Interestingly, while I was making up the link to the Browser interview on baseball books, just below, I was listening to a debate on Radio 4's Today programme this morning, discussing sports movies to help promo the launch of Fast Girls, where the panel seemed to conclude that all sports movies are about triumphing over adversity (perhaps on the basis that Fast Girls appears to be a pretty bog standard example of the type). You might argue this is the basis of most movie scripts--but the reality is that the best sports movies are dominated by boxing and baseball, and I'd say the four best boxing movies (Raging Bull, The Set-Up, Fat City, and Rocky), many of the best baseball movies (including my co-favourite Eight Men Out) as well as the best American football movie (North Dallas 40) are all about various forms of failure--although Rocky is the best example of the situation where sporting failure is personal triumph.
They mentioned Chariots of Fire, which had come ninth in an LA Times poll of the best sporting movies ever, the top British performance. It probably is the best British sports movie, and it's very much about triumph over adversity, but the second-best British sporting film is This Sporting Life, and it is very much about failure. The top film on the LA Times list was Hoosiers, which does fit that triumph formula, although it's done very well. My other co-favourite baseball movie, Major League, is a perfectly crafted success-against-the-odds film, maybe the best ever, while the film version of Bang The Drum Slowly, like the novel which is among my five picks in The Browser interview, is a classic precisely because within that formula lies a more important kind of triumph, which proves literally short-lived.