Three Great Documentaries to Start Your 30 for 30 Binge

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It’s a great time for watching sports documentaries. Netflix’ The Last Dance and Sunderland ‘Til I Die are among the fantastic options out there at the moment, and there are rumours of plenty more on the way. ESPN, the company behind The Last Dance, is, of course, a dab hand at making sports documentaries. And, one of its best collections is found in the stunning 30 for 30 series.  

At first, ESPN intended to make 30 films to showcase 30 years of the sports broadcaster in 2009. But it soon ballooned, and there are now well over 100 different documentaries in the series. As with every piece of media, not all are perfect. But some are simply outstanding.

The series tackles everything from pure sports stories to the Yugoslav Wars, high school sports stars to corruption at the executive level of government. As such, there is no definitive episode of 30 for 30.  

MansionBet has compiled a list of the best sports documentaries online right nowincluding several brilliant options on Netflix and Sky. But here we will deal solely with ESPN’s ground-breaking catalogue, which you can find on BT Sport and sites like YouTube. We believe that the three films below are among the best in ESPN’s collection. Moreover, they highlight some of the intriguing topics 30 for 30 tries to cover:  

The Two Escobars  

An incredibly ambitious documentary that deals with politics, violence, drugs and football. The Two Escobars looks at Andres Escobar, member of the Colombian football team, and Pablo Escobar, drug kingpin, both of whom died within a year of each other.

It’s well known that Andres was killed not long after scoring an own goal in the 1994 World Cup (against the USA, of all nations), but the story is much more complex than what is sometimes touted as an assassination by one of the cartels over heavy betting losses. Indeed, it still isn’t quite clear what happened today.

The Two Escobars aims at a lot of different angles in Colombia’s difficult recent history, and it’s perhaps hampered by trying to squeeze it all into 100 minutes of screen time. Yet, it will take you down some dark pathways, forcing you to question the motives of the villains and supposed heroes. Most chillingly of all, it concludes with an uncomfortable question: Would Andres Escobar be alive today if Pablo had been alive to protect him?  

Four Days in October  

Not great viewing if you are a New York Yankees fan, and, indeed, Four Days in October almost feels like propaganda for the Boston Red Sox. However, you cannot help but be enthralled by the fairytale nature of the Sox’ comeback from 3-0 down in the 2004 ALCS. Not only did they reverse the Curse of the Bambino, but they also did it in the most dramatic of fashion. 

It’s the sign of a great film when it keeps you in suspense even if you already know the outcome, and that’s the case here. You doubt that Dave Roberts will make that steal, despite seeing it 100 times before. You fear for Curt Schilling pitching with the ‘bloody sock’. You still believe that the team dubbed The Idiots will trip up somehow. 

The masterstroke here by the producers is to tell the story as it happened through the eyes of three different protagonists – the downtrodden Red Sox fans, the disbelieving sports media and the never-say-die Red Sox players. Forget Lasse Viren in the 1972 Olympics or Manchester United in the Nou Camp in 1999 – this is the greatest comeback in the history of sport.  

boston red sox

I Hate Christian Laettner 

Christian Laettner isn’t a name widely known outside basketball. He had a decent career in NBA, even picking up an All-Star in 1997 when playing for the Atlanta Hawks. Overall, though, he was characterised as a bit of a journeyman, playing for six different teams in a 12-year NBA career. His college career, however, was extraordinary. He led Duke University to two national titles (the first for the school), turning them into one of the most dominant sides in history.

The problem was that everyone seemed to hate Christian Laettner. This documentary looks at that hatred, analysing it through the lens of privilege, bullying, race, physical appearance and greatness.

christian-laettner

At times, Laettner resembles the bad guy in an 80s high school movie, but his story is more complex than him being a win-at-all-costs type. This fascinating story shines a light on Laettner, but also on how we – the fans – perceive sports stars.  

 

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