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The Top 30 Science-Fiction Sports Movies: Honorable mentions

Finally. The beast that BuckBokai has been creating is *alive!* My creation is alive! Today begins a countdown of the Top 30 Science-Fiction Sports movies with lotsa embeds, YouTube willing.

Firstly, though, some criteria. In short, the difficulty level in compiling this list was surprisingly high. By the strictest definition, i.e. a setting firmly within the milieu of a science-fictional sport, BuckBokai counted a mere 11 films – if Rollerball (1975) and its remake (2002) are included as separate works. Clearly, this definition needed expanding.

Indeed, the definition of “science-fiction” itself has been fodder for endless debate since its coining in 1875 or so; clearly technology plays a major role as does a future-dated setting. Many explanations provided in the io9 compendium of quotes on the subject are a good deal too abstract – e.g. “the literature of exploration and change,” “the art of the possible” (that one’s from Ray Bradbury), “an argument with the Universe” – for BuckBokai’s purposes, and so we’ll use the following simple-yet-open guidelines.

any story whose plotline depends on a technology that does not exist at the time of writing is science fiction;

• any story set in the future is science fiction; and

• any story set in an “alternate” or “parallel” universe, i.e. one with the same basic physical laws and history, is science fiction.

Also included among the candidates were films set in a fantasy milieu, perhaps best described as any story in which the phrase “a wizard/god/spirit did it” may be used to explain plot contrivances.

In terms of sport itself, to make the Top 30 list, BuckBokai also considered its role within the actual film. While focus on a sport was not necessary for inclusion, sport must play an integral role in the plot, as in The Absent-Minded Professor (1961) or Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome (1985).

Not under consideration were films starring science-fiction athletes (e.g. Flash Gordon: The Greatest Adventure of All) or featuring real-life athletes (e.g. They Live, the wonderfully goofy Double Team, anything with O.J. Simpson or Shaquille O’Neal). Movies in which sports futuristic or otherwise (e.g. Starship Troopers, The Dark Knight Rises) were marginal to the story are out, and while one kiddie/family flick is included in Top 30, others in this unjustifiably bloated genre (e.g. Like Mike, Little Big League) were steadfastly ignored.

Writeups of each of the Top 30 Science-Fiction Sports Movies will begin tomorrow on BuckBokai.com, but for now here’s a pair of noteworthy works which couldn’t quite be pigeonholed into set criteria.

The NCR 315, early fantasy sports writer

Honorable Mention: The Superfight: Marciano vs. Ali (1970). While few would call this admirable experiment with fantasy boxing a good 30 years ahead of its time “science fiction” per se, BuckBokai maintains that the “what if” scenario is crucial to both science fiction and sports fandom. In compromise, The Superfight gets shoehorned here.

For boxing fans, this one has simply got to be considered a must-see. The first “All-Time Heavyweight Champion” tournament, done as a series of radio plays, was the brainchild of Murray Woroner and the NCR 315 Data Processing System (in which, as described by Wikipedia, “Basic memory was 5K of handmade core memory, which was expandable to a maximum of 40K in four refrigerator-size cabinets)”. In what must be the world’s first computer-run fantasy boxing tournament, Rocky Marciano defeated Jack Dempsey in the final match.

Incredibly/totally believably, Muhammad Ali hauled Woroner into court, suing to the tune of $1 million (!) for defamation of character (!!!), namely his computer-generated self losing by decision to Jim Jeffries in round two of the All-Time Heavyweight Champion tourney. Ali settled instead for $10,000 and a shot at the fictional All-Time title, taking on Marciano in front of the camera with a script again written (with various alternative endings) by the NCR 315.

The result was, well, a sporting event filmed in an empty gym overdubbed with sound effects. The action is believable and the commentary naturally dead-on perfect, but you’d think for the 2005 DVD release someone’d’ve CGIed some all-time fans in there – particularly since Sylvester Stallone riffed on the idea in Rocky Balboa (2006).

One YouTuber, calling The Superfight “dated”, reproduced the fight with the help of good ol’ EA Sports technology. BuckBokai can’t tell what’s more amazing; that Ali and Marciano were able to reproduce their moves so seamlessly for the camera or how the NCR and EA versions are so similar…

Honorable Mention: The Morning After (1999). As Naomi Klein (and others) have noted, Nike employs some 30,000 worldwide yet not one of them actually produces sportswear; that work is outsourced and has been so since the 1980s. So what do those not working retail actually do for Nike? Brand development. Stuff like the below short film.

Cast and crew of “The Morning After” thus fulfill their jobs admirably, telling a wonderful one-minute vignette that manages to metaphorically stamp the shoosh all over the Y2K hype and paranoia that was so marvelously pervasive in ’99. Even weirder is a bit at about 49 seconds in: Holy Nostradamus, Batman, is that a missile heading toward the freaking Twin Towers?

Next: Top Science-Fiction Movie no. 30 – Will the Justice League movie be set in the Uncanny Valley?

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