Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Review: ESPN scores with '30 for 30' - Sepinwall on TV

As I said in the preamble to my Bill Simmons interview, I loved the first four films I've seen in ESPN's "30 for 30" series, and you can read more about it in my "30 for 30" review from today's column.

In the coming weeks, I'll do separate posts for the various "30 for 30" films, but for this week, you can talk about "Kings Ransom" here after it airs.

UPDATE: Bumping this up to make it easier to comment (at least for those of you who watched "30 for 30" instead of Tigers-Twins; if not, it's being rerun tonight at 11 on ESPN2).


Fernando said...

Great read. I can't wait, I just hope I don't forget to tune in.

Mapeel said...

We are premiering the one on Jimmy the Greek next week at the Paley Center for Media in New York, with a panel discussion that includes the filmmaker, Fritz Mitchell, Phyllis George, Irv Cross, and Synder's son, Anthony.


Anonymous said...

Alan - any thoughts on the idea of you doing a podcast? It came up in the Simmons talk, and I think it's a great idea, and I'm not aware of any other smart tv podcasts. I think may folks would add it to their podcast rotations.

Q Ball said...

As a fan of sports, Simmons and good doumentaries, 30 for 30 is must watch TV for me tonight.

Alan I think this is one of your better written pieces in recent memory, not only for the subject matter, but you raise a good point about ESPN. I rarely watch the network, except for live sports, PTI and the occasional SportsCenter, but its positive impact in sports media should never be forgotten (no matter how many annoying TV personalities they currently employ).

filmcricket said...

Great column, Alan. For the first time ever, I wish I had ESPN.

"Kings' Ransom" played here at TIFF and I didn't get a chance to see it, but as you say, that footage of Gretzky weeping is burned in the brain of pretty much every Canadian of a certain age, even if they don't give a *&%! about hockey (which I don't). On the other hand, Gretzky is generally such a bland personality that it might be interesting to see if the film gets behind that facade a bit.

I would love also to see whatever it is Steve Nash is going to do. I hope ESPN releases these as a DVD collection later.

Alan Sepinwall said...

I would love also to see whatever it is Steve Nash is going to do.

As a Canadian, I suspect you'll be into it: it's the Terry Fox story.

Bobman said...

My only complaint with "30 for 30" is the way ESPN lists it on my DVR - as separate features, rather than as a series. So I can't set a series recording - I just KNOW I'm going to miss a few cuz of this...

Anonymous said...

Is this going to be on Hulu or any other legal streaming device?

der Hundepo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
der Hundepo said...

Ditto-ing anonymous' question, although since I'm living overseas right now, Hulu is a no-go. We have ESPN America, but it's not on their schedule, and so far it's not offered on iTunes (my other go-to source). All of these documentaries sound fantastic, and I really want to watch them.

Hatfield said...

According to Simmons' twitter, iTunes will have it starting 10/14. I'm excited for this, and not just because he's been pimping it for what seems like years now.

ScottyG said...

Hockey IS my sport, and of course living in Canada doesn't let me have access to ESPN,
I'd love to see this, get this up north Simmons!

filmcricket said...

it's the Terry Fox story.

Hmm. Well, it seems like Nash is going to speak to how Fox's saga affected him personally, but I don't really see Nash - a smart guy, but not an investigative journalist or documentarian - unearthing much that isn't already widely known up here. But perhaps I'm being too quick to judge. And I s'pose a lot of it will be new info to ESPN's viewers.

(Btw, as annoying as ESPN's antics may be on the air, that's nothing to what they're like behind the scenes. God.)

leardsox said...

Fantastic review, and a fantastic show. I'm a huge fan of Bill Simmons and have been looking forward to 30 for 30 for ages. It did not disappoint.
I remember this trade well, but never really comprehended the impact it had on Edmonton and Gretzky himself. Great job by Peter Berg. My favorite line came after Gretzky's wedding to Janet Jones. As they are driving through a crowd of Edmontonians, a kid shouts out, "Hey Janet. I saw Police Academy 5." Priceless.
I'm already excited for next week.

Rick said...

It was good. Not groundbreaking, Earth-shattering, but solidly good.

I wonder if Gretzky has ever spoken with David Beckham. Bet they'd have some things to talk about.

ithor6 said...

Great show, that was very well done and very compelling.

Something that really struck a chord with me was when he returned to Edmonton as a King. The crowd cheered. That was amazing to me, and really shows the caliber of fans in the city of Edmonton. I can't imagine that happening today.

Q said...

I think Gretzky's raw emotion at his press conference sealed the deal for Edmonton fans, that their hero was not the villain in this trade, merely a chess piece in a business situation.

I think that, more than anything, is the reason Gretzky received such a warm greeting.

Anonymous said...

great story. Still not liking Berg as a film maker, though. He still seems to like to over edit and use too many weird camera movements rather than just shoot the story and let the story speak for itself. Buuuuttt, again, great story.

Oh, and I don't know if it was just my set, but it seemed like the audio didn't sync with the video at the end. The only reason I bring this up is because the sync wasn't consistent (sometimes real bad, other times not so much). Distracting nonetheless.

The Chancellor said...

Enjoyed tonight's 30/30 and am looking forward watching these.

Has anyone ever had a name better suited to be a film's villian than Peter Pocklington.

/clenches Seinfeld-style Newman fist

chris said...

Count me in as wanting to see what Steve Nash comes up with. If it's anything like this - it will be pure gold.


leor said...

really enjoyed the Gretzky film. i was fortunate to see it here in Canada, but i really hope TSN picks up the series so that the rest of Canada can see it.

Linda said...

You know, you mention that only one of the first four has a happy ending -- I'm not sure I think the Gretsky one has an UNHAPPY ending, exactly. I think it's encouraging to see how perspective has mellowed some of the feelings involved in this incredibly emotional situation. I thought Berg was very fair to Pocklington, pointing out repeatedly that Gretsky's contract was running out in a year, at which point the team would get nothing for him. At the time of the trade, he was an asset that could be sold for $15 million in cash to start with, but a year or two later, that asset was going to evaporate.

As a business guy, even Gretsky made it clear at the end that he understands it wasn't an act of villainy. Gretsky wanted to be paid "what he was worth," which in this case meant "as much as he could get," which is completely understandable and not wrong. But he wasn't looking to sacrifice financially to stay in Edmonton, and they weren't looking to sacrifice to keep him.

In a way, I think it's an interesting story about moving on and letting go of your bitterness, even if you never stop feeling that you weren't treated right.

Anonymous said...

What's the airing schedule for these? Every Tuesday night?

Alan Sepinwall said...

I'm not sure I think the Gretsky one has an UNHAPPY ending, exactly.

Well, it's unhappy for the people of Edmonton (and possibly all of Canada). You're right in that he likely would have left the Oilers in a year for no compensation, and probably still would have gone to a team south of the border (or were the Maple Leafs or Canucks in stronger financial shape back then?), but it has to sting for this national treasure to wind up not only leaving the nation, but going to a city that is in no way a hockey town. Had Pocklington traded him to, say, the Red Wings, it still would have outraged the fans, but maybe not as much.

paul said...

I'm not sure I'd call the Ravens an entirely happy ending. Stealing another city's team and making its fans go through what we went through was not really the ending we had in mind. Even if the NFL bent over to get them their team name and records back in a way it did not for us.

Next week will be tough for me to watch. I have to disagree with Ronald Reagan. Communism was not the focus of evil in the modern world. Robert Irsay was.

TC said...

ithor6 said...Something that really struck a chord with me was when he returned to Edmonton as a King. The crowd cheered. That was amazing to me, and really shows the caliber of fans in the city of Edmonton. I can't imagine that happening today.
Have to disagree here. This kind of thing happens all the time. In Boston, we gave Ray Bourque a freaking parade when he won the Cup with Colorado. Being traded away is much different than leaving as a free agent.

On the film itself, I enjoyed it well enough. I did think it was strange how the stories Gretzky and McNall told about Gretzky's involvement and feelings during the whole thing were pretty disparate. Gretzky let on like he was involved almost the whole way and knew what was happening. McNall told it like Gretzky was totally blindsided.

Nicole said...

The Gretzky love still exists and extends to his father Walter too. I think the CBC did a movie about his dad's life.

I haven't seen this yet, but I was wondering if the film hinted that Gretzky's trade was the beginning of of the transfer of not only players but teams from smaller markets to sun belt US states. And here we find Gretzky again, coaching the Phoenix Coyotes up until recently, a team which frankly was placed in a ridiculous location and taken from a devoted group in Winnipeg.

And then I could get into how the owner of RIM is trying to bring that team back to Hamilton, a market that could sustain an NHL franchise (even with the Leafs and Sabres nearby) but Bettman and the owners don't want him too.

chalmers said...

I thought it was solid, though not as revealing or moving as I expected (and probably not good enough to quash the Simmons-Mike Francesa feud).

They did do a good job humanizing the two people cast as villains, Pocklington and Janet Jones. She made a point I often thought of: if she engineered the trade to L.A. for her career, how come I never saw her in anything ever again until the Rick Tocchet gambling bust?

I would have liked a little more afterstory: What effect did the Oilers' post-Wayne Cup in 1990 have Pocklington's rep in Edmonton? How did McNall's sudden fame after the Gretzky deal contribute to his dizzying collapse?

Gretzky makes interesting point about how playing against lesser players in practice hurt his play somewhat. He's a smart, decent guy and as an executive, he can see how the deal was the best way out for the teams, the league, and, in many ways, himself.

But he says how he thinks about what was lost daily and surmises that he might have won four more cups with Edmonton. I think the player in him believes that the situation got away from him and if he had said no, a better alternative might have been worked out.

Alan Sepinwall said...

"Hey Janet. I saw Police Academy 5."

Love that moment. Sums up 99 percent of fan/celebrity encounters, in terms of how little the two sides actually have to say to each other.

Zac F. said...

Since this is a sports-related thread, I have to ask:

Who's the second picture of in your blog title photo?

I know the first is Kyle Chander, the football coach in Friday Night Lights, the third is Kurt Russell in Miracle and the fourth is Gene Hackman (recently retired from acting) as the basketball coach in Hoosiers.

I'm guessing that's it's a baseball manager, but I don't recognize the face and the letters are partially covering up his lower face, making it that little bit harder.

I haven't watched the Gretzky doc yet, since I'm still catching up from Sunday and Monday, but I'll be watching it soon.

Alan Sepinwall said...

It's Mickey from "Rocky." You're the second person to ask.

I'm apparently old.

Rich Cain said...

I was very disappointed in this. Almost no new information other than some minor tidbits like Wayne talking about the lesser talent in LA possibly retarding his own development as a player.

I found it quite boring. I hope the rest of the series offers something fresh.

Zac F. said...

Even though most of the information was a rehash of what I already knew due to being a Detroit Red Wings and Wayne Gretzky fan, I enjoyed the doc if just to hear the principal players involved discussed what went down over 20 years ago.

The most surprising info to me was the fact that Jerry Buss, the owner of the Kings in 1985, asked Peter Pocklington about a trade for Gretzky. I had always thought that once Pocklington saw that Gretzky wanted to wait until the end of the 1989-1990 season to negotiate a new contract, that was when the trade talks started with Bruce McNall.

I wonder why they didn't go into more detail the money problems that Peter Pocklington was having. I'm pretty sure I read years ago that Pocklington was in dire financial straits due to some business investments that had gone sour on him.

For some reason, I thought the Police Academy V comment was from Wayne to Janet at their first meeting. As funny as the comment was from a fan at the wedding, that would have been even funnier if you ask me. :)

I'm looking forward to the rest of the series. If the rest are of high quality, hopefully a DVD of the docs will be released.

Kerry said...

I know I'm late to the party but I'm Canadian and they're just airing up here. (I'm also an Oilers fan and I lived north of Edmonton from 81-86 so this brought back a lot of bitersweet feelings for me). I had to comment on this post by ithor6:

Something that really struck a chord with me was when he returned to Edmonton as a King. The crowd cheered. That was amazing to me, and really shows the caliber of fans in the city of Edmonton. I can't imagine that happening today.

Actually, Oilers fans suffered through a similar trade a few years ago. Ryan Smyth (who ironically now plays for the Kings) had grown up in Alberta as an Oilers fan, was beloved by the fans and had played for the Oil his entire career, was traded (also before he became a UFA) in a bad trade so the team could get something. There's much controversy over how it happened (and if the team let him go over $100,000), he broke down in his press conference and returned the next season as a member of the Colorado Avalanche to a hero's welcome from the fans. I actually wish that Berg had touched a bit on this legacy, the Oilers have consistenly had trouble getting/keeping quality players and there's a perception that people (especially wives) don't want to live/play in Edmonton and that goes back to the Gretzky trade, whatever the actual reasons for the trade were, the perception is that players get out of town as soon as they can. (Incidentally, that's another reason the Smyth and Gretzky trades were so tough for the fans, because the players professed to actually want to stay in the city.) And I agree with the poster that I would have liked more of Pocklington's money worries to have been examined because weather or not that's an actual reason for the trade, people believe that it was.

And it brings tears to my eyes to think that Steve Nash is going to bring the touching and inspiring story of Terry Fox to American audiences. I just really hope he does the story justice.