[Editor’s note: Because of the ruthless rule of Disney, I have no clips at all to show you. So, fuck Disney. People should see this shit. Anyway, on with the thing]
I don’t like sports.
Any of them, at all. This is of course primarily from my childhood where sports meant more than religion. I read alot of books in those days. Spent alot of time rockin a game boy during family gatherings when everyone was watching whatever the sporting event was.
So, it kind of surprised me when the 30 for 30 series came out. ESPN hired like actual directors to cover whatever topics they wanted during the time of ESPN’s 30 year run.
And what we got was sensational.
There are two main things that impress me about the series. First, each film makes the deliberate point not to cover sports the way sports analysts do. They aren’t interested in stats or like how a player is performing. Its more subtext stories. You have a film about how the University of Miami was basically a front for cocaine smuggling. You have a film about Ali being pushed beyond his capabilities late in his career. Another film that is literally just footage from one particularly interesting day in sports history.
The other thing that fascinates me is the quality. They are for the most part really good. None of them super suck. A few of them are meh. But the good ones are astronomically good.
Which brings us to my favorite AND my pick for best 30 for 30, Winning Time: Reggie Miller vs The New York Knicks. The plot is real simple. Its about how one player kept the largest city in the world looking stupid.
But, its definitely much more than that. The movie starts with a little Puccini because that’s what we actually have here.
This film is an Opera about trash talking and cheesing the game.
For those not familiar with the term, Cheese is more of a video game thing. Its when you find ways outside of the design of the game to win. Ways that clearly weren’t intended.
Thats how Reggie Miller played for the Indiana Pacers. A combination of cheese and trash talking.
Great documentaries always rely on the quality of their subjects, and they managed to get every single person involved, from key players on both teams, to owners, to sports reporters.
Which brings us to Spike Lee, the chief trash talker of The New York Knicks. The movie has a ton of highlights, but his exchanges with Reggie Miller in Game 5 of the eastern conference finals in 1994 is so goddamn well put together. That sequence, like the rest of the film, has a Rashomon way of telling its story. A ton of unreliable narrators. But, unlike that movie, we actually have the footage. So, it has some amazingly funny cutaways.
It’s engaging from beginning to end. The thing has zero drag. And every one liner is incredible. Like the actual playing of the game is almost secondary to the psych out. Literally the only flaw with this film is that at a bit over an hour its too short. I would watch this for a million years.
Even reading what I wrote now, i am underselling this documentary. Its a goddamn experience. Dan Klores put together a swiftly edited and clean film here. Skipping any game (including entire seasons) that didn’t have any big trash talking moment or stupidity. He knows exactly what the Pacers/Knicks rivalry is about.
Its very much a film about emotion than anything else. I think it covers so little of the actual playing of the game because Klores wants you to walk away from this with the emotions of living through this rivalry in 93/94.
I will leave it with one thought from the director. At the end of some versions of this 30 for 30, after the credits. Dan Klores makes an excellent point. There is more exciting basketball being played today but no one cares. Because nothing had this level of heart and tragedy built into it.
It almost seems like he is bored with the sport now. I don’t blame him. Nothing is as entertaining as watching Reggie Miller take on the entirety of NYC.
4/4 – Watch a dude from Riverside, CA, playing for a team in Indiana, make everyone in Madison Square Garden from Baldwin to Seinfeld to Trump, look like some straight assholes. Fantastic film. Masterpiece.