ESPN Films' 30 for 30: More Than Just a Documentary

Erick Fernandez@erickgfonsportsCorrespondent IIAugust 1, 2011

On Tuesday, May 17, the second box set of the critically acclaimed 30 for 30 documentary series was released by ESPN Films. The 30 for 30 series consists of various documentaries about riveting sports events or athletes from the past 30 years.

I was anxiously awaiting the release of Volume Two ever since I received Volume One for Christmas. Honestly, I am not a big movie or documentary buff, but this series is truly something special.

After watching a few of the documentaries when they first aired on ESPN, I was immediately hooked, and I knew that I had no other option as a sports fan than to buy both box sets.

Volume One of the 30 for 30 surpassed my expectations of the series. I was blown away by some of the documentaries I was not able to see when they originally aired on television; so far, Volume Two has offered much of the same.

Although these are sports documentaries, they should not solely be watched and enjoyed by sports fans. Each director has taken their own unique approach in order to tell a compelling story.

These directors go deeper than the surface to really highlight the importance of a specific sporting event or athlete. Here are a few of my personal favorites from this magnificent series.

June 17, 1994 (from Volume One), directed by Brett Morgen, is an example of a film that was brilliantly and masterfully created. June 17, 1994 is not your “average” documentary in that there are no interviews or narrators whatsoever; instead, the documentary consists solely of raw footage and news coverage from that day.

Morgen created this 51-minute documentary to emphasize how important this day was in sports history and in society as well. Many monumental events happened on this day, including the infamous O.J. Simpson chase in that white Ford Bronco.

At the end of the day, the O.J. chase overshadowed coverage of any other sports news that day, including Game 5 of the NBA Finals. The coverage of the O.J. chase really marked the beginning of America’s obsession with reality television, since the chase was reality television in its rawest form. 

The Two Escobars (from Volume Two), directed by Jeff and Michael Zimbalist, is a documentary that describes drug lord Pablo Escobar’s relationship with the Colombian National Soccer Team; more specifically, it examines how the rise and success of the National Team can be attributed to the two Escobars: Pablo and Andres Escobar (no relation), who was captain of the team.

Pablo’s extensive monetary contributions helped fund and support the team off the field, while Andres’ exemplary play helped the team on the field. Despite their rise, the team faced criticism around the world for essentially being financed by a drug lord and cold-blooded killer.

After the assassination of Pablo Escobar, there was still turmoil surrounding the National Team heading into the World Cup. The scrutiny they faced before the World Cup was evident in the team’s play, and especially Andres’. The Zimbalist brothers do a stellar job at marking the connection between crime and sport during this time in Colombia. 

One Night in Vegas (from Volume Two), directed by Reggie Rock Bythewood, provides an in-depth analysis of the friendship between boxer Mike Tyson and rapper Tupac Shakur, as well as the events that occurred on September 7, 1996.

The documentary highlights how Tupac and Tyson were close because they were very similar in numerous ways: Both were the greatest in their respective industries, both had overcome adversity and both were very misunderstood by society. They formed a strong friendship though their similarities.

Tupac was in attendance when Tyson defeated Bruce Seldon for the WBA Heavyweight Title on September 7, 1996. What was supposed to be a night of celebration resulted in a tragedy that would change hip-hop, and their friendship, forever.

Bythewood’s work highlights the fact that there has been a long marriage between the music industry (especially hip-hop) and the sports industry.

These are three of my favorites, but the whole series is full of remarkable and moving documentaries. Although some of them spark my interest more than others, all of these stories offer an interesting perspective on events that have changed the sports landscape.

From BMX to hockey to football, this series really covers it all. If you haven’t watched any of these documentaries yet, I strongly recommend that you take the time, effort and money to invest in this box set.

Written on May 30, 2011, as seen on


    Iconic Sports Illustrated Writer Deford Dies at Age 78

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    Iconic Sports Illustrated Writer Deford Dies at Age 78

    Tyler Conway
    via Bleacher Report