30 for 30: The Best That Never Was
One Line Description: Marcus Dupree, a big-fast running back like no one had seen since Jim Brown, created a turning point for college football recruiting before ultimately ending up a disappointment.
I love the 30 for 30s where I knew nothing about the story. College football is my 2nd favorite sport and yet I knew nothing of Marcus Dupree prior to watching this documentary. It’s interesting to see one of the first stories of recruiting battles. It’s even more amazing to watch Dupree in high school. The term “man vs. boys” might have been created because of him. He was bigger than anyone else on the field most of the time and a lot of the time he was also the fastest too.
He looked unstoppable at times and ended up at Oklahoma where he was seemingly going to add his name to the list of all-time great running backs. This was easily in my top 10, maybe top 5 of the 30 for 30 films. But that’s more about subject matter than filmmaking. I did like the tie-ins to the Civil Rights Movement activities that took place in Marcus’ hometown. And Marcus’ return and re-telling of the story was clearly not something that he had talked about or re-visited recently.
30 for 30: Pony Excess
One Line Description: Southern Methodist University gets hit with the NCAA’s “Death Penalty” following numerous violations in the 1980s.
One of the greatest scandals is college football history involved massive under the table benefits to players at Southern Methodist University (SMU) starting in the late ’70s and going into the early ’80s. When it was all said and done, a slush fund had been exposed that went all the way to the Governor of Texas. The school was forced to cancel an entire season and all home games for the season after. The documentary did a good job of outlining what happened, and while the subject matter was extremely interesting to me, the documentary wasn’t great.
At times I felt like it was celebrating what happened more than condemning it. It also seems to hint that more players were on the take, when only 13 appeared to be. I think a big part of it was the reluctance of everyone involved to talk about what they did wrong. I think the funniest part, is that most current college football fans would watch this and think, “that all they did? I assumed every team was doing more than that now.”
30 for 30: The House That Steinbrenner Built
One Line Description: The legacy that George Steinbrenner created as owner of the Yankees, including the new stadium that marked the end of his reign.
No one knew who George Steinbrenner was when he bought the most famous franchise in sports for $10 million in 1973. When he passed away in 2010 he was the most famous only in sports history. This film is mostly about the the demolition of the old Yankee Stadium and George Steinbrenner’s legacy. The clips and quotes of Steinbrenner are few and far between. There are lots of memories of the old Stadium and shots of it’s destruction. There are also a lot of people talking about who George was. It was a mostly positive piece about a man who also did a lot of horrible things, but it’s definitely a can’t miss for any Yankee fan. As a baseball fan in general, it wasn’t one of my favorite 30 for 30s.
Fab Five (ESPN)
One Line Description: The most famous freshman class in college basketball leaves their mark with baggy shorts, black socks, shaved heads and the most famous timeout call in history.
Although not part of the original run of ESPN 30 for 30s, it was done in the same vein. It was two hours long, but was worth every second. It might be better than any of the previous 30 for 30s and did a great job of telling the story of who these guys were and what they went through. Chris Webber declined to participate, mostly because of the dark cloud that still hangs over him and his insistence to this day that he didn’t do anything wrong. I think what made this so great what the honesty and candidness that the other four guys exemplified. Unlike the aforementioned Pony Excess, these guys didn’t deny what went wrong or try to spin it, they just said “this is who we are.” There was plenty I knew about the Fab Five before this, but finally getting the whole story in such a good way was awesome.
Mantle (2005 – HBO)
One Line Description: One of the greatest players in the history of baseball struggles to accept fame and battles a life of alcoholism.
Mickey Mantle is one of the greatest players of all time. Despite constantly battling injuries during his 18 year career, he won 3 MVPs and hit 536 home runs. It’s tough to say where he officially would rank by most people, but I would assume it’s somewhere between 5 and 15. This documentary is really mostly about him as a person, and not about him as a player. They discuss some of his accomplishments but gloss over most of the stats. That doesn’t make it any less interesting though. The story of Mantle’s life and struggles with fame are very enlightening. I knew he had a serious drinking problem but didn’t know that it partially stemmed from not coping with the fame. Definitely a can’t miss for baseball fans.