After a couple weeks without reading a spec, I was chomping at the bit to read today. I actually pitied the first script to cross my desk.
I tore into a sports drama. (As you know, sports stories can be notoriously boring for outsiders. But if done well, however, they can also be a canvas to discuss a bigger issue and inspire.)
I groused when I saw that today's script fell into a trap that I see often with this genre: The same old blood, sweat, and tears. In other words, it is not enough to only have a "rags to riches" or "overcome big odds story."
Sports is an equalizer of men/women. If you've got the talent, you're in. However, so many people have used sports to get out of poverty, or to overcome odds, that that particular story, standing alone, has become commonplace.
I'm not saying that the long hours of practice, discipline, and sacrifice are not honorable. I'm not even saying that they aren't amazing feats in real life.
However, I am saying that almost every sports script tries to sell me that "he/she overcame huge odds!" I'm unimpressed. You can't win me over with the same story.
HOW TO IMPRESS:
1. Find a character we haven't seen. ex. We may have seen a character like Michael Oher, but not a character like Leigh Anne Tuohy. I'd argue that the Blind Side is as much about a powerhouse behind the football player as it is about the player.
ex. Seabiscuit is about an underdog horse. But have you ever seen horse racing from the horse's point of view? From those angles?
ex. Ali is about an unusual boxer. But have you ever seen a boxer who drew national attention to the sport for his beliefs, his stance on war, etc. like that?
2. The athlete must overcome personal circumstances that we have not seen. An alcoholic parent is not enough. Poverty is not enough. Perhaps an unusual WAY he/she overcame the parent and or escaped poverty. (Can't think of an example at the moment. Can anyone else?)
3. To really get the tears flowing, the play by play action should ECHO the personal issues. Sortof like how the subplot should echo the main plot.
ex. Each sack of the main character during the game should stand for a sack in his personal life. (Or you can contrast them. ex. He wins on the field, but his personal life is a wreck.)
WHAT I'VE LEARNED: Make sports accessible to the public by focusing on the character, not the sport. The sport is a vehicle for your character to express him/herself. Don't let the intricacies of the sport dominate.