Posts Tagged ‘30 for 30’

Benji

benji-toon

I’d read a couple months ago when Benji first aired that it got pretty good reviews. In fact, every sports person I saw who commented on it mentioned how much they enjoyed it. I’m of the opinion that when nearly everyone likes a tv show, movie, album, or whatever, you probably should do yourself a favor and check it out.

Benji is the story about Benjamin Wilson – the top ranked high school basketball player from the class of 1985 – who was gunned down a few weeks before the start of his senior basketball season. At 6’8″ with a silky smooth jumper, Benji was nicknamed “Magic Johnson with a jumpshot” by his high school coach.

Much of the sadness shown in Benji is all to familiar with those who have followed the careers of Len Bias, Reggie Lewis, Hank Gathers, and others. Benji was more than a sad story about a great player who died and that was the end. His legacy lived on through his mother, who was very impressive in how she handled his tragic death, teammates and players that followed him and wore his number (Nick Anderson, Juwan Howard, and Derrick Rose all wore the #25 for Wilson and #1 player and future Duke recruit Jabari Parker has #25 on his shoes), and the change that came because of his high profile murder (laws about where ambulances brought gunshot victims were directly affected by his death).

It was a sad movie and a movie that certainly could’ve been made better had the directors been able to get an interview with former girlfriend Jetun Rush and/or son Brandon (no doubt they made every attempt). The inclusion of an interview with his killer – Billy Moore – was surprising, but I’m not entirely sure it added a ton to the story. Good to see that he’s seemed to turn his life around, though.

24

01 2013

9.79* – 30 for 30

I’m a huge follower of track and field (as evident by my blog RunLoft). The very first summer Olympics I remember was the summer of 1988. Besides being old enough to know what was going on for the first time (7), my little sister was adopted from Seoul, South Korea just 8 weeks earlier. Our family took a particular interest in the opening ceremonies and just about everything that surrounded Seoul because we were so starved to see what Sara’s home country looked like. It was the first (of many) Olympics that would become required viewing in the Hanson household.

We enjoyed watching FloJo, Janet Evans, and Matt Biondi. I recall watching Roy Jones, Jr demolish somebody from South Korea only to be robbed of his gold. But one specific event stands out to me even to this day – the men’s 100 meter dash. It was a showdown between Carl Lewis – the flamboyant and cocky pride of America against the stoic (and beaked out of his brains) Ben Johnson of Canada. Anyone who has see the race knows Ben Johnson came out of the blocks like a freight train and sprinted ahead of the field for gold. Over the next few days, it came out that Ben Johnson was, in fact, doped to the gills and the gold was awarded to Carl Lewis.

The movie is a look at the final. All 8 finalist are interviewed along with prominent officials and coaches. Although the film certainly vilifies Johnson, his coach Charlie Francis, and his doctor Jamie Astaphan, there also is the cloud of drug use suspected from other competitors, as well. Basically, the doc shows the first days of the current day we live in where just about every professional athlete is suspicious. Drug testing officials and coaches tell stories of mass drug test failures, diluted urine samples, and masking agents.

I saw a majority of the film 9.79* on BBC (1 hr version opposed to 90 minutes for the 30 for 30 version) a week before the London Olympics this year. I was impressed with the look and quality of the doc and especially the fact they got so many people, including all 8 competitors, to be so candid about the race that changed sports culture the way we know it.

Carl Lewis and Ben Johnson, the two central figures in the race, don’t disappoint in the film. After watching the various versions of the film twice, I don’t know whether I really like Carl Lewis or not. There certainly is a likable quality about him and he’s more of an open book that I thought he would be. The brutally honest commentary from Lewis – for example when the still-brash Lewis says “[before he started doing drugs]…Johnson just wasn’t that talented” – was really enjoyable. At the same time, the documentary (perhaps unfairly?) paints him as a possible drug cheat who didn’t get caught (even when he did get “caught.”) Johnson, on the other hand, is certainly a cheat. There are a few confusing scenes where he admits to all his use and then follows it up by blaming a friend of Carl Lewis for spiking a drink. Johnson, somewhat surprisingly to me, comes across as somewhat likable despite his flaws.

9.79* probably isn’t the greatest of the 30 for 30 films, but it’s definitely in the upper echelon. Director Daniel Gordon has done a fabulous job making the definitive documentary about one of the single biggest sporting events of an entire decade.

8.5

out of 10

10

10 2012

Broke – 30 for 30

Last night saw the return of ESPN’s rightfully acclaimed 30 for 30 documentary series. Director Billy Corben, who also director one of my personal favorite documentaries on the first go-around (“The U”), explore how such a high percentage of athletes who makes unbelievable fortunes wind up literally broke.

The Broke 30 for 30 documentary featured interviews with athletes who have seen their personal portfolios take a turn for the worse (Bernie Kosar, Andre Rison, Keith McCants, Curt Schilling, Cliff Floyd, Leon Searcy, Sean Salisbury, and more) along with an assortment of financial advisers, bloggers, coaches, and athletes who’ve managed their money well.

Many of the common athletes you hear about going broke (Mike Tyson, Antoine Walker, Allen Iverson, Michael Vick) are touched upon, but one major disappointment for me was the lack of any real in-depth look at one particular athletes financial history as an example. Instead of really digging in, the movie just glosses over everything without digging in deep.

The documentary is certainly thought provoking and I applaud Billy Corben for getting a bunch of professional athletes (typically among the most prideful people alive) to talk about their financial mistakes. Watching the movie, though, I couldn’t help but feel the same way before I felt before watching this. During the entire 90 minutes, I felt like I was being manipulated into trying to feel sorry for athletes, but I can’t help but think that these guys are either a) dumb, b) poorly advised, or c) both. Of course, the documentary does touch on just that, as well, but I find it difficult to feel incredibly sorry for athletes who are buying thousands and thousands of dollars in jewelry & cars while paying tons of money in alimony and child support. The excuse, used over and over again, is these guys generally come from poor backgrounds and they are young. I made some financial mistakes in my early 20’s, as well. To spend as exorbitantly and irresponsibly as these guys did (and likely do), it’s not altogether surprising that they have the trouble they do once they retire.

This isn’t in the top tier of the 30 for 30 series. Rather, it’s just a solidly average sports documentary that I’m glad I’ve seen once, but probably won’t go back and revisit (as I have with Corben’s “The U”).

6.5

out of 10

03

10 2012