You may think the greatest sports movie of all time is the timeless “Field of Dreams,” the intense “Remember the Titans” or even the uplifting “Rudy.”
Your opinion would certainly be warranted, but ultimately wrong. The greatest sports movie of all time is “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby,” and as funny as that may seem, I’m dead serious.
This entertainment satire featured Will Ferrell running around a race track in his tighty-whities, but it also managed to perfectly predict the future of marketing and commercialization in sports. The best quote from Ferrell’s Ricky Bobby comes when he’s at full speed, in the middle of a race, driving a car with a massive “Fig Newtons” sticker on the windshield. While whizzing around the track, he says without a hint of sarcasm, “This sticker is dangerous and inconvenient, but I do love Fig Newtons.”
Last Sunday night, I sat down to watch “Talladega Nights.” The day before, I was at a baseball game. At one point in the middle innings, I found myself looking around the stadium and marveling at just how much advertising covered nearly every inch of available real estate. Slogans, logos, promotions for every single company you could think of (and probably some you wouldn’t – like an advertisement for pet insurance on the scoreboard).
The National Basketball Association recently became the first major U.S. sports league to sell advertising space on players’ jerseys. Broadcasts of National Football League games frequently cut to commercial just after kickoffs – a perhaps minute-long period of actual play. And of course, just a simple Google search of “NASCAR” will reveal race cars with paint covered in decals. It’s comical, satirical even, when you consider the length at which sports organizations will go to make money from advertisers.
“Talladega Nights” couldn’t have nailed this phenomena more perfectly than if it were made today. In this masterpiece of a film, Ricky Bobby pauses to say grace at the dinner table and mentions Powerade because he’s contractually obligated to, even filming a commercial saying, “If you don’t chew Big Red, (expletive) you.” He even cites a tampon brand as the official tampon of NASCAR. It’s all in the name of parody, but parody and reality are drawing dangerously close.
The creators of “Talladega Nights” may not have been aware of their evidently psychic powers when they released the film, but 13 years later, the film reveals it’s more relevant to the zeitgeist of sports culture than when it was first released. It’s the funniest sports movie of all time, and for the same reason, is also the greatest.