Tonight, ESPN’s critically acclaimed documentary series, 30 for 30, returns with the premiere of the highly anticipated film, Broke. Billy Corben, the director who brought us, Cocaine Cowboys and another 30 for 30 presentation, The U, is also the man behind Broke.
According to ESPN,
Broke explores the roads to fortune in American sports and eventually, the many detours to bankruptcy. Bernie Kosar, Andre Rison and Cliff Floyd are among the athletes who talk openly about the challenges of managing their money in an era when big contracts donâ€™t necessarily support bigger lifestyles. Sucked into bad investments, stalked by freeloaders and saddled with medical problems, many pro athletes get shocked by harsh economic realities after years of living the high life. A story of the dark side of success, Broke is an allegory for the financial woes haunting economies and individuals all over the world.
I’m especially looking forward to viewing this film tonight because I had the opportunity to view Broke when it first appeared at the Tribeca Film Festival in April. At the opening, they cautioned us the film was a work in progress. As a result, I tried to keep an open mind and remain objective as I observed the 70 minute film, especially since I’d conducted my own research about this topic, complete with athlete interviews, for a confidential project I worked on.
Once the film concluded, I immediately felt letdown.
Broke delivered on its promise to explore the roads traveled by athletes that eventually lead to misfortune– living an excessive lifestyle, making bad investments, baby mama drama, misplaced trust in advisers, family, and friends, and simply being uninformed on how to manage their money. But that was about it. I couldn’t shake the feeling that we already knew all of this. Thanks to TMZ’s relentless reporting on the latest athlete to check into the overpopulated city of Brokeville, USA, the documentary failed to share anything beyond what’s reported on a daily basis. It also regurgitated stats from the 2009 Sports Illustrated article that’s been floating around the internet for years. The main difference, which is huge, considering how difficult it is to get athletes, or anyone for that matter, to discuss their finances, is the first-hand account of how athletes ended up in their situation. Instead of the media using these headlines to exploit athletes, Andre Rison, Leon Searcy, Bart Scott, Cliff Floyd, Bernie Kosar, Jamal Mashburn, who had the only success story, and many others, reclaimed control and very candidly broke it down for us. Financial advisers, sports bloggers, and even Dan Wasserman from the NBA’s player association weighed in. The commentary from athletes and experts, TV footage, magazine and internet headlines, all helped shape the story for the viewer. However, I was disappointed by the general tone of the film. As many of these guys aired their dirty laundry for our benefit, I felt their humorous approach provided superfluous levity to a very serious subject.
Throughout, there were many outrageous quotes that either made the audience laugh out loud, or shake our heads in disbelief that people could be so ignorant and immature. Also, watching Scott admit he cashed his first pro check at a local check cashing joint was definitely a wow moment, that was necessary to paint the picture of how unprepared these guys really are to manage millions, if you’re lucky. Or, hundreds of thousands of dollars, if you’re an average professional player. But because the film kept the hits rolling, at times, it seemed the athletes were bragging about past escapades instead of showing remorse for their actions. While balance is important, and the the film was entertaining, it merely scratched the surface of a very complicated and multi-layered issue.
In fact, the nonstop laughter and lack of insight did more to fuel the public perception that athletes wind up broke because of their own careless and irresponsible actions; they have no one to blame but themselves; or they live under the false realities that they’re invincible. And when you have athletes detailing the ridiculous ways they balled out in the name of YOLOing, any ounce of sympathy one may have shared for these guys is gone instantaneously.
But because this has become such a common occurrence among athletes, we know there’s a lot more to it than simply popping bottles and tricking off in the club. I would’ve liked to get down to the psychological and sociological components associated with this topic. But maybe that’s another documentary for another time. Considering it isn’t as black and white as many would like to believe, ESPN may not be the right medium to dissect the weighty reasons behind the why.
Tonight I’ll definitely be tuning in to see how the film has evolved since I saw it in April. Since then, Curt Schilling, Warren Sapp, Vince Young, and many others have been reported as going broke. I’m sure Corben will incorporate footage from their stories. I also wonder if he was able to get more active players to speak on this subject. At the April viewing, Bart Scott was the only player to fill that role, but I think the film would be a lot stronger if a couple more active guys opened up about their experiences and what steps they’re taking to avoid the same fate as the guys who came before them.
Broke airs on ESPN tonight at 8PM/EST.
Here’s the complete 30 for 30 fall lineup:
- Tuesday, Oct. 2, 8 p.m. â€“ Broke (Billy Corben)
- Tuesday, Oct. 9, 8 p.m. â€“ 9.79* (Daniel Gordon)
- Tuesday, Oct. 16, 8 pm. â€“ Thereâ€™s No Place Like Home (Maura Mandt and Josh Swade)
- Tuesday, Oct. 23, 8 p.m. â€“ Benji (Coodie and Chike)
- Tuesday, Oct. 30, 8 p.m. â€“ Ghosts of Ole Miss (Fritz Mitchell)
- Saturday, Dec. 8, 9 p.m. â€“ You Donâ€™t Know Bo (Michael Bonfiglio)
I’m sure each documentary will be great, but I’m most looking forward to Benji and You Don’t Know Bo.
Benji, directed by Coodie and Chike (pronounced chee-k) of Creative Control and Kanye West “Through the Wire” fame, also premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival and I desperately wanted to see it. Unfortunately, my schedule didn’t permit me to do so. But all of the feedback I’ve heard, from people I know in real life (not critics), absolutely raved about it. I expect Benji to be great. I’m talking The U or Once Brothers great.
Here’s more on Benji,
In 1984, 17-year-old Ben Wilson was a symbol of everything promising about Chicago: a beloved, sweet-natured youngster from the cityâ€™s fabled South Side, and Americaâ€™s most talented basketball prospect. His senseless murder the day before his senior season sent ripples through Chicago and the nation.
I’m also very excited about You Don’t Know Bo. As a product of the ’80s, I know, there was arguably no bigger sports figure than Bo Jackson, during that era. His ubiquitous “Bo Knows” Nike campaign supports that claim. But unlike his contemporary, Michael Jordan, Bo Jackson seemingly faded into the background leaving fans in wonderment. It’ll be nice to relive those moments while also learning lots along the way.
Here’s more on You Don’t Know Bo,
Bo Jackson hit 500 ft. home runs, ran over linebackers, andâ€”for a small windowâ€”he was the best athlete we had ever seen. You Donâ€™t Know Bo is a close look at the man and marketing campaign that shaped his legacy. Even without winning a Super Bowl or World Series, Bo redefined the role of the athlete in the pop cultural conversation. More than 20 years later, myths and legends still surround Bo Jackson, and his impossible feats still capture our collective imagination.