Saturday, July 16, 2011


Well, my main computer is in the shop getting a once over so I've resorted to my laptop for this post.

And since my scanner isn't hooked up right now, I thought I would give you an opinion post.

Lately, I've been on a documentary kick. I love 'em. A well shot documentary with a ton of archival footage, a great representation of interviews and a killer narration is a homerun for me - regardless of the sport.

I first fell in love with sport docs when I saw the 'Legend Of Hockey' series in the mid 1990's. While the tales of Gretzky, Lemieux and so forth felt a little re-hashed, it was the stories of guys like Alex Delvecchio, Marcel Dionne and Terry Sawchuk that just sucked me in.

Everything about this series captivated me - inspired me.

It made me want to find more great documentaries, both within the hockey genre as well as venturing into other sports.

Enter - 'Ken Burns' Baseball'. Quite possibly the king of sports documentaries. The interviews that made me connect with the people and their stories (especially Buck O'Neil), the fantastic footage from all eras and the perfect use of sound - the music is gripping.

Again - inspiring.

These two series really gave me the motivation to search out more great sport documentaries and even went so far as shape my career as a video post production producer/editor.

Last year, I was very excited to learn of the '30 For 30' series being produced by ESPN. Again, a great diverse collection of stories. Some of which reinforced my knowledge of what I knew. Some of which opened up my eyes to some amazing stories. All of them unique in their production style and delivery, it's a tremendous series.

Probably my favorite of the series is 'Once Brothers'. It's the story of Vlade Divac and Drazen Petrovic, their rise together with the Yugoslavian basketball team and their unfortunate broken relationship due to the Croatian/Serbian war. A tragic ending never truly resolved this once close friendship. The final moments of this doc is still one that gets me chocked up.

On the "I want to learn more about these guys" mantle would definitely sit 'When We Were Kings'. The stunning documentary about the Muhammed Ali/George Forman fight in Zaire. Gorgeous footage and great interviews (I could listen to George Plimpton all day). This one is a must see.

Another one that gave me some great insight was the Harlem Globetrotters doc 'The Team That Changed The World'. It goes beyond just the slapstick fun and brings forth the birth and upbringing of the iconic team.

From the football standpoint, America's Game ranks right up there (although it's tough since the NHL is head & shoulders the best when it comes to promoting their own sport).

A couple of documentaries that really inspired me from an editing standpoint were 'Dogtown and Z-Boys' and 'Riding Giants'. One about the birth of skateboarding and it's rise through the 70's, the other about surfing and it's people through the eras. The editing style of Paul Crowder is some of my favorite (another good doc he has done is 'Once In A Lifetime: The Extraordinary Story Of The New York Cosmos'). Aggressive yet purposeful. Again, the use of music is huge in these docs.

Last Christmas, it was the highly anticipated '24/7 Penguins/Capitals'. A four-part series chronicling the Penguins and Capitals leading up to the Winter Classic. I would have loved to have seen more, but it was a cool glimpse into what goes on behind closed doors in the NHL (sure it's not completely 'fly on the wall', but nothing ever will be when it comes to these things).

That series reminded me of the ESPN docs 'The Season'. They did a behind the scenes follow of the Detroit Red Wings one year and the Colorado Avalanche another.

The Avalanche season was from the 03/04 campaign and involved guys like Kariya, Selanne, Forsberg and Sakic. Sadly, Roy was gone by then (or the doc would have really rocked).

That series really opened my eyes to the possibilities of who can tell the story - some narrator and a bunch of supporting clips, or the actual players it's happening.

Over the past few months, I have also been drawn into the 'Broad Street Bullies' doc (which I would love to see released on dvd). I particularly enjoyed that they got a lot of recent interviews from that squad (and the vintage footage is some I've never seen before).

These days, it's the MLB produced 'The Franchise: A Season With The Giants'. The first episode recently aired and I am fully buying into this doc. Every shot in this doc is filmed with purpose, and the characters are ones that I immediately find myself either rooting for and/or laughing with.

And anything with Brian Wilson in it gets a moment of my time - period. This guy's a media person's dream come true.


While I'm sure that I'm missing a ton of solid sports documentaries, this represents a small dose of what I enjoy, seek out and dream of one day producing myself.

All of these documentaries share at least one common thing - it showcases the passion. The players all have a deep rooted passion for what they do. For me, it's what draws me into these movies. I love hearing people talk about something they have great passion for. Be it sports, music, hobbies in general. I think that's one of the reason why I follow blogs. Sometimes they feel like a written documentary.

Do you have any favorite sports documentaries? Do you enjoy them? Are you frustrated by them? I'd love to hear what you have to say.


  1. Thanks for the doc suggestions, I will deff check a few of these out.

  2. Cool post. I will check some of those out. Have you seen all the 30 for 30s? I think I'm about 6 or 7 in so far. Good stuff.

  3. I have watched all of the 30 for 30's and the collection as a group (to me) are the definitive sports documentary collection.

    Other favorite titles from that series are

    Without Bias (Michael Wilbon is another guy I could listen to all day)

    The Birth of Big Air

    Pony Excess

    The Best That Never Was

    A lot of these are about subjects I knew little (or nothing) about yet I found them extremely captivating.

  4. You forgot the best sports doc ever...

    It's the true life survival story of a minor league hockey team.

    You should check it out!!!

  5. Um yes........Slapshot. How could I forget.

  6. I've seen most of those docs that you listed and they are all SO good. Have you seen Hoop Dreams? If not, that is definitely worth a gander.

  7. I'll admit, I haven't done Hoop Dreams from start to finish.

    I think I need to give that one another go....seems like a lot of people have favorable things to say about it.

  8. The Don Cherry (two part) movie/doc that CBC put out was pretty incredible, have you got a chance to take a look at that?

  9. Hey Michael,

    I did see it. It wasn't too bad (would have loved to have seen them do some stuff from his Colorado Rockies days).

    I'm more partial to the CBC 'Life & Times' doc they did on Don back in 1996.

    I had a chance to but it on vhs about 7-8 years ago and passed on it. Haven't seen a copy since. I don't think it ever got the dvd treatment.

    If you ever get a chance to check that one out - do so.