Hear Me Out...Action heroes and their like-minded spirits in the sports world
August 1, 2019
I’m a sucker for the one-man army, heist and/or unapologetic action movies, your “Diehards”, James Bond, anything with Dwayne Johnson or the “Fast and Furious” franchise. I just love the spectacle of it all, the cheesy one-liners, how the henchmen, who are usually alluded to being highly-trained killers themselves, are terrible shots, like to attack one at a time and give up their gun advantage in favor of hand-to-hand fighting. LOVE. IT. ALL.
Last week I was finally able to see “John Wick 3: Parabellum” and there’s nothing better when a movie you’re excited for not only meets expectations but exceeds them. I could easily write 2,000 words about “Parabellum” and all its glory, using at least 900 of those words talking about the knife and Casablanca fights, which are modern works of art. Instead, I got to thinking about a different angle for this week’s column.
Of all the iconic action movie characters, who are their sports counterparts?
So I’ve listed all the big action heroes over the years and found their sports superstar comparison. Just like most action movies, this is all about having fun and not taking it super serious. If you start thinking about it too much the whole thing falls apart.
JOHN WICK (KEANU REEVES), JOHN WICK FRANCHISE
Sports comp: Michael Jordan
Jordan and Wick are at the tops of their fields. Both are talked about in absolute reverence and pure fear. Don’t cross either one of them, just don’t do it. In Wick’s case, you’ll join his ever-growing body count; for Jordan, you’ll end up a husk of yourself as he makes it his life’s mission to utterly and completely dominate you, case in point Clyde Drexler.
MAD MAX (TOM HARDY), MAD MAX FRANCHISE
Sports comp: Muhammad Ali
Legends that mean something different to each person; also very quick-witted and devastatingly effective.
JOHN MCCLANE (BRUCE WILLIS), DIE HARD FRANCHISE
Sports comp: Megan Rapinoe
Talks a crazy amount of trash but comes through every time and does so in dramatic fashion. It’s a perfect fit.
Although I did think for a minute about sliding Terrell Davis in here under the guise of never 100 percent but still a boss.
JACK RYAN (HARRISON FORD), PATRIOT GAMES AND CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER
Sports comp: Peyton Manning
Neither is very physically gifted but what sets them apart is their razor-sharp mind and that’s how they beat their opponents.
JAMES BOND (DANIEL CRAIG VERSION), JAMES BOND FRANCHISE
Sports comp:Serena Williams
Daniel Craig’s Bond (Spoiler alert, the BEST Bond) is in mortal peril quite often, nearly defeated several times and is constantly having people doubt him. Yet, he fights one and gets the job done. Serena has gone through plenty of ups and downs with a ridiculous amount of criticism. But she powers through and keeps winning majors.
HOBBS (DWAYNE JOHNSON), FAST AND FURIOUS FRANCHISE
Sports comp: LeBron James
Hobbs is a super athlete, LeBron is a super athlete. They both are determined and relentless in their drive and can do the job of four other grown, athletic men.
HARRY CALLAHAN (CLINT EASTWOOD) DIRTY HARRY FRANCHISE
Sports comp: Bill Russell, Jim Brown, Jackie Robinson
Cheating I know but had to fit these titans in some way. And I know neither of these men fit the personality of Dirty Harry, who is basically a rogue cop and in a kind of dark way. But Dirty Harry did lay the groundwork for awesome action movies.
ELLEN RIPLEY (SIGOURNEY WEAVER), ALIEN FRANCHISE
Sports comp: Wayne Gretzky
Low-key legends that get the job done, no matter the circumstances.
JOHN RAMBO (SYLVESTER STALLONE), RAMBO FRANCHISE
Sports comp: Brett Favre
Recklessly effective is an accurate description for both Favre and John Rambo. Favre threw a lot of TDs but also a lot of picks. Rambo gets the bad guys but also blows up a lot of stuff.
SARAH CONNOR (LINDA HAMILTON), TERMINATOR FRANCHISE
Sports comp: Jerry Rice
Consistency is key here. You’re going to need it when taking down an overwhelming force like Skynet and when you’re going against secondaries that are allowed to maim you.
JASON BOURNE (MATT DAMON), BOURNE FRANCHISE
Sports comp: Kawhi Leonard
Calculated, ruthless assassins. What Kawhi did to the Lakers (Which I loved!) was essentially that Bourne move where he’s talking to Noah Vosen on the cell phone, and Vonsen suggests meeting face to face. Vosen tells Bourne he’s in his office and Bourne tells him he’s not and when Vonsen, a little shaken, asks him how he knows that. Bourne, coolly, tells him, “If you were in your office right now we’d be having this conversation face-to-face,” then he hangs up on Vosen.
The calm, precise and inscrutable demeanor of Bourne is Kawhi through and through.
BRYAN MILLS (LIAM NEESON), TAKEN FRANCHISE
Sports comp: Tom Brady
Both have a specific set of skills and can make dudes half their age look foolish. They also are very, very old and when Brady or Mills runs, you can feel their pain through the screen.
FRANK MARTIN (JASON STATHAM), TRANSPORTER FRANCHISE
Sports comp: Diana Taurasi
Each is a little underrated with their greatness and when you watch them you wonder why they aren’t constantly talked about with as much reverence as some of their peers.
ETHAN HUNT (TOM CRUISE), MISSION IMPOSSIBLE FRANCHISE
Sports comp: Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt
More cheating but, just like Ethan Hunt and the Mission Impossible movies, Phelps and Bolt kept getting better and better in sports that don’t favor experience.
Quick tangent on Mission Impossible, the last three movies, Fallout, Rogue Nation and Ghost Protocol, have legit been great movies and among the best in their respective years. All three should have earned an Oscar Best Picture nod but were snubbed. Mark my words, a Mission Impossible movie will receive a Best Picture nod.
THE TERMINATOR, (ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER), TERMINATOR FRANCHISE
Sports Comp: Roger Federer
Federer is 37 years old, which isn’t old in real life but in the tennis world, he’s ancient, like Akkadian Empire ancient. But just when it looks like he’s dead, here he comes winning another major.
MARTIN RIGGS (MEL GIBSON) AND ROGER MURTAUGH (DANNY GLOVER), LETHAL WEAPON FRANCHISE
Sports comp: Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson
Riggs is crazy, so is Schilling, perfect 1/1 so far.
Johnson is a laidback and caring dude. Even when he killed that bird with his fastball and everyone was laughing, he was having no part in it. Here’s his quote about it “I don’t find this very funny.” That’s Murtaugh, not giving a damn what anyone else thinks.
ALEX & CHAD WAGNER (JEAN-CLAUD VAN DAMME) DOUBLE IMPACT
Sports comp: Dennis Rodman
Chad Wagner is the first part of Rodman’s career with the Pistons. Alex Wagner is Rodman’s time with the Bulls, Lakers and Spurs.
SELENE (KATE BECKINSALE), UNDERWORLD FRANCHISE
Sports comp: Barry Bonds
Both determined to a fault people but you can’t deny their effectiveness. PEDs or no PEDs Bonds is still among the greatest if not the greatest baseball players of All-Time. And Selene is the greatest monster killer ever, eat it Van Helsing!
ANY STEVEN SEGAL CHARACTER
Sports Comp: former NFL QB JaMarcus Russell
Of all the pairings on this list, this might be the most natural. Every Segal character and Russell lazily went through the motions. You never really bought in that either was going to be successful. Segal and Russell both have embarrassing/funny off-field or off-set stories.
For Russell, the Raiders organization wasn’t sure he was putting in the work needed to be an NFL QB. So the coaching staff gave him a DVD to watch as they prepped the game plan for that week. Russell was supposed to pick out the plays he liked the most. The next day he told the coaches he loved them all but it turned out the DVD was absolutely blank.
And Segal had an unfortunate accident when he challenged a legit Judo Master. Segal was running his mouth talking about how he could get out of Judo Master Gene LeBell’s best hold while they were filming a movie. LeBell, just being one of the stunt guys didn’t want to get in trouble by hurting the star of the movie. But Segal kept chirping and the stunt coordinator on the movie told LeBell to go for it. LeBell got Segal in his best hold and as you’d expect the actor was forced to tap out, but not before popping his pants. Great stuff and Kevin Hart’s telling of this story is pure gold.