by Judson Cade Pedigo
I’ve never been much of a sports guy. It’s just not for me. I’ve always leaned more towards the stage and screen. I once said that “The Oscars are my Super Bowl.” (Everyone’s entitled to give me one good punch in the nose for saying that out loud.) My indifference to sports extends to movies as well. Necessary Roughness, Major League, Field of Dreams – all movies I’ve never seen. I did watch Varsity Blues once and walked out of the theater thinking that I had just seen the greatest American film ever (sorry John Ford). If I liked it so much, why am not I a fan? By the time it was over I felt like I had just finished playing a game, all out of breath and sweaty. See, a sports movie relies on emulating a sports game and everything from the lights, camera, action, are all working towards heightening the tension of it if the underdog team wins or not (Spoiler Alert: They win). It’s cinematic manipulation at its finest. The only filmmaker I’ll let play with my emotions is the master, John Hughes, because “when you get old, your heart dies” (gets me every time). No, I’ve never really cared much for sports movies and it probably has a lot to do with the fact that I’ve never been any good at sports. I tried football briefly in high school. Our team was the Pirates, our colors were purple and gold. We had corresponding teams for each color. I made the White Team. White’s not even a school color. I get it, Coach. I get it. Well played, old man. So due to a lack of interest and understanding of how the games are played, sports flicks aren’t my cup of tea. That is except for one that I consider to be the greatest sports movie ever. That movie is Point Break (1991). Sure, it’s not a traditional sports movie per se but it represents a time when sports started getting eXtreme (the X is capitalized to let you know how eXtreme it is)! For me, Point Break at its core represents the values of more traditional games colliding headfirst with a new generation of sports like surfing, sky diving, and robbing banks. If you don’t buy that then it’s just a damn fine piece of entertainment. Why settle for a movie about one boring old sport when you can watch a movie about ALL sports! Here are a few reasons why Point Break holds the title for greatest cinematic sports expression of all time.
The Buse is Loose:
Sure, it may seem that Gary Busey’s character Pappas is just a grizzled, washed out FBI agent but he’s more than that. He’s more of a coach to young upstart Johnny Utah. More of a life coach really but hey, a coach is a coach even if he doesn’t carry a whistle. You see, Pappas has been around and he knows the ins and outs of the game, the zigs and zags, the shots and the puts. He’s been there and he’d be out chasing the Ex-Presidents himself if he didn’t have that bum knee, or cracked skeleton, or whatever it is that old athletes get. He knows the score and if he can’t be on the field, he’s going to be calling the shots from the sidelines. You might pick up a thing or two yourself if you stop and listen. I learned everything I need to know about going undercover as a surfer to infiltrate a group of eXtreme sports bank robbers following the waves and the cash. With Pappas, when he tells you to get him two chili cheese dogs for breakfast during a stakeout, you should probably get him three. He’s also a fan of Ziggy comics which ranks him pretty high in my book. Also, thanks to Busey, for the last twenty years I always yell “Two bricks, coming up!” before haphazardly jumping into a pool. Thanks coach! Touchdown Busey!
Beach Football Bingo:
Keanu’s Johnny Utah is an ex-football player which explains why he’s always quick to get in a game of grab ass with the other guys. I guess stick with what you know but if I was supposed to be undercover as a cool dude surfer I wouldn’t keep trying to show off my football skills. I mean, it always turns into an impromptu game of shirts vs. skins whenever this guy is around. Anywho, they work a game of football into a movie about surfing and skydiving and its way better than any football movie I’ve ever seen. They spare us the usual clichés and instead boil the game down to its bare essentials, a bunch of shirtless dudes on the beach tossing around the ol’ pigskin. Take that Top Gun! This is also the only football mini movie that features a touchdown victory dance by Lori Petty. The game ends when Swayze makes a break for it and Keanu follows in hot pursuit. Pretty much half the movie is about these two dudes chasing each other. They really just need to kiss and get it over with. Anyways, Keanu catches him (because Johnny Utah always gets his man) and drops Swayze like he’s had the time of his life to make the tackle. Touchdown Keanu!
50 (Back) Yard Dash:
Swayze’s free spirit Bodhi is constantly challenging the by the book attitude of Utah so you knew a fight was eventually coming. Towards the end of the movie Bodhi must evade capture from a determined Utah and the chase spans the freeway, people’s living rooms, and at least fifty backyards. I guarantee that this sequence trumps any filmed for an actual “sports” movie where a player makes a break for the finish, yard, or goal line. Not only does Utah have to keep an eye on his guy (because Johnny Utah always gets his man) he has to tackle his way through dining room tables, sliding glass doors and even dogs! I’d watch more football if they had to run the duplex gauntlet. I don’t remember seeing anything like that in “Rudy!” Lookout! Bodhi is at the 30, the 20, the 10…wait! What’s that? Utah has just pulled a gun into play!!! One shot could end Bodhi’s line drive pretty quick! Wait a minute…looks like Utah is down! That trick knee is acting up again. Keep the change! Bodhi is checking to see if Utah is okay. This could seriously cost him some yardage and getting his face blown off! Utah is lining up the shot, he almost has him…but what’s this?!? Bodhi is flashing him those sad Swayze eyes through his Reagan mask! This move has worked for him in the past against such tough opponents as Jennifer Grey and Demi Moore but will it work here? YES! Utah is yelling and firing in the air, he just can’t do it! Touchdown Swayze!
Lori Petty is in it so that makes it way better than any non-Lori Petty movie out there. Touchdown Petty!
Sky High Dive:
Any good sports movie is going to inspire the audience and this is the one that inspired most guys my age to want to jump out of planes. Now there are some naysayers out there that would hesitate to call skydiving a sport. I’m here to tell you that those people have never done it. I talked my parents into letting me go for a dive for my eighteenth birthday based purely on my love for Point Break. I was totally ready to jump out of that plane on a 90-second freefall to catch up with the instructor and start yelling at him to “pull the cord!!!” It was going to be awesome. I soon found out that they don’t allow eighteen year-old kids to jump out of planes all willy nilly. Insurance and all that. Nope, they strap you to your “sky guide” and call it a tandem jump. Not quite as cool as in the movies. Can you imagine if Keanu and Swayze spent half the movie strapped to each other? “You’re about to jump out of a perfectly good airplane Johnny. Wait, put that chute down. Safety first! I’m going to buckle you in to the front of my harness. We like to call it a ‘Sky Hug!’” The point is even being strapped to a seasoned pro and going into a freefall wasn’t easy. If you get winded then it counts as a sport so skydiving must be the sportiest sport of all because by the time we landed I was nauseous, dizzy, and could barely breathe. Better leave it to the professionals like Swayze and Reeves. Touchdown Keanu and Patrick!
In case you thought I forgot, this movie has surfing, like a lot of it. In fact, it has some of the more beautifully shot surf sequences ever committed to celluloid. Since the only other surfing movie I’ve really watched is “Surf Nazis Must Die” that wasn’t that hard to do. If California Games on the Apple II taught me anything it’s that surfing is a sport and a hard one to play on a keyboard. While there’s no actual competition in this movie in the traditional sense, these guys are actively competing for each other’s affections. At the end of the day that’s the only competition worth competing in, the game of friendship, and Johnny Utah Always gets his man! Touchdown Point Break!