Sunday, 30 September 2012

Little Big Men

Little Big Men is part of ESPN's 30 for 30 series. This documentary focuses on the 1982 Little League baseball champions out of Kirkland, Washington, their amazing run to the championship, and the aftermath of their fame.

Release Year: 2010
Rating: NR (no bad language)
Length: 55m

For more information, view its page on ESPN Films: 30 for 30.

  • Youth Sports: The focus of the movie is on the experience of the children who were a part of this team. Several youth sport issues come up throughout the movie, including practicing because they wanted to (not because they were forced to), developmental differences (Cody Webster could throw a 75mph fastball at age 12), burnout (baseball wasn't fun after the Little League World Series), and the amount of pressure placed on youth athletes following success (just because a kid is good at 12 does not mean that kid will be good at 18).
  • Parents/Family: Parents played a small role throughout the movie. The kids' parents were supportive and encouraged their kids to play, but they never forced them to play against their will. Following their success, however, parents (of opposing teams) turned nasty, directing insults and slurs towards Cody Webster, which ultimately caused him to stop enjoying the game.
  • Media: Because of the time period, this became a major news story across the country. Twelve-year-old kids were thrust into the national spotlight, and an inordinate amount of pressure and focus was placed on Cody Webster (he was dubbed "America's Youngest Folk Hero"). The now-adult players commented that the innocence of youth was stripped away by the superstar attention they received.
  • Underdogs: Taiwan was a heavy favorite. They had won 9 of the previous 11 LLWS titles (and one of those years all foreign teams were banned). They were on a 31 game winning streak at the LLWS, while Kirkland was this small unknown town that came out of nowhere. Despite this, the players on Kirkland always believed they could win.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Magic & Bird: A Courtship of Rivals

Magic & Bird: A Courtship of Rivals is a documentary produced by HBO that chronicles the parallel careers of two of basketball's most well-known and beloved stars, Earvin "Magic" Johnson and Larry Bird. From their humble beginnings to NBA championships to retirement, this documentary spans their rivalry, friendship, and relentless will to win.

Release Year: 2010
Rating: not rated, but there is some offensive language
Length: 85m

For more information, view its pages at the Internet Movie Database and Rotten Tomatoes or purchase it from Amazon.

  • Race: There are many, many examples of race throughout the documentary. Early on, Magic Johnson recalls that he wanted to go to a predominantly black high school, but because of desegregation, ended up at a predominantly white high school. Other NBA players interviewed talk about how many black players were racist against white players because they believed black players were superior, having the mindset of "let's see if he [the white player] can do it against us." Larry Bird was dubbed the "Great White Hope" early in his professional career because basketball was "too black," and the media played up their rivalry as "black versus white," which many fans bought into.
  • Class: Both players had humble beginnings. Magic grew up in Lansing, Michigan, the son of poor working class parents. Bird grew up in rural French Lick, Indiana, also the son of poor working class parents. Both players credit watching their parents work hard with why they developed a strong work ethic.
  • Illness in Sport, Sexuality: Towards the end of the documentary, it focuses on Magic's contraction of HIV. This forced him to retire, but he became an advocate for HIV/AIDS awareness. Interviewees discuss how many people questioned Magic's sexual orientation because at the time, HIV/AIDS was seen as a disease heterosexuals did not contract.
  • Injury: Towards the end of the documentary, it also focuses on Bird's playing style and various subsequent injuries, which ultimately caused him to retire. He managed an extreme amount of pain, which was mostly caused by an unstable spine.