10 ESPN 30 For 30 Documentaries You Should Watch
With the Hot Stove burning away, the nights getting cooler and longer, there’s nothing better then curling up in front of the TV and watching some great shows. ESPN’s 30 For 30 documentary series examining important stories in sports has often been held up as one of the pinnacles of the networks programming and for good reason. Here, in no particular order, I suggest 10 documentaries from the series covering a wide range of topics that I feel should be watched. Nearly all are available on Netflix and are often repeated on ESPN 2.
Dir. Alex Gibney, 2011
Catching Hell focusses on the infamous foul ball popup in Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS at Wrigley that created a martyr of a fan who got in the way. It also (rather intrusively and not as successfully) tries to compare the incident to Bill Buckner’s gaffe in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series and how a player faced the hate of an entire city. Director Alex Gibney makes it a personal mission to uncover the events of that cold Chicago night and uncovers really that there were many villains that night, and a heap of fate. Although flawed (the Buckner stuff should have been a separate episode) all baseball fans should check this one out.
Playing For The Mob
Dir. Joe Lavine & Cayman Grant, 2014
The engrossing story of the Boston College Fixing Scandal of 1978-79 plays out like a movie. It has the players involved, not all maybe as honest as they say, the Mob, including the infamous Henry Hill portrayed by Ray Liotta in Goodfellas, and the prosecutors who tried bring down some of the biggest members of the NY Mafia by proving their involvement in this scheme. Mafia stories are almost always highly fascinating and this one is no exception, guided through by Liotta and including some very revealing interviews you’ll come away still trying to work out who was really guilty on the floor of the court.
The Best That Never Was
Dir. Jonathan Hock, 2010
The poignant story of a man who had everything to look forward to, only then to see it all slip away due to bad judgments from those around him and himself. Dupree was a can’t miss football prospect, a RB with such speed and power it took your breath away. A college career showed glimpses of that greatness but it was hampered by greed, injuries and immaturity. The Best That Never Was follows the man from his glory to his mistakes whilst he reflects in his modern day role.
The Day The Series Stopped
Dir. Ryan Fleck, 2009
Game 3 of the 1989 World Series has become a footnote in history. The Oakland Athletics, up 2 games to 0, headed into Candlestick Park to play the Giants and take an even more commanding series lead. ABC started their pregame introductions and then the world shook. The worst earthquake to hit the Bay Area since the turn of the century struck and baseball became an afterthought. This emotional documentary looks beyond what happened in the confines of Candlestick and how the rest of the area suffered, something that seems to be forgotten when we look back to 1989.
June 17th, 1994
Dir. Brett Morgen, 2010
A lot of events across Sports were happening on June 17th, but the date will always be known as the day of the bizarre White Bronco police chase with OJ Simpson. This 30 for 30 examines the event as if one was switching channels. We hear announces in Golf, Baseball and Basketball break into their coverages to comment on the crazy events in LA. An audio, visual experience like none other in the 30 for 30 series, June 17th 1994 is one to experience.
No Crossover: The Trial of Allen Iverson
Dir. Steve James, 2010
Allen Iverson was an incredibly gifted college basketball player with a future in the NBA almost a guarantee. However a violent brawl in his home town launched him nationally into a talking point of racial tensions in Virginia. No Crossover doesn’t set out to prove innocence or guilt, it merely steps back and lets the people involved talk and give their side of the story ultimately allowing the viewer to make up their own mind.
Dir. Thaddeus D. Matula, 2010
SMU was one of the best Football Programs in the country during the 1980’s, then it was revealed how they became so and the NCAA voted to give the school it’s harshest punishment it could give, the Death Penalty. Pony Excess looks at how SMU would buy their players in flagrant disregard for NCAA recruiting practices and how they would eventually weather through their punishment.
Jordan Rides The Bus
Dir. Ron Shelton, 2010
We all know Michael Jordan the basketball great, but did you know that he spent a year in the Minors under manager Terry Francona? Jordan Rides the Bus explores the devastating personal event that spurred MJ to retire from basketball and take on the daunting task of trying to become a professional baseball player.
Ghosts Of Ole Miss
Dir. Fritz Mitchell, 2012
A look into the turbulent south in 1962 where violent civil unrest ruled against the dreams and desires of integration. Ole Miss was at the heart of this turmoil and yet the 62 Rebel College Football Team did the best that they’ve ever done before or since. This film looks into whether they rose despite of the troubles, or because of it.
The HOUSE of STEINBRENNER
Dir. Barbara Kopple, 2010
Set against the Backdrop of the Demolition of the old Yankee Stadium, ‘House’ looks at the legacy of The Boss, George Steinbrenner and his son Hal who is now stepping forward into the running of the storied New York Yankees. My favorite part of this documentary (and yes I am a Yankee fan so there is a bias) is not so much the interviews with Hal or the clips with George but the memories of the office workers at the Stadium who are reliving a lot of the past while moving items to their new future home.