' ' Cinema Romantico: They’re Not Going to Make a 30 for 30 About *That*

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

They’re Not Going to Make a 30 for 30 About *That*

ESPN’s 30 for 30 series began in 2009 and, as its moniker suggests, intended to honor the sports network’s 30th anniversary by creating 30 athletics-inspired documentaries. As is the way of the modern world, 30 turned out not to be enough, what with so much televised air to fill. So a second volume was created. And then a third volume was created. There were also 30 for 30 shorts and 30 for 30 podcasts. 30 for 30 has become hundreds for 40 going on 41! And as the series has gone on and on, so too has it created its own catchphrase – They’re going to make a 30 for 30 about this.

If there is a crazy day in NBA free agency, someone will say they’re going to make a 30 for 30 about this. If baseball becomes mired in a wild & crazy cheating scandal, someone will say they’re going to make a 30 for 30 about this. In the literal midst of the worst Wednesday ever, March 11 2020, as the NBA season was postponed when an NBA player tested positive for COVID-19, suddenly rendering it inevitable that all sports would soon be postponed even as oddly, eerily, college basketball games  kept meaninglessly playing on before our confused eyes, every refresh of Twitter said the same thing – they’re going to make a 30 for 30 about this.

Fair enough. But we, of course, are Cinema Romantico. And that is not our brand. No, our brand, as always, is a marketing 180°. We are not interested in what they will make a 30 for 30 about, we are interested in what they will not make a 30 for 30 about.

They’re not going to make a 30 for 30 about…the Cherry Bowl. Who wants to see an entire documentary about a low-tier postseason college football from the mid-80s that only lasted two seasons and featured forgettable games played in cold weather Detroit in late December in a dome, since demolished, housing the NFL’s most moribund franchise? [Excitedly Raises Hand] [No One Else Raises Hand]

They’re not going to make a 30 for 30 about…Arizona’s 4-4-3 record in 1987. The greatest record line in sports history, college football or otherwise, who WOULDN’T want to see how they wound up there except for everybody?! That this record is superior to my home state Iowa Hawkeyes’ 6-4-3 record the ensuing season is partly because Arizona went out perfectly, poetically, with the ultra-rare walk-off draw, ‘crowning’ its achievement by tying their in-state Arizona State rival to end the season.

They’re not going to make a 30 for 30 about…Marshall Faulk’s game against Pacific in 1991. If 30 for 30s too often become basic career overviews and highlight reels pretending to be documentaries, we will go the other way, chronicling but a single game, Marshall Faulk’s first, when absolutely no one had any idea who he was, only getting on the field virtue of something akin to a Wally Pipp crossed with a Thurman Thomas and proceeding to the set the then-single game NCAA rushing record (386 yards). We will studiously examine not just all 7 (!) of his touchdowns but every single one of his 37 carries, reminding us that one game does not necessarily have to be folded into a whole career but can exist unto itself as this singular, wonderful thing and how, a la the late John Prine, sometimes the great ones, no matter how great they turn out to be, make their masterpiece the first time around. Who’s coming with me? [No one comes with me.]

They’re not going to make a 30 for 30 about…the Georgia Southern college football dynasty. Fine, fine. You HAVE to have another 30 for 30 about a dynasty. Then what about the Eagles of Statesboro who racked up four Division I-AA titles between 1985 & 1990 and- [Puts hand to earpiece.] Wait. I’m receiving word from the Voice In My Head that I’ve only given college football examples so far and I need to diversify.

They’re not going to make a 30 for 30 about…Denver’s Orange Crush uniforms. That’s it. A documentary about those uniforms and just those uniforms, those resplendent sartorial masterpieces of the gridiron. No history about Elway and the Super Bowls lost and the Super Bowls won, only the immaculate orange jerseys and that beautiful blue helmet with the big D. I mean, who cares about wins and losses when you look this good? No former players will be interviewed, just sports uniform consultants and fashion designers, all marveling at color coordination and helmet design so impeccable it was always destined to be undone by some inane bout of corporate reinvention masquerading as creativity. A plague on all your boardrooms. [ESPN hangs up.]

They’re not going to make a 30 for 30 about…Cookie-Cutter Baseball Stadiums. During the Pandemic, as we’ve both been working from home, My Beautiful, Perspicacious Wife and I have taken to watching old baseball games on the MLB Network at lunch, usually World Series showdowns, frequently from the 70s. And reader, from explosive facial hair that wasn’t ironic, just the way it was, to the umpires’ burgundy blazers, 70s baseball is an incredible aesthetic experience. Then again, if the uniforms clearly were superior, the ballparks were not, constructed in the multi-purpose stadium era, caverns housing both baseball and football teams. But if they were comprised of ghastly AstroTurf and hideous visual backdrops, they also, in their own unsightly way, emphasized the game more than the noveau bandboxes which accentuate the experience. Plus, the so-called cookie-cutter design was all about cost-effectiveness, meaning that in their economic attitudes toward both construction and design they were more akin to the common man than this modern fancy-pants malarkey. Let’s explore that, shall we? [We don’t.]

They’re not going to make a 30 for 30 about...Chucky Brown. In the run-up to ESPN’s 10-part documentary event about the end of the Chicago Bulls dynasty in the 90s, NBA writer Jackie MacMullan, on Zach Lowe’s podcast, said Michael Jordan still fascinated her so much because she is fascinated by extraordinary athletes. And I mean, yeah, sure, obviously. But while one might argue that any athlete who makes it professionally is extraordinary, what is more identifiable? Michael Jordan flying through the air or, say, Chucky Brown, consummate NBA journeyman, averaging 5.9 points per game for his career and playing for 12 teams over the course of a couple decades, from champs to dregs, and even briefly stopping off in the CBA, for the euphonious Yakima Sun Kings, no less, the kind of Basketball Reference page that looks like your LinkedIn account. Who thinks that doesn’t sound fascinating too?! [Hello? Is this on?]

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