30 for 30

Posted on December 1, 2010


So I have been following the majority of the 30 for 30 series since it’s inception.  If you are unaware of what this string of documentaries is all about, please allow it’s creator, Bill Simmons, to explain it in much better detail here, http://30for30.espn.com/bill-simmons-essay.html.  There have been a plethora of topics discussed throughout, directed by all sorts of individuals.  When I am not out getting drunk and trying to get laid, I am at home getting drunk and watching TV.  When the first production premiered on a Tuesday, I decided that with the inevitable cancellation of the CW’s Melrose Place 2.0 and the graduation of the last GW kids I know (I will miss thee dollar beer night at McFaddens), that I would invest wholesale in the 30 for 30’s.  I was blown away from the first installment and have been hooked ever since.  I am eagerly anticipating when they all finally come out for sale, but knowing ESPN and the quantity of documentaries involved, it will no doubt be some astronomical price.  That, or they will ask for your first born to be sold into slavery.  Endlessly searching for that perfect statistic, Bob Uecker/Harry Doyle-esque from Major League; he’s batting .342 on cloudless days that begin with the letter T, in ballparks East of the Mississippi River, vs. pitchers born after Memorial Day.  Now as it wines down, I have taken a retroactive look back and compiled my favorites with some limited ramblings on the side.  Please feel free to concur with me, disagree with me or lament that I don’t count soccer as a sport, therefore rendering it more 29 for 29.  So here you go:

1. “Four Days in October”: It’s my Sox. Doing what every fanatic in New England has needed.  No more lunchables commercials proclaiming, “wishin’ and hopin’, and prayin’,” for that elusive title.  I love Boston (2nd to D.C.) and almost everything else associated with it, sorry Brady, so this was right up my alley.  I may even be the only fan who owns and actually enjoyed Fever Pitch, so why wouldn’t I go ape for the greatest comeback in sports history documented in a never before seen way with extra MLB footage?  Flat out loved it.

1a. “The U”: Growing up I HATED the Hurricanes.  Hated their swagger.  Hated how they wore their uniforms.  Hated how wide receivers were numbered oddly (Irving as #47.  Really?).  Hated how those same wide outs were lined up in a 3 point stance.  And most of all, I hated how they beat Nebraska.  Looking back now I cannot think of a better team to fall for, outside maybe your local university or a parents alum.  They played football the way it was meant to be played, overly physical with mucho style points.  I genuinely do miss their swag.  And you know what?  It’s all about the U!  Too bad today’s teenagers can’t comprehend how dominating the ‘Canes were for 20 years.

2. “June 17th, 1994″: I thought it was done extremely well.  Easily the most creative take of the entire 30 for 30 project.  Not a one interview or random commentary throughout.  It was all original news broadcasts that were cut and pasted together to make an incredible documentary.  It flowed superbly.  It managed to get you back in that moment, all the while building to the dramatic climax.  On a side note, I remember that day vividly.  I had the Chase over at my house to watch movies we rented from Brookville (592 White anybody?).  So as my father followed the developing situation, we laughed our asses off to Ace Ventura and Demolition Man.  I still am unsure about those 3 sea shells.  We all were having a grand ‘ole time, except for one, T-fizz.  Since the movies were rated R, he wasn’t permitted to partake in our festivities.  Instead, he played basketball in the backyard all by his lonesome.  I am still in awe that he was honorable and classy enough not to lie and break the rules.  Anyone know what happened to that guy?

3. “Winning Time: Reggie Miller vs. the New York Knicks”: As “the U” did with football, this brought me back to when basketball was more entertaining to watch.  I forgot that Reggie was such a chirper.  He was like an early Jalen Rose, but funnier.  His shot not as sexy as Jesus Shuttlesworth’s, but just as effective.  During the games there were flagrant 2 fouls being “committed” as often as teenagers would jerk off.  Yes, that often, and yet it was how the game was played.  I dispise all of the ticky tack calls and one on one nonsense of todays game.  Those epic battles were of the fiercest variety, but alas, neither team was ever able to win it all thanks to Mike and to a lesser degree Hakeem.  I think Spike is still attempting to talk his way outta getting the Kinckerbockers and himself choked out.

4. “Without Bias”:  Arguable the saddest one to be released.  Not to mention it hit a chord here as a local tragedy.  There is no question he was going to be great.  Hell, he was already eating up the college game without even using any A1 sauce.  An explosive kid in a grown man’s frame.  I loved seeing all of the area reporters and news casters like Jim Vance and such diving into the fray.  This centers around one of the enduring questions in sports.  Was it really his first time?  I loved watching him and he was a Celtic, but with all due respect, I would wager everything that I own that it wasn’t.  Either way, he was a phenomenal athlete that deserves to be remembered for rockin’ that classic UMD yellow #34 jersey.  R.I.P. Len.

5. “Once Brothers”:  I know this is another basketball one, but it is actually much more then that.  It’s a history lesson intertwined with friendship, patriotism and athletics.  Even though it was one sided, produced by NBA tv and strictly a platform for Vlade to run for president of Serbia one day (which he routinely implies), it did attempt to acknowledge the troubling quandary of friendship or nation.  The interviewees may say that it is all good now, but the images speak volumes otherwise.  Dino, Toni and Vlade were never in the same room.  It took until the end for Vlade to even actually cross back into Croatia and visit Drazen Petrovic’s family for the first time in 20 years.  Scars of war still visible, you could feel the lingering tension.

6. “The Best That Never Was”: Honestly and regretfully, I did not know who Marcus Dupree was before this.  I can not forget the name now.  It sort of reminded me of 7 years later with the “Boobie” Miles story from Friday Night Lights.  That is if Miles was 10 times better, didn’t get hurt in high school and persevered until he eventually made it out of Odessa-Permian.  The highlight reel on Dupree was flabbergasting!  He was a straight stud.  It was tough to watch this kid being constantly manipulated and pulled against his will by everybody singularly looking for a free payday and not with his best interests at heart.  To Marcus’ credit, he didn’t make excuses for his fall from grace, although there were copious amount of asshats to point fingers towards.  He even admitted that dropping out of Oklahoma was the worst choice of his life.  He lost out on college, a national championship and almost his entire future.

7. “Kings Ransom”: First off I must say that I am a huge Peter Berg fan.  His personal friendship with Gretzky was a tremendous addition to this documentary.  He may not have asked the most pointed questions, but you can clearly see the comfortability between the two that led to more engaging and candid answers.  The only downside that I had with this had nothing to do with the actual film.  It was my brain constantly repeating, “I’m gonna make Gretsky’s head bleed for superfan #99 over here.”  It was on a never ending loop like I was a 14 year old girl who plays her Taylor Swift album again and again.  It caused me to laugh constantly and not pay full attention throughout.

8. “Fernando Nation”: America is by far the greatest place on Earth.  Some things just can’t be argued.  It is where dreams can come true and flourish.  For a pudgy Mexican kid, that is exactly what happened.  With an uncanny ability to throw a screwball of all pitches and his signature release, “El Toro” took the country by storm.  Without speaking a lick of English or knowing the first thing about American culture, he did what he was placed on this planet to do; throw strikes.  His rookie year is remarkable still to this day and is a testament to the American dream.  Additional unique pitching style awards go to Hideo Nomo (Tornado), Dice K (Gyrating hips), Ebby Calvin “Nuke” LaLoosh and Eddie Harris (tied-girly), Kit Keller (actual girl), Henry Rowengartner (the catapult, floater),  Miles from Hardball (walkman on the mound pumping Biggie tunes), Ryan Dunne (high knee-lefty), Rickey Vaughn (high knee-righty) and Billy Chapel (ageless hurler).

9. “Muhammad and Larry”/”The Legend of Jimmy the Greek”: Wasn’t able to decipher which one was more deserving, so I placed them together here at #9.  I enjoyed them equally and am always in search of stories/people/events that I’m not up to par with.  Of course I know who all three people are, but it was informative to learn more of the behind the scenes aspects of Jimmy and then the Muhammad vs. Larry bout.  Thankfully, Max Kellerman was not around to ruin that fight.  And without “the Greek,” who helped mainstream handicapping, we wouldn’t be the degenerates we are today.

10. “Pony Express”: Now, this has yet to air (12/11), but I am so enamored by the story it vaults it’s way up to ten without being viewed prior.  It is football in Texas.  Everything is bigger in Texas, including cheating apparently, and the guillotine that was the “death penalty” still haunts the program to this day.  From a once storied and nationally recognized program, to the middle of the C-USA pack, I gleefully await it’s premier.  Bonus trivia question: Who was the last white tailback in the NFL to rush for over 1,000 yards?  Need a hint or two?  He was Eric Dickerson’s counterpart in the backfield at SMU.  He did it while playing for New England in ’85.  He is currently a football commentator.  His son was catalyst in Leach being fired from Tech…  It was Craig “the Pony” James for 1,227 yards.

Honorable mentions: “The Band that Wouldn’t Die,” “Straight Outta L.A.,” “The 16th Man,” “Run Rickey, Run.”

Dishonorable mentions for not being as good as they could and should have been: “One Night in Vegas,” “No Crossover: The Trial of Allen Iverson,” “Jordan Rides the Bus,” “Little Big Men,” “Small Potatoes: Who Killed the USFL,” “Guru of Go.”

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