1. Kings Ransom
Original Air Dateâ€”13 September 2009
Peter Berg's documentary on Wayne Gretzky, his decision to leave Edmonton for Los Angeles, and that decision's effects on hockey and its fans.
2: The Band That Wouldn't Die
Original Air Dateâ€”12 September 2009
In late March of 1984, a moving company secretly packed up the Baltimore Colts' belongings and its fleet of vans snuck off in the darkness of the early morning. Leaving a city of deeply devoted fans in shock and disbelief. What caused owner Robert Irsay to turn his back on a town that was as closely linked to its team as any in the NFL? Through the eyes of members of the Colts Marching Band illustrating how a fan base copes with losing the team that it loves.
3: Small Potatoes: Who Killed the USFL?
Original Air Dateâ€”20 October 2009
In 1983 the upstart United States Football League (USFL) had the audacity to challenge the almighty NFL. The new league did the unthinkable by playing in the spring and plucked three straight Heisman Trophy winners away from the NFL. The 12-team USFL played before crowds that averaged 25,000, and started off with respectable TV ratings. But with success came expansion and new owners. This included a certain high profile and impatient real estate baron whose vision was at odds with the league's founders. Soon, the USFL was reduced to waging a desperate anti-trust lawsuit against the NFL. This yielded an ironic verdict that effectively forced the league out of business. Now, almost a quarter of a century later, Academy Award-nominated and Peabody Award-winning director Mike Tollin, himself once a chronicler of the league, will showcase the remarkable influence of those three years on football history and attempt to answer the question, "Who Killed the USFL?"
4: Muhammad and Larry
Original Air Dateâ€”27 October 2009
In October of 1980 Muhammad Ali was preparing to fight for an unprecedented fourth heavyweight title against his friend and former sparring partner Larry Holmes. To say that the great Ali was in the twilight of his career would be generous. Most of his admiring fans, friends and fight scribes considered his bravado delusional. What was left for him to prove? In the weeks of training before the fight, documentarians Albert and David Maysles took an intimate look at Ali trying to convince the world and perhaps himself, that he was still "The Greatest." At the same time, they documented the mild-mannered and undervalued champion, Holmes, as he confidently prepared to put an end to the career of a man for whom he had an abiding and deep affection. In the raw moments after Ali's humbling in this one-sided fight, it was not fully comprehended what the Maysles brothers had actually captured on film. Due to unexpected circumstances, the Maysles footage never received a public screening or airing. However, in the intervening years, the magnitude of this footage is now clear. An era ended when the braggadocio and confidence were stripped away in the ring, and the world's greatest hero was revealed to be a man.
5: Without Bias
Original Air Dateâ€”3 November 2009
More than two decades after his tragic cocaine overdose, the late Len Bias still leaves more questions than answers. When Bias dropped dead two days after the 1986 NBA Draft, he forever altered our perception of casual drug use and became the tipping point of America's drug crisis in the mid-80s. Future generations continue to face the harsh punishment of drug policies that were influenced by the public outcry after his heartbreaking death. Instead of becoming an NBA star, he became a one-man deterrent. He was the athlete who reminded everyone just how dangerous drug use can be. Amazingly, questions still linger about his death nearly a quarter-century later. How good could he have been in the pro ranks? Has he become underrated or overrated as the years pass? How could a University of Maryland superstar and Boston Celtics lottery pick be derailed by a cocaine binge? Was Bias a one-time user as we were led to believe, or was there a pattern of recreational use that led to his fatal last night? Did he fall in with the wrong crowd?
6: The Legend of Jimmy the Greek
Original Air Dateâ€”10 November 2009
"The NFL Today" on CBS was one of the preeminent sports programs on television in the early 1980s. It was a perfect combination of reporting, analysis, predictions, humor and talent. But there was no personality on the show more popular than Jimmy "The Greek" Snyder. Born in Steubenville, Ohio, to Greek immigrants, Jimmy overcame childhood tragedy, moved to Las Vegas, and eventually became the biggest name in the world of sports handicapping. When CBS added him as an "analyst" on "The NFL Today," "The Greek" not only further increased his stature as a sort of national folk hero, but he also gained an air of respectability never before associated with gamblers. Peabody Award-winning filmmaker Fritz Mitchell, who broke in as an intern on "The NFL Today," will examine Snyder's impact on the growth of sports gambling, while also taking a fresh look at The Greek's tragic downfall.
7: The U
Original Air Dateâ€”12 December 2009
Throughout the 1980s, Miami, Florida, was at the center of a racial and cultural shift taking place throughout the country. Overwhelmed by riots and tensions, Miami was a city in flux, and the University of Miami football team served as a microcosm for this evolution. The image of the predominantly white university was forever changed when coach Howard Schnellenberger scoured some of the toughest ghettos in Florida to recruit mostly black players for his team. With a newly branded swagger, inspired and fueled by the quickly growing local Miami hip hop culture, these Hurricanes took on larger-than-life personalities and won four national titles between 1983 and 1991.
8: Winning Time: Reggie Miller vs. The New York Knicks
Original Air Dateâ€”January 2010
Reggie Miller single-handedly crushed the hearts of Knick fans multiple times. But it was the 1995 Eastern Conference Semifinals that solidified Miller as Public Enemy #1 in New York City. With moments to go in Game 1, and facing a seemingly insurmountable deficit of 105-99, Miller scored eight points in 8.9 seconds to give his Indiana Pacers an astonishing victory. This career-defining performance, combined with his give-and-take with Knicks fan Spike Lee, made Miller and the Knicks a highlight of the 1995 NBA playoffs. Peabody Award-winning director Dan Klores will explore how Miller proudly built his legend as "The Garden's Greatest Villain".
9: Guru of Go
Original Air Dateâ€”3 April 2010
By the mid-1980s Paul Westhead had worn out his welcome in the NBA. The best offer he could find came from an obscure small college with little history of basketball. In the same city where he had won an NBA championship with Magic and Kareem, Westhead was determined to perfect his non-stop run-and-gun offensive system at Loyola Marymount. His shoot-first offense appeared doomed to fail until Hank Gathers and Bo Kimble, two talented players from Westhead's hometown of Philadelphia, arrived gift-wrapped at his doorstep. With Gathers and Kimble leading a record scoring charge, Westhead's system suddenly dazzled the world of college basketball and turned conventional thinking on its head. But then, early in the 1989-90 season, Gathers collapsed during a game and was diagnosed with an abnormal heartbeat. Determined to play, Gathers returned three games later, but less than three months later, he tragically died on the court.
10: No Crossover: The Trial of Allen Iverson
Original Air Dateâ€”10 April 2010
On Valentine's Day 1993, 17-year-old Bethel High School basketball star Allen Iverson was bowling in Hampton, Va., with five high school friends. It was supposed to be an ordinary evening, but it became a night that defined Iverson's young life. A quarrel soon erupted into a brawl pitting Iverson's young black friends against a group of white patrons. The fallout from the fight and the handling of the subsequent trial landed the teenager-considered by some the nation's best high school athlete-in jail and sharply divided the city along racial lines. Steve James ("Hoop Dreams") returns to his hometown of Hampton, where he once played basketball, to take a personal look at this still-disputed incident and examine its impact on Iverson and the shared community.
11: Silly Little Game
Original Air Dateâ€”20 April 2010
Fantasy Sports is estimated to be a $4 billion dollar industry that boasts over 30 million participants and a league for almost every sport imaginable. But for all this success, the story of the game's inception is little known. The modern fantasy leagues can be traced back to a group of writers and academics who met at La Rotisserie Francaise in New York City. They formed a baseball league of their own: The Rotisserie League. The game quickly grew in popularity, and with the growing use and attractiveness of the Internet, the "founding fathers" never foresaw how their creation would take off and ultimately leave them behind.
12: Run Ricky Run
Original Air Dateâ€”27 April 2010
Ricky Williams does not conform to America's definition of the modern athlete. In 2004, with rumors of another positive marijuana test looming, the Miami Dolphins running back traded adulation and a mansion in South Florida for anonymity and a $7 a night tent in Australia. His decision created a media frenzy that dismantled his reputation and branded him as America's Pothead. But while most in the media thought Williams was ruining his life by leaving football, Ricky thought he was saving it. Through personal footage recorded with Williams during his time away from football and beyond, filmmaker Sean Pamphilon takes a fresh look at a player who had become a media punching bag and has since redeemed himself as a father and a teammate.
13: The 16th Man
Original Air Dateâ€”4 May 2010
Rugby has long been viewed in South Africa as a game for the white population, and the country's success in the sport has been a true source of Afrikaner pride. When the 50-year-old policies and entrenched injustices of apartheid were finally overthrown in 1994, Nelson Mandela's new government began rebuilding a nation badly in need of racial unity. So the world was watching when South Africa played host to the 1995 Rugby World Cup. Though they had only one non-white player, the South African Springboks gained supporters of all colors as they made an improbable run into the final match where they beat the heavily favored New Zealand team. When Mandela himself marched to the center of the pitch cloaked in a Springbok jersey and shook hands with the captain of the South African team, two nations became one. Oscar winner Morgan Freeman and director Cliff Bestall will tell the emotional story of that cornerstone moment and what it meant to South Africa's healing process.
14: Straight Outta L.A.
Original Air Dateâ€”23 April 2010
In 1982 Raiders owner Al Davis beat the NFL in court and moved his team from Oakland to Los Angeles. With a squad as colorful as its owner, the Raiders captivated a large number of black and Hispanic fans in L.A. This was at a time when gang warfare, immigration and the real estate boom were rapidly changing the city. The L.A. Raiders morphed into a worldwide brand as the team's colors, swagger and anti-establishment ethos became linked with "Gangsta Gap" and the hip-hop scene that was permeating South Central Los Angeles. Rapper-turned-filmmaker Ice Cube was not only witness to this evolution, he was also a part of it. As a member of the notorious rap group N.W.A, Ice Cube helped make the silver and black culturally significant to a new generation and demographic. Still a die-hard Raiders fan, Cube will explore the unlikely marriage between the NFL's rebel franchise and America's glamor city and show how pro football's outlaw team became the toast of La La Land.
15: June 17, 1994
Original Air Dateâ€”16 June 2010
Do you remember where you were on June 17, 1994? Thanks to a wide array of unrelated, coast-to-coast occurrences, this Friday has come to be known for its firsts, lasts, triumphs and tragedy. Arnold Palmer played his last round at a U.S. Open, in Oakmont, Pa., the FIFA World Cup kicked off in Chicago, the Rangers celebrated on Broadway, Patrick Ewing desperately pursued a long evasive championship in the Garden and Donald Fehr stared down the baseball owners. And yet, all of that was a prelude to O.J. Simpson leading America on a slow speed chase in a white Ford Bronco around Los Angeles.
16: The Two Escobars
Original Air Dateâ€”22 June 2010
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, many believe, Pablo Escobar's MedellÃn Cartel and the Cali Cartels were largely responsible for financing and building the Colombian National soccer team into one of the world's best. But in an early match against the United States in the 1994 FIFA World Cup, a Colombian defense man named Andres Escobar-no relation to Pablo-committed an own goal that led to the team's elimination. Less than ten days later, Escobar was gunned down outside a bar in a suburb of Medellin. He was shot 12 times, and the murderer shouted "goal" each time the trigger was pulled. Was Escobar's murder an isolated incident, or were gambling organizations controlled by the cartels responsible? Award-winning director Jeff Zimbalist will examine the mysterious events leading up to and surrounding Andres Escobar's death.
17: The Birth of Big Air
Original Air Dateâ€”24 April 2010
In 1985, at the tender age of 13, Mat Hoffman entered into the BMX circuit as an amateur, and by 16 he had risen to the professional level. Throughout his storied career, Hoffman has ignored conventional limitations, instead, focusing his efforts on the purity of the sport and the pursuit of "what's next." His motivations stem purely from his own ambitions, and even without endorsements, cameras, fame and fans, Hoffman would still be working to push the boundaries of gravity. Academy Award nominee Spike Jonze and extreme sport fanatic Johnny Knoxville, along with director Jeff Tremaine, will showcase the inner workings and exploits of the man who gave birth to "Big Air."
18: Jordan Rides the Bus
Original Air Dateâ€”24 August 2010
In the fall of 1993, in his prime and at the summit of the sports world, Michael Jordan walked away from pro basketball. After leading the Dream Team to an Olympic gold medal in 1992 and taking the Bulls to their third consecutive NBA championship the following year, Jordan was jolted by the murder of his father. Was it the brutal loss of such an anchor in his life that caused the world's most famous athlete to rekindle a childhood ambition by playing baseball? Or some feeling that he had nothing left to prove or conquer in basketball? Or something deeper and perhaps not yet understood? Ron Shelton, a former minor league player who brought his experiences to life in the classic movie "Bull Durham," will revisit Jordan's short career. Ron will explore the motivations that drove the world's most competitive athlete to play a new sport in the relative obscurity of Birmingham, Alabama, for a young manager named Terry Francona.
19: Little Big Men
Original Air Dateâ€”31 August 2010
On August 28, 1982, Cody Webster and a small group of schoolyard friends from Kirkland, Washington, sat anxiously in a dugout waiting to take the field for the championship game of the Little League World Series. Their focus was just about what you'd expect from any 12-year-old: hit the ball, throw strikes, cross your fingers and then maybe - maybe - you'll win. Adults in the stands and watching from home saw a much broader field of play. The memories of American hostages and a crippling oil crisis were still fresh; the economic malaise of the late 1970s still lingered; and the new President was recovering from an assassination attempt even while confronting new threats from the Soviet Union. Meanwhile, back on that tiny baseball field in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, where America's game was celebrated each summer, no American team had won a true international Little League World Series Championship in more than a decade. When the Kirkland players rushed from their dugout that day, they stepped onto a much bigger field than the one they saw. What they did, how they did it, and what happened to each of the players in the years that followed is a multi-faceted story. Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Al Szymanski will examine what became of a group of childhood teammates when the high point in their lives occurred before their lives had really begun.
20: One Night in Vegas
Original Air Dateâ€”7 September 2010
On the evening of Sept. 7, 1996, Mike Tyson, the WBC heavyweight champion, attempted to take Bruce Seldon's WBA title at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. At this point in his career, Tyson's fights had become somewhat of a cultural phenomenon, where the ever present hype of the professional boxing scene would come face to face with the worlds of big business, Hollywood, and hip hop. Sitting ringside was controversial rapper Tupac Shakur. Shakur and Tyson were friends, a feeling of kinship linked them as each rose to stardom from poverty only to be thrown in prison. Following Tyson's victory, Shakur and "Iron Mike" were to celebrate at an after party, but the rap star never arrived. Shakur was brutally gunned down later that night, and the scene in Las Vegas quickly turned from would-be celebratory revelry to ill fated and inopportune tragedy. Director Reggie Bythewood, with the full cooperation of Mike Tyson, will tell not only the story of that infamous night but of the remarkable friendship between Tyson and Tupac.