Wednesday, October 31, 2012

30 in 30 - Day 30: Mario Lemieux - The Best. Ever.

Here it is.  The end of the journey.  30 documentaries in 30 days.

Unfortunately, I'm going out with a whimper.

I may need to call one final Halloween audible in order to end on a high note.

Tonight's film - Mario Lemieux: The Best. Ever.

Mario Lemieux - The Best. Ever. (2005)
66 mins.
Rated: NR (this'd be a G - no question)

"Pittsburgh Penguins Captain and Hall of Famer Mario Lemieux Career Highlights DVD portraying his fantastic on ice moments including rarely seen moments, goals, goals, goals and more goals."  (source: iso)

Link to the movie - I watched it online via youtube.

Have you ever purchased something...maybe a box of hockey cards, opened them up and then had instant regret?  Have you ever been severely disappointed with the short end of the stick in a hockey card trade?

This doc is for you then.  You've already felt the pain.

I will go out and say right now - this is the worst sports documentary I've ever seen.  Period.

In fact, this in my opinion isn't even a's a highlight reel.  An hour long highlight reel.

It says the film was made in 2005....but they must have used early 90's technology.  Everything about this movie is horrible.

Ready for my review?

We start with a very uninspired career montage.  Slow and uninviting, I'm already bored and we're two minutes in.  We get a very brief segment on him growing up.  The narration (Paul Steigerwald....who?) is abrasive.  It's like a second rate play-by-play guy trying his hand at voiceovers.

Mario is drafted, there's some immediate marketing of Mario......

and then goals.

His first goal.

More goals.....and still more........and still more.  This is long and slow.  The music is terrible.

We hear from Mike Lange (one of very few interviews...which by the way - none include Mario, not one single interview) and he talks about how Mario had the ability to see things happen in slo-mo.

And back to the goals.  Lots of them.  No rhyme or reason.  Just goals.

We get a brief snipit of Canada Cup '87.  They cover the "5 goals, 5 different ways" game.  And then they start working things year by year.

1989/90 he gets back pain.  I have pain too....and am playing through it as well.  He goes on an insane points streak.

Zero dynamics in this 'doc'.  I'm now just counting down the minutes.  I think I've heard the call "...beaten like a rented mule" about 50 times.  This video is like beating a dead horse.

A couple Stanley Cup wins.  A blip called Hodgkin's and his return.  They shove goal #500 in with a bunch of other random goals....cause that's how important it is.

1996/97 he scores a goal on his last shift before retiring.  A goal to start his career and one to end it.  Nice.

Oh....there's more.

Jersey retirement.  Hall of Fame entry and then he becomes the new owner of the team a couple years later.  This was the birth of the return.

In 2001, Mario makes his triumphant comeback.  And we celebrate with another montage of goals.

2002 Olympic gold medal, 2004 World Cup and then a focus on his charity work.

No Sid the Kid since this was put together before that.

I will repeat....this is the worst sports documentary that I have ever seen. I'm not even going to justify it with my list of reasons.  If you want a bunch of Mario Lemieux goals, this dvd is for you.

This movie is "The Worst.  Ever."

0.5 out of 5 (and I'm being generous).

No reviews for this 'doc'.

Well.  I feel very unsatisfied.  After a very successful month, I am having a very difficult time coming to terms that this will be the exit movie I review.

So much so that I'm calling the audible now.

31 in 31?  A complete month?  You bet!!!

Up next - Thrilla In Manila

Monday, October 29, 2012

30 in 30 - Day 29: Knuckleball

I'm glad I spent some time yesterday searching for a way to watch today's film.  It was one of those "must see" titles on my list.  A lot of newly released docs get that automatic moniker nowadays.

I was hoping it would either land in a theatre during our city's film festival or maybe get a special showing (like what happened to The Last Gladiators earlier this month).  Sadly, no dice.

But I did track it down on iTunes (odd that it took me a while to check there....shows you how much I watch movies off of iTunes).  I've never rented one from them but gave it a shot.  It was a lot easier than I had anticipated.

That could be trouble down the road.  :)

Today's film - Knuckleball

Knuckleball (2012)
93 mins.
Rated: NR (I think there's one instance of swearing...that's it)

"Knuckleball is the story of a few good men, a handful of pitchers in the entire history of baseball forced to resort to the lowest rung on the credibility ladder in their sport: throwing a ball so slow and unpredictable that no one wants anything to do with it."  (source: official site)

This was a rental via iTunes.  Nice!

The tagline of this movie is "To gain power you must first give up control".  That in a nutshell is the knuckleball.

The start of this film really drew me in.  The first 3 minutes are awesome. Great mood, flow and feel.  The shooting is excellent and unique while the editing is an equal compliment.  A fantastic montage mixed with a sizzling title sequence.  A very nice start.

We start with the other end of the pitching spectrum - the fastballers.  Guys these days can hit mid-100 mph.  A lifetime away from the range a knuckleballer throws.

We are introduced to the fraternity of freaks.  Only about 70 players have ever earned a paycheque in the majors by throwing a knuckleball.  It's a very stylized delivery and most find it a circus pitch.  I'm amazed at how much people constantly discount these guys.

Currently there are only two knuckleballers in the majors - Time Wakefield and R.A. Dickey.  The film follows these two as the main thread while introducing side stories involving other knucklers.

Growing up, Wakefield was using the pitch more for fun.  In fact, he came into the majors as a first baseman and was converted to a pitcher.  In 2011, he was approaching some pretty hefty milestones.

R.A. Dickey was a huge comeback story in 2011.  Constanly moving from team to team, he was signed by the Mets in 2010 as an add-on pitcher.  He was one of the first cuts in 2010.  In the minors, he pitched a near perfect game and was brought up by the parent team.  He was lights out the remainder of the season and earned a starting spot on opening day 2011.

Dickey struggled in that start as a result of a split fingernail (something most would seem so minor was huge to a knuckler.  Wakefield in the meantime was coming out the pen to start the season - often in nothing situations.  He got a start a couple months in and was solid.  Soon after he earned a spot in the starting rotation.

To the masses, the knuckleball is a circus pitch.  Passed balls and stolen bases are the norm with these guys on the mound.  A huge "us vs. the world" feel is hung on these guys as nobody really enbraces a knuckleballer.

We find Wakefield and Dickey meet up with Phil Niekro and Charlie Hough, two past knuckleballers who carried the torch in the 70's and 80's.  They sit around and chat ball.  They all agree that it's the heavy (home run) hitters who are easier to pitch to as opposed to the 'slap' hitters.

We get a bit more of a backstory from R.A..  He won a bronze medal in the 1996 Olympics (at the time he was a conventional pitcher) and was drafted into the big leagues.  Doctors wanted to test out his arm and found an issue with it that made the team withdraw their contract offer.  Dickey was devastated.  He was given a base amount by the team and R.A. took it...trying to walk the long road to the majors.

For most, the knuckleball is an act of desperation.  They 'find' it as a last resort to staying in the bigs.  Only Phil Niekro was drafted as a knucleball pitcher.

Just a much as I'm enjoying the editing in this doc, it's a little too stylized at times.  Sometimes less can be more.

For Wakefield, his backstory shows him being converted from the field.  He went in and pitched a complete game win in his first start.  In 1993, he was named the opening day starter.  He too had a rough season that year (even manager Jim Leyland thought he was a freak show).  He was dropped from the roster for 1994.

Tim was signed by the Red Sox and worked with the Niekro brothers in the minors.  He got his confidence back and was a staple in the big leagues for years.  He was closing in on his 200th win.

For R.A, when he began to struggle it was Orel Hershiser who suggested he turn to the knuckleball.  He worked with Charlie Hough to polish his craft.

We see the low that Wakefield went through in the 2003 ALCS where he went from hero to zero with one pitch (a game winning home run to Aaron Boone in game 7).

Tim struggles in 2011 to get that 200th win.  After 6 attempts, he is dropped from the rotation.  Late in the season, he finally picks up the illustrious victory.  At the end of the season, he retires from pro ball.  Leaving R.A. Dickey as the only one left to throw the knuckleball.

Is the pitch becoming an endangered species?  Will it become extinct?

This doc was an enjoyable watch.  A little all over the place at times and a little thin in content, but still had a lot to offer overall.  The focus of Wakefield and Dickey is the obvious road to take but I would have enjoyed seeing more of the history of the knuckleballers.  Some guys liek Tom Candiotti get very little face time in the film.

The mood and pace of the movie is nice, a little repetitive at times though.  The shooting is solid and the editing is really nice (as mentioned...a little too much at times).  Some great use of archive material (both photos and video) is utilized.  They went in to the vault with purpose.

The story is where I noticed the biggest downside for me.  I think the doc covers some good topics and I like that both Wakefield and Dickey's families are a part of the film, but the heavy focus on those two makes the lack of other pitchers noticeable.  I think a little more on the history of the pitch would have been nice.

If you're a fan of Dickey or Wakefield, this is your doc.  An enjoyable watch for any baseball fan and a good story in general.

3.5 out of 5

Here are some other reviews I found online for the film...

Rotten Tomatoes

Hollywood Reporter

Up next...The Final Film!  It's a surprise.....only because I don't even know what I'll be watching yet.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

30 in 30 - Day 28: More Than A Game

Just a few days left in my month long venture and I'm still excited to see a new doc title on the agenda.

There's so many great sports documentaries out there.  A wonderful way to learn, a wonderful way to become inspired and a great way to battle the television blahs.

It might take a bit of hunting and searching to track down some of these titles, but that's what makes some of these picks all the better.

Tonight's film - More Than A Game

More Than A Game (2008)
105 mins.
Rated: PG

"This documentary follows NBA superstar LeBron James and four of his talented teammates through the trials and tribulations of high school basketball in Ohio and James' journey to fame."  (source: imdb)

I hit the library to borrow this dvd.  The case was battered, but she played fine.

When I first saw this dvd, I was thinking this would be just a LeBron James highlight show.  But I was wrong.  This was the story of a team of friends who grew up playing basketball together.  Each get their own time to shine on this doc.

I guess it goes to show that you can't judge a book by its cover.

The doc starts at the end.  It's the 2003 High School National Championship game.  A chance for the guys to become one of the greatest high school teams of all time.  We hear the coach speak his final words to the boys before the game begins.

We get an introduction to the players.  A great montage of photos and cutouts to give the story some style and production value.  A group of four kids who grew up together - playing basketball - and becoming great friends.

They were so good as a team back then (grade 8ish) that they became a travel team in and around Akron, Ohio.  In 1999, their last tournament before they were to head to high school, they made it to the finals of a huge national tournament.  They lost to an all-star team from California on a last second miss by LeBron.

One of the kids, Dru Joyce, was very undersized.  He knew he would have a tough time getting any playing time at the local high school.  He decided to attend St. Vincent/St. Mary's High School since it was coached by Keith Dambrot, who saw talent in Dru during a summer camp.

The cohesiveness and chemistry of the four teammates was so huge that they all decided to stick together and attend St. Vincent/ St. Mary's.  Dru's dad, who coached the kids up to that point, was brought in as an assistant and really coached his son hard.  He didn't want the perception to be that his kid was getting preferential treatment.

During their sophomore season, the fifth member of this group transfered to St. V.  Romeo Travis was not one to make friends, he was there to win. His attitude at first created a distance between him and the rest of the team.

With higher expectations, the Fighting Irish from St. V reached their second straight state championship.

That off-season, Coach Dambrot left to take a coaching job in college.  Coach Joyce, hesitant at first, took over the job as head coach.  He knew that if the system crumbled, he would be the one to take the blame.  If successful, he was just carrying on what Coach Dambrot brought in.  It could have been a lose-lose situation.

In the third year for these kids, they were dominant.  LeBron really started to show his stuff on the court.  He eventually landed on the cover of Sports Illustrated.  Everybody wanted a piece of the phenomenon.  Tickets to their games were being scalped for hundreds of dollars (these were high school kids remember).  Their games were moved to bigger arenas to accommodate.

There was a tremendous swagger that came about as a result.  They started ignoring the coach, partying and just underestimating their opponents.  They managed to still win...until they hit the state championship finals.  Their lack of teamwork, loss of composure and overall poor effort cost them.

The following season, there was a new direction - everybody was on the same page - working together.

During this journey, the doc breaks away to focus on one of the Fab Five. Giving a bit of backstory to who these kids were growing up.  All were interviewed extensively for the doc and it was nice to see.

At this point, it was Willie McGee, who would be told he wasn't starting during his senior year, these personal stories really create individual identities for each player.  This allows for a much more thorough and dynamic doc as opposed to the one-dimensional LeBron show.

During the senior year, this Fab Five started receiving national exposure. ESPN was broadcasting games.  They soundly beat the number one ranked team and were a force to be reckoned with.  They went from starting the season ranked 23rd to becoming the number one team in the country.

LeBron James was receiving a ton of national exposure - and a lot of negative press.  The pressures were starting to build.  At one point he was accused of receiving gifts, thus making him ineligible to the team for the rest of the season.  The team had to play on without James.

It was at about this point (about an hour and 15 minutes in) that my interest was waning.  It's been a bit of a long doc to this point and I knew there was still a half hour to go.

The rest of the team met the challenge and overcame the adversity of not having LeBron play.  They won their first game without him.  It was only one game as LeBron took the matter to court and was reinstated.

The final chapter, nine years in the making.  These friends growing up were going to play for the national championship as seniors.  Their final game together.  Down at the half, they rallied around their coach's words.  There's been a ton of footage in this doc I've just realized.  Cameras following these kids around, lots of archival photos and home videos.  Quite the undertaking.  I'm sure more than a couple felt this story was special and needed to be documented.

The team goes out and comes back to win the national championship.  Each kid pours out their tribute to 'Coach Dru' who helped guide these kids through this part of their lives.

This was a better doc than I expected.  At times I wondered why this story was so special and needed to be told, at times I thought this was nothing more than just the LeBron show, but for the most part the story was engaging (thanks in large part to Coach Dru's interviews....he was a great thread in this doc).

The footage was pretty solid.  Like I mentioned, lots of archive footage.  Each player was also interviewed for this doc and that paid off in spades.

I left this doc feeling good for these kids, but as I write this, the feeling is already fading.  It doesn't have that lasting effect like some other titles I have watched this past month.

A solid watch and a good option for the basketball fans out there.

3 out of 5

Here are some other reviews I found online for the film...

Rotten Tomatoes

LA Times

New York Times

Up next...Knuckleball (I'm renting it from iTunes...let's see how that works)

30 in 30 - Day 27: Mantle

Not sure if any of you have noticed (or care) but ESPN (and TSN in Canada) have begun airing a second batch of 30 for 30 documentaries.  So far I've seen about 3 or 4 of the new offerings (9.79* being one of them).

As I near the end of my month long project, I was beginning to think that this was becoming a bit of a grind.  But when I end up watching my doc for this project.....and then another one from the new 30 for 30 offerings, I realize that I'm just a huge fanatic of sports docs.

Grind?  No.  This is a wonderful time to be a fan of sports documentaries.

Tonight's film - Mantle

Mantle (2005)
60 mins.
Rated: NR (a couple profanities from Mick, but the rest is good)

"This special explores the life and career of one of baseball's most enduring icons, Yankees slugger Mickey Mantle.  August 13, 2005 marks the tenth anniversary of the death of Mickey Mantle, who lived a life as rich and extraordinary as a Hollywood script.  At the height of his career, Mantle was the toast of New York, yet behind his country charm and good looks there was a wayward lifestyle that harmed his marriage, his relationship with his four sons, and his health."  (source: HBO)

I watched this film on good ol' dvd.  Borrowed it from a friend (another Thank You!).

Once again, HBO shows its strength in the sports documentary genre.  They need to pump out a big box set of all their docs.  That would be an awesome Christmas gift eh?

The doc begins with a really nice montage.  The music really sets the tone and the editing shines.  Some great cutout photo effects mixed with some grained textures creates a very inviting start to this story.

We hear quick clips from Bob Costas, Billy Crystal and others, but it is those two who I am happy to see the most.  For me, when I hear anything Mickey Mantle, I want to hear it from them.  They are the truest of fans when it comes to the Yankees icon.

Much like Bobby Orr or Gordie Howe, I never got to see Mickey Mantle play, but to hear so many people talk so greatly about the player makes me instantly gravitate towards him.

We hear of Mickey's life growing up...far, far away from the big city of New York.  Born into baseball, he is named after the great Detroit catcher Mickey Cochrane.  His favorite time as a kid is when his dad would take him to St. Louis to watch baseball.

He would learn at an early age how to hit from both sides of the plate and the fundamentals of the game were drilled into him early.  There's some really nice archive photos used as well as some nice "setup" shots.  Lunch boxes on the porch, bats propped up by the door.  These pieces of video create a nice mood and mesh well with the archive footage.

Drafted by the Yankees in 1951, he was given $1100 to sign with the club.  He was immediately placed in the role as the 'heir' to the greats.  Ruth, Gehrig, Dimaggio.......a huge weight on his shoulders.

He struggled early on and was booed by the New York fans.  So much so that he was sent to the minors for a while.  He even wanted to quit.  His dad, who drove out to talk to him, didn't call his bluff.  He gave Mick no sympathy.  Mantle decided to give it another go and immediately improved his play.

In his first 14 years, the Yankees made it to the World Series 12 times.  He became massively popular.  His speed, power and explosiveness were second to none.  We all know him as a great hitter, but there's some excellent footage of him fielding the ball.  Love it.  Bigger than life, Mick's face was everywhere.  Advertisements for everything.  Television, magazines, newspapers, radio....everything.

There was a tremendous amount of hero worship going on.  And Mickey was catching on.  He had a lot of fun as a result.  New York was a hotbed for the clubs.  He was a regular at many of the top joints, having a few drinks after the game.  There was also plenty of alcohol in the clubhouse at the time.

The time away from home eventually cost Mickey his family.  Married in his first year with the Yankees, he had four boys, all of whom were drifting away from Mick as he was on the road all the time.

A pivotal moment in Mickey's career occurred early on.  During the 1951 World Series, Mantle hurt his knee and watched the rest of the series from a hospital room.  In that same hospital was his father who was battling Hodgkin's disease.  He watched his dad pass away at a very early age.  That was a lot of emotional and physical pain for him to endure and Mickey began thinking about his own mortality.

Mantle's career was briefly gone over and soon the doc reaches the end of his career.  In 1964 his production dropped off.  Mother's Day, 1967 he hit his 500th homerun.  You could see the pain he was going through as he battled with injuries his whole career.  By spring training, 1969 he was forced to retire.

There's some great footage of Mickey Mantle appreciation day and he speaks of Gehrig who was in the same place before him.  Mantle felt like he could have been a better player.  He was saddened by his career.

His life after baseball was where the struggles really began.  He didn't enjoy the business ventures he attempted and began drinking a lot more. His sons were all grown up and would often be his drinking buddies.  This built more of a relationship between them than ever before.

By the early 80's, Mickey's life was out of control.  What really saved him was the memorabilia era.  He started making good money for signing his name.  It saved his career.  Mantle's auto became one of the most sought after signatures.  The whole time, Mick never could figure out why so many people idolized him.

1994 and Mickey hit rock bottom.  His drinking was to the point where he needed help.  One of his sons died at 36.  The result of alcohol problems and Hodgkin's disease.  This was the moment where Mantle turned his life around.

He finally found peace with his father's death, he built a better, happier life, he was able to tell his sons that he loved them.  But Mickey was sick....he needed a new liver.  After receiving a transplant, he made a plea to the public.  He told them that he wasted his life, he has a strong body that he just let go to waste.  He became a strong advocate for organ donation.

During Mickey's liver transplant, the doctors found cancer in his lungs.  Family and teammates had time to say their goodbyes to the legend.  In 1995, Mickey Mantle passed away.

We hear parts of Mantle's eulogy presented by Bob Costas and are left with the lasting impression and legacy of an icon that will live forever.

This was another solid effort from the boys at HBO.  A lot of good archive footage, great photos, Liev Schreiber is at the narrating helm (which felt a little odd in this one for some reason) and some fantastic pace and flow.

My big beef is that it was only an hour and that it was done before the days of HD.  This is presented in good ol' 4:3 aspect ratio.  As well, it was only an hour. There was a lot more of Mantle's playing career that I would have loved to have seen.  They glossed over the race to 61 in 1961 (maybe because it was Maris who was the real story there).  But I would have liked more baseball action.

We hear clips sporadically from Costas, Crystal, Richard Lewis and I would have liked more from them as well.  For such an iconic player, it's tough to put it all in under an hour.

A must for the Yankees fans, a solid watch for anybody who enjoys baseball and just a good doc for those looking to learn more about one of the greatest ball players of all time.

I feel like a broken record...

3.5 out of 5

Here are some other reviews I found online for the film...

New York Times

LA Times


Up next...More Than A Game

Friday, October 26, 2012

30 in 30 - Day 26: Seve - The Legend

A lot of the film I have been watching this month have revolved around a team who exceeds expectations or completes something special.  Individuals that overcome a huge obstacle or are honored for their achievements.  In stepping back, I guess that's what makes for interesting documentaries.

There are personalities that make me just cringe because of something they've done in the past or the way they present themselves now while others make me respect and admire them even more for just being who they are.

Documentaries are a wonderful thing.  The movie I watched this evening is a perfect example of what I enjoy about docs.

Tonight's film...Seve - The Legend

Seve - The Legend (2011)
60 mins.
Rated: NR (there are a couple hard to watch parts, but this is a film for everyone)

(I've been told that this dvd is not the same one I watched....I'll have to confirm that)

"Only the most charismatic are known by just one name.  Known to his adoring public simply as 'Seve', Severiano Ballesteros took the world of golf by storm and transcended the sport, with his magnetic personality and sublime skill."  (source: BBC)

I borrowed this from a friend.  Much thanks!

First off, I'd like to say that I wish I was just a little older.....just 5 years.  I'd have been able to better appreciate just how great Seve was at golf.  I remember him more on the downside of his short career.  It would have been fantastic to see the magic as it was happening.

Almost immediately, you get a taste of the imagination, creativity and fun Seve Balleseros brought to the game of golf.  His passion and joy for the sport are unparalleled in my opinion.  A fantastic sense of humour along with being a true warrior makes him one of the most beloved and revered players of all time.

We start in the "present".  In May 2011, Seve passed away at the age of just 54 after a two and a half year battle with brain cancer.  You can immediately hear the emotional tribute pouring out of family and friends.  A golf tournament is set up to honour Ballesteros.  "Ole Seve!" is a project near and dear to Seve's heart and some funds were raised in the battle against brain cancer.

This is where we meet some of Seve's family and we get to know the golfer a little more intimately.

Seve started golfing at the age of 10.  We hear some archive interviews from Seve about his life growing up.  He loved golf even at an early age.  He played all the time.  At 16, he turned pro.  At the tender age of just 19, he was the third round leader at the British Open.  He came up second, but only after he opened the eyes of a lot of pros on tour.  There was a new entertainer in town.

A 3 iron out of the bunker.  Legendary.  Tiger Woods (among others) talks about the skill and precision Seve had as he would try to hole shots out of the bunker.  His mastery of "going with the flow" is something synonymous with Ballesteros.

The British Open of 1979 was the first of 5 majors for Seve.  In 1980, he became the youngest to win the Masters (also becoming the first European to take home the championship).  He became the pathfinder for European golf and the explosion of today's international flavour in the PGA can be directly linked to him.

In 1983, he won the Masters for a second time.  He also made his first appearance in the Ryder Cup (another staple for Ballesteros).  After a solid team attempt, there was great confidence going into 1985.  Sure enough...the team from Europe won.

There are some fantastic photo montages and great archive footage used.  The stories however are what I'm really enjoying.  It seems as though everybody has a great 'Seve story'.  We are bouncing back and forth between Seve's life story and the tribute golf tournament.  A very nice job of intercutting.

Always an unpredictable player, his creativity is adored.  As said in the movie "A genius does not have rules."  Some of my favorite parts of the doc revolve around these spectacular shots.

In 1988, Ballesteros wins his final major (British Open).  It is around that time that we are introduced to fellow Spaniard Jose Maria Olazabal.  Seve became a mentor to Jose and the pair were forever linked in Ryder Cup play.  Even though his playing days were coming to an end, he was still a vital cog in the team.

We are shown parts of Seve's final interview as we head into the section of the doc covering his battle with cancer.  He talks about when he first was told he had a tumor in his brain.  He spent 72 days in the hospital getting radiation treatment.  Cameras were with him the whole way.

Very emotional, you could see just how much of a fighter Seve was.  He had a tremendous amount of courage as the cancer was just stealing away his life.  Struggling through the interview, you could see how he fought right to the end.

Gracious and always with a laugh, Seve Ballesteros asked us to not feel sorry for him.  He always saw the sunnier side of the fence.

BBC did a really nice job on this doc.  They managed to put a whole lot into the 60 minute production.  I think they did a very good job of balancing interviews with family and friends with the b-roll and narration covering Seve's life.

It had some production value, but nothing that really got the 'wow factor'. Not that it needed it, but a solid doc with really good production value is always appreciated.

The one big beef I have is that this is not an easy doc to find here in North America.  Now that I've seen it, I'd love to own a copy.....that will actually play in the North American region dvd players.

If you're a golf fan - watch this.  If you're a creative person (or is someone who appreciate creativity) - watch this.  Not the flashiest doc, but it's got some good substance to it.  I enjoyed it.

3.5 out of 5

I couldn't find any reviews for this doc......shame.

Next up...Mantle

LINDEN CARD OF THE WEEK - Another One That's Not Mine

I knew this day would come.  I've been waiting for it.  I'm glad it's here, even if I only end up being a spectator.

You all know by now that The Cup has wreaked havoc on my wantlist for a few weeks now.  Some very nice high-end cards of my guy have sprouted up for the pickings.

One of the big cards is a dual shield/auto card featuring Linden and some other guy (Ryan Kesler).  It originally hit ebay with a strong buy it now price.  It was inserted into Cup tins as a redemption card so the desirability factor was a little lower than usual (plus the $2000 asking price).

It was pulled off of ebay as nobody was even close to putting in a bid that high.  Last I heard, the seller was redeeming the card.

Here's what popped up on ebay tonight...

Great googily-moogily!  She's a nice card (even if that Linden auto is a little squished in there).

Here's the back side of the card (only because it too was scanned in the auction).

Meh.  It looks like Kesler did a little stop-start on his auto.  Not quite the smoothest one I've seen from him.

Anyways, it's live.....or should I say ALIVE!!

What I really like is that the seller has put it up on ebay old school style.  A regular auction.  May the best price win.

I already bid on it (only because I knew my bid wouldn't win fact, it's not even the high bid right now).  Whether I'll put in a serious number is something I've got a week to think about.

I'll have my eye on it regardless.

UPDATE:  So I go back on to ebay and what do I see...

Double googily-moogily!!!!!

Same seller too!

These were placed in tins as a redemption as well (Linden must have finally signed and returned his cards).  With only 16 copies of this bad boy (and the first live copy to hit the open market), this could be a very.....VERY interesting week.

Hello wallet?  How you feelin'?

RATE MY MASK - Felix Potvin

It's been a while since I've done up one of these custom jobs, but I came across a Felix Potvin card at a show recently and it made me think about his mask.

I remember at the time I really liked it.  It had a unique look to it with a lot of clean lines and a unique look.

Sure, there was the famous Cujo mask Curtis Joseph would sport, but I think Potvin's lid was unique unto itself.

Let's take a look at it and you can make the call.

Felix broke into the NHL in 1992 and once he got rid of that nasty Chris Osgood helmet, he became a lock as the starter for the Leafs.

Sporting some strong seasons early in his career, he even led the Leafs into uncharted territory by going deep in the playoffs (for reals).

But to me, Potvin will forever be linked with his mask.  Immediately identifiable, this bold 3-color look blends the feeling of his nickname - The Cat - and the creative look that is more than just a simple design.

I really like the symmetry the mask possesses....something that is lacking in a lot of goalie lids these days.  They can get a little too detailed.  This is something that you can appreciate from both up close and afar.

Normally, we don't get a chance to really appreciate what the top of a mask looks like.  In this instance, it almost looks menacing.

And again, it's just 3 solid colors.  Nothing fancy - nothing complex.

Not many tenders today would dare go with something like this.

I tried to find some info on the design of Potvin's mask, but couldn't.  I'd love to know what Greg Harrison was thinking when he came up with tis look.

It definitely will go down as one of the most memorable masks of the 90's.
The backplate.  How cool are these.  A nice little take on his name "Felix" and his nickname simply written along the bottom.

The back of Potvin's mask really completes the look in my opinion.
Now this mask in particular was from 1996 as is seen in the signature on the inside.  I've always wondered how many they go through in a season?  In a career?  Some great history going on here.

Speaking of his career, Potvin carried this look throughout it.  Stops with the Islanders, Canucks, Kings and Bruins all showed the same design but just with a different color scheme.

3.5 out of 5

Now it's your turn to Rate My Mask.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

30 in 30 - Day 25: The Idol Makers - Inside NFL Films

One of the best things to come of this month long documentary project is the discovery (and eventual ownership) of tonight's film.

I vaguely remember watching chunks of this on tv years ago and for the longest time couldn't even remember what it was called.  Only after some dedicated searching did I come across the title.

Sadly, the doc never made it to it was vhs all the way.

If I never watch another video on my vcr, I can say thank you to it for allowing me to play this movie.  These little gems are what it's all about.

Tonight's film....The Idol Makers - Inside NFL Films

The Idol Makers - Inside NFL Films (1997)
53 mins.
Rated: NR (a couple of profanities are'd be a PG)

"If you want to really feel the game, only NFL Films can get you this close.  For more than 30 years, they've captured the 'in-your-face' collisions on the field and the behind-the-scenes dramas from the sideline to the locker room.  How do they do it?  At Super Bowl XXXI, National Geographic Television became the first to film the NFL cameramen in action, turning their cameras on these fearless 'shooters' as they sprint and shove to get the best action shots.  As the Packers battle the Patriots in New Orleans, you'll discover how these idol makers turn players into warriors, and a game into an epic struggle."  (source:  back of the vhs box)

No link....but you can buy the vhs on ebay for a buck ($8 to ship it though).

As you can see, this is NFL Films....shot by National Geographic.  That right there is enough for me.  There is one small piece of info that has me concerned though......1997.  I'm a little afraid these days of docs done in the 90's.  Let's see if this can hold up.

The montage off the top of this film is fast-paced, action-packed and everything I would expect of an NFL Films production.  The music though....OUCH!  My worst nightmares have already come true.  I'll try to look past it though.  As well, it's weird to see anything NFL that's not 16:9 or HD quality.  This is good ol' 4:3 standard definition.  There can be good stuff done that way...I'm just saying it's odd to see.

We hear from Steve Sabol (who essentially was NFL Films for years) and how the focus has always been "the struggle" as opposed to "the strategy" in football.  I've always loved that about NFL Films.

note: Steve Sabol passed away just over a month ago.  His contribution to sports documentaries is pretty much unparalleled and very much appreciated by this hockey card blogger.

The scene is set.  Super Bowl XXXI in New Orleans.  The Green Bay Packers vs. the New England Patriots (pre-Brady BTW).  It's estimated that 70,000 fans will be at the game and over 600 million people will be watching the event around the world.  With those numbers, "event" is an's a "uniquely American spectacle".

There will however be a third team on the field tonight.  For over 30 years, NFL Films has been capturing this spectacle in a very unique way. They are not news reporters, but storytellers.

By the way, the writing in this doc is really good.  The words just roll off the narrator's tongue.  Fantastic flow (even with the hokey music).  And the b-roll.....well it should be obvious - second to none.

Hey, it's a young Michael Wilbon giving his two cents!  I like him.  I wish there was more of him in this doc.

NFL Films look for the uniqueness of the sport.  Often the best shots are not found during the play.  Many times, they aren't even on the field.  It's about capturing the way the event of the day transcends the sport.  And for today's just doesn't get any bigger.  Over 17 cameramen will be capturing the sights and sounds of the championship game.

We get a brief history of NFL Films - started by Steve's dad, Ed Sabol.  He received a movie camera as a wedding gift and for years would film his young boy's antics, adventures and football games.Yup, he's the kid who's dad videotaped everything.

In 1961, the film rights of the NFL championship game were sold for $1500.  That's it!  Ed Sabol decided the following year to make a pitch for it.  In 1962, he offered $3000.  After some debate, he was given the task.  Ed's approach to the game would change the way we see football - literally.

Ed Sabol did more than just shoot the highlights of the game, he captured the event.  The fans, the sidelines, the sounds.  NFL Films was born and they have grown ever since.

I was interested to learn how critical the sound is to NFL Films.  Getting the audio in the huddles, during the discussions on the sidelines and especially the hits on the field really raised the interest level of what was being captured.  A nice little montage is shown to demonstrate.  I didn't know that they place mics in the pads of the players.  They must be disposable.

We are taken through the warmup, pregame and kickoff of the Super Bowl.  We follow a few key cameramen through the event.  Each person has their own set of responsibilities - from capturing the game itself to sideline banter to strictly crowd...and then there is "the weasel".  He just shuffles around getting anywhere and everywhere.  Finding new perspectives and unique shots.

NFL Films still uses old school film (love it) and one of the challenges is that a roll of film captures only about 10 minutes worth of footage.  Lots of cartridge changes.  Efficiency at that is key.  You can't capture something if you're not hitting record.

Some great footage of how involved these guys are in capturing the action is shown.  They are so focused  - to the point of obliviousness - that they sometimes become part of the play.  These guys just don't get out of the way sometimes.  It's all about getting the shot.

As the final gun sounds, the NFL Films team keeps rolling on postgame action.  Seeing the chaos turned into beauty (by simple slow motion of the film) makes some of the stuff these guys capture a true art form.

In the end, 245 rolls of film have been captured.  That's 41 hours of Super Bowl.  And all of it gets carted out asap so it can be processed and hit the edit suites.

Speaking of....I'm a little miffed that there is zero talk about the editing of NFL Films various productions.  To me, NFL Films is more than just the's writing, editing, archive, sound, voiceover, there is so much more.  And as somebody who edits sports for a living, I really wanted to see some of those behind-the-scenes goodies.

At the end of the day, this was a pretty darn good doc - even for a late-90's production.  How good would it be if they did a version nowadays?  It would blow this one out of the water.  But in looking at the time when they produced this doc, it worked for me.

It didn't get as in depth as I would have liked, but it was still a fun ride to follow these guys throughout the Super Bowl (it was just a one game follow). They packed a lot into less than an hour.  Definitely more pros than cons.

3.5 out of 5

I couldn't find a single review about this doc online.  Clearly a sleeper.  Odd.

Up next...Seve: The Legend


Went scrounging around in the closet.  Wanted to find some goodies to scan and show off.  Found these (totally forgot about them).

They'll work.

As many of you know, I'm a big fan of photography in sports.  When I see a hockey card or archive photo in a doc, I appreciate the "moment in time" aspect a picture can capture.

A few years ago I was at a flea market and came across a table with a bunch of hockey "stuff" on it.  Programs, newspapers, press photos, team black & whites and contact sheets (in addition to bunch of hockey and baseball cards).  Needless to say, I spent the bulk of my time hovered over this table.

In talking with the dealer, I learned that he was a photographer for the various sporting events around Calgary in the 80's and early 90's.  Based on the stuff he had on his table, I'd say that's about right.

Here are some items that I found particularly interesting.

This contact sheet comes from November of 1987.  A contact sheet is a layout of a roll of film on an 8x10 with the photos not appearing as negatives, but positives.

This one has the Calgary Flames playing the Quebec Nordiques.  Guys like Hakan Loob, Joe Nieuwendyk and Mike Vernon are fairly easy to identify.  As for the Nords....well it was pre-Sakic so there might be a Michel Goulet and that's about it.  Maybe a Stastny?

There are a lot of grease pencil marks on this sheet as well.  You can see which photos were used (or suggested to be used) in newspapers and such.

Here's a closeup of a great shot from a Flames Oilers game in March of 1985.  Can you name the two enforcers eyeballing each other?

Lots of personality and attitude.

Finally, a couple of sheets from a Boxing Day tilt in 1984.  Anything with the Oilers from that time was a no-brainer to me.

There's a couple nice shots of Paul Coffey (playing forward as always).

But it was this final sheet that I was most interested in.

I know, I know....what's the big deal?

Well, if you look closely you can see a celebration shot in the lower right hand area.  Seems pretty obvious who that guy is.

But don't worry, I blew up the shot a little more for you to see.

Yeah.....that's Wayne alright.

Now think about this for a second.  There's no grease pencil marks which would indicate that the shot wasn't used.  Odds are that this photo never saw the light of day at the time (and would be highly doubtful to get a second look if it didn't have any markings).

There's a good chance that this picture of Wayne Gretzky has never been seen before (other than by the photographer and maybe a couple people working at the paper almost 30 years ago.

Take a look at the snarl on Gretzky's face.  The attitude.  The emotion in his body as he celebrates the goal.  And I love the depth in the shot - all the fans just nicely blurred in the background.

A fantastic shot.

Now to figure out what I'm going to do with these sheets.  I was originally thinking of framing them.  I think they might look good as a set or something.

Or maybe I'll just put them back in the closet and forget about them.  :)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

30 in 30 - Day 24: The Dream Team

What is happening here?  The closer I get to the end of the month....the more volatile this project has become.

Once again I have had to do a little shifting in my film titles.  Unfortunately (due to circumstances beyond my control) I have had to switch out the movie I was to watch.  In its place though is a title that's on my 30 doc I'm not drifting too far from the bench.

With just a week left, I'm sure I can limp my way to the finish.  But this is really messing up my schedule....for reals.  Good thing I can power through it.

Tonight's film - The Dream Team

The Dream Team (2012)
70 mins.
Rated: NR (but would be an easy PG choice)

"The Dream Team features highlights, rare practice footage and behind-the-scenes clips of players hanging out that both recall the experience and provide a new look at it.  Not every moment is stellar, but there are so many joyous moments that it's all too much fun to complain.  In turn, we can remember and understand just why anyone cares so many years later."  (source: yahoo sports)

Link to the film - I watched it online via vimeo

This doc is an NBA TV original production.  When I first heard that, I got worried that it would be a little substandard.  I've seen a lot of "documentaries" on various networks that miss the mark in a number of areas (quality of writing, quality of interviews, lack of footage, not really telling the complete story, etc.).  I was pleasantly surprised to see this production easily run along side some other quality documentaries.

The 1992 Olympic basketball team from the United States.  The Dream Team.  11 Hall of Famers.  Many would call this team the greatest team ever all of sports.

Pretty good topic to tackle.

The players on that team (most of them) transcended the game itself.  The NBA was on such a roll since Magic & Bird saved the league in the 80's.  Now it was guys like Jordan, Barkley, Drexler and Malone carrying the torch.

We step back and talk about the US team prior to 1992.  They were still dominant for years, even with college players taking part.  But the world was catching up and in 1988, the US team were upset in the semi-finals by the USSR.  The discussion about amateur vs. pro really heated up.

In Europe, you could be paid to play yet still be considered an amateur.  In the NBA though, you are considered a pro once you accept a paycheque.  Many felt that it was not fair.  That eventually changed and in 1992 the sport of basketball at the Olympics were open to all players.  Now the question was - who would want to play?

Initially, superstar Michael Jordan is hesitant to join.  He only accepted after seeing some of the players that have gotten on board with the idea.  Duke's Christian Laettner was the only non-NBAer as he was just coming out of college.

The lineup is a who's who of NBA stars, but there is one player who is noticeably absent....Pistons' star Isiah Thomas.  Even more surprising is that the team is coached by Chuck Daly - Head Coach of the Detroit Pistons.  Some felt that it was because of the 'Bad Boys" image the Pistons built over the years.  Some were just happy he wasn't on the team - they wanted no part of that.

Training camp opened and a lot of egos entered through the door.  At first, the team played like a bunch of individuals, then the pendulum swung way the other way and everybody started over-passing.  It was so bad that they actually lost their first warmup game against a group of college stars.  Some say that Coach Daly threw the game on purpose...but whatever it was, it got the team more focussed and more cohesive.

Larry Bird and Magic Johnson were named captains and this would be their swan song.  The first game of the Olympic qualifiers were a coming out party for the duo.  They were clearly the leaders of the team and the crowd chanted for more.  Easily punching their tickets to Barcelona, the team packed up for some warmup games in Monte Carlo.

Relaxing, shooting some golf and playing cards, the team got a little sluggish in their match against France.  Coach Daly was not impressed and put the team through a tough practice the next day.  A scrimmage ensued and it got pretty competitive.  This intensity was the turning point and there was nobody going to stop the Dream Team from that point forward.

Barcelona.  The Olympics.  No room for error.  Their first match against Angola was a rout but all the press focused on was Charles Barkley's elbow to the Angolan player.  Against Croatia, it was Jordan and Pippen looking to dominate against their soon-to-be-teammate Toni Kukoc.

It got to a point where people started asking "Is this Dream Team too good?"  Was this venture creating more of a negative than a positive?

A great aside from the doc was hearing the story of John Stockton walking off the team bus one day while it was stuck in traffic.  He proceeded to just walk amongst the crowd...and nobody recognized him. His teammate Karl Malone only wishes he could do that.

The friendships and camaraderie that was built through this experience still holds to this day (as they got recent interviews with all 11 players - nice).  In the gold medal game against Croatia, they won as a team.  It was an emotional scene as the players came in to the stadium to accept their medals.  Something they will never forget.

And like that....the dream was over.

This was a surprisingly good documentary.  The interviews were really good, the archive footage was fantastic (a lot of behind-the-scene photos and video).  The main story was well presented, but the side stories were also very well done.  A good balance.

The editing was fine (nothing spectacular) and the pace was solid.  The only down side was that the content was not more "roller coaster".  But what do you expect when you have such a dominant team?  They really didn't have to overcome any major adversity.  It was just a feel good story for the most part.

Were they dominant?  You bet.  But they earned it.  They played as a team and the whole was definitely greater than the sum of all the parts.

3.5 out of 5

Here are some other reviews I found online for the film...

Yahoo Sports


Bleacher Report

Next up...The Idol Makers - Inside NFL Films (for sure...I have the VHS)

RAISE THE CUP - Another Contender

I'll admit, I'm a sucker for a deal.  If I see a loonie box or quarter box, I'll rummage.  Especially if I haven't seen it before.  I'm always amazed at what some people will toss in these bargain bins.

I guess looking at it from their perspective, they just want to get rid of (what to them is) dead weight.  Cards that have just hit their peak of popularity and are now wasted space.

I get it.

And I'm all for it.  Put your sale signs up.  I'll be watching.

Case in point, the newest addition to my Raise The Cup project.

2011/12 Panini Contenders
Contenders Legacies
#156 Brendan Shanahan  /999

Nothing spectacular.  It's not a super-rare card (boy are there a few nice ones that would fit well into this pc) and the photo is cropped ever so nicely (note the sarcasm).

Panini decided to do this to all the cards in this set.  I really should get a hold of them and show them how it's done.

This is another one of those cards that are slow to come my way.  I pick them up as I find them....I don't go looking too hard for them.

But when they are in the discount box - I've got my eyes peeled.

Current Collection - 91 cards

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

30 in 30 - Day 23: Bobby Fischer Against The World

I'm sure this doc will be seen to some as a "non-sports" movie.  I can understand that stance.  But there are two main reasons why I'm including this title to the 30 in 30 list.

First, the subject of this film catapulted the exposure of this "sport" to levels comparable to the Superbowl and any other sporting event in North America at the time.  It was huge news.

Second.....I own the dvd and really should watch this from start to finish.

So there.

Tonight's film - Bobby Fischer Against The World

Bobby Fischer Against The World (2011)
93 mins.
Rated: PG (a little bit of swearing near the end)

" In 1958, Bobby Fischer stunned the chess world by becoming the youngest Grand Master in history.  Over the next decade and a half, his breathtaking rise to the top echelon of the game riveted the world and inspired an international chess phenomenon.  Then, at the apex of his success, Fischer vanished from the public eye.  See the true story behind the troubled genius, from his meteoric rise to fame to the growing madness that finally consumed him."  (source: the back of the dvd)

As mentioned, I own the dvd....and can put it in the "have watched" pile.

This is another HBO documentary and I'd like to say that these guys do a darn fine job.  I'll feel safe in the future choosing something from their list sight unseen.

In a nutshell, Bobby Fischer was the greatest chess player in the world.  But he not only was the greatest player, he inspired a generation of people to take up the game.  It became part of popular culture in the 70's. It also was a political vehicle and seen as a way to signify one's superiority intellectually.

We learn about Bobby's early life.  He began hanging out in chess clubs as early as 8.  He constantly played the game - even if it was against himself.  Obsessive even at an early age, he had a sort of genius level of understanding.

In 1958, still in his teens) Fischer became the United States chess champion and was crowned a grand master.  His knowledge and popularity was something that his mom recognized could be capitalized on.  He would gain both fame and publicity from the world of chess.

Just a quick note...the archive footage in this doc is tremendous - probably the best I've seen so far.  Fantastic photos and video.  The music creates a great mood and is very dynamic.  The interviews though are what I notice most.  Some key people in Bobby's life are interviewed and they look and sound great.  It's a very polished doc to this point.

Bobby developed a penchant for having things done his way.  Very demanding.  The World Chess Championship was coming up in 1972 and Fischer was the representative from the US.  He would keep refusing to go and flip-flopping back and forth.  Even Henry Kissenger got involved and tried to convince Bobby to go.  Eventually he agreed.

The match would take place in Iceland and was top news in America.  Regularly scheduled programming would be cut in order to show these matches (it was the best of 24 games).  People would skip work and watch. This event received huge ratings.

Fischer continually complained abut the room, the cameras filming, the sound the cameras were making - everything.  He had an excessive sensitivity to many things.

Once the match got underway, the back and forth battle began.  Fischer's unorthodox methods made his opponent, Boris Spassky, become more and more tense.  He struggled to maintain his composure and eventually he becomes the weaker of the two.

Some great editing during a couple of photo montages in the middle sections here.  The end of the match comes when Spassky retires during game 21.  Bobby Fischer is crowned the new world champion.

Up to this point, Fischer's increasing paranoia and feelings that he is being spied on are talked about.  After he wins the world championship, he becomes more of a recluse and goes into hiding.  He begins spouting more and more anti-American and anti-semitic remarks.   He gave up the game to a world of neurosis.  But where did he go?

He stayed out of the eyes of the world until 1990.  He came out of isolation and soon after a "revenge match" with Spassky was set up.  It was to be played in Yugoslavia in spite of a United Nations embargo.  Both players were shadows of their former selves in the match which Bobby ended up winning.  An arrest warrant against Fischer was placed and he became an ex-patriot by refusing to comply.  He never set foot on US soil again.

He slipped into obscurity again after the Spassky match.  Now a fugitive, his negativity towards the United States intensified.  So much so that when the terrorist attacks of 9/11 occurred, some pretty harsh words were said by Fischer.

Fischer lived for a time in Japan but was arrested in 2004 and was about to be deported.  In an attempt to evade deportation, Fischer received asylum in Iceland.  Welcomed by the people of Iceland, he gave a news conference and lived out his life as a recluse.  He continued to alienate people that he met and really had no companionship.

Bobby developed a urinary tract infection but refused dialysis.  He died in 2008 from degenerative kidney failure.  He was 64.

This was a very interesting documentary.  I saw it as three parts....his life before the '72 World Championship, the match itself and his life after.  The story of his life is both amazing and tragic.  There were many great interviews that kept the topic compelling.

Very well edited, it tells a pretty complete story.  The archive videos of Fischer along with the most recent footage of him in Iceland really paint a strong picture.

Do you have to be a chess fan to enjoy the film?  I don't think so, but having some knowledge of the game or even the events from the 70's help.

Compelling, it's one of the better docs I've seen this month.

4 out of 5

Here are some other reviews I found online for the film...

Rotten Tomatoes

The Guardian

Hollywood Reporter

Up next...Mantle

BEHIND THE MASKS - More To Scratch Off The List...If I Had One

It's been a very slow go when it comes to picking up cards for my Masked Men 4 project.  I haven't been super motivated I think because of all the Linden cards out there.  I tend to go for those first and then goalie mask stuff later.

But when there's a chance to trade, that's when I shift things into gear.

Now I must admit, I saw these cards at last month's local card show....but I didn't bring my list with me.  In fact - I've yet to draw up a wantlist for this set at all.

Lazy me....I just bring all the cards I have and that way I know what I need.  Simple right?

Yeah, right.
2011/12 In The Game Between The Pipes
Masked Men 4

I love the profile look on the Jimmy Howard card and would have loved the "Darth Gerber" if it was a little more head on.

The Bernier made me realize that the chin area of the mask should be in front of the Masked Men title along the bottom.  After all, isn't the mask the most important thing?

But this gives me over half the cards in the 50-card set.  I think it's time to build that wantlist.

But that's not all the masked goodies to show.

2011/12 In The Game Between The Pipes
Masked Men Memorabilia
#MMM-47 Cam Ward

I haven't seen too many of these pop up.  So when I saw it in a $5 box at the show today, I scooped it up.  (note:  I wrote this on Saturday....there was not a card show on Tuesday.  Muh bad!)  It wasn't until I got home that I found out there are only 10 copies of these out there.


But why the white jersey?  You'd think that a card of only 10 copies would garner something a little more exciting.

But I guess if that happened, it wouldn't have been in the $5 bin.

Monday, October 22, 2012

30 in 30 - Day 22: Disposable Heroes

Well, I was planning on watching Undefeated tonight, but was unable to secure a copy of it.  Not sure if I'll be able to find it before the end of the month....but I'll try.

So I switched around my calendar for the week and am watching Thursday's flick today.  I'm sure I can figure things out from now until the rest of the month.

I went with a pretty interesting selection when I stumbled upon it during my list building.  It was made in the mid-80's and was at the time a very candid, inside look at a side of football many fans didn't see.

So does it stand up to the test of time?

Tonight's film - Disposable Heroes: The Other Side of Football

Disposable Heroes: The Other Side of Football (1985)
51 mins.
Rated: NR (but there's no swearing, just the occasional talk of some bad injuries)

"Roger Stillwell and Jim Otto are the chief focus of a powerful and shocking documentary on HBO that shows the grimmer flip side of football.  Less an angry documentary and more a candid and compassionate one, caringly and skillfully shaped into a pointed statement about the seldom-reported-on-tv downside of organized sports.  After the career is over and the cheers fade, what is left?"  (source:  bjsears)

Link to the film - I watched it online via youtube

There were some pretty interesting stats throw out early on in the doc.  All while seeing some of the best of the time (the Raiders) in their glory.

The average career in the NFL - 4 and a half years.

74% of NFL players don't have their college degree.

We meet Hall of Famer Jim Otto.  He played 16 seasons in the NFL, has had upwards of 30 concussions, 25 nose breaks, numerous other injuries and now at the age of 46, can barely get out of bed in the morning, sit or stand for long periods of time and is completely arthritic.

We also meet Roger Stillwell, drafted by the Bears in 1975, his career was over by the age of just 26.  Now at 32, he lives in constant pain.

These two retired players are the focal points of the doc.  We hear from them, their wives and family about life both during and after football.

There are other interviews from ex-players talking about how they are just interchangeable parts.  New players come in every year and the old ones are just moved out of the way.  For example, we meet Dave Dalby who took over for the retiring Jim Otto. Now, he's the old vet.

Some pretty amazing footage is shown of some tremendous collisions.  The hitting in the NFL was just as vicious then as it is now.

Still well talks about his gruesome injury.  An 11-man dogpile forced his leg up by his ear.  He could literally hear the tearing and cracking.  Emotional, he talks about how when everybody got up off of him the pain was gone.  He couldn't feel his leg any longer.  He was absolutely devastated.  He talks about missing the camaraderie, hanging around with the guys.'s all gone.  Once he was injured, he was lost.

A lot of players have a very difficult time adjusting to life after the game.  All the decisions (from the time you're in high school) are made for you.  When to practice, when to rest, when to eat, when to sleep, what to do here and there.  But after you're done in the NFL, there's nobody telling you what to do.  Not a lot of offers on the table.

Jim Otto goes in for spinal surgery.  He'll live the rest of his life in pain and discomfort.  Stillwell ices his back and knees 6 times a day, 7 days a week - and will do so for the rest of his life.

You can hear the concern in their wives' voices.  Both about their husbands as well as their kids (both have boys).  They worry about the same thing happening to them.

As for Jim and Roger, they say they would do it all over again - even knowing the life they have left to live after football.  To them it was worth it.

I was interested in the investigative style of this doc.  I don't know how much of this kind of programming was out there (in the sports world) back in the 80's.  I wouldn't be surprised if this was a first of its kind when it came to pro football.

The film was much more of a slow pace, taking time to get more then just the key soundbite.  While there was some good football footage, there was less than I thought there would be.  It was a lot more footage of these guys at home, at work or at the doctor's office.

I was a little surprised that there were just two people who were focused on.  I was hoping for a little more player representation.  There are some other guys who show up occasionally to blurt out a token soundbite or two (including OJ Simpson) and they do a good job of reinforcing the points made.  Without question though, this is the story of two people struggling with life after football.

Not a flashy doc by any means.  It has more of a "60 Minutes" feel to it (and even then it seems more bare bones than that).  What I enjoyed most about it is that it was done in the 80's.  These days, stories like this (with open door access) are commonplace.  Back in '85 this would have been ground-breaking.

3 out of 5

Here's the one and only review I could find on this film...

LA Times

Up next...Bobby Fischer Against The World

PACK WARS - A Nice Little Showcase

Pack wars during traders night at the local card shop has become a bit of a trend, habit, it what you want.  I enjoy it and every once in a while hit some nice cards to add to the trade box.

Last week's edition was a little different than normal though.  It wasn't so much a "pack wars" situation, more like a team-style group break.

Up for grabs...the contents out of one box of Panini Prime.

The way it worked was for $7.50, you'd get to pick a team out of a hat and if any cards are pulled from your team - you get them.

It's gambling - hockey card style.

I knew that my guy wasn't in this product, but decided to participate anyways.  Wouldn't you know it, the team I picked....Vancouver.

Want to see what I got?  I knew that you would.

With the card being revealed ever so slowly (to add to the excitement, tension, it what you want), the blue and green gave it away pretty quick.  I just didn't know what player.

2012/12 Panini Prime
Showcase Swatches
#77 Ryan Kesler  /25

That's a nice little card.  For $7.50 - even better.

Too bad it wasn't a Sedin though.  I could have faired well in trade if it were Danny or Hank.

And $7.50 is a bit of a stretch.  After all, I did participate in more than one pack wars go around that night.  Let's just say, if I break even....I'll be happy.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

MY COLLECTION - Just Because

It's not often when I go off the charts for a card these days. With the growing list of Linden cardboard, masks, the odd box break (or maybe not so odd), and pickups here and there for other projects, I rarely pick up a card that just "speaks to me".

Yesterday at the card show, I had one of these rare moments.

Now in my many years of collecting, I have never seen a copy of this card.  I didn't even know it existed.  I guess I could say that about a lot of cards obviously, but I do "window shop" when I'm at the shows.  I may not know everything about everything, but if I haven't seen something for decades and it catches my eye - odds are it's a rare find.

1993 Classic
Mike Bossy auto  /975

Told ya' it was eye-catching.

This sharp looking, hard-signed (in thin gold paint pen) signature from Mike Bossy was a must have as soon as I laid eyes on it.  Of course only for the right price.

But this card spoke to me.  The photo, the photo quality, the lighting in the photo even - all reeks of the early 80's and a time where hockey was everything to me.

Add to that one heck of a gorgeous autograph - in the sweet spot I might add - and the fact that I just have never seen a copy of this card.....ever, made me want to pick this up.

It had a $25 price tag on it and I asked if that was what it booked for.  The guy said yes, at the time he priced it (which was a long time ago).  That was my first indication that he has had this sitting in a box for quite a while.  He was new to the card show but I remember seeing him occasionally set up shop at a store from years ago.  Another indication that he's looking to liquidate some product.

I fired off my offer and he hummed about it.  I told him I'd keep looking to see if there were any other gems in the lot.  The nice thing about this card is that I could very easily have walked away at any point....and I think he knew that.

He countered just a little higher but I decided to stand my ground.  I wasn't sure how much these have gone for recently and he was cutting prices in half for most of his cards right off the bat.

I didn't find anything else, and he agreed to my price.  He had to go to the I think he wanted to wrap things up quick.  Even more to my advantage.

So for $10 bucks I've brought this home.  I think it's a steal for an autograph of a Hall Of Fame sniper like Bossy.  Not sure what I'm going to do with it yet.  I might keep it, I might try to turn it around and trade it/sell it.

But it's mine for the time being.....just because.

30 in 30 - Day 21: Fire On The Track - The Steve Prefontaine Story

There have been many times where we have seen athletes compete and succeed beyond what we expect.  Where their pursuit for excellence has become bigger than the performances themselves.  Where they have continued to inspire well after their competitive days are over.

Muhammed Ali, Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky all fall into that category. But there is one name I would like to submit to you for consideration.

Steve Prefontaine.

I've heard the name 'Pre' for a long time.  An intriguing middle-distance runner who created a tremendous buzz in his sport at such a young age.  His determination and guts pushed him to limits that were unheard of for such a young person.  An inspiration in his day, he still is at the forefront of many people's minds when you talk about the best runners in track.

His story has always been of interest to me.  There have been not just one, but two tv movies made about his short life.  But when I tripped upon this documentary, I knew it would be on the list for this month's viewing.

Tonight's film - Fire On The Track: The Steve Prefontaine Story

Fire On The Track: The Steve Prefontaine Story (1995)
58 mins.
Rated:NR (but it's suitable for all ages)

"The legendary distance runner Steve Prefontaine blazed across tracks and into America's consciousness before meeting a tragic death in an auto accident at the age of 24.  After setting high school running records in his native Oregon, Prefontaine went on to the University of Oregon, where as a freshman he began to dominate the American track scene and appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated.  His race in the 5000 meters at the 1972 Munich Olympics is shown in detail, a race that 'matured him' and made him determined to win gold at the 1976 Montreal Olympics.  This is a touching look at a brilliant athlete and a charming character who still inspires runners today."  (source: amazon)

Link to the film - I watched it online via youtube

When I saw the film's 1995 creation date, I was a little concerned.  I've seen a lot of movies from that time period that just don't hold up with regards to style, music, graphics and overall quality.  I was a little disappointed that this doc fell right into that mix.

Off the top of the film, we hear from Phil Knight, one of the founders of Nike.  I never realized how much of a connection there was between Knight and Prefontaine.  So much so that Nike's headquarters only has one statue - that of Pre.

We step back to the 60's - the golden age of track, where it is considered the second most popular sport in America.  The interest was at an all-time high.

We learn a little about Steve growing up.  Born in Coos Bay, Oregon, Steve was a rambunctious kid who always used sports as an outlet - especially at school.  Brash, confident, and very much a rebel he had dreams of competing at the Olympics even at a young age.

He became a high school star in track, setting numerous school and state records.  He was highly scouted by numerous colleges but was a little disappointed that his local college, Oregon, was not sending him a letter. We hear from track coach Bill Bowerman that sending letters was not his style.

Bowerman along with friend Phil Knight started a small shoe company around the same time that Pre was entering college.  In the fall of 1968, he had indeed heard of Pre and before long Steve was on his way to Oregon.

Pre was touted the country's running prodigy and made the cover of Sports Illustrated at the age of just 18.  No surprise, but that didn't sit well with this teammates at the time.  He was constantly butting heads with both his fellow runners as well as his coach.  Steve was determined to do things his way.

There are a lot of photos and some good archive footage so far in this film.  I was surprised by this as the production quality is very much a "local vibe".  It didn't seem like a big budget doc.  Quality footage and a good mixture of interviews so far.  But the music is killing me.

Because Steve was a hometown kid, the events at the local track were electric.  Steve would feed off the energy and send it back into the packed stands.  I could only imagine what witnessing an event there would have been like at the time.

We finally hear from Pre (unfortunately there is little interview footage of him in this doc).  We see the kid becoming a man as he becomes even more dominant in his college years.  Breaking US records almost at will, he also breaks many stereotypes when it comes to running.  Steve's very extroverted, outgoing and likes to party.  On the track though, he's all business.

His dedication to running is second to none.  In fact, his teammates think that was one of his edges.  He had nothing else in his life except running. It was in the early 70's that Pre also began speaking out about the unfairness in track.  He felt frustrated that amateur athletes like him who travelled to meets and generated a lot of money for a lot of other people by drawing large crowds to events would not be paid for appearances.  By accepting money, Pre would have lost his amateur status (meaning his  records would not count nor would he be able to pursue the Olympic dream).

At the 1972 Olympic Trials, Pre was dominant in the 5000 meters.  A standout runner in America, Steve had never run with great international competition. Many felt that would be his undoing in Munich.

Unfortunately, it would be something else that would affect his Olympics. The Munich hostage crisis affected him so much so that he didn't even want to run.  Eventually he did and made it to the finals of the 5000 meters.  In the finals, the pace for the first half of the race was very pedestrian.  It left many other runners with a lot of reserve left in the tank.  A stacked lineup, poor strategy and an ill-timed kick had Steve finish off the podium in fourth.

Again, some great archive footage and solid interviews really tell the story well.  Steve's finish was examined and many felt that his youth and inexperience played a role.  He had kicked too soon after what was an overall slow race.  Pre went for the gold rather than pace himself to a sure bronze medal.  Many feel that this was the way he always ran - running for first.

The music is just not working for me and the narration (Ken Kesey) is also not as strong as I would have hoped.  It's something that I constantly notice.

We hear more about Steve's battle with the AAU (Amateur Athletic Union).  He was frustrated that the American athletes weren't getting the same benefits as the European runners.

We also learn about his relationship with Nike (which at the time was only a year old).  Pre was one of the first athletes to be sponsored by Nike...and being paid in shoes.  Steve turned down an opportunity to go to a pro circuit so that he could pursue the 1976 Olympics...he had some unfinished business.

Unfortunately he would never get there.  He passed away as a result of a car accident in 1975 - at the age of just 24.  He never had his day.

He was without question the most popular athlete in Oregon and had captured the attention of a nation.  He (along with Bill Bowerman and Frank Shorter) was credited with sparking the running boom of the 1970's.

To this day, an annual track event in his name is held in Oregon.  Over his career, Steve won 120 of 153 races and never lost a collegiate race at the University of Oregon.

As I mentioned, there are a lot of interviews in this doc - some good ones too.  Key people talking about key events in his life.  But the doc falls short in its dynamics.  The music, narration, pace all feel stagnant throughout.  I think it could have been more "rollercoaster-like".  He did after all have some pretty big ups and downs.

I can only imagine what a re-working of this doc would look like these days.  The production value would be through the roof compared to this film and I think it would make for a much more engaging movie.

This was a good doc, lots of info, but falls short in my eyes.  Maybe I'm biased....I can do that sometimes.  But it just feels "90's" and I couldn't get past it.

3 out of 5

Here are some other reviews I found online for the film...

Documentary Films


New York Times

Next up - Undefeated