thumbs up thursday: espn’s 30 for 30
22 October 2009, 10:41 am
Filed under: sports, thumbs up thursday | Tags: , , , , , ,

I’m starting a series on the blog called “Thumbs Up Thursday,” where I give a nod to neat stuff. For the inaugural post, I’ve decided to give a thumbs up to ESPN’s 30 for 30 series.

ESPN is in its third week of 30 for 30, a documentary film series inspired by the 30th anniversary of ESPN. A brainchild of Bill Simmons, the Sports Guy, the series aims to tell striking stories from the sports world throughout the past 30 years, as told by celebrated directors and sports icons. “Each filmmaker will bring their passion and personal point of view to their film detailing the issues, trends, athletes, teams, rivalries, games and events that transformed the sports landscape from 1979 to 2009.”

The best part about this series is how it all fell together. In his essay, Bill Simmons talks about the birth of the series. After making lists of incredible sports stories, respected filmmakers and celebrities who happened to be sports fans, and just flat out good filmmakers, the mix and matching began. Incredibly, in many cases, the filmmakers had been waiting for a chance to tell these stories (for instance, Peter Berg (Friday Night Lights) was already incredibly interested in Wayne Gretzky; one of Mike Tollin’s first Hollywood breaks was through the USFL). He writes, “We wanted people to say, ‘Wow, I forgot how (fill in a word: great, amazing, poignant, crazy, depressing, unbelievable) that was’ or ‘I can’t believe I never knew that whole story.’”

I happened to catch the first film, Kings Ransom by Peter Berg, featuring the story of Wayne Gretzky’s jaw-dropping trade from the Edmonton Oilers to the LA Kings and I indeed found myself saying “Huh, I didn’t know that…” This week’s Small Potatoes: Who Killed the USFL? was equally interesting- who knew that Donald Trump’s greed single-handedly brought down the short-lived spring football league? And how many NFL stars got their start in that league, and still speak fondly of their USFL days?

All in all, what makes this series truly great is the compelling stories themselves. Put together with a dedication to fine storytelling, and voila! Thumbs up.

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