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The 15 Best Sports-Themed TV Series

Sports-themed shows may not be as prevalent on television and in a way that makes sense. After all, real sports already boast an amazing mix of action, drama, some comedy and often quite wild situations and characters without having to fictionalize it. But as with all aspects of life, there is a lot of potential there for a TV show and several times, we’ve seen it happen. True, many are short-lived (the minor league baseball show “Bay City Blues” with Dennis Franz) but others have lasted longer than expected to provide some good entertainment. Even some that only lasted a single season are able to capture the feel of their particular sports amazingly well and often feel like you’re watching ripped-from-the-headlines moments rather than scripted drama.

In many cases, the sports are almost secondary. “The League,” FX’s wild comedy, focuses on fantasy football with the main joke that the characters argue sports all the time but are terrible athletes. Likewise, the hit sitcom The Game, focuses more on the lives of the women involved with ball players than the actual games. But there are lots of cases of shows that put the sports front and center, balancing the drama or humor with the real athletics and can provide some good entertainment in their own right. Some are famous, others less so but all of these shows have done a very good job showcasing why sports are a key aspect of life and whether giving us laughs or drama, do their best to entertain. You may have to wade through some bad stuff but if you’re a sports fan in any way, these 15 shows are a great way to tide you over for new seasons/games and remind you why sports matter so much no matter your age.

15 15. Ballers

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14 14. Footballer’s Wives

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13 13. Hellcats

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12 12. Make it or Break It

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11 11. Necessary Roughness

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10 10. Coach

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9 9. Arli$$

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8 8. The League

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7 7. Eastbound and Down

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6 6. Hang Time

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5 5. The White Shadow

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4 4. Playmakers

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3 3. Lights Out

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Running just one season, this fantastic FX drama shone an overdue light on the brutal truths of the boxing world. Holt McCallany was fantastic in the lead as Patrick “Lights” Leary, a retired boxer who still feels the pull of the ring but trying to provide for his wife and three daughters. But then he’s hit by two major blows. First, he finds his brother has squandered most of his life’s savings in a botched business deal and leaving Patrick close to bankruptcy. Second, a doctor’s visit reveals all those blows to the head have given him constant headaches and memory loss and could get worse (Rocky V anyone?).

2 2. Sports Night

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1 1. Friday Night Lights

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It’s hands-down the most realistic depiction of high school life of any television series. No adults in teenage bodies making witty pop culture references, these kids screw up, get into messes, over their heads and think they’re smarter than they are. In other words, they’re real teenagers. But the show shines by showcasing how football is a metaphor for life, set in a Texas town where the sport is considered religion. Football players are treated like royalty no matter what and their reputations live or die by each game. This is a town where the school council finds it totally logical to spend millions on a Jumbotron scoreboard rather than provide new textbooks for students. Where a division of schools creates a civil war in the town. Where a female manager talks of wanting to be a coach and is literally laughed at by the male coaching staff.

The cast was amazing, highlighted by Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton giving us one of the best marriages on television and while there could be some slumps (the stalker murder plot of season two), it shone with a filming style that made you feel right there. It’s hard to capture in words but there is no denying the power of “FNL” as its five-season run remains one of the best prime-time network shows of the last decade and a sports series to honor. “Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.”

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The 15 Best Sports-Themed TV Series