McEnroe/Borg: Fire and Ice (2011)
One Line Description: The story of three year (or so) rivalry between tennis players John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg.
Yet another HBO sports documentary, this time tackling tennis. John McEnroe is one of the most well-know tennis players of all-time, mostly due to his on court antics. Bjorn Borg was the good-looking Swede who won 11 Grand Slams before abruptly retiring abruptly relatively early in his career. This documentary did a good job of setting up the rivalry and featured many candid thoughts from both McEnroe and Borg. Like most documentaries, whether or not the subject matter is interesting is important. Anyone who likes tennis even a little bit should seek this out.
The Dotted Line (2011)
One Line Description: The story of a sports agents journey from signing college players and getting through the NFL Draft.
The Dotted Line is another ESPN documentary that was part of the offshoot of 30 for 30. This one is directed by Morgan Spurlock1 and wasn’t at all what I was expecting. Instead of a more detailed look at sports agents in general, this one was basically just followed around one agent2 trying to land a couple of late-round NFL prospects. It seemed to go out of it’s way to find an agent story that wouldn’t come off as the stereotypical money hungry liars that most people think of. But at the same time it did nothing to help me learn anything about the world of sports agents. Much like Super Size Me, the concept was better than the delivery.
One Line Description: The story of the late ’90s racehorse, his embattled jockey and their 1999 quest for the Triple Crown.
I love horse racing. It’s exciting and exotic. The speed which races happen, the gambling aspect, the pure power which horses possess are somewhat mind-boggling. As all horse racing fans know, a horse has not won the Triple Crown since Affirmed in 1978. Since then 11 horses have won the first two legs. One of those was Charismatic in 1999. The story was incredible for a lot of reasons, but the most interesting side story was that of jockey Chris Antley. Antley won the Kentucky Derby in 1999 before taking a break in the mid-’90s to battle drug problems. He made a comeback in 1999 and rode Charistmatic to another Derby win.
Since 1999 was a little before I started following racing, I really knew nothing of this story. It really was amazing how it all transpired, and I really find that enjoy these stories of specific horses. This one was directed in part by Jason Michaels, son of legendary sports announcer Al Michaels, who was the lead commentator for ABC Sports for the Triple Crown races in 1999. Whether you were a horse racing fan in 1999 or not, I highly recommend this. My guess is that unless you were a diehard, you won’t remember this story anyway.
The Real Rocky (2011)
One Line Description: The story of Chuck Wepner, who may or may not have been the inspiration for the Rocky movie franchise.
This is one is from ESPN and covers the story of the boxer Chuck Wepner, who depending on who you believe, or when the sound byte is from, may or may not be the inspiration for the movie Rocky. Wepner’s career had it’s moments, and his fight with Muhammed Ali was definitely special, but all-in-all I feel like his career was unspectacular. There are definite similarities to the movie Rocky but I don’t think it was a slam dunk. Sly Stallone, however, mentioned Chuck by name several times in the ’80s, and only changed his tune when Wepner asked for money. I think the movie did an incredible job of telling Wepner’s story, and despite not being a big fan of boxing I found it to be highly entertaining. What I continue to like about these ESPN documentaries is that they tend to have a style that is unique from other documentaries, and this one certainly had that. Lots of old footage too. I think it was one of the most well-done ESPN documentaries since the 30 for 30 series launched.
SEC Storied (2011)
One Line Description: The birth of conference championship games started in the SEC in 1992, and would forever change football.
Although college football is probably my 2nd favorite sport, there is a lot of the history I am cloudy on. I often forget how much the “AQ” conferences have changed over the last 20 years. The SEC added South Carolina and Arkansas in 1992 and decided to hold the first ever conference championship. At the time, this decision was not well received because it meant that SEC schools had to play an extra game that could prevent them from winning the national championship. The first game was an epic battle between undefeated Alabama and two-loss Florida. If Alabama won, they would play Miami, likely for the national championship, but a loss would likely knock them out of consideration.
The story focused heavily on that game, but the bigger message was the impact this game had on college football. This documentary prominently features several players from the 1992 game including, Shane Matthews, Eric Rhett, John Copeland and Antonio Langham. They even re-enact the famous 4th quarter play from the ’92 championship game. There are also interviews with then SEC commisioner, Roy Kramer, who was later intrical in creating the BCS, as well as coaches Steve Spurrier and Gene Stallings. Although I think there was a bit too much focus on the two teams, this documentary covers a literal turning-point in college football. It’s up to you to decide whether or not it was for the better. This is a must-see for any college football fan.