ESPN Films today announced a new primetime special, It’s Not Crazy, It’s Sports, directed by Academy Award-winning director Errol Morris (The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara, Thin Blue Line, The Unknown Known) which will air Sunday, March 1 at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN. Evolving ESPN’s long-running brand campaign of the same name, the special broadcast consists of six short films that explore the inspiring, dramatic and unexpected things in sports that capture the experience of being a fan. All of the pieces are directed and personally introduced by Morris. Following the ESPN premiere, each individual short film will then make its online debut throughout that week on Grantland.com as part of its “Errol Morris Week,” a week of coverage and storytelling centered around Errol, his work, and this new series.
“Sports, as we all know, touches on everything,” said Morris. “It provides a way in to our culture and to our dreams. Each one of the six short films involves an obsession –– whether it is about a horse, an electric football game, or a sports reliquary won at auction. They are all human stories, and it is my hope that we can recognize part of ourselves in each one of them. Many thanks to ESPN for making this all possible.”
Dan Silver, senior director of development for ESPN Films, said: “One of ESPN Films’ principal edicts is to support distinctive visions, and since the start of his career there has been no more distinctive voice in filmmaking than Errol Morris. When we launched 30 for 30, Errol’s point of view, style, and love of his subject matter were benchmarks for us on how a documentary can not only tell a compelling story, but also remind you that there’s a filmmaker behind the camera. Nothing else quite feels like an Errol Morris film.”
“Errol Morris Week” on Grantland will include these shorts films, a comprehensive Q+A with Morris from Alex Pappademas, and a filmography from Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic Wesley Morris, all housed on a customized home page.
This project comes from ESPN’s Exit 31 content group. All six shorts are produced by Moxie Pictures in association with Wieden + Kennedy Entertainment.
“Subterranean Stadium” (Grantland premiere 3/1)
Welcome to Subterranean Stadium, the basement of John DiCarlo’s home in Charlotte, NY, where he and his buddies and relatives have gathered for years to play electronic football. In this beautiful, deeply personal film, Morris not only makes the little players come alive, but also lets the men who manipulate them tell their own stories: the hot dog vendor, the ex-con, the Kodak company man and the postal carrier who defies his own health problems to keep the “buzz, buzz, buzz” alive. Yes, they keep score, but as DiCarlo says, “All that really counts is family and friends.”
“The Heist” (Grantland premiere 3/3)
North Carolina basketball fans are well aware of the Jordan 23 jersey that hangs from the rafters of the Dean Dome. But there was a time—February of 1998, to be exact—when it disappeared. In The Heist, Morris gets a former Duke student to recreate the theft and subsequent discovery of the sacred object. Having cased the joint, he and three accomplices figured out a way to snatch the jumbo jersey and escalate the traditional war of pranks between the Tar Heel and Blue Devil faithfuls. Their luck ran out, though, a few weeks later when the jersey was recovered just before they were to reveal it at Duke’s Cameron Indoor. Yes, it’s a tale told by a crazed sports nut, but it signifies the lengths to which college hoops fans will go to stick it to an archival.
“The Streaker” (Grantland premiere 3/4)
If the name of Mark Roberts doesn’t ring a bell, his body might. He is the British man who has been interrupting events for more than 22 years, in more than 22 countries, by running naked through the proceedings: the Olympics, rugby and soccer matches, a dog show and, most famously, Super Bowl XXXVIII, when he snuck onto the field dressed as a ref and ended up getting tackled by players from the Patriots and Panthers. Roberts sits down with Morris to “reveal” his secrets and motivation—”I just want to give people something to smile about.” And he’s not done. He says he would like to be buried in a see-through coffin so that he can streak his own funeral.
“Being Mr. Met” (Grantland premiere 3/5)
Mascots aren’t allowed to talk but Morris gets one of them to take us inside the head of one of baseball’s most iconic figures, namely Mr. Met. From 1994 to 1997, A.J. Mass entertained millions at Shea Stadium without saying a word, and he relives those years—the ecstasy, the agony and the threat from the Secret Service not to approach President Clinton. He also brings a thoughtful perspective to the life of a mascot, who has to assume a different identity in order to please. “We all wear costumes to interact with people,” says Mass. “We wish to be somebody other than ourselves.”
“Most Valuable Whatever” (Grantland premiere 3/6)
What would possess someone to pay $8,000 for Ty Cobb’s dentures? Or $5,300 for the toilet that the Toronto Maple Leafs sat on? Or $820 for the Buttfumble Jersey? Morris finds out in this film about collectors of unusual sports objects. In the case of the jersey worn by Mark Sanchez when he fumbled the ball after running into his own lineman, a Jets fan just wanted to make sure the memorabilia wouldn’t also end up in the wrong hands—a New England sports bar.
“Chrome” (Grantland premiere also 3/6)
“You can tell a lot about a horse by looking at the eye.” So says Steve Coburn, who talks to Morris about California Chrome, the horse who nearly became the first Triple Crown winner in 36 years during the 2014 campaign. Coburn tells the story of why he chose to buy the mare who birthed “Chrome”, how he and co-owner Perry Martin came to call their syndicate Dumbass Partners, and why he lost it when the horse finished out of the money in the Belmont. By looking in Coburn’s eyes, you’ll see why we loves horses.
About ESPN Films
Created in March 2008, ESPN Films produces high-quality films showcasing some of the most compelling stories in sports. In October 2009, ESPN Films launched the Peabody Award-winning, Producer’s Guild Award-winning and Emmy-winning 30 for 30 film series. Inspired by ESPN’s 30th Anniversary, the films that made up the series were a thoughtful and innovative reflection on the past three decades told through the lens of diverse and interesting sports fans and social commentators. The strong reaction from both critics and fans led to the launch of 30 for 30 Volume II, which is currently underway. Additional projects from ESPN Films include the critically acclaimed Nine for IX series, SEC Storied and 30 for 30 Shorts.