It doesn’t get much better than good documentary. Crime, nature, and sports - those are my favorites, respectively. Miss me with the food documentaries - I’m not prepared to gag at the sight of bacon for the rest of my life. Documentaries are special because watching them certainly isn’t a brainless activity. Sure, I’m still vegging on the couch and managing to make a bag of white cheddar popcorn disappear in minutes, but at least I’m learning something new!
PD touched on some Columbus Blue Jackets documentary concepts in a Cannon Blast a few weeks back, and he came up with some really cool ideas (titles included!) that I would love to see if a CBJ documentary ever came to fruition. Whether it was the foundation of the Jackets in Ohio or the legendary sweep of Tampa Bay Lightning, there are a lot of awesome nuggets in CBJ’s history that would make for a lovely Sunday afternoon of documentary-binging.
We are entering a new era of sports documentaries, which is really exciting! The Last Dance is the one that’s taking the world by storm right now, and I can attest to the fact that it’s drawing in basketball and non-basketball fans alike (it’s me, I'm the non-basketball fan). In fact, I did not actually exist during the start of Michael Jordan’s career, and was only a toddler when he won his last championship in 1998. My dad has a framed, signed, life-size black and white poster of MJ’s wingspan hanging in our basement, so up until I started watching this documentary, I really only knew his face as the shadowy one that scared the crap out of me when I ran up and down the basement stairs without the lights on.
The Last Dance is transfixing, for those who haven’t watched - these larger-than-life humans sat down in armchairs with glasses of scotch and cigars to tell us about an unbelievable decade in sports. There’s humor, drama, emotion, and the first-person storytelling is beautifully complemented by the iconic-1990s-quality footage and photography. To be a sports journalist - photography or writing - who gets a call 10 years from now to learn their work is being used in a documentary about the period of time they covered is a personal dream of mine.
Another documentary that gripped me when it came out in January of this year was Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez. It was the perfect marriage between my proclivities for true crime and sports documentaries. My only complaint is that it could have been longer - at least five episodes - and I would have wanted a whole episode to focus on CTE and the traumatic brain injuries that affected Hernandez and so many other professional athletes like him. I felt like I still had questions after finishing the documentary, so Netflix, if you’re reading this... I need a follow-up episode, a la Tiger King style.
Alright, so now to look into the future - streaming services and producers have clearly established that there is a large market for sports documentaries, one that exceeds the audience for the actual team or sport, even. What sports documentaries would you be most excited to watch? I’ll start:
- Kobe. I would be surprised if anyone touches this anytime soon, but I’ll be excited when it inevitably happens in the next couple decades. Whoever takes on this documentary will not have an easy task - to do it correctly, they will need to address all aspects of Kobe’s extraordinary career, including his 2004 civil case in which he was accused of rape. I do not envy the task of the production team that will figure out how to walk the line through Kobe’s life, career, and tragic death in a documentary series - but if it is done well, it will be beautiful. I’m going to need at least 10 episodes, if not more!
- U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team. For the love of God, somebody please give this team the story and the stage it deserves. The documentary needs to recognize their amazing accomplishments, obviously, but it also has the potential to be an amazing look into the economies of professional sport - and in this instance, the economic inequalities between the men’s and women’s national teams. Ugh! Someone over at Netflix needs to push this one to the front of the queue.
Ok, I’ll stop there, but I’d love to know what you guys would be most excited to see produced! Sound off in the comments - happy weekend!