’85 Bears (ESPN)
One Line Description: The story of the 1985 Chicago Bears, who rode their legendary defense to the Super Bowl.
Although I was too young to live through it I obviously know more about the ’85 Bears than any other football team from the pre-1990s. There was Ditka, Payton, McMahon and one of the greatest defenses of all-time. Buddy Ryan, the defensive coordinator of the team, is likely often forgotten by anyone outside the city of Chicago. It’s understandable since Ditka is one of the 10 most well-known NFL coaches of all-time. But this team doesn’t win the Super Bowl without Ryan, and this documentary focuses on that. It definitely rubbed some Bears fans the wrong way, that so much focus was put on Ryan instead of spreading it around more, but it was a deserved focus.
There probably could have been a little more time spent on Walter Payton as well, but there is only so much that can fit in two hours. There was also almost zero mention of the offense outside of McMahon and Payton. For fans of the team, or people who lived and breathed the ’85 season, this documentary does a good job of bringing back the good feelings. For any football fan too young, or old enough to have forgotten much about this team, this is a nice educator. One thing they didn’t mention though, the fact that four future head coaches in the NFL were on this team (Mike Singletary, Jeff Fisher, Leslie Frazier, Ron Rivera. The latter three were never even mentioned in the show). Has there been another team, let alone Super Bowl champs that produced that number?
No Màs (ESPN)
One Line Description: The story of two boxing fights in the 1980s between Sugar Ray Leonard and Roberto Duran.
The boxing episodes of 30 for 30 tend to be some of my favorites. Mostly because the history of boxing is so interesting, especially considering how huge it once was and how much it’s withered. But also because the characters are interesting and I rarely know the stories. No Mas was no exception. This story covers two boxing matches between “Sugar” Ray Leonard and Roberto Duran in the 1980s, including the one where Duran basically gives up. The story itself was interesting, but when it’s told by people with first hand knowledge it’s just that much better. It’s funny to hear people say “Ray Leonard” because I don’t think I ever heard anyone leave the “Sugar” off before. It’s also amazing to see the kind of shape Leonard is in right now. He looks like he could be boxing still. This documentary likely felt a lot better to me than it was mostly because I knew nothing about the story and there was a certain level of suspense that came with that. As with a lot of these, the ending is given away a bit at the start but it’s the build up that makes them so good. I would think anyone with a vague interest in boxing would enjoy this one.
Hawaiian: The Legend of Eddie Aikau (ESPN)
One Line Description: The story of legendary Hawaiian surfer Eddie Aikau
When reading the description for this it sounded really interesting, then it turned out to be pretty boring because looping back around to really interesting. It seems like it’s going to be about surfing and it’s history, but the reality is that it’s about an individual who brought attention to Hawaiians while winning a lot of surfing competitions. There is more to the story, but going to into detail would give it away, suffice to say there is a surprising turn late in the documentary. Overall one the more unique, but weaker 30 for 30s. Would not be on my list to rematch, and if you were going to skip some, this might fill that void. The story was interesting, but something about the way it was told just dragged a bit more than these typically do.
Requiem for Big East (ESPN)
One Line Description: The story of the Big East conference, from beginning to end.
Unlike the Eddie Aikau story, this one is marvelous. Sure it had the advantage of being something I already had background, and even rooting interest of, but it was just so well put together. It’s crazy to see the rise and fall, to death, of a major college sports conference. It’s hard to imagine anything like this happening again because modern spots makes it so hard for an upstart conference to gain enough momentum (and money) to compete with the establishment. That is what makes this story so great, how the Big East found all this untapped ways to grow into one of the best college basketball conferences in the country. This conference really did change the lives of many and impacted several schools in ways that they would have not achieved if not for things coming together as they did. Plus there are so many recognizable figures to anyone that follows basketball. It really seemed like the perfect business model to use a relatively young ESPN to get into people’s houses. There was a lot of foresight, and the founders don’t get enough credit for what they did, although this documentary tries to rectify that. Definitely one of the better 30 for 30s in my opinion.