Sports Doc Series ’30 For 30′ Returns for a Second Season

Sports nuts, documentary nuts and sports documentary nuts rejoice: ESPN’s film series, 30 For 30, which delves into compelling stories from the sporting world guest-directed by a wide range of filmmakers, will return for a second season. 

The first installment of the series premiered in 2009 with King’s Ransom, a documentary on the arrival of Wayne Gretzky to the Los Angeles Kings, directed by Peter Berg (Friday Night Lights). Other filmmakers involved included Steve James (Hoop Dreams, The Interrupters), Ice Cube, John Singleton (Boyz-N-The-Hood) and Albert Maysles (Grey Gardens). Ron Shelton, who helmed iconic sports films like Bull Durham, White Men Can’t Jump and, erm, Tin Cup, gave viewers Jordan Rides The Bus, a look at Michael Jordan’s minor league baseball career, certainly the most hard-hitting film to touch on it since Space Jam

One notable entry from Season Two, which will begin this fall, is 2012 Tribeca Film Festival selection Benji, in which music video directors Coodle and Chike tell the story of Ben Wilson, about a wildly talented high school basketball player from Chicago who was murdered in his final year of high school. Another entry, Broke, had its work-in-progress premiere at Tribeca, shares the experiences of professional athletes who go broke in retirement. Other selections include 

Watch the Season 2 trailer:

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In addition to the full-length films, the team behind 30 For 30 will be posting  beginning with "Here Now," their first documentary short for season 2, today over at Grantland. In it, baseball icon Pete Rose takes us into his new life in Las Vegas, where he signs memorabilia and chats up fans at Caesar’s Palace. The short was directed by Eric Drath, best known for his 2011 documentary Renée, about transgender tennis icon Dr. Renée Richards. 

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Watch ‘The Announcement’ on ESPN This Sunday

Even if you are not a sports fan and you know ESPN as little more then hyper-active montages playing above the bars you frequent, you should pay attention to ESPN Films. To celebrate the 24-hour sports network’s 30 years of survival and prosperity in 2009, ESPN.com and current Grantland oracle Bill Simmons convinced the ESPN head honchos to produce 30 documentaries about the great, layered sports stories that had occurred during the network’s lifetime and would probably otherwise be forgotten. The result was the renaissance of the sports documentary, 30 incredible real-life stories that, one could reasonably argue, sewed the cultural seeds for a non-fiction sports film like Undefeated to win this year’s Academy Award for Best Documentary. There are, of course, more then 30 sports stories worthy of being documented and this Sunday’s premiere of The Announcement, an emotional portrait of Magic Johnson before and after announcing he was HIV-positive in 1991, is certainly one of them.

I was a newly minted nine year old when this event actually occurred, and I had heard Magic Johnson was one of the greatest basketball players ever, according to my father and his friends. However, I grew up knowing him in a completely different light—first as a tragic victim of an awful disease, then as proof that HIV was not a death sentence but rather a new way to live and currently as an elder statesman, first for the ongoing fight against AIDS and second for the great game of basketball (and—in full disclosure that did not effect this review—a masterful businessman, who partially owns this publication). As The Announcement proves, some the most important tales of our time are sports stories, even if they aren’t really about sports at all. Keep tissue on-hand, as this will be a welcome reprise from what is known as March Madness.

Take a look at the trailer for The Announcement below:

Who Should Replace Hank Williams Jr. on ‘Monday Night Football?’

On October 3rd, Hank Williams Jr., the man responsible for asking America whether or not they were prepared for a game of football every Monday night, appeared on Fox & Friends and compared President Obama to Hitler. Specifically, he said Obama playing golf with John Boehner was like Adolf Hitler hitting the links with Benjamin Netanyahu. This is of course absurd, and for more reasons than the fact Netanyahu was born four years after Hitler died and that Hitler preferred to ski.

ESPN promptly parted ways with Hank Williams Jr., or as Hank would have you believe, he parted ways with them. A statement on the country singer’s website says, “After reading hundreds of e-mails, I have made MY decision. By pulling my opening Oct. 3rd, You (ESPN) stepped on the Toes of the First Amendment Freedom of Speech. So therefore Me, My Song and All My Rowdy Friends are OUT OF HERE. It’s been a great run.”

Either way, ESPN is going to need someone to kick off Monday Night Football anew, and we have some suggestions.

Garth Brooks Pros: At one time, good ol’ Garth was one of the most popular acts in the world. He is universally tolerated, if not beloved, and hiring him would keep the spot’s country music heritage alive. Cons: That whole Chris Gaines thing.

Robin Thicke Pros: Has a famous dad (actor Alan Thicke), which is coincidently the totality of Hank Williams Jr.’s qualifications. Cons: Canadian by blood.

Black Eyed Peas Pros: Seems like something they’d do. Cons: Are the Black Eyed Peas.

Hootie and the Blowfish Pros: Played football with Dan Marino in their video for “I Only Wanna Be With You.” Cons: Too edgy.

Brooks & Dunn Pros: You just know they’re going to get the job. Cons: You just know they’re going to get the job.

ESPN’s Magazine Hires a Fashion Editor

Strange as it may seem to anyone who’s spent time inside a locker room, the worlds of sports and fashion are in constant collision. Venus Williams sizzles in revealing tennis whites (and neons). LeBron James and David Beckham are photographed more in their designer suits than in their jerseys. Amar’e Stoudemire is a budding fashion entrepreneur, and has a knack for pulling off Steve Urkel glasses. And Tom Brady’s hair is the new Jennifer Aniston’s hair. So it’s only fitting that ESPN The Magazine has hired their first-ever fashion editor, Samantha Rubin, formerly of Men’s Health.

For a network that prides itself on covering sports inside and out, it makes sense that ESPN would also tune into the A-game glamour of it all. Both fashion and sports are, after all, billion-dollar industries filled with international superstars. For their most recent magazine issue, ESPN introduced their first-ever Style Issue, and it reads more like GQ than Sports Illustrated.

ESPN promises the Style Issue is only the beginning. Imagine a ‘Best & Worst’ dressed list from this summer’s ESPY Awards, a whole spread dedicated to the many hairstyles of Brandon Jennings, or the chameleonic colors of Carmelo Anthony’s suits. The possibilities are endless.

ESPN Writer Name Drops Hitler, Apologizes

One of the hardest parts about writing is crafting good similes. Constructing a good simile is as hard as climbing a really big mountain. See? ESPN.com columnist Jemele Hill might need a writing workshop or two, as is evidenced by a recent comparison she made in an article entitled “Deserving or not, I still hate the Celtics.” In it, she wrote “Rooting for the Celtics is like saying Hitler was a victim. It’s like hoping Gorbachev would get to the blinking red button before Reagan.” Wha? Huh? Whazzuh? Evoking Hitler when writing about a basketball team, unless it was a German basketball team during the thirties, can’t possibly be a bright idea. The comparison was deleted within a few hours, and ESPN, the faceless sports titan, was left red-faced. A statement released read “the column, as originally posted, made some absolutely unacceptable comparisons. We’ve spoken with Jemele, and she understands that she exercised poor judgment.” A spokesperson for the company also added that there was a “breakdown in the system of editorial checks and balances. We’re normally quite proud of the editorial judgment exercised here, but this was clearly an exception to that.” But we don’t take offense to Hill’s comparison as citizens of the human race. We take offense to it as writers.