lights – Country singer was magnificent in his role as drunken, over-bearing father.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Cindy Morgan, Caddyshack – Nice of Lacey Underall to join us from dreary old Manhattan.
Hayden Panettiere, Remember the Titans – As young Sheryl Yoast, it was easy to tell that she'd become a star.
Uma Thurman, Johnny Be Good – Nice to see Uma thrive in a non-artsy-fartsy role.
Ali Larter, Varsity Blues – Whipped cream. God bless her.
Jackie Earle Haley, Bad News Bears – Oops. Wrong category. With that hair, I thought Kelly Leak was a girl.
Gene Hackman, Hoosiers – AAU coaches could learn a lot from Norman Dale.
Dennis Quaid, Everybody's All-American – There are a lot of Grey Ghosts out there. Just look at the Kansas City Chiefs.
Tommy Lee Jones, Cobb – Star of one of the more underrated sports flicks ever.
Kevin Costner, Bull Durham – Even in the minors, Crash could've done better than Susan Sarandon.
Burt Reynolds, The Longest Yard – Best prison yard quarterback of the pre-Vick era.
Cameron Diaz, Any Given Sunday – Loved her Type-A personality!
Kirsten Dunst, Wimbledon – Aced her role as Lizzie Bradbury in this underrated flick.
Elisabeth Shue, Karate Kid – Way too hot for Daniel-son.
Kate Bosworth, Blue Crush – Those abs.
Lori Petty, A League of Their Own – Forget Dottie. Kit Keller stole my heart.
Hoosiers – No matter how many times you see it, it never – ever – gets old.
Friday Night Lights – Best sports book in history – and the movie ain't bad, either.
Remember the Titans – Powerful, powerful stuff.
Caddyshack – The old "Baby-Ruth-in-the-Pool" trick remains a great high school prank.
The Natural – Still gives me chills.
The Replacements – Keanu Reeves as an athlete. Riigghht.
Rocky V – Can't remember much about this one – because I walked out halfway through.
The Fan – Plot is too far-fetched to take seriously.
Side Out – What's Ponyboy Curtis doing on the beach?
Caddyshack II – His highness, Chevy Chase, should've followed Rodney Dangerfield and Bill Murray and jumped off the Flying Wasp.
*Did Carl Spackler get the shaft? Was Ivan Drago a better bad guy than Mr. T? Field of Dreams or The Natural? We've got no problem if you disagree with our list – as long as you let us see yours. Feel free to offer suggestions of your own.
Friday Night Lights – The best show on television – along with "The Girls Next Door" – returned Jan. 4 after a month-long hiatus.
Tony Temple – Missouri's senior tailback rushed for a Cotton Bowl record 281 yards against Arkansas – but it was likely his last game. Temple played in one contest as a true freshman and was injured. Because it happened in week eight, Temple wasn't granted a redshirt, meaning the season will probably count against his eligibility. He's appealed for an extra year. The NCAA should do the right thing here and grant it.
"Brody: The Triumph and Tragedy of Wrestling's Rebel" – Biography of controversial grappler Bruiser Brody is a must-read for any old-school wrestling fan. Larry Matysik and Barbara Goodish's book includes an excellent foreward by Yahoo's own Dave Meltzer.
Washington State and Vanderbilt – Still wondering just how good the Cougs and Commodores really are but, hey, they're taking care of business.
June Jones – Wait will have been worth it if SMU hires Hawaii's coach.
Doc Sadler – With little talent and even less depth, the Nebraska coach is proving to be one of the best in the country. The Cornhuskers are 11-2.
Oregon not in the national title game – Lots of talent on Bourbon Street – but still not as impressive as the Ducks' cheerleading squad.
Elvis – Not the singer – the merciless blackjack dealer at the Luxor who literally hit six 21s in a row. No exaggeration.
Bobby Frasor (North Carolina) and Mike Cook (Pittsburgh) – Hard not to feel for guys whose seasons end with torn ACLs.
Lynne Spears – Anyone else think Mom may be the root of the problems?
People who lean their seats back on airplanes – A selfish and inconsiderate thing to do on any flight.
Bob Stoops, Oklahoma football coach – Still think he's one of the best in the business, but he's now been out-coached in two straight postseason games. And his on-sides kick call against West Virginia was the dumbest decision of the entire bowl season.
Spicy Fritos – Usually I like the hot stuff but, with this brand, I think I'll stick to chili-cheese.
One week after interviewing Playboy model Amber Campisi, the King of the Road hit blackjack again this week when he caught up with 2005 "Survivor" winner Danni Boatwright a few days before Kansas played Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl.
Boatwright has always loved the Jayhawks' basketball squad – but now she's a football nut, too.
"I caught the fever this year," said Boatwright, who grew up in nearby Tonganoxie, Kan. "It's unbelievable what they've accomplished. I'm so excited to come down for the Orange Bowl. I'll be painting my face and acting like a crazy person."
Also the 1996 Miss USA runner-up, Boatwright was gracious enough to answer a handful of questions during a 16-minute interview last week.
KOTR: Why are you such a big Kansas fan?
Danni: It started when I was six or seven. My whole family went there, and I went there until I got a modeling contract and moved to Italy for three years. Whenever we would lose a basketball game, I'd lock myself in my room and cry. My brother couldn't get me to come out of my room. One time he even baked some brownies to try to (lure) me out. I was so depressed. Luckily we don't lose very often.
KOTR: You're referring to basketball, but this year's football team went 11-1.
Danni: I know, and I'm so fired up about it. My husband, (Chiefs offensive lineman Casey Wiegmann), went to Iowa and another one of my friends went to Nebraska. I told them, 'Who would've ever thought that KU would've been the one in the Orange Bowl while the other two sat at home?'
KOTR: Speaking of Casey, the two of you welcomed a son, Bo, in October. How has motherhood been?
Danni: I love it. It's the coolest thing ever. I looked at labor as a challenge, just like "Survivor." I was like, "Just suck it up and make it through this." Being a mom has been awesome. It changes your life so much. It's the coolest thing to look at Bo and see him smiling at me. (pause) One person I'm disappointed in is Coach (Bill) Self at Kansas. The University of Iowa sent Bo an official recruiting letter. But I haven't gotten a letter from Coach Self yet about basketball. I know Casey is big, white and square, and I don't jump too well. But you never know.
KOTR: I know you're an avid runner who's competed in marathons. Are you beginning to get back into your exercise routine?
Danni: Yes. Hopefully I'll be running for the rest of my life. I try to get in about six miles a day. Obviously, if I'm training for a marathon, I'll increase that quite a bit. Some days I'll do sprint work. Everyday I'm out there doing something. I will say that I'm the worst when it comes to cold weather. If it's too cold I'm on the treadmill, or I'll go and run around the basketball court. I also play in a basketball league.
KOTR: A basketball league? Are you any good?
We Danni: No, I'm terrible. I do play pretty good defense, but that's just because I'm ornery. My shot is terrible. I try not to shoot. I try to create opportunities for our offensive threats. I get some serious assists, let's put it that way.
KOTR: What prompted you to try out for "Survivor?"
Danni: I'm such a fan of the show. I started to think, 'You know, I might do OK at this.' So I just decided to audition to see what would happen. The rest is history. I got a call from CBS, flew out to LA and got picked for the show.
KOTR: Tell me about the audition tape you sent to the network.
Danni: I'm a big fan of John Wayne, and I have a gun collection. In the videotape I was playing basketball with my brothers and then we went into the house. My nickname is "Redneck Barbie." I showed them all of my John Wayne posters and my gun collection, with my Smith & Wesson and my nine-millimeter glock. I think they were surprised that I was like that.
KOTR: How grueling was the time you spent in Guatemala for "Survivor?"
Danni: It was absolutely horrible. It's worse than it looks on TV. I had no idea what I was getting into. I've never been so hungry in my entire life. It's the worst feeling ever, because we're so spoiled here. I couldn't wait to get home to Kansas City barbeque. I don't ever want to experience that again. I lost over 30 pounds in 39 days. I was 98 pounds when I came back – and I'm 5-foot-10. That's pretty skinny in Kansas, but I guess it's perfect for a runway in New York (laughing).
KOTR: What kept you going during that tough, six-week stretch?
Danni: I was runner-up in Miss USA and runner-up in Miss Teen USA. I was not going to be runner-up again. I was bound and determined to win. Plus, I love my family so much. We're so close. I kept thinking about how proud they'd be. I also wanted to represent my hometown and my home state. I love where I'm from. It was all such a blessing. The Lord just opened up doors in that game and I walked through them. That's what made it happen.
KOTR: Describe the night you arrived home.
Danni: I went home and my parents had bought barbeque from all my favorite places. Daniel's barbeque in Tonganoxie, Arthur Bryant's in Kansas City and French fries from Oklahoma Joe's. I used to start drooling when I thought about them in the jungle.
KOTR: You were awarded $1 million for winning "Survivor." Any lavish purchases?
Danni: I bought my dog, Hondo, a new hip. He had a hip replacement. He's Rhodesian Ridgeback, and he thinks he's Super Dog now. The only problem was that I went to K-State to have the hip replacement. The vet gave me the option of K-State or Missouri. So you know I didn't have to think twice about that. There was no way my dog was going to Missouri. They'd have found some way to mess it up.
A few weeks ago my editor called and asked which BCS game I'd like to cover. The Orange Bowl was the easy choice – not because I had a particular interest in the Virginia Tech-Kansas matchup. I just wanted to go to Big Pink.
Located a few hundred yards from the sand on South Beach, Big Pink has always been one of my favorite places to grub. Last summer I actually stopped in three times during a 36-hour span. There's a little something for everyone at Big Pink, but I don't see how anyone couldn't love their homemade potato chips and hand-cut fries.
I'm not a breakfast person, but the missus said The Big Pink Breakfast Burrito – stuffed with bacon, avocado, jack cheese and tomato – is one of the best meals she's ever had. Five eggs are used in each Big Pink's omelet, although I'd suggest you steer clear of the one filled with BBQ pulled pork.
The Cobb salad is delicious – and ginormous. That pretty much explains everything on Big Pink's menu, which has a "War and Peace" feel in terms of length.
Wood-fired pizzas, fried egg sandwiches, meatloaf, State Fair corn dogs and chicken fingers that my buddies swear by – it's tough to have a bad experience at Big Pink, which is open until midnight on weekdays and 5:30 a.m. on weekends. There's also a fully-stocked, stainless steel bar with a few plasmas to watch the Hurricanes, Gators and Seminoles. Big Pink doesn't rank high on my wing list. Otherwise this place is the total package. Hell, I may even splurge for a T-shirt. As long as it's not, you know … pink.
If you read last week's inaugural "King of the Road" column, you know that one of my main objectives in life is to find a batch of wings better than the ones served at The Watering Hole (Lincoln, Neb.) and The Peanut (Kansas City).
The Lazy Dog in Boulder, Colo., has yet to dethrone my two favorites – but it's beginning to come close. The Lazy Dog's wings come in 14 different flavors. The classic buffalo is always a safe choice but, in my four trips there, I've also sampled Southern barbeque, Cajun creole and, my personal favorite, chili lime.
The best part about the Lazy Dog is that – unlike some chain restaurants – their wings are big, filling and always fresh and hot. You never get that one wing that's the size of your pinky finger from the knuckle up. Trust me: You won't leave feeling ripped off after eating a dozen of these bad boys for $8.95.
I'll also say that I haven't visited many sports bars that have a better TV setup for game-watching. My only complaint is that most of their tubes always seemed to be tuned into hockey. Then again, what else are they supposed to show? Colorado hoops? I actually think the Lazy Dog attracts more patrons than the Coors Events Center.
Bottom Line: Every one of my trips to Boulder includes at least one visit to The Lazy Dog. If you're a wing fan, yours should, too.
Big Red – Along with tasting great, the soda cures a New Year's Day hangover.
Egg Rolls at Jack in the Box – Love everything there but the hamburgers.
Whataburger – Would someone please start a franchise in Kansas City?
Balance Bars – Great post work-out snack, especially the ones with granola.
Curly Fries – A delicacy when dipped in Arby's sauce.
Usually this space will be reserved for a short Q-and-A with a member of the media or someone with some juicy "behind-the-scenes" stories about college athletics. But this week I'm being lazy – and I think you'll be glad.
Instead of interviewing South Florida Sun-Sentinel reporter Shandel Richardson, I'm simply re-running excerpts from one of his recent blogs. Just a few months after becoming the University of Miami beat writer, Shandel was thrust into a difficult situation when he was asked to cover the murder of former Hurricanes star Sean Taylor.
Shandel's blog is an excellent portrayal of what it's like to be on the other side of a difficult story. Shandel, by the way, is the son of longtime St. Paul Pioneer Press scribe Ray Richardson and, in my opinion, one of the more underrated talents in the business. Enjoy:
"On Monday, I realized the fun and games of being a sportswriter end when death is involved. After a loved one is gunned down, the last thing a family member wants to see is a tape recorder or microphone in their face asking, 'How does it feel?' I sat on a bench outside the hospital and two of Taylor's family members sat beside me. They glanced over at the many television trucks, and one asked me, almost in tears, 'Whey can't they just leave us alone?'
"She didn't notice my tape recorder and notepad on the other side. I didn't have the heart to tell her I was one of 'them.'
"The mood improved when Taylor's family thought he would pull through. He moved his hand. The family could relax. I spoke to his dad for about 10 minutes that night and he seemed so relieved. He showed me all the missed calls on his cell phone. A few hours later, his 24-year-old son was dead.
"The next day, the day Taylor died, was spent camping outside Taylor's house. You could tell I was a rookie at this. All the other (reporters) brought chairs, coolers, water and lunch. I had nothing. I ended up filing my story at a McDonald's in Florida City. It was the only place I could find an electrical outlet.
"The police tape and satellite trucks caused traffic to move slowly by Taylor's house. Of course, drivers couldn't resist taking shots at the media for being there. "Go home," one said. "Get a life," said another. I bet these are the same people who got home and turned on the TV to find out what was going on.
"It's a tie for the saddest moment of the week. I (initially) thought it was when Taylor's dad told us he had just finished purchasing the suit his son was going to be buried in. He said, 'You always want to outlive your kids, but …"
"Then came the funeral, when Taylor's 18-month-old daughter woke up. She began playing in front of the casket, running back and forth. No one stopped her. They just let her go. She had no idea she would never know her father."