Alex Gibney, Steve Nash, Ron Shelton and John Singleton among the next group of filmmakers; four new films announced
ESPN Films has announced the fall schedule for its critically acclaimed film series 30 for 30 Presented by Cadillac. The series’ remaining films will begin airing Tuesday, Aug. 24, at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN/ESPN HD, and will be aired Tuesday nights throughout the fall. New films added to the lineup include Little Big Men (Al Szymanski and Peter Franchella), Unmatched (Directors: Lisa Lax and Nancy Stern Winters; Producer: Hannah Storm), Four Days in October (Major League Baseball Productions) and Pony Excess (Thaddeus D. Matula). These films join the previously announced Jordan Rides the Bus, One Night in Vegas, The House of Steinbrenner, Marion Jones: Press Pause, Steve Bartman: Catching Hell, Tim Richmond: To the Limit, Once Brothers, Into The Wind and The Best That Never Was.
- Tuesday, Aug. 24, 8 p.m. – Jordan Rides the Bus (Ron Shelton)
- Tuesday, Aug. 31, 8 p.m. – Little Big Men (Al Szymanski and Peter Franchella)
- Tuesday, Sept. 7, 8 p.m. – One Night in Vegas (Reggie Bythewood)
- Tuesday, Sept. 14, 8 p.m. – Unmatched (Directors: Lisa Lax and Nancy Stern Winters; Producer: Hannah Storm)
- Tuesday, Sept. 21, 8 p.m. – The House of Steinbrenner (Barbara Kopple)
- Tuesday, Sept. 28, 8 p.m. – Into The Wind (Steve Nash)
- Tuesday, Oct. 5, 8 p.m. – Four Days in October (Major League Baseball Productions)
- Tuesday, Oct. 12, 8 pm. – Once Brothers (NBA Entertainment)
- Tuesday, Oct. 19, 8 p.m. – Tim Richmond: To the Limit (Rory Karpf )
- Tuesday, Oct. 26, 8 p.m. – Steve Bartman: Catching Hell (Alex Gibney)
- Tuesday, Nov. 2, 8 p.m. – Marion Jones: Press Pause (John Singleton)
- Tuesday, Nov. 9, 8 p.m. – Pony Excess (Thaddeus D. Matula)
- *Saturday, Dec. 11, 9 p.m. – The Best That Never Was (Jonathan Hock) * two hours
Jordan Rides the Bus (Ron Shelton)
In the fall of 1993, in his prime and at the summit of the sports world, Michael Jordan walked away from pro basketball. After leading the Dream Team to an Olympic gold medal in 1992 and taking the Chicago Bulls to their third consecutive NBA championship the following year, Jordan was jolted by the murder of his father. Was it the brutal loss of such an anchor in his life that caused the world’s most famous athlete to rekindle a childhood ambition by playing baseball? Or some feeling that he had nothing left to prove or conquer in basketball? Or something deeper and perhaps not yet understood? Academy Award-nominated director Ron Shelton, a former minor leaguer who brought his experiences to life in the classic movie Bull Durham, will revisit Jordan’s short career in the minor leagues and explore the motivations that drove the world’s most competitive athlete to play a new sport in the relative obscurity of Birmingham, Ala., for a young manager named Terry Francona.
Little Big Men (Al Szymanski and Peter Franchella)
On August 28, 1982, Cody Webster and a small group of schoolyard friends from Kirkland, Wash., sat anxiously in a dugout waiting to take the field for the championship game of the Little League World Series. Their focus was just about what you’d expect from any 12-year-old: hit the ball, throw strikes, cross your fingers and then maybe – maybe – you’ll win. Adults in the stands and watching from home saw a much broader field of play. The memories of American hostages and a crippling oil crisis were still fresh; the economic malaise of the late 1970s still lingered; and the new President was recovering from an assassination attempt even while confronting new threats from the Soviet Union. Meanwhile, back on that tiny baseball field in Williamsport, Pa., where America’s game was celebrated each summer, no American team had won a true international Little League World Series Championship in more than a decade. When the Kirkland players rushed from their dugout that day, they stepped onto a much bigger field than the one they saw. What they did, how they did it, and what happened to each of the players in the years that followed is a multi-faceted story. Emmy Award-winning filmmakers Al Szymanski and Peter Franchella will examine what became of a group of childhood teammates when the high point in their athletic lives occurred before their lives had really begun.
One Night in Vegas (Reggie Bythewood)
On the evening of September 7, 1996, Mike Tyson, the WBC heavyweight champion, attempted to take Bruce Seldon’s WBA title at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. At this point in his career, Tyson’s fights had become somewhat of a cultural phenomenon, where the ever present hype of the professional boxing scene would come face to face with the worlds of big business, Hollywood, and hip hop. Sitting ringside was controversial rapper Tupac Shakur. Shakur and Tyson were friends; a feeling of kinship linked them as each rose to stardom from poverty only to be thrown in prison. Following Tyson’s victory, Shakur and “Iron Mike” were to celebrate at an after party, but the rap star never arrived. Shakur was brutally gunned down later that night, and the scene in Las Vegas quickly turned from would be celebratory revelry to ill fated and inopportune tragedy. Director Reggie Bythewood, with the full cooperation of Mike Tyson, will tell not only the story of that infamous night but of the remarkable friendship between Tyson and Tupac.
Unmatched (Directors: Lisa Lax and Nancy Stern Winters; Producer: Hannah Storm)
The first time Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova stepped onto a tennis court together, the world scarcely noticed. Only a few hundred spectators saw the pert 18-year-old beat the scrappy 16-year-old Czech in 1973. “I remember that she was fat,” Evert recalled. “She was very emotional on the court, whining if she didn’t feel she was playing well. But I remember thinking, if she loses weight, we’re all in trouble.” Said Navratilova, “My goal was for her to remember my name.” Eighty matches later – amid the extraordinary growth of women’s tennis – Evert not only remembered, but became a tried and true friend and confidante, remarkable considering the two appeared to be polar opposites in upbringing, life styles and personal relationships. Through a series of personal conversations between Evert and Navratilova, filmmakers Lisa Lax and Nancy Stern Winters, along with producer Hannah Storm, will tell the story of one of the greatest one-on-one sports rivalries and capture these two extraordinary athletes’ views on tennis and an ever-changing world.
The House of Steinbrenner (Barbara Kopple)
Love them or hate them, the Yankees remain the most successful team in American sports history. Behind George M. Steinbrenner, a man who at his passing in July 2010 has proven to be as iconic to the team as its pinstripes, the Yankees restored their storied sports stature with seven World Championships. Through all the ups and downs of his reign, “The Boss” managed to link the legends and legacy of Yankees past to Yankees present, and in so doing, assured the passage of older generations of Yankee fans to a younger generation that promises to carry forward well into the 21st century. An essential part of that accomplishment included the closing of the old Yankee Stadium and the construction of a new one, and the passing of ownership from George himself to his heirs, led by his younger son, Hal. Two-time Oscar-winning filmmaker Barbara Kopple documents this historic moment of transition for the team, the family and its fans, all of which was magnificently capped off with the Yankees’ 27th World Championship.
Into The Wind (Steve Nash)
In 1980, Terry Fox continued his fight against bone cancer with the pursuit of a singular, motivating vision: to run across Canada. Three years after having his right leg amputated six inches above the knee after being diagnosed with osteosarcoma, Fox set out to cover more than a marathon’s distance each day until he reached the shores of Victoria, British Columbia. Anonymous at the start of his journey, Fox steadily captured the heart of a nation with his Marathon of Hope. However the 21-year old BC native’s goal was not fame, but to spread awareness and raise funds for cancer research. After 143 days and two-thirds of the way across Canada, with the eyes of a country watching, Fox’s journey came to an abrupt end when newly discovered tumors took over his body. Two-time NBA MVP, proud Canadian, and first-time filmmaker Steve Nash will share Fox’s incredible story of perseverance and hope.
Four Days in October (Major League Baseball Productions)
When the night of October 6, 2004 came to a merciful end, the Curse of the Bambino was alive and well. The vaunted Yankee lineup, led by A-Rod, Jeter, and Sheffield, had just extended their ALCS lead to three games to none, pounding out 19 runs against their hated rivals. The next night, in Game 4, the Yankees took a 4-3 lead into the bottom of the ninth inning, then turned the game over to Mariano Rivera, the best relief pitcher in postseason history, to secure yet another trip to the World Series. But after a walk and a hard-fought stolen base, the cold October winds of change began to blow. Over four consecutive days and nights, this unlikely group of Red Sox miraculously won four straight games to overcome the inevitability of their destiny. Using extensive archive coverage from that week, Major League Baseball Productions will produce a film in “real-time” that takes an in-depth look at the 96 hours that brought salvation to Red Sox Nation and made baseball history in the process.
Once Brothers (NBA Entertainment)
Drazen Petrovic and Vlade Divac were two friends who grew up together sharing the common bond of basketball. Together, they lifted the Yugoslavian National team to unimaginable heights. After conquering Europe, they both went to America where they became the first two foreign players to attain NBA stardom. But with the fall of the Soviet Union on Christmas Day 1991, Yugoslavia split up. A war broke out between Petrovic’s Croatia and Divac’s Serbia. Long buried ethnic tensions surfaced. And these two men, once blood brothers, were now on opposite sides of a deadly civil war. As Petrovic and Divac continued to face each other on the basketball courts of the NBA, only hatred passed between the two. Then, on the fateful night of June 7, 1993, Drazen Petrovic was killed in an auto accident. Once Brothers will tell the gripping tale of these two men, how circumstances beyond their control tore apart their friendship, and whether Divac has ever come to terms with the death of a friend before they had a chance to reconcile.
Tim Richmond: To the Limit (Rory Karpf)
Natural. Rock star. Outsider. In the 1980s, race car driver Tim Richmond lived his life the way he raced cars – wide open. Born into a wealthy family, Richmond was the antithesis of the Southern, blue-collar, dirt-track racers who dominated NASCAR. He also was a flamboyant showman who basked in the attention of the media and fans – especially the attention of female admirers. Nevertheless, it was Richmond’s on-track performances that ended up drawing comparisons to racing legends. And in 1986, when he won seven NASCAR races and finished third in the Winston Cup series points race, some believed he was on the verge of stardom. But soon his freewheeling lifestyle caught up to him. He unexpectedly withdrew from the NASCAR racing circuit, reportedly suffering from double pneumonia. In reality, the diagnosis was much more dire: He had AIDS. Richmond returned to the track in 1987, but he was gone from the sport by the next year as his health deteriorated. He spent his final days as a recluse, dying on August 13, 1989, at the age of 34. Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Rory Karpf will examine the life and tragic death of one of NASCAR’s shooting stars.
Steve Bartman: Catching Hell (Alex Gibney)
With five outs remaining in Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS, a foul ball descended from the cold Chicago sky, seemingly destined for the glove of Cubs left fielder Moises Alou. But a flurry of hands reached up from the left field stands, and one hand, belonging to Cubs fan Steve Bartman, fatefully tipped the ball away from a frustrated Alou. As the cameras subsequently isolated on Bartman trying to stay composed in the stands, most long-suffering Cubs fans, including a chorus of hostile ones in Wrigley Field, quickly became convinced that he had swatted away Chicago’s chance of advancing to the World Series for the first time 58 years. Even though he was one of many who reached for a ball that appeared to them clearly out of play, and even though Cubs shortstop Alex Gonzalez booted an apparent inning-ending double play ball, and even though the Cubs still had a Game 7 left to try to win it, Steve Bartman became the most reviled man in Chicago. The mild-mannered Bartman released a sincere public apology, but his fate was already sealed by the Cubs fans’ need for a scapegoat to explain a near-century of losing. Although Cubs Nation has since moved on to other seasons and other losses, Bartman remains ostracized from a community he lives in and a team he once loved. Oscar-winning documentarian Alex Gibney relates the scapegoat compulsion to his own frustration as a Red Sox fan when Bill Buckner was similarly singled out for letting a fateful ground ball go through his legs in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series. Gibney engages Buckner and his story as a means of exploring what has kept Bartman so silent despite highly lucrative offers to tell his side of the story, and what has led many fans and media people in Chicago to now act as if the whole notorious incident never even took place.
Marion Jones: Press Pause (John Singleton)
Few athletes in Olympic history have reached such heights and depths as Marion Jones. After starring at the University of North Carolina and winning gold at the 1997 and 1999 World Track and Field Championships, her rise to the top culminated at the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney, Australia. There, she captivated the world with her beauty, style and athletic dominance, sprinting and jumping to three gold medals and two bronze. Eventually, though, her accomplishments and her reputation would be tarnished. For years, Jones denied the increasing speculation that she used performance-enhancing drugs. But in October 2007, she finally admitted what so many had long suspected – that she had indeed used steroids. Jones was sentenced to six months in prison for lying to federal investigators and soon saw her Olympic achievements disqualified. Now a free woman, Jones is running in a new direction in life and taking time to reflect. Oscar-nominated director John Singleton will focus on the evolution of Marion Jones.
Pony Excess (Thaddeus D. Matula)
From 1981-1984, a small private school in Dallas owned the best record in college football. The Mustangs of Southern Methodist University (SMU) were riding high on the backs of the vaunted “Pony Express” backfield. But as the middle of the decade approached, the program was coming apart at the seams. Wins became the only thing that mattered as the University increasingly ceded power of the football program to the city’s oil barons and real estate tycoons and flagrant and frequent NCAA violations became the norm. On February 25, 1987, the school and the sport were rocked, as the NCAA meted out “the death penalty” on a college football program for the first and only time in its history. SMU would be without football for two years, and the fan base would be without an identity for 20 more until the Mustangs’ win in the 2009 Hawaii Bowl. This is the story of Dallas in the 1980’s and the greed, power, and corruption that spilled from the oil fields onto the football field and all the way to the Governor’s Mansion. Director Thaddeus D. Matula, a product of the SMU film school, chronicles the rise, fall, and rebirth of this once mighty team.
The Best That Never Was (Jonathan Hock)
In 1981, college athletic recruiting changed forever as a dozen big-time football programs sat waiting for the decision by a physically powerful and lightning-quick high school running back named Marcus Dupree. Having already graced the cover of Sports Illustrated, Dupree attracted recruiters from schools in every major conference to his hometown of Philadelphia, Miss. More than a decade removed from being a flashpoint in the civil rights struggle, Philadelphia was once again thrust back into the national spotlight. Dupree took the attention in stride, and committed to Oklahoma. What followed, though, was a forgettable college career littered with conflict, injury and oversized expectations. Eight-time Emmy Award winner Jonathan Hock will examine why this star burned out so young and how he ultimately used football to redeem himself.
“30 for 30” is an unprecedented documentary series featuring 30 films from some of today’s finest storytellers. Each filmmaker brings their passion and personal point of view to their film detailing the issues, trends, athletes, teams, rivalries, games and events that transformed the sports landscape from 1979 to 2009. Crossing the barriers of sports, the films reflect on the impact these events had across the pop culture spectrum.
Select films from the series are available for purchase on iTunes the day following air. Additional films are available for purchase at www.amazon.com/30for30.