30 for 30

“The idea behind 30 for 30 was to commemorate ESPN’s 30th anniversary by producing 30 films from some of today’s finest directors. Each filmmaker brought their passion and personal point of view to each film, detailing the issues, trends, athletes, teams, rivalries, games and events that transformed the sports landscape from 1979 to 2009.” —ESPN

I am not the kind of guy who spends a lot of time following a bouncing ball, or the people who put it in motion, so it took about 4 years for me to discover this treasure trove of stories set in the World of Sports: ESPN Films: 30 for 30. Two years ago I was browsing through my Netflix Streaming account looking for some shows to add to our list when I came across a documentary called Big Air. It is the story of Mat Hoffman, an extreme sports BMX rider.

Mat Hoffman does things on a bicycle that I would never have dreamed of doing. Spike Jonze and Johnny Knoxville produced this documentary that was directed by Jeff Tremaine and the result is a story that transcends the “sports” aspect of Mat’s life and looks into the makeup of the man who has changed the face of an entire sport.

Here is a look at Mat Hoffman in action.

I’ll be honest here, I don’t give a flying _____ about BMX bicycle competitions, I don’t like to watch people injuring themselves doing daredevil stunts for god-knows-whatever-reason, but I love a good story. Sports is a metaphor for life: we win, we lose, we get back up and keep trying. By doing that we learn about our innermost self, if we are lucky. ESPN has given us a sprawling saga of heroes and villains, examples of athletic talent beyond imagination, and a look behind the curtain at the personal price that is paid by those in the spotlight when they step into the shadows.

One of the most poignant stories that has been aired is about Chris Evert Lloyd and Martina Navratilova, Unmatched. In 16 years of tennis, they met in 80 matches, played in 60 finals and 14 Grand Slam Finals. Filmmakers Lisa Lax and Nancy Stern Winters, and producer Hannah Storm take a good look at America’s Sweetheart (Evert Lloyd) and the Communist Outsider (Navratilova). Portrayed as rivals by the media, they are, and have been, best friends.

This story of Chris Evert has a fond place in my memory. When I was in Junior High School I played tennis after school with my friend, Bernie. He was a lot better than I was; I played so that I didn’t have to go home to an empty house, Bernie was practicing so that he could try out for a spot on the school’s Tennis Team.

We played on clay courts at Holiday Park where there was a tennis pro by the name of Jimmy Evert. Jimmy taught tennis on the court closest to the office while his 8-year old daughter, Chris, practiced hitting tennis balls against a nearby concrete practice wall—over, and over, and over again. My fascination with tennis lasted about 6 months while Chris Evert Lloyd turned tennis into a career, winning 154 Singles titles and 32 Doubles titles.

“Martina revolutionized the game by her superb athleticism and aggressiveness…She brought athleticism to a whole new level with her training techniques — particularly cross-training, the idea that you could go to the gym or play basketball to get in shape for tennis.” —Chris Evert Lloyd

A thrice divorced mother of three boys, Chris Evert’s story compliments Martina Navratilova’s struggle to escape Communism. Seeking political asylum in the U.S. cut her off from her family and friends at the young age of 18. If that wasn’t hard enough, at this same time Martina had to face the public perception/circus concerning her sexual identity. Martina Navratilova went on to win 167 singles titles, 177 doubles championships titles and 59 Grand Slam titles.

As a cancer-survivor, vegetarian, political activist and author, Martina Navratilova continues to work with various charities benefiting children’s rights, gay rights and animal rights.

Multimedia Monday Bonus

What happens when a professional baseball catcher gets the “Yips” and his body no-longer reacts the way that it must for him to continue playing the game?

“You have the answers inside of you. You just aren’t connected up.”

Watch a great 15 minute video: Fields of Fear




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