The cliché of the underdog coming from behind and winning the “big game” has been repeated countless amounts of times. Air Bud (Smith, 1997) and numerous other films fall into this trap of giving viewers they ending they want rather than the one that is more grounded in reality. The Bad News Bears (Ritchie, 1976) is the motion picture that decides to deflect genre conventions and has the main characters lose their championship game, benefitting the film rather than making it disposable entertainment.
The plot of The Bad News Bears is already quite far fetched and, by having the Bears win at the end, it makes for an even more unlikely plot. A team of outcasts, who do not even know the mechanics of baseball should not be able to win the championship game let alone even make it to the playoffs. Once the Bears hit their stride, the continue to win and win, until the rug is pulled out under the audience’s feet when the Bears lose the championship game. Richard Linklater’s 2003 film School of Rock seems to mirror many of the plot devices used in The Bad News Bears. Dewey Finn (Jack Black) and his band made of middle school kids lose the battle of the bands at the end of the movie but grow from the experience just like Morris Buttermaker (Walter Matthau) and his players do from losing their championship game. The importance of the characters losing in these films has more to do with how people evolve personally from losing which lasts a lifetime, rather than obtaining a trophy or cash prize, which is a temporary reward.
Beloved characters losing is something that is rarely ever seen even in horror movies, one character almost always survives. But when it does happen, it gives it a larger sense of importance, even reflective of our own real world.
“I mean, that’s what life is, a series of down endings.” – Dante Hicks, Clerks