Schwartz: Ten Sentences – The 30 Recommendations Edition

March 15, 2020

Written by David Schwartz

Hawkeye Nation

No Big Ten Tournament. No NCAA Tournaments. No NCAA wrestling. No spring sports.

No sports at all.

I’m here with a special expanded version Sunday’s Ten Sentences, with 10 places to visit in Iowa, 10 sports movies for everyone, and, since there’s nothing to watch on TV, 10 sports books. When you’re done, jump on Twitter and share some of your favorites, too. I’d love to hear your recommendations.

Places to go in Iowa

In the summer of 2016 we took our kids on a different sort of vacation. We wanted them to learn about their home. Instead of a road trip to the Rockies or a few days at Disney, we spent the summer traveling to each of Iowa’s 99 counties.

On Day 1 our car’s DVD player broke. An ominous sign. It couldn’t be fixed. But we persevered. Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, and mostly on weekends, we visited one landmark per county, sometimes as many as eight or nine in a day. Some you can probably guess, like American Gothic House in Wapello County and Surf Ballroom in Cerro Gordo.

Here are 10 others. If you’re feeling cooped up but want to avoid crowds for the time being, consider road tripping to these Iowa gems:

Snake Alley, Des Moines County (Burlington).

World’s Largest Frying Pan, Buchanan County (Brandon).

World’s Largest Popcorn Ball, Sac County (Sac City).

Lewis and Clark State Park, Monona County (Onawa).

Earl Marshall the Bull, Crawford County (Denison).

Toolesboro Indian Mounds, Louisa County (Wapello).

Squirrel Cage Jail, Pottawattamie County (Council Bluffs).

Bridges, Madison County (Winterset).

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World’s Largest Bullhead, Hancock County (Crystal Lake).

Tree in the Road, Cass County (Brayton).

Sports movies for everyone

Field of Dreams: The ultimate Iowa movie. Man with daddy issues goes to Berkeley, marries an Iowan, moves to Dyersville, and reconciles with his dad on a baseball field full of ghosts. Bonus points for a shout out to Iowa City.

Creed: This Rocky spinoff about the illegitimate son of Apollo Creed could have gone wrong at so many turns. Instead, it’s the best Rocky movie since the original – possibly better – and will appeal to newer audiences because it wasn’t filmed 45 years ago.

Cinderella Man: I expected nothing out of this movie, which is appropriate since its subject is the famous 1930s boxer James J. Braddock. Perfect if you’re looking for a feel-good movie with a happy ending.

Hoosiers: Of course this movie was going to be on the list. Without either NCAA Basketball Tournament, this is the closest to we’re going to get to high-drama basketball.

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A League of Their Own: The fighting sisters dynamic gets a bit tough to watch sometimes, but the team chemistry is among the best ever included in a sports movie. Geena Davis, Rosie O’Donnell, and Tom Hanks shine.

Bull Durham: Iowa has more than its fair share of minor league teams and ballparks. This film will scratch that nostalgia itch with one of the best baseball movies ever made.

White Men Can’t Jump: This movie was at least 10 years ahead of the cultural curve, and it was hilarious. Highly quotable lines – “Your mother’s an astronaut” – make this one of the few movies I can watch, get up and stretch, sit back down and watch again.

Bend It Like Beckham: This United Kingdom film cost just $3.5 million to make, earned $76 million around the world, and who knows how much through DVD sales. The movie is timeless, as much about family and cultural pressure as it is about sports.

Love and Basketball: Monica and Quincy adjust to life’s changes together, but the one constant is basketball in a film that is part sports, part romance.

Blazing Saddles: OK, this isn’t a sports movie, but the cast includes former Hawkeye great Alex Karras. At this point it’s one of the few ways to get our Hawkeye fix.

Sports books

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Shoeless Joe: The ultimate Iowa book. Man with daddy issues marries an Iowan, moves to Dyersville, and reconciles with his dad on a baseball field full of ghosts.

Loose Balls: If you’re missing basketball, this oral history of the American Basketball Association is hilarious and interesting, and a pretty quick read.

Days of Grace: Arthur Ashe’s memoir tells the story of this champion tennis player’s activism and battle with AIDS. His dignity and grace are inspirational.

Redemption Song: A brilliant look at Muhammad Ali as he truly lived and was perceived throughout his decades. Unlike anything you’ve ever read or watched about the late boxing champion and international icon.

Friday Night Lights: Every bit as riveting today as it was when it came out in 1990, this inspiration for a movie and television series tells the true story of a Texas town’s obsession with high school football. Bonus points that the town is Odessa, Texas, where Hayden Fry graduated high school.

The Cross of Redemption: Not a sports book but a collection of James Baldwin’s writing, including “The Fight: Patterson vs. Liston,” written for Nugget magazine in 1963.

The Sixth Man: Andre Igoudala’s awesome memoir about his life in basketball and his awakening to financial, cultural, and racial realities.

String Theory: David Foster Wallace’s collection of essays on tennis.

King of the World: Another Ali book. This one focuses almost exclusively on his fights against Sonny Liston.

The Cost of These Dreams: There’s no better sports feature writer alive than’s Wright Thompson. This is a collection of his work, including “The Losses of Dan Gable.”

* Talk with David Schwartz on Twitter @daveschwartz.

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