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You can’t fly on a broomstick IRL, so obvi fictional sports are better than real ones.
People have been hype for sports since the first Olympic Games in 760 BC, when it only consisted of a footrace, and probably even before then. It doesn’t matter if the stakes are real or manufactured—Here are 14 fictional sports teams that have us on the edge of our seats biting our fingernails.
Bring It On: Rancho Carne Toros (or LBR, East Compton Clovers)
This OG cheerleading movie had every teen in the early 2000s hype AF. It was almost enough to make me want to become a cheerleader but then I remembered that my lack of coordination landed me in the back row of every musical despite being 4’11”, so that possibility was pretty much ruled out.
Despite the movie revolving around the Toros, most fans can’t help but root for the Clovers, too. When the privileged white protagonist team is guilty of stealing routines from the underprivileged POC team, it’s hard to root for the privileged girls, even though the main characters weren’t aware of the nature of the stolen routines.
The massive popularity of this movie spawned five sequels, the most recent one released in 2017. To be honest, none of them hold a candle to the original. For a further cheersmack: It’s 2018, and in six movies, not one of them features a lesbian cheerleader love story. There were a couple of very minor gay male cheerleader plots, but none featuring the leading ladies. Let’s be real, Torrance and Missy had more chemistry together than any other characters in the entire franchise.
Harry Potter: Hogwarts Quidditch Teams
Let’s be honest. Most of us rooted for the Gryffindor quidditch team in Harry Potter when we were younger because our protagonists are in Gryffindor and that’s generally how that sort of thing goes. However, as fans started getting older, and Hogwarts house tests became all the rage, we started figuring what houses we actually aligned with. Luckily for me, I’m a stone cold Gryffindor (but in truth being a Gryffindor is honestly the worst, sometimes. Being obsessed with justice is exhausting.).
Anywayyyy, whether you’re a shrewd Slytherin, a bold Gryffindor, a fair Ravenclaw, or a sweet Hufflepuff, quidditch is always a good time. I’m high-key bitter that flying broomsticks haven’t been invented IRL yet, because my future death probably involves one somehow. Any new, made-up sport that involves flying is always going to be pretty rad, but add in the quidditch rules and you’ve got yourself an intense game where the odds can change in the blink of an eye. Nine times out of ten, the other positions in quidditch are useless unless your team catches the golden snitch. Imagine the pressure on a seeker. Yikes. And I thought being a goalie was bad.
The bottom line is: Quidditch is a crazy intense sport and the muggle version just isn’t cutting it. I want to see them fly. (If you ask Dan Radcliffe, though, he’ll disagree. The reality of green screen flying is definitely not as fun.)
Bad News Bears: Bears
Everyone loves a good underdog story, especially when it involves a ragtag group of kids. Bad News Bears ups the nostalgia factor whether you’re watching the original 1976 version or the 2005 Richard Linklater remake. The casting for the film is what made both movies the iconic masterpieces that they are.
Instead of hiring a bunch of seasoned child actors, casting directors scoured the country to find a group of kids that could more-effectively play this group of ill-mannered, spit-launching kids. As the original was released during the Vietnam War, the fact that the team (spoiler) doesn’t win the final game really worked to resonate with what people were dealing with in regards to the country’s turmoil. Ironically, screening tests showed that adults were upset that the Bears didn’t win while kids appreciated it. Sometimes, you don’t always win and that’s okay. It also doesn’t hurt that a girl came in to save the day, which was a pretty uncommon premise in the ’70s.
Teen Wolf: Beacon Hills Tornados
Werewolves and lacrosse? Sign me up. Teen Wolf definitely isn’t the best-written show. The plot holes could fill the entire U.S. coastline and the timeline is all but nonexistent—Canon, what canon? That being said, it’s up there on my list as one of my favorite shows ever.
Sometimes, you just fall in love with a group of characters and the premise and deal with all of the rest. Lacrosse takes center stage in this loose, and I mean really loose reboot of the original Michael J. Fox movie of the same name. Basically, the only similarities are a lead werewolf named Scott, who ends up being the star of a sports team and a goofy best friend named Stiles. Even the sports are different.
In the movie, Scott flaunts his werewolf side, and in the TV show, the stakes are much higher and he has to hide it in fear of being hunted down by his girlfriend’s father… #awkward. Playing a high-contact sport is a little difficult when your eyes glow when you get injured. That added component of trying to be normal when your life is everything but, and using a (pretty bad) sports team that you just can’t help but to root for makes for really great TV. The lacrosse scenes in MTV’s Teen Wolf offer a nice break from the monster-of-the-week stories and Coach provides absolutely hysterical comic relief, especially during scenes with Stiles.
The Teen Wolf cast put out goofy fake interview videos in the Teen Wolf After After Show and the one on lacrosse was arguably the funniest. Why not take credit for inventing a sport?
Clark Kent in a football jersey? Um… Yes. Long-running Superman prequel, Smallville, depicted the lost years before Clark Kent threw away his cool kid card, donned a pair of thick glasses, and pretended he didn’t know how to walk without tripping over literally everything.
Primarily set in high school, all Clark wanted to do was to play football like his adopted father, Johnathon Kent. Accidentally shooting laser beams out of your eyes and running faster than a speeding bullet makes that a little difficult. While not getting to play football isn’t the most dramatic thing that can happen in high school, you can’t help but root for the guy who wants one normal thing when he spends 90 percent of his life saving strangers.
Unsurprisingly, Clark’s football career is short-lived, as he’s not as subtle on the field as he had hoped, and his powers often get used against the people he loves. But after watching him angst for years about not being able to play, those few episodes in which he gets to shine left an impression on fans of the show.
The Sandlot: The Sandlot Team
The ’90s were such a good decade for sports movies. Even people who hate sports have likely seen this iconic masterpiece. Between tricking unsuspecting lifeguards into kissing them, (not cool, dude) battling “the beast” next door, trying chew for the first time, and figuring out that first impressions aren’t always accurate, the coming-of-age tale The Sandlot has it all.
“We all lived in the neighborhood for a couple of more years—mostly through junior high school—and every summer was as great as could be. But none of them ever came close to that first one. When one guy would move away, we never replaced him on the team with anyone else. We just kept the game going like he was still there.” I’m not crying, you’re crying.
High School Musical: East High School Wildcats
Real talk: Sports, Disney, Zac Effron, and Vanessa Hudgens all wrapped in one drama-filled musical? What more could you want? It’s impossible not to love High School Musical (HSM) and if you don’t, you’re obviously lying—Just like I was lying in middle school when I wanted people to think I was too cool for HSM. Sufficed to say, I knew all of the words, and no one believed me, anyway. (I performed in my town’s production of it my freshman year, so at that point, the jig was up.)
There’s literally a song about the pressure of sports and forgetting your passions to be the best. It’s so high school and that’s what’s so great about it. Most theater kids, athletes, and outcasts could high-key relate to the messages of HSM and how it works to call out cliques and forced groups based on one shared characteristic.
Whether you’re rooting for Troy and the Wildcats during basketball games, cheering for Gabriella and the science team, or crossing your fingers that everyone makes it to auditions on time, HSM is one of the best feel-good sports movies of all time. And they sing.
Sidenote: My college mascot was a Wildcat so pretty much anytime someone said the word, “wildcat,” someone across the hall, classroom, or field would yell, “get ‘cha head in the game!” A whole decade later and we’re still all in this together.
The Mighty Ducks
The Mighty Ducks gave me unrealistic expectations that hockey players would start doing triple axels in the middle of the game and I’m a little bitter about it. That being said, this movie helped instill my fiery love for hockey which has since become my favorite sport. #gokingsgo!
This ’90s Disney movie was bound to checkmate as it featured a coach with a too-fierce passion for winning and an icy heart, which was eventually thawed by a group of underdog kids no one ever really believed in. Cue “aaaawwww.” Like Bad News Bears, a girl comes in to shake things up and help the team win and we’re so here for the girl power trope.
Space Jam: Tune Squad
Hello, nostalgia, my old friend. I’m here to laugh with you again. Let’s be real, Space Jam is absolutely absurd. If this movie were released this year, about five people would watch it. But, the ’90s were a magically weird time that offered us such gems to look back on with fondness.
Space Jam is one of those movies where you’re like, “how in tf did they possibly come up with this? Drugs? Concussion? Sugar high?” But you ultimately don’t care because it’s such utter, delightful, nonsense. Only the ’90s could live-action and animated mashup that features characters from the Looney Tunes and star NBA players at the time as they face off against some random invading aliens to save the world. #nopressure
If you’re not humming the Space Jam theme right now, you’re lying.
Everybody Wants Some: Baseball Team
I picked Everybody Wants Some (EWS) over Dazed and Confused because one, I’m shamelessly biased in my raging obsession with both Tyler Hoechlin and Zoey Deutch and two, the ’80s were just cooler than the ’70s. #sorrynotsorry.
EWS is a 2016 sequel of sorts (but not really) to Richard Linklater’s 1993 movie, Dazed and Confused. The former takes place in high school and revolves around a high school baseball team and the latter, you guessed it, revolves around a college baseball team set in the ’80s. Both were directed by Linklater.
Think 1980s American Pie meets baseball meets frat bros. The movie is a non-stop laughing riot with ridiculous ’80s porn staches (that they were contractually obligated to keep during the duration of filming) and a stellar soundtrack. The best part of the movie wasn’t necessarily the on-screen baseball, (which was awesome in and of itself), but a deeper look into the culture of college baseball, especially in that time period.
The movie didn’t do all that well in the box office, likely because of its limited release and lack of major marketing. Despite its lack of financial success, EWS has rave reviews from critics and it’s an exceptional sports movie worth checking out. Hoechlin, who almost went pro baseball instead of pursuing his acting career, wears a crop top in the movie if you’re into that kinda thing.
Teen Wolf: Beavers
Absolutely atrocious special effects aside, the 1985 movie Teen Wolf deserves its own mention. There’s something inherently great about ’80s comedy and Teen Wolf delivers. Terrible basketball player Scott Howard sucks until he doesn’t. Maybe it’s puberty, maybe it’s Wolverine.
It’s bad enough when your voice cracks when you’re not accidentally howling at the moon and “The Talk” with your parents is awkward enough when it doesn’t have the added component of “btw, we’re a fam of genetic werewolves, NBD.”
In a movie that only the ’80s could provide, Scott gets hero-worshipped for being a werewolf and begins wolfing out to win games. (I don’t know about anyone else but if I started growing fur in the gym, I don’t even want to think about all of the uncomfortable insults that would ensue.) There’s not a whole lot of substance to the movie but it’s definitely a fun, goofy watch that will have you cheering for the Beavers. Which are furry. They had so many golden opportunities for mockery.
There was a sequel. We don’t talk about it.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Sunnydale Razorbacks
“How funky is your chicken? How loose is your goose? So come on all you Hog fans, and shake your caboose!” (It’s stuck in my head now, so I’ve gotta spread the wealth.)
Remember when I waxed poetic about the ’90s? I’m about to do it again. Honestly, what the world always needed was a blonde cheerleader kicking some vampire ass in heels and a crop top. Add in a few quips and puns and you’ve got yourself a hit show. Buffy the Vampire Slayer (BTVS) is iconic in a lot of ways. It broke numerous barriers that would take ages to unravel, but one of the biggest things Joss Whedon set out to do with Buffy was break the damsel in distress schtick. Does Buffy need help sometimes? Sure. Does she constantly need rescuing? Nope. In fact, she saves the guys in the show a whole lot more than they save her. #girlpower
Sometimes, the show amped up the dumb blonde routine a bit much, but when you spend most of your life standing against the vampires, the demons, and the forces of darkness, school attendance isn’t necessarily priority numero uno. Some of the best parts of BTVS, and even the cult classic original movie that came before the show, allowed Buffy to do what she loved before her life turned into a constant bloodbath—Cheer. The season one episode, “Witch” that centered around a mother’s glory day nostalgia for cheerleading, was one of the strongest episodes in the series and a major nod to the OG movie. I wish that Buffy didn’t have to give up cheering so early in the series but it was good while it lasted.
One Tree Hill: Tree Hill Ravens
Basketball is SO important in Tree Hill. And it’s a total toss-up on who has more drama: The players or the cheerleaders. One Tree Hill lasted for nine glorious seasons, and the show largely revolved around basketball, cheerleading, and weird family trees.
Sometimes fans of the show want to slap the characters for being obnoxious jerks but at the end of the day, everybody is rooting for the Tree Hill Ravens. The show is drama central with injuries, frenemies, and guest appearances from Pete Wentz, but then again, that pretty much sums up high school amiright?
Check, Please!: Samwell University Hockey/The Falcons
(Mild spoilers for the plot of Check, Please! in order to explain why it’s so awesome and groundbreaking.)
Check, Please!, the 2013 online comic that took the internet by storm, is one of the most important sports stories I’ve ever read. The slightly fourth wall-breaking comic revolves around a former figure skater turned hockey player and baker extraordinaire, Eric Bittle, as he journeys through his freshman year at Samwell University. Bitty, his given hockey name, went to Samwell to escape his homophobic hometown in Georgia. He finds nothing but support when it comes to his teammates, but Bittle journeys through his college years afraid to come out to his (seemingly implied) very religious and very phobic family, even when he begins dating his Samwell captain turned NHL star, Jack.
When sports are shown in media, they’re often romanticized and the toxic nature that is often ingrained in sports culture is frequently glazed over or tackled in a tactless way that doesn’t help anyone. We’ve all seen scenes in TV shows and movies where a jock calls nerd a homophobic slur and instead of being outraged at a slur for a gay person being used as an insult for a straight nerd, the outrage lies in the implication of being gay. Not cool.
Honestly, unsubscribe me from this awful trope. Especially, in male-dominated sports, there tends to be a lot of toxic masculinity that gets enforced through cultural norms like “boys don’t cry,” “pink is gay,” “hugging is unacceptable…” you get the picture. Works of fiction that challenge those notions and the culture itself are so important.
Jack is afraid to acknowledge his relationship with Bitty because if he did, he would be the first out NHL player in history. That’s not just a plot from the series—that’s actual reality. No past or present NHL player has ever come out of the closet, likely, for fear of what it would do to their careers. The comments on NHL Pride Night announcements, a part of the “Hockey is for Everyone” initiative, are pretty telling on how a good portion of hockey fans would react to a player coming out.
This brilliantly written and illustrated series by Ngozi Ukazu is a must-read for anyone interested in hockey, learning about hockey culture, and combatting some of the negative tropes that exist IRL in the world of sports. Hockey and sports should be for everyone and no one should be made to feel like they have to choose between their passion and being able to date someone they love. Check, Please! is free to read online and Ukazu has a publishing deal in the works so it’ll arrive soon at a bookstore near you.
If your fave sports movie didn’t make the list, take solace in the fact that some of mine didn’t, either and that the list started off with 10 titles and then this happened. I couldn’t stop myself—I really love sports tropes, OK?