HBO's documentaries usually broach new subjects and topics that haven't really been given enough attention. Sport in America: Our Defining Stories does the opposite – it discusses several stories you've heard about numerous times before (and some that you haven't) from a different perspective.
For example: you know all about Hank Aaron's record-breaking 715th home run in Atlanta. But do you know how Curt Menefee, a young black male growing up in Atlanta, felt during Aaron's pursuit of Babe Ruth's record? The Dodgers' move to Los Angeles is a huge moment in sports history, but wouldn't you like to know how someone who was there (in this case, Bulls and White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, who grew up in Brooklyn) felt about it at the time and in the present?
And really, that's what Sport in America focuses on. Instead of simply telling the story, it fleshes out the fans' reactions to the stories. But all of the stories aren't going to make you sad. For example, I laughed hysterically at the story of a member of the Raiders' infamous Black Hole bringing his then-girlfriend (now wife) to her first game, and her utter disbelief at his silver and black costume.
The documentary is broken up into four segments: moments, inspiration, community, and game change. Moments focuses on specific plays, like Kirk Gibson's iconic 1988 World Series home run. Inspiration focuses on situations that inspired the fan, like the death of Roberto Clemente. Community focuses on how fans reacted together to a moment, like a Red Sox fan's reaction to the 2004 World Series win three years after the passing of his father. And finally, game change focuses more on larger reaching issues, like racial and sexual discrimination and how they played into sports.
I'll admit, I was very skeptical of this documentary coming in. But I got more and more engrossed with it as I watched, and became fully invested by the end. The more personal the connection to the story, and the less mainstream traction the sports part of the story has gotten throughout the years, the more I seemed to enjoy it. Over 70 people were interviewed, and while there aren't that many stories, they each add a unique voice and background to stories you might you think you've had your fill of.
Sport in America: Our Defining Stories premieres on Thursday, November 28th (Thanksgiving) at 6 PM ET, and plays at various times throughout the next two weeks on HBO. It was a joint production between HBO, Sports Illustrated, and Endgame Entertainment, and was directed by James D. Stern of Endgame Entertainment and Adam Del Deo.