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Friday Night Fun: 30 for 30

Last year during the off season I wrote a series of posts called Friday Night Fun. Basically the idea was to review sports entertainment, whether it was movies, books, documentaries or anything else. I quite enjoyed writing them, and more particularly I enjoyed reading/watching whatever it was that I wrote about that week. 

You can find the full list of articles here

Movies I reviewed last year:

Brian's Song
Remember the Titans

We also talked about the best (and worst) Kevin Costner movies, and I looked at the Top 25 Sports Movies 

The books I reviewed:

The Genius (a biography of Bill Walsh's days with the 49ers)
That First Season (a historical look at Vince Lombardi's first season with the Green Bay Packers)
Blinded by the Light (part biography off Michael Oher, part examination of the rise in importance of the left tackle)

This year I'm going to start out with reviewing ESPN's great 30 for 30 series of documentaries. To quote Bill Simmons (the executive producer of the project):

It started out as a one-paragraph e-mail in 2007. And only because I love documentaries. The goal of a well-written piece and a well-done documentary is fundamentally the same: you pick a story that hasn't been fully explored yet, you throw yourself into it and you make it sing.

I know how to write; I don't know how to make documentaries. But I know what makes for a good story. And in 2007, I wanted to see ESPN create more stories. So I sent my bosses a short pitch that hinged on three ideas rolled into one:

The three ideas:

1. The 30th anniversary of ESPN was coming up and something special needed to be done.

2. There should be 30 documentaries, but it can't be the best of, because that's already been done. It needs to have a catch.

3. The series should be called 30 for 30. 

Simmons and the ESPN team sat down and started tossing out story ideas and director's names. They wanted to get sports fans and talented directors and they managed to do both. Ice Cube is a huge Raiders fan, so he agreed to do a documentary on the Raiders and their relationship with their minority fans. Mike Tollin (director of Radio, Coach Carter and Varsity Blues among others), worked in the USFL before breaking into Hollywood and had a ton of old footage he wanted to use in a story. Peter Berg (writer for the tv show Friday Night Lights as well as others) is fanatical about Wayne Gretzy. 

You get the idea. 

All of the projects turned out exceptionally well (though I think the best is Once Brothers), and all are must see viewing for sports fans. 


List of films in the 30 for 30 series (from Wikipedia)

Note: Unless otherwise indicated, each episode length is 60 minutes (including commercials.)

# Title Directed by U.S. viewers
(in millions)
Original air date
1 "King's Ransom" Peter Berg 0.645[4] October 6, 2009

The 1988 trade of Wayne Gretzky from the Edmonton Oilers to the Los Angeles Kings and the effect it had on Gretzky, the fans in Edmonton, and the popularity of hockey in Southern California


2 "The Band that Wouldn't Die" Barry Levinson October 13, 2009

A profile of Baltimore's love affair with football and the Colts, focusing on the Colts Marching Band. After the Colts decamped for Indianapolis in 1984, the band remained in Baltimore and helped promote the eventual return of the NFL to the city. 


3 "Small Potatoes: Who Killed the USFL?" Mike Tollin October 20, 2009

Fresh interviews and archival footage track the life and demise of the United States Football League in the mid 1980s. A highlight is Tollin's interview with Donald Trump, the former New Jersey Generals owner whose post-interview comments on the league give this documentary its title.[5] 


4 "Muhammad and Larry" Albert Maysles October 27, 2009

A look at the October 1980 Muhammad Ali-Larry Holmes fight and its impact on both fighters, featuring fresh interviews with participants and previously unseen lead-up footage from both fighters' camps. 


5 "Without Bias" Kirk Fraser November 3, 2009

The death of Len Bias from a cocaine-induced heart attack, two days after Boston selected him as the second overall pick in the 1986 NBA Draft, and its impact on casual drug use, especially by the sports community. 


6 "The Legend of Jimmy the Greek" Fritz Mitchell November 10, 2009
The life of Jimmy "the Greek" Snyder, from his career as a Las Vegas bookmaker to his tenure on The NFL Today, from which he was fired in 1988. 
7 "The U" Billy Corben 2.37[6] December 12, 2009

The racial and cultural evolution of Miami during the 1980s as represented within the University of Miami football team(2 hours in length) 


8 "Winning Time: Reggie Miller vs. The New York Knicks" Dan Klores March 14, 2010

The impact of Reggie Miller on the New York Knicks in the 1990s, specifically focusing on the 1995 NBA Playoffs and Miller's interaction with Knicks fan Spike Lee


9 "Guru of Go" Bill Couturié April 3, 2010

Paul Westhead's coaching tenure at Loyola Marymount University (1985-1990) features his high-scoring run-and-gun offense and players such as Bo Kimble and Hank Gathers


10 "No Crossover: The Trial of Allen Iverson" Steve James April 13, 2010

The 1993 trial of Hampton, Virginia, high-school athlete Allen Iverson, convicted for his role in a racially-tinged melee, and its impact on both the community and on Iverson's life. (90 minutes in length) 


11 "Silly Little Game" Adam Kurland and Lucas Jansen April 20, 2010

Meeting at New York City's La Rotisserie Francaise restaurant in 1980, a group of writers and academics develop Rotisserie Fantasy baseball, only to see it take off in popularity and leave them behind. 


12 "Run Ricky Run" Sean Pamphilon and Royce Toni 0.972[7] April 27, 2010

A profile of Ricky Williams focuses on his brief 2004 departure from the NFL, when he sought self-redemption amidst media criticism and fresh rumors of marijuana use. 


13 "The 16th Man" Clifford Bestall, Lori McCreary, and Morgan Freeman 0.463[8] May 4, 2010

How hosting (and winning) the 1995 Rugby World Cup and Nelson Mandela's support of the Springboks national team affected post-apartheidSouth Africa


14 "Straight Outta L.A." Ice Cube May 11, 2010

The relationship between the Raiders and the minority fan base in Los Angeles during the team's 13 seasons in L.A. (1982-1994). 


15 "June 17, 1994" Brett Morgen June 16, 2010

Quick-cut archival footage captures the various sporting events on the day in question and the emotions they generated, with O. J. Simpson's run from the police overshadowing an NBA Finals game between the New York Knicks and Houston Rockets, the opening of the U.S.-hosted1994 World Cup, the last-ever U.S. Open PGA tournament round for Arnold PalmerKen Griffey, Jr. hitting a home run to add to his record-setting pace, and a parade in New York after the New York Rangers finally won their first Stanley Cup in decades. 


16 "The Two Escobars" Jeff Zimbalist and Michael Zimbalist June 22, 2010

The lives of soccer player Andrés Escobar and drug lord Pablo Escobar; the intertwining of crime and soccer in their native Colombia; and the connections between the murders of both men. (2 hours in length) 


17 "The Birth of Big Air" Jeff TremaineJohnny Knoxville, and Spike Jonze July 29, 2010

The life of Mat Hoffman and his 25 year career of advancing BMX riding, both creatively and promotionally. 


18 "Jordan Rides the Bus" Ron Shelton August 24, 2010

Motivated by the dream his late father had for him, Michael Jordan retires from basketball and has a brief career in minor league baseball


19 "Little Big Men" Al Szymanski August 31, 2010

The Kirkland National Little League team's success at the 1982 Little League World Series, examining why their title win is considered one of the biggest upsets in the event's history. 

20 "One Night in Vegas" Reggie Rock Bythewood September 7, 2010

The friendship of boxer Mike Tyson and rapper Tupac Shakur and the night of September 7, 1996, when Shakur was murdered after attending the Tyson-Bruce Seldon fight in Las Vegas

21 "Unmatched" Lisa Lax and Nancy Stern, with Hannah Storm September 14, 2010

A look at the rivalry and friendship between tennis legends Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova

22 "The House of Steinbrenner" Barbara Kopple September 21, 2010

The legacy of George Steinbrenner's ownership of the New York Yankees

23 "Into the Wind" Steve Nash and Ezra Holland 0.894[9] September 28, 20101

Terry Fox's attempt to run across Canada in support of fundraising for cancer research captures the attention of his fellow Canadians and the world. (This film first aired on Canada's TSN2 on September 19, 2010.).

24 "Four Days In October" Major League Baseball Productions 1.45 [10] October 5, 2010

The remarkable comeback of the Boston Red Sox against the New York Yankees in the 2004 ALCS

25 "Once Brothers" NBA Entertainment October 12, 2010

The story of Croatian Dražen Petrović and Serbian Vlade Divac, NBA players and Yugoslavian national teammates, and how upheaval in their homeland adversely and irretrievably affected their friendship. (90 minutes in length) 

26 "Tim Richmond: To the Limit" NASCAR Media Group and Rory Karpf October 19, 2010

The career of NASCAR driver Tim Richmond, his flamboyant lifestyle, and his 1989 death from AIDS

27 "Fernando Nation" Cruz Angeles October 26, 2010

The euphoria created by Fernando Valenzuela's 1981 arrival with the Los Angeles Dodgers

28 "Marion Jones: Press Pause" John Singleton November 2, 2010

The successful track and field career of Marion Jones, her 2007 admission of performance-enhancing drug use, and subsequent prison sentence. 

29 "The Best That Never Was" Jonathan Hock November 9, 2010

The 1981 recruiting of high school football player Marcus Dupree by multiple big-time college programs, his resulting injury-prone college and professional career, and how his college and later USFL recruitment changed the recruiting process. (2 hours in length) 

30 "Pony Excess" Thaddeus D. Matula December 11, 2010
The rise, fall, and rebirth of the SMU Mustangs football program, which received a 2-year "death penalty" for major infractions(2 hours in length) 


I won't be reviewing the films in order, but I fully intend on reviewing all of the films dealing with football and a handful of the others.