30
May
12

30 for 30 is Coming Back!

What if I told you that one of the best series on television was coming back this fall; that documentaries don’t have to be boring; and that you’ll learn about a different side to sports.

Along with movies, I tend to watch a lot of television as well. One of the best series on TV in the past few years has been ESPN’s sports documentary series 30 for 30. Initially started as a way to commemorate ESPN’s 30th anniversary; the series chronicled ’30 films, from 30 filmmakers, from 30 years of sports (1979-2009–ESPN’s first 30 years of broadcasting)’. The subject matter covered in the 30 documentaries was diverse and ranged from popular stories (the Boston Red Sox come-from-behind 2004 World Series win) to not so well known stories (Terry Fox’s cancer awareness marathon across Canada).

At the network television upfronts week about two weeks ago, ESPN announced that due to the popularity of 30 for 30 and the other films that they’ve produced under their ESPN Films banner, starting this fall they would bring back the 30 for 30 documentary series for a second edition.

“When we embarked on ’30 for 30,’ we always wondered if there would be 30 good stories,” said Connor Schell, vice president and executive producer of ESPN Films. “Now, I think all of us in this group believe that there is an infinite number of stories.”

(/via NYT’s Richard Sandomir – ESPN Doubles Up on ’30 for 30’ Documentary Series)

Upping the ante on the series this time around, there will also be digital shorts released each month (starting this month, May 2012) and accompanying podcasts with related material as well. As with the first volume of 30 for 30, the series run will span about two years.

When I heard the news that ESPN had decided to produce a second volume to 30 for 30, needless to say I was super excited. I think one of the best things I can say about the series is that you don’t have to know sports or be a sports fan to watch any of the documentaries in the series. The stories that are chosen are stories that I think most people, at the least may have heard of, but may not really be all that familiar with. I remember there were times when I would see previews for a particular doc and would think “that doesn’t sound interesting” and then be totally surprised and engrossed in the show when I eventually watched it.

My two favorite docs in the series to this day are the first two that I caught on TV. They were Straight Outta LA and The Two Escobars.

Filmmaker Ice Cube interviewing rapper Snoop Dogg about Raider culture in Los Angeles in a scene from Straight Outta LA.

Straight Outta LA was put together by rapper/filmmaker Ice Cube and focused on the Raiders and how their 13 seasons in Los Angeles affected minority groups (and gang culture) during that time. When I first started watching football as a kid, the Raiders were a Los Angeles team and as I grew older I knew I eventually heard that they had moved to Oakland–not knowing that that was where they had originated. It wasn’t also till way later that I learned that the owner for the Raiders (Al Davis) was a very outspoken; and was a major factor in taking the Raiders to LA and eventually back to Oakland. Perhaps what hooked me, and in a sense kept bring me back to each new doc in the series, was that the story that was told in the documentary was so engrossing–to hear reflective insight and perspective from people that were there had me hooked. The fact that Ice Cube brought in the social aspect of how the Raiders affected culture in Los Angeles was super interesting as well.

An exhausted Andrés Escobar sets the tone for what is to come in the Colombian soccer documentary, The Two Escobars.

As with Straight Outta LA, The Two Escobars had a similar intertwining of sports and culture; although this time it wasn’t social culture . . . it was political culture. The Two Escobars was a look at Colombian soccer star Andrés Escobar and drug lord Pablo Escobar; the intertwining of crime and soccer in their native Colombia; and the connections between the murders of both men. I’m not a soccer guy so I had never heard of Andrés Escobar; and I knew very little of Pablo (story arc on HBO’s Entourage not withstanding), yet for the entire two hours of the doc I was engrossed in the rise of Colombian soccer, Andrés rise as a star, the intrigue surrounding drug money fueling the team’s rise to prominence, rising US tensions, and the downfall of it all.

Perhaps the “real life” element does add something, but the way these stories are told and the information they provide paints an intimate look at things I knew little to nothing about.

So what can we look forward to in this upcoming volume II of 30 for 30. No official list has been posted and there are only a few details available right now, but from the Volume II trailer here are potential glimpses of what may be in store for us:

  • Some type of doc about the economic shock faced by pro athletes who can no longer afford to live the high life after their life in sports.
  • The story of the North Carolina State Wolfpack’s 1982-1983 basketball run and eventual NCAA championship win. If you’re any kind of college basketball fan, they always show clips of the final shot of this game during commercials during the NCAA tournament every year.
  • A doc about the Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan skating controversy preceeding the 1994 winter Olympics. We all remember the story, but I’m sure a closer look 18 years later will make for a great story.
  • And here’s the one I’m most interested in . . . a documentary about two sport athlete Bo Jackson. The guy played football and baseball and was one of the best running backs to use in Tecmo Bowl. I can’t wait to watch a story about him.

You’d be hard-pressed to find high quality programming such as this anywhere on television right now so be sure to check out 30 for 30 Volume II when the series starts again this fall. I really wanted to embed the trailer for Volume II here, but instead you’ll have to go to ESPN.com to watch it instead.

Have you watched any of ESPN’s sports documentary series 30 for 30? If so, what was your favorite episode?

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