ESPN deserves every bad thing that gets said about them. However, they deserve credit for when they get things right. They embarked on an ambitious mission to produce documentaries on the level of HBO. They reached out to the best filmmakers and you know what they put on a few documentaries on par with HBO. They limited commericals and for the most part stayed away from stories that were already overplayed.
Pony Excess is the last of the 30 for 30 series. Due to the success of the series, ESPN will extend their documentary series and if your not on board yet you should be. I remember watching the first one, Kings Ransom when it debuted in October 2009. I was as bored as can be staying in a hotel in Honesdale, PA. I have seen all the ones that I'm am going to watch and missed just 2 of 30. I decided to lump them into viewing priorities for you to catch up.
"Into the Wind" The Terry Fox Story-
Steve Nash was actually a big part of making this film. Terry Fox is a Canadian Hero who decided to run across the country to raise awareness of cancer in children. You may have heard the story but there is some great footage that will have you fighting back the tears.
"The 16th Man"
The story of the 1995 Rugby World Cup. The film follows the impact of Nelson Mandela in South Africa and his attempt to unite the country through sport. It's Invictus without Matt Damon playing a 6-5 South African. in otherwards, it doesn't suck. The film chronicles the emotions of the people in the country throughout the tournament. It's interesting to see the people who cheered together after years of fighting and even those who despised Nelson Mandela for what he did.
"The Two Escobars"
Groundbreaking from ESPN and worthy of the full two hours the network gave it. The relationship between Pablo Escobar and Colombian Soccer and their deaths.
"The Best That Never Was"
The 1981 recruiting of high school football player Marcus Dupree and his life. The film behind the book that changed college recruiting forever. This is my favorite documentary thus far but the margin is small.
This is one most people have seen. It discusses the impact of the University of Miami football in the 1980s. Good news is a sequel is on the way.
The Very Good -I'll admit there is not much difference between the solid and very good.
Reggie Miller vs. the Knicks in the mid 1990s when M.J. was away.
"The King's Ransom"
Wayne Gretzky's Babe Ruth like sale to L.A. The doc examines the reason for the Great One being sold to the Kings and the heartbreak it caused. It also focuses on the typical L.A trend that followed.
"June 17th 1994"
This is essential just a well but together montage of clips, but for someone who was old enough to understand the gravity of situation but too young to really understand what was happening its interesting how the day unfolded.
Even though I don't feel this quite lived up to the hype, it's still good. I disagree with those in the doc who said that SMU didn't deserve the death penalty and the everybody was doing it, and everybody does it attitude, but that's not to take away from the amount of interviews they got for this. A
"Tim Richmond: To the Limit"
This has several good interviews and outlines the reluctance to accept AIDS in this country. This doc loses some points for not going after Richmond more and not answering about those he had sex with.
Small Potatoes: Who Killed the USFL?
Wow Donald Trump is a dickhead. If you didn't already think so, you probably will after watching this doc. There is some nice insight into the USFL but it leaves you wanting more.
"Guru of Go"
Paul Westhead and the Run and Gun offense at Loyola Marymount. There is a special mention of Hank Gathers and his tragic death but chances are you know that story. The strength of the documentary is the interviews with Paul Westhead.
"Muhammad and Larry"
There is some quality footage that was unearthed for this documentary. It was interesting seeing Ali near the end of the line and and his mental capacity before and after the fight. You can tell that Larry Holmes is pained to be figthing Ali when hes not 100%.
"The Birth of Big Air"
I wasn't sure about this one because I'm not into extreme sports. I started watched casually but it roped me in. Matt Hoffman's passion for what he did and the home footage of his jumps were awesome. Check this one out and I think you will be surprised too.
The story of Croatian Dražen Petrović and Serbian Vlade Divac, NBA players and Yugoslavian national teammates, and how upheaval in their homeland adversely and irretrievably affected their friendship.
I can remember my Dad telling me about Fernando and how good he used to be. I only saw Fernando play for the Phillies so I found this hard to believe.
Although this doc feels like a rerun because I've seen the story quite a few times, it's still solid, especially if your not familiar with the story.
"The Legend of Jimmy the Greek"
Maybe I had higher hopes for this but it wasn't as interesting as I was expecting. The fake Jimmy the Greek voice overs were frustrating to listen to.
"Jordan Rides the Bus"
Probably another doc that didn't need to be made due to the high profile of the story at the time. There are good interviews with Terry Francona and Phil Jackson though.
"Run Ricky Run"
I've heard people say this one is awesome. I guess I expected more from a guy claiming to have 6 years of footage to sift through. If you saw the 60 minutes on Ricky Williams, you basically saw this doc.
"House of Steinbrenner"
I know this may offend about half the readership, but I felt this documentary should not have been made. It's unclear what its purpose ultimately is. Are they talking about Steinbrenner, the fans, the new regime? Perhaps the project was started before George's death ( I'm certain it was but this felt slapped together) but it comes off as lame to me. The interviews with Hank Steinbrenner were interesting as was the little nugget about Joe DiMaggio, but this did not need to be done by ESPN. The YES network would have been the perfect forum for this.
"One Night in Vegas"
Ok so Tupac and Tyson were kinda sorta friends. This doesn't exactly break ground on Tupac's death but gives some back story on the relationship between Tupac and Tyson while talking about the two individually. The rapping done but no names in this video to explain the story was painful to listen do and killed this for me.
A.I.'s upbringing and his trial. The guy in charge of the doc goes out of his way to thrust himself into the story and its painful to watch.
"The Band that Wouldn't Die"
This was just boring to me. Its an unexplored topic but I would have preferred to see more fan reaction about the Colts leaving Baltimore than the band.
"Straight Outta L.A."
This belonged on BET more than ESPN. Dear Ice Cube and Snoop, you guys aren't major Raider fans so don't be tossing around stories in the Coliseum.
"Marion Jones: Press Pause"
Is it possible to have less respect for Marion Jones? After watching this documentary I wanted to smack her. It's a brutal hour of her publicly defending herself.
"Four Days in October"
Really ESPN, did we really need a Red Sox documentary on one of the most publicized stories of all time. This product was watched rather reluctantly, and I would bet Red Sox fans would struggle to argue it was better than an extra on a DVD.
This is probably a good documentary if you like women's tennis. Full interviews with Nartolova and Evert.
"Silly Little Game"
Fantasy baseball and dorky reenactments. I passed on this one. I can't see it being good even if you like fantasy sports.