Could A Modern Sports Story Work On Stage?



When you think about it, there’s very little crossover between the world of sports and stage productions. In fact, there are virtually no significant examples (though there are some smaller ones). The New Yorker delved into this idea back in 2012, and came to an exceedingly simple but perhaps perfectly appropriate conclusion: regarding a musical about the basketball star Magic Johnson, the article concluded, people would “rather see him play.”

It was a specific conclusion about a specific production, but it feels as if it encompasses the core issue with sports-related plays and musicals. Those who would be interested in these subjects, for the most part, would rather just watch the real thing than sit through a drama about it that can’t possibly put forth the same level of action.

This idea, if we accept it, obliterates the potential for most sports stories to be adapted for the stage – but not necessarily all of them. There are at least a few general concepts and specific stories that could conceivably have a place on a stage somewhere.

A Jerry Maguire Story

Jerry Maguire is one of the most iconic sports movies of the last 30 years – but it also contains so little in the way of actual sports that the prominent pop culture and sports site Grantland once ran an article debating what sort of movie it was. Adapting Jerry Maguire itself to the stage is a big ask, given that it was so thoroughly driven by its lead actors and the era in which it came out. But it does provide something of a blueprint for a pseudo-sports drama that could, in fact, work on stage. A creative story about a manager and an athlete, with a love story or two worked in, could make for a wonderful show, and rope in sports fans at the same time.


Moneyball is a more recent film, but it pulled off something similar to what Jerry Maguire did, in that it’s at least largely a sports movie that has very little focus on actual sports action. It’s a more specific story, about actual characters and a real shift that occurred in the analytical thinking behind baseball, and for this reason it would need to be adapted more directly. Whether or not a tale that revolves around baseball would be a hit in the UK specifically is up for debate – but in general, Moneyball appears to be the rare sports story that could be handled well on stage.

The Leicester City Story

Leicester City’s 2016 Premier League title may be the greatest underdog story of the 21st century, and would certainly resonate with a UK audience. Now, showing the actual action of the team’s wins would be virtually impossible, but there’s actually another angle that could show this story from the average British football fan’s point of view: the betting story. Modern bookmaking sites have helped more and more fans get used to the ins and outs of betting, which means a lot of people would understand a story revolving around someone making a fortune on Leicester’s win. This was a famously lucrative Premier League outcome for a few lucky bettors (one man supposedly won £200,000), so this would actually be a familiar story and would turn the underdog story into a drama viewed through the lens of an average person.

Simone Biles 2016

This could be the most ambitious idea on the list, because a very talented gymnast would be needed to make it work. However, if you were to sit and think about which actual sports could be depicted on a theatre stage, gymnastics has to be high on the list. This, coupled with the fact that American gymnast Simone Biles only recently had a historically incredible performance at the Rio Olympics in 2016, provides a rare opportunity for an actual sports-centric show. A play or musical about Simone Biles’s quest for history – or maybe even about the legendary American team Biles led – could be great fun.