The Rough Cut Fictional Athlete Draft
In honor of Jesus Shuttlesworth — protagonist of Spike Lee’s He Got Game, a basketball prospect so tantalizingly full of potential that a governor would be willing to cut a deal with a convicted murderer to ensure the high schooler signs with the governor’s alma mater — the Rough Cut staff took it upon themselves to conduct a draft of the best fictional film athletes of all time. The scenario posed to our participants was as follows:
You’ve been invited by a group of aliens/gods/wizards/what-have-you to compete in an Olympic-style tournament for fame and glory. Each of you will draft a team of eight athletes to compete in a set of sporting events. The exact events are unknown, but you can assume that they will include some major American sports and that if they’ve been featured in a movie they’re fair game.
The draft pool consists solely of fictional film athletes (limited to one per movie), meaning: (1) they are first and foremost a fictional character — no “based on a true story” unless you can argue that the connection is tenuous enough to be primarily a fictional depiction; (2) they play a sport of some type during the course of the movie; and (3) their participation in said sport is a defining element of both the story and their character (e.g. the Top Gun boys don’t count, despite their volleyball skills). However, the term “sport” can be used pretty loosely; creativity was encouraged, as you’ll see below, though plenty of arguments ensued over exactly how far the definition could legitimately be stretched — which turned out to be pretty far. For a recap of how it all played out, read on:
Ben Nadeau — Rocky Balboa (Rocky)
Sara D’Amico — Adonis Creed (Creed)
Jonny Diaz — Jesus Shuttlesworth (He Got Game)
Carson Cook — Willie Beamen (Any Given Sunday)
Zach D’Amico — Ivan Drago (Rocky IV)
A pretty chalky first round, with three characters from the Rocky franchise off the board in five picks, along with the inspiration for the whole endeavor. Hard to argue against the Italian Stallion at number one overall, but Zach maybe has the steal of the round, nabbing the most physically dominant boxer in the franchise with the final pick.
Zach D’Amico — Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez (The Sandlot)
Carson Cook — Scott Howard (Teen Wolf)
Jonny Diaz — Dottie Hinson (A League of Their Own)
Sara D’Amico — Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games)
Ben Nadeau — Viktor Krum (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire)
Rounds two and three are where things really start to go off the rails. Zach pivots from a 6’5” Soviet fighter nicknamed “Death from Above” to a literal child, Carson takes a high school werewolf, and Sara and Ben both dive into the YA fantasy well. It becomes clear to our participants here that fictional sports are fair game, setting the stage for madness to ensue.
Ben Nadeau — Max Rockatansky (Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome)
Sara D’Amico — Mr. Miyagi (The Karate Kid)
Jonny Diaz — Buddy the Dog (Air Bud)
Carson Cook — Alita (Alita: Battle Angel)
Zach D’Amico — Gordon Bombay (in his prime) (The Mighty Ducks)
Kudos to Ben here, who manages to walk away with perhaps the steal of the draft, benefitting from the fact that everyone was still pretty pro-creativity at this point in the early rounds. In retrospect, there is no way that Mad Max is an acceptable pick, especially given the fact that the initial pitch was for the Fury Road version, in which his “sport” is “car racing.” The compromise of changing to Max from Beyond Thunderdome is barely any better, given how little a role Thunderdoming actually plays in the movie, relatively speaking. But in the end, the pick is like PEDs in baseball: sure, it’s technically illegal, but it makes the game a lot more fun to watch. Elsewhere, Jonny uses his third-round pick on a dog, which is roundly accepted as good value by everyone involved.
Zach D’Amico — Calvin Cambridge (with shoes) (Like Mike)
Carson Cook — Dominic Toretto (The Fast and The Furious)
Jonny Diaz — Maximus Decimus Meridius (Gladiator)
Sara D’Amico — Maggie Fitzgerald (Million Dollar Baby)
Ben Nadeau — Johnny Utah (Point Break)
You wouldn’t think it based on the final picks here, but this was the chaos round. Zach finishes his pair of caveat picks, ensuring that only selected versions of his chosen athletes show up, after which Carson throws everything into disarray by using his fourth-round pick on The Predator. Carson’s initial defense of the pick manages to sway most of the jury, as he argues (correctly, the completely impartial author of this recap might add) that The Predator engages in what is essentially competitive big game hunting. After a not-so-brief discussion of the semantics of the word “sport” as used on the wikipedia page of “Predator (fictional species),” the pick is initially allowed to stand. The next two selections go off without a hitch, and then Ben attempts to take Neo under the theory that any adventures the crew of the Nebuchadnezzar undertake while plugged into the Matrix fall under the umbrella of esports. This turns out to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, with the ultimate result of the heated argument being the disqualification of both Neo and The Predator. The latter (in)arguably got railroaded, but perhaps it was for the best in terms of drawing a line in the sand before the entire draft went completely off the deep end.
Ben Nadeau — Pound the Monstar (Space Jam)
Sara D’Amico — William Thatcher (A Knight’s Tale)
Jonny Diaz — Tommy Conlan (Warrior)
Carson Cook — Liu Kang (Mortal Kombat)
Zach D’Amico — Ramona Vega (Hustlers)
The draft returns to some semblance of normalcy here, as the alien chosen in this round at least plays a recognized international sport. Sara and Zach both make inspired picks, and Jonny makes the tough choice between two equally skilled brothers, breaking the tie by selecting the fighter who seems to be the harder puncher. Fair enough.
Zach D’Amico — Uncle Drew (Uncle Drew)
Carson Cook — Missy Pantone (Bring It On)
Jonny Diaz — Fran Stalinovskovichdaviddivichski (Dodgeball)
Sara D’Amico — Jesus Quintana (The Big Lebowski)
Ben Nadeau — Monica Wright (Love and Basketball)
While Zach and Ben maneuver to fill out their rosters with basketball players, each taking their second here, Sara, Jonny, and Carson move to corner the market on the under-the-radar sports of bowling, dodgeball, and cheerleading, respectively. You have to imagine they’re hoping the physical attributes necessary for high-level performance in those arenas translate well to other venues, otherwise The Jesus and friends won’t roll.
Ben Nadeau — Forrest Gump (Forrest Gump)
Sara D’Amico — Jess Bhamra (Bend It Like Beckham)
Jonny Diaz — Rod Tidwell (Jerry Maguire)
Carson Cook — Speed Racer (Speed Racer)
Zach D’Amico — Jonathan E. (Rollerball)
Ben makes a smart move by taking a multi-sport athlete in Gump, Sara selects soccer’s sole representative in the draft, and Carson perhaps makes a tactical error by doubling down on auto racing — he must be banking on that being a critical event, because it’s not quite clear how much use Speed or Dom are going to be when they’re not behind the wheel. An attempt at stretching the bounds of the exercise rears its head again as Zach throws a late wrench into the works by trying to choose The Bride (Kill Bill). His argument that she participates in the “team sport” of martial arts-based assassination hits a dead end when Jonny threatens to take Batman with his next pick under a similar logical framework.
Zach D’Amico — Antoine Tyler (The 6th Man)
Carson Cook — The Black Stallion (The Black Stallion)
Jonny Diaz — Happy Gilmore (Happy Gilmore)
Sara D’Amico — Jimmy MacElroy (Blades of Glory)
Ben Nadeau — Atom (Real Steel)
The final round plays out like a microcosm of the draft to date. Zach takes a third basketball player — though in fairness, this one is also a ghost. Carson takes a horse with no apparent special powers other than being pretty fast. Jonny and Sara try to maximize their teams’ potential to compete in slightly less popular sports. And Ben plays the ultimate trump card of remembering the existence of the film Real Steel, allowing the Mr. Irrelevant of the Rough Cut Fictional Athlete Draft to somehow be a literal fighting robot — if that doesn’t sum this experiment up in a nutshell, it's hard to say what would.
We’re still waiting on post-draft analytics — ESPN hasn’t been returning our calls, for some reason — but in the meantime, the final rosters are listed below for your perusal.
Team Ben: Rocky Balboa (Rocky); Viktor Krum (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire); Max Rockatansky (Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome); Johnny Utah (Point Break); Pound the Monstar (Space Jam); Monica Wright (Love and Basketball); Forrest Gump (Forrest Gump); Atom (Real Steel)
Team Sara: Adonis Creed (Creed); Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games); Mr. Miyagi (The Karate Kid); Maggie Fitzgerald (Million Dollar Baby); William Thatcher (A Knight’s Tale); Jesus Quintana (The Big Lebowski); Jess Bhamra (Bend It Like Beckham); Jimmy MacElroy (Blades of Glory)
Team Jonny: Jesus Shuttlesworth (He Got Game); Dottie Hinson (A League of Their Own); Buddy the Dog (Air Bud); Maximus Decimus Meridius (Gladiator); Tommy Conlan (Warrior); Fran Stalinovskovichdaviddivichski (Dodgeball); Rod Tidwell (Jerry Maguire); Happy Gilmore (Happy Gilmore)
Team Carson: Willie Beamen (Any Given Sunday); Scott Howard (Teen Wolf); Alita (Alita: Battle Angel); Dominic Toretto (The Fast and The Furious); Liu Kang (Mortal Kombat); Missy Patone (Bring It On); Speed Racer (Speed Racer); The Black Stallion (The Black Stallion)
Team Zach: Ivan Drago (Rocky IV); Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez (The Sandlot); Gordon Bombay (in his prime) (The Mighty Ducks); Calvin Cambridge (with shoes) (Like Mike); Ramona Vega (Hustlers); Uncle Drew (Uncle Drew); Jonathan E. (Rollerball); Antoine Tyler (The 6th Man)