WATCH: That Time Air Bud Won The Women’s World Cup
Have you been feeling a little warmer recently? It’s not the temperature. You’re suffering from soccer fever, baby!
The Women’s World Cup is in full swing, and on Monday the United States defeated Australia, 3-1, in their first game. Tonight, the USA faces Sweden — expected to be the toughest test for the Americans in the group stage.
There aren’t many films about women’s soccer. Bend It Like Beckham is likely the best one. There’s also these two I’ve never seen. And then there’s Ladybugs, where Rodney Dangerfield cheats and puts a boy on the team.
Then there is the one where a dog wins the Women’s World Cup for the United States.
A bit of backstory: Buddy was a real dog who could shoot baskets, and Disney made a theatrical film about him. Air Bud was no cinematic masterpiece, but it was about as good as a movie about a basketball-playing dog could be. Plus, it had the line, “He’s right! Ain’t no rule say a dog can’t play basketball.”
Disney made another sequel, Air Bud: Golden Receiver. It was also released in theaters, and was not as good. (“The first time Buddy runs onto the field, the announcer shouts, ‘It’s a dog!’” Roger Ebert wrote in his fantastic review. “Don’t you kinda think a play-by-play announcer in a small suburban town would recognize the golden retriever that had just won the basketball championship?”) Then, Disney essentially licensed the character to a company called Keystone Entertainment (and, later, a similarly-named company with the same people). There have since been nine more sequels, most of them following Air Bud’s puppies as they go to space, replace Santa’s reindeer, et cetera. The usual stuff. Also, Air Bud wins World Series MVP in a film called Air Bud: Seventh Inning Fetch.
But back to soccer. Air Bud: World Pup was released straight-to-video in 2000, just one year after the women’s soccer team won the World Cup. Somehow, the studio got 1999 World Cup stars Tisha Venturini, Brianna Scurry and Brandy Chastain to make cameos at the end.
Scurry gets hurt during a penalty shootout against Norway, which means… Air Bud has to fill in. Yes, Air Bud. Wearing Number K9.
The main problem with the Air Bud sports films is this: In order to play on a high school’s athletic team, you have to be enrolled in the school. In these films, we never see the dog attending any classes. Air Bud is an illegal ringer! The fanciful endings to these films, when he wins World Series MVP or is Gabrielle Reece’s partner in a beach volleyball tournament, are actually more realistic than the rest of the film. A dog can certainly (okay, probably) turn pro in a sport it’s good at. A kid shouldn’t be cut from a sports team so a dog can play, but in the pros? It’s every man and dog for himself.
Which brings us to the end of World Pup. Scurry gets hurt, and the coach substitutes her with Air Bud. Which would be fine, except: Air Bud is a boy! He should not be allowed to play on the women’s world cup team. I know the men’s team’s most recent World Cup result at that point was a poor showing at France 98, but come on. The USA clearly cheated to win the World Cup in this movie. This is a bit more serious than simulating injuries on the pitch. It’s essentially the same plot as Ladybugs!
Then again, I’d take a victory for the USA in this year’s World Cup even if they have to cheat. If Hope Solo gets hurt, I know just the dog to replace her.