With the World Series coming to a close this week West Chester will settle down its momentary murmur of sports fervor. For some, it was a showdown of good vs. evil, blue chippers vs. the millionaires club, 26 world championships vs. the up and coming defending champs. It was almost a poetic showdown of biblical or Homeric proportions.
Sports have the ability to make epic storylines transform into back page headlines. Though the Phillies vs. Yankees 2009 World Series showdown will most likely not be considered one of the most memorable sports moments of all time, ESPN has been taking a look at some of the best sports storylines that have withstood the test of time.
ESPN columnist Bill “The Sports Guy” Simmons laid the groundwork for a series of hard-hitting documentaries by sending an e-mail to the “powers that be” in 2007. Simmons had one idea in mind: “I love documentaries.”
In celebration of ESPN’s 30th anniversary the idea was hatched. The concept was 30 documentaries covering the most intriguing sports storylines of the last 30 years. “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,” Simmons said.
Simmons wanted three main concepts for the series. He wanted to do something special to celebrate the historic anniversary of the sporting news powerhouse. Second, he wanted to cover 30 different stories from the era. And third, he wanted the series named “30 for 30” because it “rolls off the tongue. I remember trying to chest-bump myself when I thought of it.”
With these three main theories in place Simmons enlisted friend and co-worker Connor Shell of “Cheap Seats” fame for his opinions. Shell added another key concept for the series. He wanted to bring in 30 different directors from outside of ESPN to develop each of the 30 separate documentaries. With that final tidbit of wisdom the series was born.
ESPN brought in some of the most distinguished personalities to help with the series. Some of the biggest names include Mike Tollin, Ice Cube, Kirk Fraser and Peter Berg. Even Phoenix Suns point guard Steve Nash will make his filmmaking debut.
See 30 for 30 on Page 10
From 30 for 30 on Page 8
He is directing a film about cancer patient Terry Fox’s Marathon of Hope, expected to debut sometime in 2010.
The series has already shown off five documentaries that have pleased avid sports fans. The debut documentary was entitled “King’s Ransom” and was an in-depth look at the Edmonton Oilers trading the greatest hockey player of all time, Wayne Gretzky, to the Los Angeles Kings. The “Great One” was moved from his home country of Canada to the United States for two players, $15 million and three draft picks. The trade was known as a “King’s Ransom.” New Democratic Party House Leader Nelson Riis went as far as to demand the trade be blocked but it went through anyway.
The other four documentaries covered the Baltimore Colt’s marching band in “The Band that Wouldn’t Die,” Donald Trump’s destruction of the spring football league the USFL in “Small Potatoes: Who Killed the USFL,” Ali’s downfall in “Muhammad and Larry” and the death of the Celtic’s number two pick in 1986 Len Bias in “Without Bias.”
Nov. 3’s “30 For 30” film director and producer Kirk Fraser relived the untimely death of Len Bias. Bias was the standout star of the Maryland University basketball squad in 1986. He was selected number two overall by the Boston Celtics. Many sports writers believed he had the greatest jump shot of all time. ESPN columnist and PTI commentator Michael Wilbon said, “he had the perfect jump shot.” However, while celebrating his selection into the NBA Bias took a lethal dose of cocaine and went into cardiac arrest. He never made it to the hospital.
Fraser showed heart-wrenching clips from Bias’ teammates and family, including a nightmarish interview with Bias’ stoic mother. Students from Maryland spoke of Bias’ death being a wake-up about the reality of drugs and alcohol. Though the narrative weaved the story of a tragic sports figure, it also can touch close to home for many university students.
On Nov. 10 “30 for 30” will unveil their sixth documentary. It will cover the life and times of Jimmy the Greek, the infamous commentator and Vegas odds maker.
Following a break, “30 For 30” will return in December and highlight the stories of the Steve Bartman incident, the 1995 South African Rugby team that will also be brought to the big screen with Invictus and the death of Tupac Shakur. “30 For 30” will also chronicle the life of Marion Jones, Mat Hoffman, the Steinbrenner family and many more.
Ken Schmidt is a fifth-year student majoring in English with a minor in Journalism. He can be reached at KS609536@wcupa.edu.