Made during an era when pre-teens weren’t required to wear protective padding before leaving the house and adults felt comfortable swearing and getting plowed in front of impressionable youths, 1976’s The Bad News Bears remains the best film ever made about kids and sports. An endearingly foul-mouthed tribute to sportsmanship that illustrates the emptiness of win-at-all-costs competitiveness, Michael Ritchie’s comedy involves the titular baseball squad and their beer-guzzling pool cleaner manager Buttermaker (Walter Matthau), a has-been so unworthy of respect that no one in the movie can even properly pronounce his name (Boilermaker? Buttercrud?). The motley team members include a blond shortstop who loves to fight and use racial epithets, an African-American left fielder who dreams of being Hank Aaron, and a motorcycle-riding delinquent with a canon for a right arm, and with the exception of Tatum O’Neil – who, as the team’s star pitcher, lays on the Shirley Temple-ish charm a bit too thick – these pint-sized performers bring a rough-around-the-edges naturalism to their athletically incompetent antics. Yet the film’s true ace is the great Matthau, who – whether hilariously slumping to the ground from drunkenness while tossing batting practice, or frighteningly throwing beer in O’Neil’s face during a climactic argument – delivers a near-perfect portrait of cantankerous loserdom that astutely locates side-splitting humor in the depths of disappointment and regret.