Best sports movies: 'Hoosiers' remains a must-see classic

Gene Hackman, as head coach Norman Dale, coaches the fictional Hickory High Huskers in the 1952 Indiana state championsh
Gene Hackman, as head coach Norman Dale, coaches the fictional Hickory High Huskers in the 1952 Indiana state championship game at Hinkle Fieldhouse on the Butler University campus in Indianapolis. Released in 1986, “Hoosiers” has produced countless memories for hoops-loving movie fans. (Associated Press)

Editor’s note: The Gazette sports staff has compiled lists of its top 15 favorite sports movies. Each day, a different staffer will share some insight into one of their favorites. Some of them are classics, watched and re-watched time and time again. But for a few, maybe we’ll be able to convince some of you to check it out for the very first time.

A birthday ago, maybe two, I received a book in the mail from my college roommate:

“The Making of Hoosiers.”

We were freshmen at Drake in February 1987 and spent a rainy Friday night at a Des Moines movie theater. We were there when Norman Dale drove into town — and was nearly driven out by the impatient townies of fictional Hickory, Ind.

We were there when Shooter Flatch was hired as an assistant coach, fell off the wagon and was hospitalized in an effort to dry him out.

We were there when Dale and Myra Fleener embraced in an awkward make-out session, when Jimmy Chitwood saved Dale’s job in a town meeting at the church and when Chitwood went off for about 32 points in the Huskers’ miraculous state-championship win over mighty South Bend Central.

Some stuff the book reveals:

• Maris Valainis (Jimmy) tried out for his real-life high-school team as a freshman, sophomore and junior, and never made the cut. He was discovered as a college student playing pickup ball at IUPUI.

• The townspeople found Gene Hackman (Dale) “common” and “friendly,” and Dennis Hopper (Shooter) was popular with the locals. But Barbara Hershey (Myra) “spent much of her time in her RV, preferring not to sign autographs and was aloof.”

• Many of the deleted scenes depict the developing relationship between Norman and Myra. Hershey “hates me and (producer) Angelo (Pizzo),” director David Anspaugh said.


• Owners of cars and trucks from 1951 or before earned $50 per day for use of them. All they had to do was be in good shape and in running order.

• Alternative titles for the movie in other countries include: “Best Shot” in Hungary, Bulgaria, England and Sweden; “Decisive Moments” in Brazil; “Anger to Win” in Portugal; and “Players From Indiana” in the Czech Republic, among others.

The 99-year-old “Hoosiers Gym,” actually in Knightstown, Ind., has become a tourist attraction, with high-school teams playing there regularly throughout the season. It probably would never happen because the court is smaller than regulation size, but wouldn’t a college tournament there instead of Cancun or Nassau be fun?

My Top 15 sports movies

1. Hoosiers

2. Miracle

3. A League Of Their Own

4. Remember The Titans

5. Rocky

6. For Love Of The Game

7. Field Of Dreams

8. McFarland USA

9. Tin Cup

10. Vision Quest

11. Major League

12. Bull Durham

13. The Natural

14. Rocky IV

15. Caddyshack

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