This is a post that is a repurposing of an old-school Mini-Review Round-Up post. As stated here I am essentially done with running multi-film review posts. Each film deserves its own review. Therefore I will repost, and at times add to, old reviews periodically. Enjoy!
ESPN’s 30 for 30 is back, and I’m glad. More than ever it seems like the landscape of sports fandom and coverage is more reactionary and instantaneous. We’ve almost devolved to the point where we’re immune to revisionism because there is less and less focus on the past, history, and progression of certain sports. Not to sound overly dire or pessimistic, but sometimes perception is reality. However, what the ESPN Films documentary series does is goes back and finds milestones, overlooked stories; and traces the trajectory of the events, themes, and trends involved.
Therefore, 9.79* about Ben Johnson’s disqualification after winning gold with a record-shattering time in 1988 Seoul Olympics starts by tracking each of the finalists (some more than others) following the events that lead to that fateful day and the fall out since. It’s not a story told in precise chronology, there are jumps, and clearly new interview footage will reflect the past, but it tracks the phenomenon of doping rather well, exposes the testing issues of the time, and leaves a lot of great tidbits dangling for your interpretation. One of the more astounding anecdotes is one that gets hinted at early then dropped like a hot potato until very late in the film. In a way, it makes the capping of the story even more potent. There are quite a few players in the game here. My interpretation is that it’s all a moral quagmire when in this era doping was rampant, harder to prove, and everyone was seemingly guilty of something. It makes the situation fascinating almost like a “sports noir” tale. No one’s angel, but you fall on one side of the issue or another, and maybe even side with one camp or another on certain claims.
Not only is it an event that I wanted to be more informed about (and now I am) but Daniel Gordon does great work reconstructing the narrative from an impartial place and bringing forth all the opinions and information known and presenting it in a compelling and dramatic way.