Sports owns a special slice of pop culture fame

Jerry Greene


5:17 PM EDT, July 6, 2013


Here is a summer question for you while waiting for your first mock fantasy football draft: Is sports a significant part of pop culture in the United States?

Before you snort and say "Of course it is!" consider that sports barely gets measured when anyone ranks other forms of pop culture.

The July 5 edition of "Entertainment Weekly" is a delicious edition of lists, including the top 100 American movies, TV shows, musical albums and plays. The list was created by the magazine's staff, so this is their collective opinion. And sports is barely mentioned at all.

(Spoiler: I will defend sports in a moment but let's hear from the prosecution first.)

Movies: No "Hoosiers," no "Raging Bull," no "Rocky," almost no nothing about sports. The one exception is No. 84 and you may have never heard of it: "Olympia," a 1938 documentary about the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin. In a separate "Top 10 Documentaries," "Olympia" is No. 2 and "Hoop Dreams" is No. 5. That's it.

TV shows: Nada. Truthfully, what drama or comedy about sports would you put it there? I can make a slight case for "Sports Night," and a strong case for "The Odd Couple" if you think it can be called a show about sports (which it probably can't unless you think "The Big Bang Theory" is about science).

Music albums: Get serious.

Plays: "The Odd Couple" is No. 43 out of 50 because either they couldn't think of 100 or figured nobody cared.

So what does this tell us about sports? Does this mean it has no significant role in pop culture? Are we kidding ourselves about its pop popularity?

Yes — and no.

Yes, this is a reminder for sports fans that we are not a majority in this country although we are an extremely vocal minority. But the majority of the country can only name one NFL tight end and they can name him for all the wrong reasons.

So sports is not as big as we think.

But NO, do not write off sports just because it is not the fodder for our greatest movies, TV shows, music and books. The reason sports doesn't get mentioned in all those lists is because its only great when it is ALIVE.

A Super Bowl, a Game 7, a no-hitter — all the great moments of sports are more thrilling than any other example of pop culture — but only as they are happening and because we don't know the outcome. Any single moment in sports history does not have the same kind of sustaining power of "Citizen Kane" or "The Wire," or "Revolver," or (if you care) "Anna Karenina," or "Death of a Salesmen."

But — at the moment an event happens — nothing excites a lot of us more than sports. A great book or movie finds its lasting value in being timeless, but a great sporting event finds its value by being a frozen moment in time.

Read the book or see the movie countless times (although I have a personal rule to never see a movie more than 19 times because more than that would be obsessive). But you are OK if you see that never-to-be-forgotten sporting event just once. Once is all you need to remember for a lifetime.

That's how sports is meant to be seen that's why it is not only vital to our pop culture — that's also why it is unique.

I love lists but when it comes to the cultural importance of sports, these lists don't matter.

Did '42' hit or miss?

As a postscript about sports movies, how successful was "42," the story of Jackie Robinson's beginning if the "Bigs?" Depends upon your point of view. As of Thursday it has taken in $95 million, good but nothing like the summer thrillers. But as modest as that number may be, it makes "42" the second best grossing sports film of all time — and I doubt if you can guess No. 1. Go ahead and give it a try.

No, no and no. The answer is "A League of Their Own," the 1992 story of a women's baseball team. It stands at $108 million. And you said Madonna never did anything worthwhile.

NFL thoughts: AFC South

Houston 12-4 last season, over/under 10

Best example of a really good team than remains a step short of greatness. Both the offense and defense were 7th last season, both very good at the running game and both only OK with passing. Texans lost three of last four last year, including a 42-14 thrashing by New England. Weeks 3 to 5 this year involve Baltimore, Seattle and San Francisco, so we should know a lot by Week 6.

Indianapolis 11-5 last year, over/under 8.5

Everyone expecting a step backwards after Colts benefited greatly from easy schedule and the emotional lift from Coach Chuck Pagano's struggle with leukemia. Despite the record, the defense was bad and the offensive line shaky. Still, this year's schedule opens with Oakland and Miami, then closes with Kansas City and Jacksonville, so 10-6 seems reasonable.

Tennessee 6-10 last season, over/under 6.5

Nobody expects much, especially because nobody believes in QB Jake Locker and everybody thinks RB Chris Johnson had a miserable season, especially fantasy owners. Locker and his receivers were mediocre at best, but Johnson got an unfair grade because of a poor start. He finished with more than 1200 yards rushing on a decent 4.5-yard average. They're not winning anything but an 8-8 breakeven is possible.

Jacksonville 2-14 last season, over/under 5

Folks think Kansas City is greatly improved, so that leaves our loveable Jags as the popular pick for worst of the worst. League showed a sense of humor when it put the Jags against the Chiefs in the opener. Last year the over/under was 5.5 and how did that work out? Ride that "under" again.

Is Chestnut too good?

Of course you saw Joey Chestnut rewrite sports history again by breaking his own record Thursday when he ate 69 hot dogs (and buns) in 10 minutes. "I'd do this for nothing," he said although he did accept the $10,000 prize. Imagine the price if he had bought those dogs at a movie theater?

Chestnut needs competition. Nobody is coming close as the chump in second was 18 dogs behind.

And before you sneer, remember the crowd of about 40,000 he brought to Coney Island, which is still recovering from Hurricane Sandy. Besides, he started by eating vast amounts of asparagus, so he deserves all that he gets.

(Yes, there was a young man at another hot dog eating competition that got a piece of hot dog caught in his esophagus and needed surgery. But he is OK and all athletes should know the risks involved in their chosen sport.)

These are the notes, folks

• Think whatever you like, but I wish Dwight Howard well and expect Houston to be a fun team to watch.

• Jimmy M. of Orlando thinks Washington should keep the nickname "Redskins" but put a Redskin potato on their logos. Genius.

• Homer Bailey throws his second no-hitter and what did it get him? National criticism because his career record and ERA don't meet media standards. Bummer.

• If I was going to draft one "comeback" fantasy player right now it would be Bears QB Jay Cutler. With Marc Trestman there, his productivity should soar.

• Washington Nationals pitcher Gio Gonzalez got a contract extension worth between $42 and $65 million. Since then, according to the Washington Post, he has bought himself a new home and a Lamborghini, plus a Lamborghini, Rolls Royce, Bentley and a boat for his family. He and I both grew up in Hialeah so I'm going to email him and let him know I might be a cousin.

• Finally, you have a minor-league baseball team in Alabama and you decide to have a raffle in which three guns will be awarded. What could go wrong with that?

P.S. The Huntsville Stars decided to do something else. Perhaps hold "Grenade Night."

Jerry has nothing worth raffling but will have plenty to say Monday through Friday on The Beat of Sports, hosted by Marc Daniels from 9 a.m. to noon on 740theGame radio. And emails will be answered if sent to osogreene@aol.com. Have a great end to your July 4th long weekend.