Sports docos you probably haven't seen but really should
What sports documentaries should you put on your things-to-watch list? What sports docos haven't you heard of but are must sees? Today Andrew looks at some of the best sports documentaries out there, that are perhaps not as widly known as others.
This is a list of sports documentaries you should see.
But no, it's not a list of all the typical sports documentary favourites you'll see on any number of "10 Best Sports Doco" lists all across the web. Yes, When We Were Kings is a great work. And Hoop Dreams is a masterpiece. Oh, and yes Ken Burns' Baseball is epic. But we all know this. We've seen them. We love them. They're classics.
But maybe you're wondering what else it out there. What other lesser known sports documentaries should you see that are just as worthy of viewing as those regularly mentioned greats?
If you have ever asked that question, then this is the list for you.
ASSAULT IN THE RING (also titled CORNERED)
This heartbreaking and powerful 2009 documentary from HBO looks at the controversial boxing bout between Billy Collins Jnr and Luis Resto that took place at Madison Square Garden on June 16, 1983. Resto defeated the highly favoured Collins in a 10 round unanimous decision. Following the fight however, it was discovered that missing from Resto's gloves was one-third of the padding. This tampering allowed Resto to inflict a near bare knuckle beating on his opponent and would ultimately land both Resto and his trainer in prison, while Collins, unable to box again, would suffer only further torments. While initially denying any knowledge of the tampered gloves, through the documentary, Resto attempts to come to terms with his demons, making an admission that would see him travel through numerous U.S cities and states, approaching both members of his own family and the family of Collins, seeking forgiveness. A must see.
Watch the Assault in the Ring promo clip.
HARVARD BEATS YALE 29-29
This 2008 documentary from Kevin Rafferty looks at the 1968 football game between rival colleges Harvard and Yale. While both teams entered the match undefeated, Yale were expected to come away with a comfortable victory. What transpired was truly amazing as the underdog Harvard team not only overcame a 0-22 start, but came back from a 13-29 deficit with just a minute to play. The game would end in a 29-29 tie. Regardless, the Harvard newspaper would run with the now famous headline 'Harvard Beats Yale 29-29'. The doco is a fantastic blend of interviews with 30 of the players who competed that day with actual game footage.
Watch the Harvard beats Yale 29-29 promo clip.
Narrated by Samuel L Jackson and jazz musician Wynton Marsalis, this documentary takes a look at the Civil Rights Movement in America through the eyes and stories of basketballers of the era, who stood up to and triumphed over violence, persecution and prejudice. Many greats of the game are featured including Willis Reed, Charles Oakley, Bob Love and Avery Johnson to name a few. You'll find yourself absorbed by the moving and profound tales of defiance and courage told in this documentary. Whether you're a sports fan, history buff or both, you'll want to take the time to appreciate every moment of Black Magic.
Watch the Black Magic promo clip.
A LEAGUE OF ORDINARY GENTLEMEN
If you think a doco about a bunch of middle aged men attempting to rejuvenate public interest in ten pin bowling would be boring, you'd be wrong. This 2004 documentary from film-maker Christopher Browne takes a look at the decline of the Professional Bowling Association from it's height of popularity in the 1950s and 60s through it's tumultuous period of the late 90s where it almost ceased to exist. The film follows four professional bowlers of varying character and talent as well as PBA CEO Steve Miller as he sets about attempting to rebuild the PBA's popularity, modernising what many would consider to be a casual past-time rather than a professional sport worthy of broad attention.
WHATEVER HAPPENED TO MICHAEL RAY?
Narrated by Chris Rock, this intriguing doco takes a look at the career of basketballer Michael Ray Richardson. Drafted by the New York Knicks with the 4th selection in the 1978 NBA Draft from the University of Montana, the obscure but talented Richardson would make a blinding ascent to stardom becoming an all-star in just his second season in the league, earning comparisons to not only former Knick great Walt Frazier but to then young point guard, “Magic” Johnson. Following another all-star appearance a season later, the Knicks would trade Richardson's two closest team-mates. This event, along with others of a similar nature would bring the career of the sensitive and fragile Richardson off the rails, as his relationship with drugs graduated from recreational to one of addiction. After numerous and unsuccessful trips to rehab coupled with multiple league suspensions, his volatile lifestyle would ultimately see Richardson given a life ban from the league.
RING OF FIRE – THE EMILE GRIFFITH STORY
Ring of Fire is an great work that looks at the life of boxer Emile Griffith who in a keenly anticipated world title bout in 1962 beat Benny “Kid” Paret to death live on national television while millions watched on in disbelief. Prior to the bout Paret had made taunts to his rival concerning his alleged homosexuality. A powerful and intoxicating documentary doesn't let you out of its grasp all the way to the incredibly moving climax as the ageing Griffith meets the adult son of the late Benny Paret.
Watch Ring of Fire on Youtube.
YEAR OF THE DOGS
You don't need to know anything about Australian Rules Football to enjoy this doco. Follow the Footscray Football Club of the Australian Football League during the 1996 season as both the club and league make the turbulent transition from the semi-professional to professional era. The club loses game after game. The coach gets fired mid-season. The club's future hangs precariously in the balance as financial stresses build. The league is out to enforce a merger of smaller clubs with the Bulldogs on their hit list. It's all a bit of a mess but it's as endearing as it is enthralling. Follow the players, the fans and club administrators in this intimate behind the scenes tell-all.
THE HEART OF THE GAME
Who said women's basketball is boring? This 2005 documentary by Ward Serrill looks at the Roosevelt Roughriders girls basketball team, in particular focusing on their star player Darnellia Russell and coach Bill Resler. Very much a human drama, the film-maker follows the successive failures of the team to win the state championship, with the African-American Russell the star player in the predominantly white school. As Russell begins to attract interest from a number of big colleges, she falls pregnant to her boyfriend and leaves school. Returning to school after giving birth to her child, Russell finds herself banned from competitive high school basketball by the state athletic authority due to a technical eligibility ruling. Defying the ban, Russell and the Roughriders continue to play on as they attempt to win the school's first state championship.
THE VIOLENT WORLD OF SAM HUFF
Narrated by Walter Cronkite, this episode of the 1960 CBS TV series The Twentieth Century looks at the life of NFL linebacker Sam Huff. As one of the more ferocious middle linebackers of the time and NFL history, this hour long documentary shows us just how tough life was for an NFL player in that era. Wired with a mic at practise and also an exhibition game, we follow Huff as he talks about his career, philosophies and approach to the game. It's not quite NFL Films Presents, but ground breaking for its day and well worth hunting down.
- Tags: Andrew Brocker