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Ten Foot Mailbag: Which Actor Was The Best On-Screen Athlete

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Charlie Sheen. (Photo by Brad White/Getty Images)

Charlie Sheen. (Photo by Brad White/Getty Images)

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By Tim Baffoe-

(CBS) Hey, remember the Oscars from Sunday? The dresses, the criticizing the host(ess) no matter who it is, the giving of different amounts of applause for various dead people. They even gave out awards.

The Academy Awards and its other pageantry show siblings are great fodder for Twitter humor, and I readily engage in it, but I scratch my head at those who genuinely criticize anything about them. Every host sucks, all the musical numbers save at the Grammys are weak, half the participants are drunk or on pills, and at the end of the day, all award shows are two things—a) art industries patting themselves on the back, and b) dangling meat for superficial judgmental viewers to criticize fashion and presentation. Because that’s what matters, right? I thought CBSSports.com’s Tom Fornelli put it best: “’I can’t believe how hateful towards women Seth McFarlane is.’ – says every tweeter judging every woman on the show tonight.”

So I noticed this week that a few film-related questions had collected in my mailbox. So what better time than shortly after Hollywood’s biggest night of stroking itself to tackle some questions that concern sports and cinema?

On to your correspondence. All emails and tweets are unedited.

has any actor ever looked more realistic as an athlete than Sheen as a pitcher?—@HarryColmery

I will eliminate any serious former college or pro athlete-turned-actor for this one, so a Carl Weathers in Rocky or Tony Danza in Angels in the Outfield (don’t you dare pretend you haven’t seen it), for instance, do not count. Charlie Sheen in Major League really doesn’t rank very high for me. Hell, he may not be the most realistic on his team, even if his actual athleticism has been lauded. Wesley Snipes certainly captured that Otis Nixon/Willie Wilson style of player, or should I say the camera did, because according to the great oral history of the film done in 2011 in Sports Illustrated Snipes actually isn’t fast at all. He sure looked like that late 80s/early 90s outfielder paid to get on base any way he could and then run. Dennis Haysburt as Pedro Cerrano was very Fred McGriff-ish to me. Stiff, yet smooth, if that makes any sense. Sheen did fine in the film, but nothing about his baseball choreography jumped out at me all that much. I guess the most realistic thing he did was take steroids during filming.

Jamie Foxx looked pretty legit at Willie Beamen in Any Given Sunday. Watch that movie again tell me if Beamen was real he couldn’t get plugged into a Pistol offense tomorrow.

More than any other actor, though, Kevin Costner pulls off the athlete role the best, both in Bull Durham and Tin Cup. Costner is an actual real life switch hitter at the plate, and few baseball films feature a swing from an actor that looks as genuine. What’s more impressive, though, are his golf scenes. No sport has a stronger aesthetic relationship with form and technique than golf. Cinematographers can tweak things to get you to believe a guy is running fast (Snipes) or made a bone-crushing tackle, but that is near impossible with golf swings, and you can almost always tell that a bad-looking swing equals a bad golfer. Not the case with Costner who genuinely pulled off the down-and-out club pro in Tin Cup. He had played almost no golf prior to the film, and one of his coaches on set, Gary McCord, later wrote of him, “The golf swing is very hard to fake, and I’m willing to bet no other actor could have pulled this off. It was an amazing performance … [Peter Kostis and I] changed literally everything he had done before, and he stuck to it like makeup sticks to Tammy Faye Bakker.” Costner currently sports a handicap hovering around the 10-11 range.

You tweeted that “Backdraft” misrepresents Chicago. What films do justice to Chicago?—@David_ Spellman

Backdraft bothers me as a “Chicago film.” It gets addresses wrong, pretends everything in the city is near the El, and is technically laughable if you ask any actual Chicago firefighter.

Usually the best films highlighting any city are the ones that let the city just be instead of forcing it on you. I don’t need Wrigley Field or a view from the Skydeck at Willis Tower (that still is difficult to type or say) to make a film feel Chicagoey.  The movies that get our fair town the most right are as follows in no particular order:

High Fidelity—captured the now-prevalent hipster element in the city long before most of us even realized it existed and was too late to smother it in its cradle. Small independently-owned stores are championed, and it doesn’t pretend to be touristy.

The Color of Money—the sequel to one of my favorite films wasn’t afraid to portray what much of Chicago knows, which is that it’s often a dirty, seedy place.

North by Northwest—I’m not much of a Hitchcockphile, but the Chicago scenes are cinematographically pretty great when you consider the film was made in 1959.

The Hunter—Steve McQueen driving a car off of Marina Towers because ‘Merica.

Cooley High—have to appreciate a film that acknowledges that, yes, we have projects, and, no, your stereotypes aren’t correct about them.

Whiteboyz—because I lived in Iowa for a time among the people this film satirizes, I just love when the idiots get their comeuppance when they drive from there to Cabrini-Green.

The Dark Knight—while the film isn’t even supposed to be set in Chicago, I don’t know if the city’s architecture has ever been on better display outside of an in-person viewing.

if you were a pro gm who would u rather have at qb Johnny Utah or Shane flaco?—@dharn55

Shane Falco by a damn mile. This is hardly a contest. Break down the football résumés.

Falco—POSITIVES: has pro experience, even if it is being a scab player (THANKS, OBAMA), finally decided he wants the ball; NEGATIVES: Ohio State grad, might not have a car, that weird guy who thinks he’s cool because he lives on a boat, lost Sugar Bowl by 45 points; ITANGIBLES: can dance, great taste in women, motivator.

Utah—POSITIVES: survived encounters with Gary Busey, bilingual, willing to make a play on the other end;  NEGATIVES: Ohio State grad, attracted to Lori Petty, Big Ten champion, limited game tape, not a great motivator, lacks one of his knees; INTANGIBLES: will fetch meatball sandwiches, will shoot you.

Physically alone Falco gets the nod. Utah unfortunately played prior to magic Adrian Peterson knee surgery and just would not be able to handle the speed of the pro game. Falco’s intangibles are better, too. Now, if we’re talking who I’d rather have on a tshirt that I wear to promote my school’s College Fair

Thanks for emailing, tweeting, and reading. If your question did not get answered this time, that does not necessarily mean I am ignoring it. It may be saved for the next mailbag. Hopefully you’re a slightly better person now than you were ten minutes ago. If not, your loss.

Want your questions answered in a future Mailbag? Email them to tenfootmailbag@gmail.com or tweet them with the hashtag #TFMB. No question, sports or otherwise, is off limits (with certain logistical exceptions, e.g. lots of naughty words or you type in Portuguese or you solicit my death). If you email, please include a signature.

tim baffoe small Ten Foot Mailbag: Which Actor Was The Best On Screen Athlete

Tim Baffoe

Tim Baffoe attended the University of Iowa and Governors State University and began blogging at The Score after winning the 2011 Pepsi Max Score Search. He enjoys writing things about stuff, but not so much stuff about things. When not writing for 670TheScore.com, Tim corrupts America’s youth as a high school English teacher and provides a great service to his South Side community delivering pizzas (please tip him and his colleagues well). You can follow Tim’s inappropriate brain droppings on Twitter @Ten_Foot_Midget, but please don’t follow him in real life. E-mail him at tenfootmailbag@gmail.com. To read more of Tim’s blogs click here.

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