ESPN 30 for 30...

This has to be among the most brilliant programming I have seen in MONTHS, if not years...

I know this is not "new" per se, in that it debuted October 6th of last year, but was on hiatus from December until next weekend...
That and they were on the third installment before they got to a topic that piqued my interest, but BOY did they once they did.

Perhaps one of my readers who is not a sports fan didn't turn and fucking run when they saw "ESPN" in the title up there and will now be greeted with what it is I am talking about...
For the uninitialized, those who do not have cable, have been living under a rock or watching Lifetime and Oxygen for the past 4 months, ESPN's 30 for 30 is, of all things, a documentary series. As a nerd, anything combining the words "documentary" and "series" will have my interest piqued enough to investigate further, and I did.
As a SPORTS nerd, adding "sports" to the 2 words mentioned above, and you will have my UNDIVIDED attention.
And then comes the part where I almost touched myself...
An unprecedented documentary series featuring thirty films from some of today’s finest storytellers. Each filmmaker will bring their passion and personal point of view to their film detailing the issues, trends, athletes, teams, rivalries, games and events that transformed the sports landscape from 1979 to 2009. -Bill Simmons

ESPN's 30th anniversary was 2009, and to celebrate, they leaned on 30 different filmmakers to produce a documentary of an event shaping one year each of the ESPN era. 30 stories for 30 years. These are KNOWN filmmakers, not some latte-sipping beret-wearing queers from Cannes looking to make a name.
[Phlip note - put a pin in that one, I will be back to it]
Very much like my own documentary series of the summer and fall, these stories are NOT told in chronological order, or even in order of importance, as to assign an importance to something takes the power from all who witnessed or lived it.
They are as follows:

  1. King's Ransom - Wayne Gretzky's 1988 trade from Edmonton to Los Angeles. Original air date 10/09/2009, directed by Peter Berg.
    [no, not a hockey fan, I missed this one]
  2. The Band that Wouldn't Die - The Baltimore Marching Ravens, formerly The Baltimore Colts' Band. Original air date 10/13/2009, directed by Barry Levinson.
    [interesting concept, I hate I missed it now looking back]
  3. Small Potatoes: Who Killed the USFL - The 1983-1986 rise and fall of the United States Football League. Original air date 10/20/2009, directed by Mike Tollin.
    [hate I was still sleeping on it... I have personally always been under the opinion that Raiders' owner Al Davis SUPPORTING the USFL was their undoing, much like his own team]
  4. Muhammad and Larry - the 1980 fight between Muhammad Ali and Larry Holmes. Original air date 10/27/2009, directed by Albert Maysles.
    [another one I HATE I missed]
  5. Without Bias - The life (and 1986 death) of Len Bias. Original air date 11/03/2009, directed by Kirk Fraser.
    [okay, the first one I caught spinning channels one night, and lit Facebook and anyone I thought MIGHT be interested on FIRE about this shit... Hell, Katie enjoyed it too]
  6. The Legend of Jimmy the Greek - the (late 70's-early 80's) life of Jimmy the Greek. Aired 11/10/2009, directed by Fritz Mitchell.
    [another good one, edumacating the dummies who didn't know shit about sports before Cheese Eyes Michael Jordan, caught this one first airing and on purpose]
  7. The U - the 1983-1991 University of Miami football team, aired 12/12/2009, directed by Billy Corbin.
    [oh... my... GOD!!! this is the best fucking installment in the series, I talked to everyone who would listen about this one]
  8. *Winning Time: Reggie Miller vs. The New York Knicks - Reggie Miller's impact on the New York Knicks in the 90's -- specifically 1995. To be aired 03/14/2010, directed by Dan Klores.
    [I often joke about how Reggie Miller made the way for Hakeem Olajuwon to beast while Cheese Eyes played baseball... I guess I was right]
  9. *No Crossover: The Trial of Allen Iverson - Allen Iverson's 1993 racially-charged trial over a bowling alley fight. To be aired on 04/13/2010, directed by Steve James.
    [I have only HEARD of this one, detail should be interesting]
  10. **Guru of Go - Paul Westhead and 1985-1990 Loyola Marymount. To be aired 04/03/2010 directed by Bill Coutrie.
    [this would be the Hank Gathers team]
  11. *Silly Little Game - the story of Rotisserie Baseball. To be aired 04/20/2010, directed by Adam Kurland and Lucas Jansen.
  12. *Run Ricky Run - Ricky Williams' 2004-2005 hiatus from football. To be aired 04/27/2010, directed by Sean Pamphilon.
    [man camps out in Canuckistan and smokes weed, cuts and regrows dreadlocks, then returns to lucrative career... NEXT!]
  13. *Straight Outta LA - The 1982 relationship between the Los Angeles Raiders and the citizens of LA. To be aired 05/04/2010, directed by O'Shea Jackson (yes, Ice Cube, bitches).
    [somewhere in LA, Tony Grand$ is smiling huge]
  14. *The Two Escobars - The murder 1994 of Andres Escobar. To be aired 05/11/2010, directed by Jeff Zimbalist.
    [who is Andres Escobar?]
  15. *June 17, 1994 - The events of June 17, 1994. To be aired on 06/16/2010 (BRILLIANT TIMING!!!), directed by Brett Morgen.
    [I was 2 weeks short of 15, in a hotel in Charlotte for a church convention... Watching the NBA finals and they break in to show a low-speed chase in which no one is killed... I was PISSED]
  16. *The 16th Man - The 1995 rugby World Cup. To be aired 06/22/2010, directed by Cliff Bestall, Lori McCreary and Morgan Freeman
  17. **Into the Wind - one-legged marathon runner Terry Fox, directed by Steve Nash (yes, that Steve Nash).
    [damned Canuckistanis sticking together and shit]
  18. **Jordan Rides the Bus - Cheese Eyes Jordan's 1993 career in minor league baseball, directed by Ron Shelton.
    [wow, 2 cheese eyes jokes in one post not necessarily about basketball?]
  19. **Charismatic - Charismatic's 1999 run for the Triple Crown, directed by Stephen Michaels, Joel Surnow and Jonathon Koch.
  20. **Big Air - The life of Matt Hoffman (1985). Directed by Jeff Tremaine
    [so, the X games are big nowadays, huh?]
  21. **Steve Bartman: Catching Hell - The relationship between Chicago Cubs fans and Bartman following his 2003 interference with the catching of a foul ball. Directed by Alex Gibney.
    [laughing and pointing at the Cubs and their fans some more should be fun]
  22. **Unmatched - The friendship and rivalry of Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova. Directed by Lisa Lax and Nancy Stern, with Hannah Storm.
    [this should be interesting, as it presents a time when the elites in womens' tennis was competitive, though not near as sexy]
  23. **One Night in Vegas - The 1996 night of Tupac Shakur's shooting and his friendship with Mike Tyson. Directed by Reggie Rock Bythewood.
    [hey, they talked about this on a new show on VH1 last week]
  24. **Marion Jones: Press Pause - the rise and 2007 fall of stray baby tooth Marion Jones, directed by John Singleton.
    [this should be interesting, a story that is not getting much press because of everyone else and THEIR steroids shit... Marion Jones should be thankful for the sexism in sports]
  25. **The House that George Built - A look at the family behind the New York Yankees. Directed by Barbara Kopple.
    [a behind the scenes look at the most corrupt organization in sports ... I got nothing]
  26. **Right To Play - The life of 1992 Olympic speed skater Johann Olav Koss. Directed by Frank Marshall.
    [not that I am into olympic speed skating or anything]
  27. **The Best That Never Was - The life and career of high school football player Marcus Dupree.
    [breakout high school phenom turned NFL AND USFL flop... get your popcorn ready]
  28. ** TBA

  29. ** TBA

  30. ** TBA

(* = not yet aired as of typing)
(** = not yet aired and air date not announced)

At this juncture, we are less than a quarter of the way through the series and I am declaring this one a SMASHING success quality-wise, in spite of the less-than-stellar ratings. I will put that on the fact that ESPN's core audience, while loyal to sport in general are just not willing to sit and watch a documentary-styled film.
[Phlip note - remove pin we discussed earlier now]
And this is where I differ in opinion...
Here's the equation as presented:
Sports + Documentary + involvement of known directors = Phlip not wanting to set his cable company on fire...

Being that I missed the first 4 installments, I will allow my continued enjoyment of EACH of the subsequent ones to drive my opinion of the quality of the ones I missed. In such, I am preparing to declare shenanigans if ESPN does not release these on a DVD box set soon upon the close of the series.
Also damning to the series is that they have been coming on ESPN2, not the main network, and are coming on in prime time on Saturdays or Sundays. The initial episodes came on in the close of baseball season and opening of college and professional football. That being said, there were too many alternatives to even WANT to watch. From there, though, we have the series resuming in 11 days in the midst of basketball season, which does not present a hindrance to primetime programming on weekends and not much more in the way. This SHOULD help ratings, but the fact remains that jocks are rarely nerdy enough to enjoy such a thing. Not all of the subjects may be fully engrossing to all who may watch, but damned if the presentation hasn't been top fucking notch so far.
With all that being said and with most of the tentative programming schedule laid out ahead of you, will YOU watch?


Tony Grands™ said…
Good breakdown. Lots of hush-hush, mumble mumble about Cube's documentary. I was under the impression for the last 3 months that it was an actual "movie".

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