Some quick thoughts on the latest "30 for 30" documentary coming right up...
In a way, these "30 for 30" films are almost idiot-proof. The stories that have been chosen have, so far, been so inherently interesting that it almost doesn't matter how the filmmakers have chosen to tell them. I didn't really love Mike Tollin's take on the USFL, but then a lot of you commented that you were just happy to see all that footage.
Kirk Fraser's "Without Bias" feels like another example of that phenomenon. Fraser tries to stuff at least two hours of movie into a 50-minute bag, the end result being a film that jumps around too much among too many sub-stories, and that has to be guided by too many talking heads...
...and yet, I care, because it's obvious how much Fraser, and all the people who get a chance to talk in the film, cared about Len Bias. He was so important to so many people, and if you're the right age (and I confess I'm a couple of years too young to fit in this group), I understand that his death was every bit the major, unsettling even that everyone describes in the film.
The problem is that there are so many potential stories you can tell about Len Bias - cocaine use among athletes (college or pro) of the period, the impact on his family and friends, the way his death altered the fortunes of the Celtics (which Bill Simmons has written about many times), the ripple effect it may have had on the War on Drugs - and rather than just pick one and tell it all the way, Fraser tries to give a little time to them all. The segment on the night of Bias' death, and its immediate aftermath, is both the longest and the best part of "Without Bias," but so many other parts of the movie - the mandatory minimum sentencing material in particular - feel underfed.
Still, many of the sound bytes and images from the movie have stayed with me in the week since I watched it: the composure of Mrs. Bias, the regret of Tribble ("Why did we have to be stupid enough to do drugs?"), the eloquence of Michael Wilbon (which is easy to forget if you just watch him on "PTI" every day, as I do) and, especially, the TV interview about Jay Bias's murder, where the dad talks about "the eulogy that he would give for Len Bias," then stops himself when he realizes what he's just said (and what a horrible double-burden has been visited on his family) and tries to fight back tears.
I'm glad I watched this one. I just wish it had been more focused - or else a whole lot longer.
What did everybody else think?