Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Virginia's For Lovers But Trust There's Hate Here

This one slipped under the radar for me but I finally managed to catch it last night. ESPN's 30 for 30 might be the best idea a cable channel has had since HBO decided to extend its in house programming. Recent excellent efforts have covered The Death of Len Bias, The Knicks Rivalry with Reggie Miller in the late 90s and Ice Cube's take on N.W.A. and their effect on the aura around the L.A. Raiders. It's treating the world of professional sport with a seriousness and dignity that goes lacking from coverage too often but this might just be their crowning moment.

Steve James, the director of "Hoop Dreams" made this film about a young Allen Iverson, who grew up a town over from him in Newport News, Virginia. As Iverson was being showered with accolades and championships, he was involved in a bowling alley fight that threatened to end his career before it even began. I was vaguely familiar with the incident before seeing the film but James explores it with a balanced care and detail that goes above and beyond the call of duty. He uses the trial as a way into race relations in a small and historically fraught community, a meditation on institutional racism and the shaping of one of the most alternately troubled and inspiring athletes of our generation. This might surpass "Hoop Dreams", one of if not the most important Sports Documentary I've ever seen. Do yourself a favor and check it out.

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