What your view of sports and life would be if you had too many concussions

The Dubsism List of the Ten Greatest Movie Directors and Their Sports Figure Equivalents

Regular readers of this blog know I make analogies between movies and sports more often than CNN pot-shots President Trump.  As long as I’m making cable TV references, some have said there are times this blog is like a weird combination of Turner Classic Movies and ESPN.  In all honesty, there’s a rather simple reason for that.  Broken down to their base elements, sports and cinema are just sub-genres of entertainment; they both contain drama, conflict, and suspense.

On top of that, just like it takes a coach to guide a great team, it takes a director to make a great movie.  If that isn’t enough of a clue to tell you the premise of this piece, then maybe you should stick to watching “Porky’s” late at night on Cinemax.  For the rest of you, here’s a run-down of ten of Hollywood’s best film-makers and their equivalents from the sporting world.

10) Alfred Hitchcock

My Three Favorite Movies:

  • Foreign Correspondent (1940)
  • Lifeboat (1944)
  • Notorious (1946)

Equivalent Sports Figure: Former St. Louis Blues’ head coach Ken Hitchcock

It’s not just the name. It’s not just the portly stature. It’s because these guys were both great at what they did, yet they never come to mind when asked  to make a “great” list. The fact that both Hitchcocks are somewhat overshadowed by a scant few who accomplished more shouldn’t mean they don’t get the credit they are due.

9) Steven Spielberg

My Three Favorite Movies:

  • Jaws (1975)
  • Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
  • Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

Equivalent Sports Figure: NBA legend Michael Jordan

At first, this seems like an odd pairing until you stop to consider two things. First, most people under 40 would consider them both to be the greatest in their respective disciplines.  Also,while they did a lot of great stuff, they also did as much damage.

While Spielberg has made some of the great films of all-time, he also is the poster-child for CGI, which will ultimately destroy film-making as we know it. CGI is like cinematic hot sauce; a little goes a long way, but now much like restaurants like to make buffalo wings inedibly hot, Spielberg ushered in the era of the movie that is all special effects and devoid of plot.

Let’s be honest. Michael Jordan made the NBA virtually unwatchable. That “Isolation” style of play where on one side of the floor you had two guys playing one-on-one, and on the other side you had eight guys smoking a Kool…well, it was complete crap, and it was Jordan’s signature.

8 ) Orson Welles 

My  Three Favorite Movies:

  • Citizen Kane (1941)
  • Touch of Evil (1958)
  • The Third Man (1949)

Equivalent Sports Figure: Former NFL Coach/General Manager Mike Holmgren

Usually guys that have small bodies of work don’t exert a huge influence on their industries, and they almost always get lost in the pantheon of history. Ask a classic film buff about classic film directors, and they’ll almost always list a bunch of guys until you say “What about the guy who did Citizen Kane?” Same if you ask about great NFL coach/general managers until you say “What about the guy who coached the Brett Farve era Packers?

Both Welles and Holmgren have undeniable greatness early in their career (Citizen Kane – the 1996 Packers), acclaimed success in the middle (Touch of Evil – the 2006 Seahawks), and abject failure at the end (F is for Fake – the Cleveland Browns).

But when you stop to consider how many other film-makers credit Welles as an influence given the fact he only made 13 feature-length pictures in his whole career, compared to how many people tried to copy Holmgren’s coaching style despite the fact he only had 7 seasons with more than 10 wins, and the comparison becomes obvious.

7) Howard Hawks 

My Three Favorite Movies:

  • To Have and Have Not (1944)
  • Red River (1948)
  • Sergeant York (1941)

Equivalent Sports Figure: Cleveland Browns legend Otto Graham

Noted film critic Leonard Maltin once called Howard Hawks “the greatest American director who is not a household name.” If you were to ask football fans who is the greatest quarterback of all time, expect a list of the “household names.” You’ll get a lot of Montana. You’ll get a lot of Elway.  Now after 200+ career wins and a fifth Super Bowl, you’ll certainly get a lot of Brady.  But you won’t get a lot of Graham largely because like Hawks, his brilliance was out-shown by brighter (albeit not necessarily better) stars, and because the salad days of his career were almost 70 years ago.

6) Francis Ford Coppola

My Three Favorite Movies:

  • The Godfather (1972)
  • Apocalypse Now (1979)
  • The Conversation (1974)

Equivalent Sports Figure: Red Auerbach

Nobody had a run in the 1960’s NBA like Auerbach did.  Between 1959 and 1970, his Celtics won ten championships in eleven years.  Nobody had a run in 1970’s Hollywood like Coppola.  Add Godfather II to the list above and you have four of the great films of all-time, let alone in one decade.

5) Martin Scorsese

My  Three Favorite Movies:

  • Raging Bull (1980)
  • Taxi Driver (1976)
  • The King of Comedy (1982)

Equivalent Sports Figure: Mike “The Human Rain Delay” Hargrove

Both Scorsese and Hargrove had careers marked with some greatness, more-often-than-not above-average performances, and the occasional turd.  But the trait they shared…everything they did was usually waaaaaaay too long.

4) Stanley Kubrick

My  Three Favorite Movies:

  • 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
  • Dr. Strangelove (1964)
  • The Killing (1956)

Equivalent Sports Figure: NHL legend Gordie Howe

There was nobody like either of these guys before or since, although they’ve both been often impersonated, but never duplicated. What made them both unique they did things their way.  Most hockey players are either scorers or brawlers.  Howe was an exquisite blend of both; so much so that to this today getting a goal, an assist, and a fight in one game is referred to a “Gordie Howe hat trick.”  In Kubrick’s case, most directors tend to make a certain kind of movie, or they tend to use the same style of film-making.  But it is almost impossible to say one Kubrick movie is just like another.

3) William Wyler

My  Three Favorite Movies:

  • The Big Country (1958)
  • Ben-Hur (1960)
  • The Best Years of Our Lives (1945)

Equivalent Sports Figure: Former UCLA basketball coach John Wooden

I’ve always had a rule that says the best comparisons are the simplest.  In this case, the easiest way to make my point about these two comes in one sentence.  The legacy of both Wooden and Wyler is not their own success, it’s the success they instilled in others.

In other words, there are some many players who came to Coach Wooden who either played their best ball under him or took what they learned from him to go on to bigger and better things. Likewise with Wyler; look at my list of his favorite work, and with few exceptions can it be said he didn’t get great performances out of the casts of those films.

2) Billy Wilder

My Three Favorite Movies:

  • Some Like It Hot (1959)
  • Stalag 17 (1953)
  • Sunset Boulevard (1950)

Equivalent Sports Figure: Los Angeles Lakers President Magic Johnson

If I were held at gunpoint and forced to come up with a two word title which fit both Johnson and Wilder, it would be “Mr. Versatility;” the characteristic defines both.  The versatility Magic Johnson offered allowed him to be a force at all five positions on the floor, which is why he should rate much higher than Michael Jordan in terms of the greatest basketball player of all time  because he could do it all.

The “do it all” factor is what got Wilder the #2 director’s spot on this list. Need a great comedy? Wilder can do that (Some Like it Hot). Got a great script for a “Prisoner of War” flick? Give it to Wilder (Stalag 17). Let’s say you are in the market for the best movie ever made about making movies.  Wilder’s got you covered (Sunset Boulevard).  Throw in classics like Double Indemnity, Witness for the Prosecution, and The Lost Weekend, and it takes a true legend to top Wilder on this list.

1) John Ford 

My  Three Favorite Movies:

  • The Searchers (1956)
  • They Were Expendable (1945)
  • Mister Roberts (1955)

Equivalent Sports Figure: Muhammad Ali

There can only be one “Greatest of All Time.”  It’s one thing to look at the body of work; it’s another to look at standing up for what you believe. With the passing of Ali last year, we were all reminded of Ali’s refusing to be drafted into the Vietnam era Army, and the subsequent stripping of his boxing title.

Listing the great films created by Ford pales in comparison with the fact he risked his status as the greatest director in the history of Hollywood to make a stand against the McCarthyist witch hunts of the 1950s.  Fellow director Cecil B. DeMille wanted Joseph L. Mankiewicz removed as president of the Screen Director’s Guild for not forcing members to sign anti-Communist loyalty oaths. Ford, along with his biggest star John Wayne, was on the board an organization called Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals which opposed loyalty oaths and the McCarthyist black-listing.  It was Ford’s opposition and his stature in Hollywood which killed the loyalty oath debate once and for all.

History has tended to cast Ford as simply a director of westerns, but that misses an important point about him.  He Ford served a s commander in the Navy during World War II, but that experience profoundly changed in his views about war, violence, and the power of propaganda. Having made plenty of films for the War Department and having seen the ravages of war first-hand at places like Midway and Omaha Beach, Ford became a staunch adversary of totalitarianism and what he called “American myth-making.”

1950’s Hollywood and it’s McCarthyist black-listed represented everything Ford detested, and not only did he speak out about it, he did what Martin Scorses calls “smuggling;” a term for hiding messages in movies.  Ford’s 1948 cavalry classic Fort Apache was ahead of it’s time in terms of exposing a military disaster spun as as “heroics.”  They Were Expendable portrays the fall of the Philippines; releasing a movie in 1945 in which America is losing the war was a gutsy move.  But nothing touches the sheer myth-destroying level of The Quiet Man.

Released in 1952, The Quiet Man is a St. Patrick’s Day staple on Turner Classic Movies; and most people watch it and get swept up in the quaint vistas of turn-of-the-20th-century Ireland or in the quasi-slapstick brawl scene.  John Wayne plays Sean “Trooper” Thornton, an American boxer who leaves his old life in america behind after he kills a man in the ring.  He settles in in the village of Innisfree, which is an homage to the utopian Irish Shangri-La portrayed in to W.B. Yeats’s poem “The Lake Isle of Innisfree.”

What the first-time viewer of this film will notice immediately is Ford’s use of Irish stereotypes.  Ford takes the viewer on a virtual travelogue of Inisfree society; from the train station, the churches, the pub, and the rest introducing one to the village cabby prone to the drink, the overbearing squire, and the jovial priest who curses, jokes, and who is fishing constantly throughout the film.

What gets missed is the fact that that charming, drunken cabby is actually an Irish Republican Army terrorist…largely because the studio removed all but two most-passing references to the IRA from the film.  In the original cut, it is made pretty clear Thornton has landed in an Ireland on the verge of the 1916 Dublin Post Office Revolt, otherwise known as “Bloody Sunday.” The obstinate Squire Danneher is a not-so-thinly veiled allegory to all the things in America from which Thornton is hoping to escape, and thanks to Irish family traditions and the fact the squire is the brother of Mary Katherine Dannaher (who just so happens to be Thornton’s love interest) and soon his life is as bedeviled by money and fighting as it was in America..

That’s a dramatic over-simplification of the movie, but it needs to be said that it took a lot of guts to make this film, and Ford had to do some serious horse-trading with studio executives to get it made.  Even then, it was heavily edited from what Ford produced, but it still “smuggles” a message about a man who finds American life lacking, leaves it behind, and intends to never return. That took pure balls to do that in “black-list era” Hollywood.   That’s why the message is “smuggled” by the syrupy-sweet depiction of old Ireland.  While it starts as silly, and border-line cartoonish, they become increasingly nuanced as the story develops. Ultimately the new-found pacifist in Thornton is forced to fight with Squire Danneher; the slap-stick nature of the brawl hiding it’s gargantuan metaphor for everything Thornton is trying to escape.

The bottom line; taking a stand is one thing, but putting everything you have on the line for what you believe is another. That’s why John ford is the greatest of all time.

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About J-Dub

What your view of sports would be if you had too many concussions

9 comments on “The Dubsism List of the Ten Greatest Movie Directors and Their Sports Figure Equivalents

  1. Frank Morelli
    April 5, 2017

    “The Human Rain Delay” 😂😂😂😂



  2. “CGI is like cinematic hot sauce.” Brilliant comparison, my friend. Ain’t it the truth.

    Sometimes I like to eat a meal for its own flavor. What ever happened to that at the movies?

    For some reason, I’ve never seen or even heard of Coppola’s “Conversation.” Is this one I should put in my queue, sir?


    • J-Dub
      April 5, 2017

      Sadly, “The Conversation” gets overlooked because “Godfather II” came out the same year. This is a “must-see,” especially if you are a Gene Hackman fan. Also, you’llo have fun with this movie recognizing a lot of faces.


  3. sportsattitudes
    April 20, 2017

    Scorsese and Hargrove. Perfect together.


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This entry was posted on April 4, 2017 by in Movies, Sports and tagged , , , .

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