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Bird Brown: This witty sports column is brought to you by...

I love to watch sports movies.

Many of them can be a bit “hokey,” but just as many can be motivational, educational, and even historical. We all have our personal favorites. For baseball there’s “Field of Dreams,” “Major League,” “The Natural,” “Moneyball,” and “Bull Durham.”

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In football, you’ve got “The Replacements,” “Any Given Sunday,” and “The Waterboy.”

Golf gives us “Tin Cup,” “The Legend of Bagger Vance,” and “Caddyshack.”

Hockey boasts some of the best of all time as well with “Slap Shot,” “The Mighty Ducks,” and maybe the best sports movie of all time, the real-life story of the 1980 U.S. men’s hockey team, “Miracle.”

Even boxing has more than the five “Rocky” films, along with “When We Were Kings” and “Raging Bull.”

I’ll watch anything from my early favorite, “The Pride of the Yankees,” to modern classics like “Kicking & Screaming” if I have the time.

I always have the interest, it’s finding the time that counts. I’m amazed at some of the movies that my students and friends have not seen and question the kind of environment they grew up in where they had never watched a sports movie classic. I mean how can anyone in their right mind, that has any kind of interest in sports entertainment, NOT have seen “Little Giants” — the greatest sports movie of all time?

The opportunity presented itself this week when I had that rare block of unused time, late in the evening but before my 2 a.m. bedtime, to catch a sports classic that even I had never seen before, “Talladega Nights.”

I’m a big fan of Will Farrell and John C. Reilly, and I had heard plenty of good reviews from friends about the movie. So I put on my seatbelt and rode along with Ricky Bobby for the night.

The storyline was solid, plot “deep,” the character acting outstanding, goofy humor off the charts, so overall a very entertaining movie.

One of the things that caught my attention as a marketing teacher was the almost farcical, yet so realistic, plastering of anything and everything visible to the naked eye of corporate logos and slogans on anything that was or wasn’t moving in the scene.

Say what you want about the influence of corporate sponsorships on today’s sporting events, but without them and their importance to the televised version of the game, there would be no athletes wiling to sacrifice what they have to sacrifice — privacy, family, health — when there’s no money to compensate for it. And without the athletes, there is no game.

The influence of a strong relationship between sports programs and businesses isn’t just isolated at the professional level but play a major part in the success even of our local recreational sports programs.

I played in a fundraising golf tournament for the benefit for the former Bowling Brook Preparatory School many years ago, and one of the perks was a rain jacket plastered with the names of many sponsors including banks, restaurants, and even a garage door company.

The organizers had worked hard to find the sponsorships to be able to provide this jacket to every golfer so that we could spend our extra money (back when we all had extra money) on things like mulligans, raffle tickets and whatever else they were using that day to squeeze dollars out of our pockets.

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When we were launching the Westminster Wolves soccer program, we had to look to the parents and friends of our players that either owned or had significant positions in their companies to provide sponsorship money to fund the significant costs involved with league fees, referee fees, field rentals, equipment purchases and uniforms for the players.

To get the fledgling program up and running, our jerseys were filled with logos from several local businesses and national companies that made them look more like a billboard than a soccer uniform.

Without local business sponsorships to help in the funding of recreational sports programs, many programs across the country wouldn’t be able to survive. There are all kinds of partnerships between local businesses and sports programs that provide a tremendous benefit to the participants and allow the businesses to get a bit of inexpensive marketing at the same time.

Spend a Saturday at any recreational sports program across our county and make a note of the names on the back of the recreation jerseys that help to fund these programs.

The amount of money these major corporations spend on professional sponsorships would be better served by sharing some of that big corporate cash down to the recreation level where It would benefit more people and especially the ones that need it the most.

Maybe we should lead the way with our neighboring counties and begin to sell naming rights or something to increase corporate sponsorships in an effort to upgrade our facilities.

If we haven’t figured it out yet, this is an arms race and we’re falling behind.

Because, as Ricky Bobby said, “If you ain’t first, you’re last.”

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