Tag Archives: documentary


I love a good food/drink documentary. This was a great one that Gail found on Netflix. As you can probably tell, I almost defer exclusively to Gail regarding what I watch on TV, save sports. Somm is a food documentary about a group of sommeliers who are studying to pass the Court of Master Sommelier certification test. It’s a hard test to pass. There’s about a 3% pass rate and around 200 Masters in the world as of the filming of this movie. Continue reading

Straight Outta LA

So these 30 for 30 things by ESPN are showing up on Netflix streaming. I was just flipping through the documentaries and Straight Outta LA popped up. Despite my hatred for the Worldwide Leader, I do love these sports documentaries, but I haven’t seen many of them. I hit play on this one thinking I’d check it out and I checked it out for an hour (I watched it all, yes). This is where you realize that not having cable doesn’t exempt you from becoming a TV-watching zombie. Continue reading

The Marinovich Project

Wow, I remember Robo QB well. I recall my high school buddy, the only USC fan in Findlay, talking up Todd Marinovich. My buddy was always ahead of the game on college football recruiting and he hated the Big Ten. He would tote out stories about Marinovich as proof of how much the Pac 10 would supposedly dominate the Big Ten in the future. This was maybe 1984, when Marinovich was probably a high school sophomore.

In 1989 I saw Marinovich play live. I attended the Notre Dame vs USC game that year on a rainy Saturday with my wife. I can picture  it like it was yesterday. We had two tix in the north end zone and it was a great game. Marinovich had three TDs (I don’t remember that stat specifically, but I verified it). ND won and I can remember thinking, “This kid is going to be good.”

He was good, but he was a serious headcase. Remember though, this guy was raised by his dad to be a QB beginning at age four, so despite the head problems (and the pot and booze), he was able to be relatively successful. His dad was one of the first strength and conditioning coaches in the NFL (Raiders) and used all (and I do mean all) of their free time to train Todd for the quarterback position.

By 1992 Marinovich had achieved all of his dreams, he was the Raider’s starter and had made his dad proud, but he still wasn’t happy. He felt empty. He says:

If you’re good at something, does that mean you were meant to do it?

The Raiders cut him shortly thereafter for failing a drug test. He was a recreational drug user, but soon after being cut he became a full on heroin addict. He told his side of the story to ESPN while sitting on the beach on an overcast day, wearing a baseball hat without a logo, talking directly to the camera. I was moved.

It’s a familiar story in sports and eerily reminiscent of a similar story in the golf world. When Marinovich made those comments above, the first name that popped into my head was David Duval. Here’s what Duval said after winning a major (from Breaking the Slump, by Jimmy Roberts):

“Vijay (Singh), Mike (Weir), and a bunch of family members were on the plan,” remembers Moore. “After awhile, everybody else fell asleep, and David and I were drinking champagne from the Claret Jug. I remember as we were landing, the sun was coming up, and we were pulling into Toronto and David says to me: ‘I would have thought it would feel better than this.’”

Duval termed it his “existentialist moment.”

“I started to think: ‘That’s it? That’s all there is?’” he recalls.

Unlike Marinovich, after reaching the top of the mountain, Duval’s life didn’t spin out of control into a drug-fueled cesspool, but his golf game went into the tank. Like Marinovich though, the trip back down from the mountaintop led to Duval meeting the woman of his dreams, starting a family, and coming to terms with a family trauma from his childhood (Duval’s brother drowned). In both cases, the ending is somewhat uplifting.

Marinovich is now an artist in Southern Calinfornia and has a wife and two kids. His art looks like it’s mostly portraits themed in sports and entertainment. He’s been clean since 2009 and has come to terms with his childhood and his dad. Todd and his dad continue to collaborate on art projects to this day and are actively involved in each other’s lives.

This was a solid sports doc by ESPN. I don’t like ESPN and I try to avoid the world wide leader for anything but live events. I rarely watch Sportscenter, never go to ESPN.com, don’t have the app, and haven’t watched Gameday in years. But they’re difficult to avoid if you’re sports fan. They’ve done some wonderful work on these sports documentaries and this one was well worth the 90-minute investment.

That being said, I’m always on the lookout for the spin. The cynic in me asks questions. Did ESPN sugarcoat the relationship with his dad to make it more touching? Marinovich’s website just went up; is this all about marketing?

I’m choosing to believe in the genuineness mostly because of Marinovich’s solemn and even-keeled retelling of things. He drew me in with his apparent humbleness. Great stuff.

Talking Funny

I was out of town and it just so happens that the cable system in the hotel had TNT adjacent to HBO on the dial. So as I was watching the Heat clinch against the Sixers, I checked on HBO during commercial breaks. We don’t have HBO at home so it’s one of the few redeeming things about business travel. I got sucked in to this show and couldn’t turn it off. It’s just four comedians sitting around discussing the trade for an hour.

The four comedians are Ricky Gervais, Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, and Louis C.K. It appeared that Ricky Gervais was the ringleader/moderator and I think his company produced the show. It’s specifically about stand-up comedy. The topics ran the gamut, they talked about the engaging the audience, writing jokes, using profanity, style, delivery, getting started, etc… You name it. It was a rambling conversation and really funny.

I do love stand-up comedy, but I haven’t been to see any stand-up in years. It used to be that my wife and I would hit the comedy clubs a few times a year back in the 1990s. I don’t think we’ve been in ten years, actually. This makes me want to go back.

They spent about 10 minutes talking about profanity. Jerry Seinfeld has used the f-word during stand-up once in his life. Only once! He says he just doesn’t need it for laughs. He didn’t deride the word though and is not offended by it. In fact, he sounded like he was appreciative of how the other guys use it. If you’ve seen any of the others, you know that they are heavy users of the f-word.

Then they moved on the the n-word, which Chris Rock uses mightily. Now I’m not familiar with Louis C.K.’s comedy, but evidently he uses the n-word also. I gotta tell you, it was a little uncomfortable watching him throw it around during the show. You just don’t see white guys using that word ever. Seinfeld and/or Gervais commented with something like, “only you, Louis, can use the n-word.” I’m not sure what that means. I need to check out his comedy to get a better understanding.

I started following Louis C.K. and Chris Rock on Twitter. It doesn’t look like Seinfeld or Gervais use the medium at all. I have a comedy list on Twitter with a mix of popular and indie comics and it provides a ton of laughs on a pretty regular basis. I need to reintroduce myself to stand-up.

The Fab Five

There was never any doubt that I would watch this documentary. It was just a matter of when. I have some strange TV watching habits. I mostly watch live sports, never recorded. If I miss it, I miss it, oh well. Same with news/info shows like 60 Minutes. In contrast, I never watch TV shows on their first run, I time-shift everything, often for years (just finished season 1 of The Wire).

Now sports documentaries – those are different beasts. I can’t really generalize my watching of those. I’m guessing that I usually time-shift, but I happened to pop this on for it’s first run Sunday night the 13th. I think I had the TV on because I was sorting through the NCAA tourney selection. In retrospect, I’m very thankful that I hung with this thing on opening night because it made the ensuing conversation and controversy it prompted that much more fruitful for me.

Here I sit, Saturday of the tournament (post date though is viewing date), and this thing has played out rather beautifully.

Most of the controversy stemmed from Jalen Rose’s labeling of Grant Hill and Duke players as “Uncle Toms.” That sparked an immediate backlash, which didn’t subside as the week went on. An especially scathing take was written by Jason Whitlock in an article for Fox Sports entitled Fab Five Film Fantasy, Not Documentary. Whitlock denounces Rose’s view that the Fab Five were revolutionary, instead branding the Georgetown teams of the early 80s (coach Thompson, player Ewing) as the true revolutionaries.

A whole cast of characters added to milieu of analysis and critique. Grant Hill chimed in with this response, portions of which were published in the NYT. A third party, Michael Wilbon, stepped in with some thoughtful moderation in this article entitled What Grant Hill, Jalen Rose Share. The Twitterverse was abuzz for days and now, on Sunday at around lunchtime, the rematch between Michigan and Duke will happen when they meet in the West region third round. How poetic is that?

Really poetic, in my estimation. I’ve lost touch with the game of basketball over the last 20 years. Before that, I was a certified hoops junkie. But lately, I’ve reacquainted myself with the game and I’m especially interested in both the NBA season and the NCAA Tournament. It could be that Derrick Rose and the success of the Irish are so compelling that I just had to jump on the bandwagon. But I’d like to think it’s deeper than that. I’d like to think that this decades-long hoop latency finally just bubbled to the surface because it was time. It was just supposed to happen and would have done so regardless of the externalities.