When Woody Harrelson was first hired on Cheers in 1985, it was to replace the iconic character, Coach, a former baseball manager for the Boston Red Sox. Perhaps because he did it so well, it seemed obvious to all that a huge career in movie sports was in his future.
Soon, that career would turn into one of the greatest sports movie careers of all-time. And sure, I'm not going to argue you that certain "athletes" perhaps had bigger single-film achievements: Sylvester Stallone's Rocky, or Robert Redford in The Natural, or Michael Jordan in Space Jam, etc. But when it comes to an entire career, playing a wide variety of sports, no one can top the Carl Lewis of film, aka Mr. Woodrow "Woody" Harrelson.
First thing's first, let's clear away the competition. Just who exactly even comes close to stacking up against our main man? Here's a quick rundown of actors, who might make an eventual Movie Sports Hall-of-Fame.
- Kevin Costner - Bull Durham, Tin Cup, For the Love of the Game, Field of Dreams
- Dennis Quaid - Breaking Away, Any Given Sunday, Everybody's All-American, The Rookie
- Wesley Snipes - Wildcats, White Men Can't Jump, The Fan, Major League
- Paul Newman - The Hustler, Slap Shot
- Will Smith - Ali, The Opening Credits to Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
- The Cast of Mighty Ducks - The Mighty Ducks, D2: The Mighty Ducks, D3: The Mighty Ducks
See how it tapers off pretty quickly? When it comes to elite athletic achievement in cinema, a lot of folks are one-and-done. Whether they can't handle the pressure of coming up big, play after play, take after take, or what, who knows? One thing's for sure, Woody Harrelson is definitely, probably the greatest movie athlete of all-time. And here are the eight roles that prove it.
ROY MUNSON, KINGPIN
This first choice is an interesting one for sure, as bowlers aren't often referred to as "athletes." However, Roy Munson is a bowling prodigy, the likes of which the world has never seen. Watch the video below for a quick highlight of his skills.
Of course, for those of you who have seen the film, you know his career takes a sharp decline soon after first defeating the great Ernie McCracken, when he loses a hand following a hustle gone bad. But like all great athletes, he doesn't let that stop him and eventually, he gets to meet Randy Quaid, fulfilling every young boy's dream.
BILLY HOYLE, WHITE MEN CAN'T JUMP
I'm sorry, did you say "white men can't jump?" Because my friend Billy Hoyle would like to disagree.
White Men Can't Jump, is a virtual highlight reel for Woody Harrelson as an athlete. Not only does he win when it counts, proving his legacy as an all-time clutch player, but we get to see a great deal of his skill set, including his commitment to fitness, his incredible shooting range and, of course, his untouched hand eye coordination.
COMMITTMENT TO FITNESS
If you haven't, go watch this movie right now. It's fucking great. Even Stanley Kubrick agrees.
Much like LeBron James before he won his first ring, any movie athlete is going to be under an intense microscope until they finally star in a football film about a ragtag group of kids who come together despite different ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds. And if Goldie Hawn is your coach, all the better.
Look at these photos to see Harrelson really in-control out there. This was actually his first sports movie and already, he shows he's destined for greatness.
EXCELLENT CELEBRATION TECHNIQUE
COOL POST-GAME OUTFIT
After trading for Harrelson, a former benchwarmer on the Boston Celtics, the long-struggling Flint Tropics immediately improve. Soon he takes over as both offensive and defensive co-ordinator of the team, and the team quick goes from worst to first. Well, fourth actually, but shut up.
Somewhere, Wesley Snipes is thinking, "Damn, I should have been in Major League II. This guy's making me look like a fool out here."
VINCE BOUDREAU, PLAY IT TO THE BONE
Boxing? What? Did you even know Woody Harrelson did a boxing movie? He did. And it's a dramedy. He can do it all!!!!!!! Sorry, that's too many exclamation points.
Anyhow, as aging prizefighter Vince Boudreau, Harrelson, alongside Antonia Banderas's character, Cesar Dominguez, proves that an athlete must always be ready when he gets the call.
You guys: Boxing, Football, Basketball, Bowling. Is there a special Academy Award someone can give this guy? Who's in charge of that sort of thing? Honestly, we just should hand it to him now, because some might say the strength of his athletic-movie achievements dips quickly from here on out.
Seriously though, is it Michael Eisner? Steven Spielberg? Raven Symone? Let's get this dude a trophy. No, fuck that! Make it a ring.
ONE EYED JACK FERO, THE GRAND
Poker is a sport. Poker is a sport. Poker is a sport.
I'm trying to make an argument. Poker is a sport.
JACK MAYWEATHER, SURFER, DUDE
Nobody has seen this movie, or if you have, you're lying, but it looks like he played someone who at one point was a surfer, but is now just stoned out of mind.
HAYMITCH ABERNATHY, THE HUNGER GAMES
According to IMDB, and I assume the books and the movie, "Haymitch Abernathy is a former District 12 tribute and winner of the 50th Hunger Games, who is now a middle-aged drunk who hopes to drown the demons that torment him at the bottom of a bottle."
In short, WOODY HARRELSON WON THE FUCKING HUNGER GAMES! Not even Kareem Abdul-Jabbar did that. Or DeNiro.
And there you have it, eight (8) roles that prove definitively that Woody Harrelson is probably the greatest movie athlete of all-time.
Join us next time when we take a look into the career of that one guy from that one commercial. BYE!
Previously in Unnecessary Tributes: 14 Important Life Lessons You Can Learn from Al Bundy