Archive for the ‘ESPN’ Category

Maurice Clarett carries the ball

The latest entry in ESPN’s 30-for-30 series, Youngstown Boys, directed by Jeff and Michael Zimbalist, will premiere on Saturday, December 14, at 9 p.m. ET after the Heisman Trophy Presentation on ESPN. Youngstown Boys is the second effort in the documentary series from the Zimbalist brothers, with their previous entry, The Two Escobars, standing as one of the most celebrated films of the collection.

Via ESPN official release:

Youngstown Boys explores class and power dynamics in college sports through the parallel, interconnected journeys of one-time dynamic running back Maurice Clarett and former elite head coach Jim Tressel. Both emerged from the working-class city of Youngstown, Ohio—Tressel as the head coach who turned around the football program at Youngstown State—before they joined for a magical season at Ohio State University in 2002 that produced the first national football championship for the school in over 30 years.

Shortly thereafter though, Clarett was suspended from college football and began a downward spiral that ended with a prison term. Tressel continued at Ohio State for another eight years before his career there also ended in scandal.

Youngstown Boys instantly sets itself among the top tier of the 30-for-30 series’ films. Fans of films like The Two Escobars, The Best That Never Was, and Once Brothers will be satiated by the story’s powerful portrayal of relationship dynamics, success, struggle, and redemption.

We spoke with co-director Michael Zimbalist about making the film, its themes, Clarett and Tressel, and the NCAA.

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Pius Heinz of Germany holds up stacks of cash after beating Martin Staszko of the Czech Republic to win the championship bracelet and $8.7 million in prize money during the World Series of Poker main event at the Rio hotel-casino in Las Vegas

Tonight in Las Vegas and (near) live on ESPN, the final table of the World Series of Pokers’ Main Event begins. Though the tournament began in July, the “November Nine” resume play after a three month lay-off – competing for more than $8 million in prize money. This concept – whittling the full field down to a final table of nine, determining the winner live on TV in November – is a relatively new one, an idea unthinkable even ten years ago. Why would anyone care about the outcome of a single poker tournament so much as to wait months to decide a winner?

A lot can change in a decade. In the world of professional poker, ten years is enough time for a tidal wave of money to crash across the landscape – establishing poker as a sports entertainment force and changing the game forever. It took ten years for the poker bubble to stretch and expand across the globe before it finally burst. Slowly, widespread interest in poker declined, receding like the flood waters which forever re-shaped this pop culture juggernaut.

There is still solid interest in the World Series and professional poker in general but nowhere near the incredible heights it once reached. Attention has turned elsewhere. But why? The same factors that contributed to poker’s meteoric cultural rise undercut its popularity and eventually relegated it back to the margins where, fairly or otherwise, it belongs.

Across the last decade, the factors that fueled the unprecedented growth of the World Series of Poker (WSOP) contributed directly to its ultimate flameout. A classic bubble that progressed through all the stages before bursting in spectacular fashion. Before the 2013 WSOP Main Event champion is crowned, look back on the poker world’s trajectory and how the game borne from smokey casino cardrooms ended up as an area-style TV special with lights, analysts and months of all – filtered through the lens of one man whose interactions with the game closely follow a nearly identical trajectory.

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Liptons 1991 Pic : Action Images  Jimmy Connors - USA
Hate is a strong word but it’s apt in this case. The tennis establishment hated Jimmy Connors. They hated his boorish on-court attitude. They hated how he treated his fellow players.

Connors didn’t come from the traditional tennis background. While the sport was dominated by country club folks with a lot of money and monocles by the box load, Connors was the outlier. A kid from East St.Louis that was coached by his demanding, task-master of a mom, Connors not only made it when he wasn’t supposed to, but excelled.

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espn-body-issue-gary-player_r640When the subject of sex is broached within the confines of sports, it’s usually followed by snickering. Our false sense of what comprises proper decorum combines with the remnants of fossilized puritanism to create a nervous laughter over the outlandish tally of contraceptives given to Olympic athletes or the reported abstinence of a national soccer team before a pivotal World Cup match.

We seldom discuss the obvious. The strange relationship that sports fans have with athletes – which combines pageantry, pedestals and vicariousness in an unholy trinity – grows more peculiar when we consider the overt voyeurism inherent to the role of sports spectator. We gain pleasure through watching toned muscles and tight flesh exhibit elite physical ability in unison and competition with others.

Fortunately, the typical heterosexual male can remain blissfully ignorant to this portion of his enjoyment thanks to the overcompensation of the generally accepted norms provided by scantily-clad cheerleaders, commercials reinforcing our manly love of Kate Upton’s breasts and the general masculine bro-ness associated with cheering on a sports team.

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collinssicoverSpending all day – every day – immersed in sports is a bit like working at Pizza Hut and eating nothing but pizza. If one is unburdened by such matters as personal health and waistline size, pizza is a wonderful thing. Unfortunately, too much of a wonderful thing is likely to leave one no longer believing the wonderful thing to be all that wonderful.

Sports are really, really great. However, the more time you spend reading and writing about a topic, the greater the chance that its ugliness will be realized. This is why our focus often becomes embittered by all of the negative aspects present in sports. We forget why sports are so great to begin with. And so, that’s where The Week In Sports Happiness comes into play.

Every week, I’ll present the ten things that are making me happy from the world of sports. It might be a particular article, it could be a winning streak, it may even be an animated GIF. No matter what, it’s from sports, it made me feel good inside, and I hope it does the same for you.

Without further ado, sports the good:

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nebraskacancerkidSpending all day – every day – immersed in sports is a bit like working at Pizza Hut and eating nothing but pizza. If one is unburdened by such matters as personal health and waistline size, pizza is a wonderful thing. Unfortunately, too much of a wonderful thing is likely to leave one no longer believing the wonderful thing to be all that wonderful.

Sports are really, really great. However, the more time you spend reading and writing about a topic, the greater the chance that its ugliness will be realized. This is why our focus often becomes embittered by all of the negative aspects present in sports. We forget why sports are so great to begin with. And so, that’s where The Sports Culture Happiness Index comes to play.

Every week, I’ll present the ten things that are making me happy from the world of sports. It might be a particular article, it could be a winning streak, it may even be an animated GIF. No matter what, it’s from sports, it made me feel good inside, and I hope it does the same for you.

Without further ado, sports the good:

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ESPNsnbI’m sure it’s subjective, but it’s always seemed to me that baseball, more so than other sports, possesses an aesthetic beauty that approaches the most pleasing pieces of visual art. From the unique design of a stadium to the subtle movement of the game’s participants between every pitch in the batter/pitcher conflict, it’s a very good looking sport. It’s one that benefits perhaps more than others from the accessibility of high definition broadcasts.

The standard bearer for baseball broadcasts is ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball. Yes, it’s highly mockable to many of us, but every sports broadcast, in its pursuit of catering to the demographic of everybody, is highly mockable. However, it’s also innovative, and it tries for something beyond what baseball fans might might receive from their local broadcasts. This translates into exceptional camera work, access to advanced metrics and graphics that actually inform an audience, rather than describe factual information that doesn’t require visual representation.

Perhaps the most impressive element of a Sunday Night Baseball broadcast is the booth that includes Dan Shulman doing play-by-play, Orel Hershiser providing analysis, and John Kruk creating an outlet for those who enjoy getting frustrated at dumb things said on television. Shulman and Hershiser were quick to form commentary cohesion when they began working together on television in 2011 after some time as partners for the radio version of the broadcast, and the strength of that bond has been tested with a different third man in the booth in each of the three seasons since the contracts of Jon Miller and Joe Morgan weren’t renewed.

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