73 Sports Movies In 73 Days: 'Back To School'

The other day, as I was meeting with my local Illuminati chapter, a friend asked, “Hey Burnsy, how come you call this thing 73 Sports Movies in 73 Days, but you’re not accounting for Saturdays and Sundays when you and Kate Upton are yachting with Leonardo DiCaprio and his topless models?” And that was a good question. Fortunately for everyone, I am keeping true to this theme on weekends, and will be posting additional movie recaps during the week, and sometimes on weekends to make up for it. So don’t ever question me again.

On Saturday, I was able to kick back and watch another 80s classic – I swear, there will be more recent films – in the 1986 Rodney Dangerfield comedy classic, Back to School. As I watched this for the billionth time, I kept a short list of questions that I asked myself and thought we could address here.

To recap, Back to School was the story of Thornton Melon (Dangerfield), a middle-aged high school dropout who built his own big and tall clothing store empire. His son, Jason, is a college student on the verge of dropping out as well, because the diving team won’t give him a shot and no fraternity wants him. But when Thornton shows up and finds out his son has been lying about being on the diving team, among other things, he decides that they’re going to brave a higher education together, while helping each other with books, babes and being very good at jumping into a pool.

First and foremost, what wealthy businessman wouldn’t go back to college after catching his wife cheating on him in a laundry closet?

I don’t know, man. Just roll with it.

Why didn’t anyone ever make Melon Patch Kids a reality?

If there were Over the Top action figures, how come fat America didn’t have Melon Patch Kids? I wouldn’t have traded my My Pet Monster for one, but it would have been nice to have the choice.

Why is Jason calling his dad from the dive team’s locker room?

While Thornton is in a meeting with his board, Jason randomly calls from a locker room phone right before practice ends. Did he do it to get free long distance? If so, why did he wait til the end of practice to call? This has just always struck me as odd and inconvenient.

Meanwhile, remember calling cards? Haha, I’m old.

Could anyone else on Earth have played Chas?

No. Absolutely not. And not to get all Bill Simmons on us, but the fact that Billy Zabka hasn’t even had an ironic film renaissance, let alone the real one that he deserves, is ridiculous.

Why don’t more divers look like Rodney Dangerfield?

Remember when you could walk into a sorority house, ogle a naked girl in the shower and then pay off a cop to make it as if it never happened?

Does Robert Downey Jr. still own this lacey ascot?

What about this helmet?

Is there a better example of America’s corruption than a wealthy white male buying his way into a private university and buying his son’s way onto the diving team?

Nope. That’s why the 80s were America’s finest years.

So… who the hell picked college diving anyway?

This is why I keep gravitating toward the 80s for this feature. Arm wrestling, skiing, billiards, cycling, werewolf basketball – and I’m not saying this as a bad thing. Movie writers in the 80s were so much more creative with their ideas than they are now. Granted, they slept on mountains of cocaine, but it was just a more beautiful time.

Hey, is that Kurt Vonnegut?

Yup, that’s Kurt Vonnegut. In a Rodney Dangerfield comedy.

And how much do we all miss Sam Kinison?

Too much.

Was college in the 80s really this ridiculously amazing?

Did you know that Academy Award-nominated composer Danny Elfman was the frontman for Oingo Boingo?

He was. And he won a BMI Film & Television Award for the soundtrack of Back to School. That’s right, the same soundtrack that gave us this gem…

The mixing room music video has always been my favorite, but this one is so much better because it’s like he’s making up the song as he watches it. I wish more singers would do that.

Enough f*cking around. Where does the Triple Lindy rank on the list of all-time sports movie achievements?

I’m glad I finally asked myself this question. Not only did this film’s FOUR(!!!) writers – Steven Kampmann, Will Porter, Peter Torokvei and Harold Ramis – choose diving as Rodney Dangerfield’s sport of choice and portray it as something that college kids (most with mustaches, because 80s) were really in to, but they also invented the infamous Triple Lindy, which is the diving move so legendary and impossible, that only Thornton has ever pulled it off.

Of course, that’s when he was younger, and there’s no way he could do it so many years later after no practice. Not unless… unless… he’s the greatest sports movie athlete of all-time. Because Thornton nailed the Triple Lindy after being plucked from the crowd to help Grand Lakes win whatever event this was.

So I ask the question – was the Triple Lindy the greatest moment in sports movie history, in terms of sheer athletic amazement? Was it greater than Roy Hobbs smacking a walk-off dinger into the lights? Was it greater than the knuckle puck? What about Shane Falco’s touchdown pass to his deaf receiver?

Yes to all of those. Hell, I’ll give it to him based on Thornton’s approach alone.

You never saw Roy Hobbs making armpit farts before swinging Wonder Boy.

And that’s why a freshman went on to give the commencement speech at graduation that semester.