Tuesday during Disney’s highly anticipated 2022 upfronts, it was announced that ESPN Films has started production on two new 30 for 30 documentaries, one about “The Black Widow” and one about the black and purple NFL team that dominated the 2000 season.
The first announcement was for a doc on the 2000 Baltimore Ravens, whose infamously tough defense led them to a Super Bowl victory. Led by Ray Lewis, Sam Adams, and Rod Woodsen, the Ravens gave up just 970 rushing yards, five rushing touchdowns, and 165 total points on the year, all records for a 16-game season. Including the playoffs, Baltimore’s defense allowed just 188 points in 20 games that season (9.4 points per game). The Ravens also recovered 26 fumbles and garnered 23 interceptions, leading the NFL with 49 turnovers. And that defense powered the team to a championship all while their offense, led by quarterback Trent Dilfer, sputtered throughout the entire season.
— ESPN PR (@ESPNPR) May 17, 2022
“No team in NFL history has boasted, bullied, or brandished as much bravado as the 2000-2001 Baltimore Ravens,” said ESPN’s release. “The rest of the NFL hated the Ravens but no one could say a thing, because they couldn’t beat them on the field, especially facing, arguably, the greatest defense ever. Luckily for sports fans, their full-throated reign coincided perfectly with the rise of the “reality television” era via Hard Knocks.”
The documentary will be co-directed by Ken Rodgers, whom 30 for 30 viewers will know from his work on The Tuck Rule, The Two Bills, and Al Davis vs. The NFL, as well as Jason Weber, who previously directed NFL Network’s The Way Up: Chris Long & The Waterboys. The doc will be produced by Erik Powers, who produced and co-directed Deion’s Double Play.
ESPN Films announces a @30for30 documentary on 'The Black Widow' – pool legend Jeanette Lee
Directed by @ursulaliang
Executive produced by ESPN Films in association with Words + Pictures
— ESPN PR (@ESPNPR) May 17, 2022
The other doc announcement was for a film about professional pool player Jeanette Lee, commonly known as “The Black Widow.” ESPN viewers in the 1990s were often treated to Lee’s dominating performances in the pool world, which earned her No. 1 rankings and Player of the Year honors by Billiards Digest and Pool & Billiards Magazine.
“Lee is better known as the Black Widow, a persona more intriguing and deadly than the moniker itself,” said ESPN in a release. “She is an Asian-American icon and top billiards player who brought strength, sex appeal, and skill to pool halls around the world. After dominating the 90s and early 2000s and her recent cancer diagnosis, Jeanette Lee looks back on her storied career and opens up about her life and legacy like never before.”
Ursula Liang, director of the award-winning sports documentary 9-Man, about Chinatown streetball, and Down a Dark Stairwell, a documentary about the 2014 shooting of Akai Gurley, will direct this yet-to-be-named film.
The documentary will be executive produced by ESPN Films in association with Words + Pictures, which was founded in early 2021 by former ESPN executive vice president of content Connor Schell.
Schell and Libby Geist are executive producing, which should be welcome news to longtime 30 for 30 viewers. Geist, also a former ESPN vice president and executive producer of ESPN Films, said previously that the duo wants to continue working with ESPN Films on the series with a focus on interesting topics and untapped sports angles. It looks like that’s exactly what’s happening so far.
No details yet on when either 30 for 30 documentaries will air.