30 for 30: Elway to Marino (Film Review)

30 for 30: Elway to Marino (Film Review)

One thing that has been consistent with sports television over the past while is that ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentary series is always good. Almost regardless of the topic, they have come up with interesting stories, and turned them into full documentary films, all of which have proven to be interesting, and at times, incredibly well done.

30Another entry into the lexicon of the series is Elway to Marino, the story of the fabled 1983 NFL draft, that produced a crazily high number of legendary players, and featured six quarterbacks being taken. Three of those six would end up as legends, and in the Hall of Fame in Canton.

The story here really shows us as viewers the behind-the-scenes dealings during the draft. Elway had made it no secret that he didn’t want to play for the terrible Baltimore Colts, and their dodgy owner. Regardless, the Colts drafted Elway with the first overall pick, and the intrigue began.

It was really interesting to hear about all of the deals that had been proposed, and failed, during the first round picks. There were several teams that were interested in Elway, and several of them made some very serious offers. The intrigue comes from how many times he was almost traded, but different things got in the way: the owner nixed the deal, the league interfered, a star quarterback caved to pressure and resigned, the offers were confused, the offers were never quite enough. If Elway had ended up on any of the teams that had tried to get him, it would have reshaped the league for quite some time. Elway as a Raider? Or Charger? Or Bear? Or would Elway, the California golden boy, just pout his way out of the league and end up playing baseball for the New York Yankees? The backroom dealings provide some of the most interesting parts of the documentary.

With the other quarterbacks, there was also some cool stories. We always think of Jim Kelly being a hero in Buffalo, the place where he spent his entire career and led the Bills to four straight Super Bowl appearances. But hearing him discuss how crushed he was to be drafted by them created another layer to his story.

303As for Marino, one of the all-time great quarterbacks, who left behind him a list of league records upon his retirement, he experienced a tremendous fall during his senior year at Pitt. Having a poor season, he fell all the way to the Miami Dolphins, who were able to grab him near the end of the first round. Stories of potential (and never proven) drug use, as well as his poor season, scuttled Marino’s reputation, and left him as the last QB standing in the draft. Of course, mistakes were made, such as the NY Jets taking Ken O’Brien (out of a Division II school!) ahead of Marino. But it is such stories in which legends are made.

The documentary succeeds in revealing the stories that took place over the phone, and behind closed doors, drawing us into the amazing draft, and the fallout that followed it. Interviews with the people involved, some GMs, some owners, and the players themselves, does what 30 for 30 always does: lets us, the casual sports fan, behind-the-scenes of something amazing, just to see just how much more amazing it really was.

Elway to Marino is another winning documentary from ESPN, and for those who are fans of the series, it definitely is one not to miss.

NFL Prediction Time!

NFL Prediction Time!

Here comes an attempt to guess the correct standings for the National Football League, which will get underway this week. I’ll also give a shot at guessing team records, which will basically be a massive failure, but hey, why not give it a shot? (* denotes a playoff team)

nfl2AFC East:

  1. *New England Patriots (12-4)
  2. Miami Dolphins (8-8)
  3. New York Jets (7-9)
  4. Buffalo Bills (4-12)

Is anybody choosing a team other than the Patriots to win this division, which is possibly the worst in football? When the main competition is quarterbacked by guys like Ryan Tannenhill, Geno Smith, and EJ Manuel, they kind of seem like a lock. Brady did a lot with little last year, and they seem to be better off this year. 

 

nfl3AFC North:

  1. *Pittsburgh Steelers (9-7)
  2. *Cincinnati Bengals (9-7)
  3. Baltimore Ravens (8-8)
  4. Cleveland Browns (2-14)

Kind of a toss up for me between the top 3 teams here. The Bengals have their moments, to be sure, but I will go with the Steelers, after a couple of down seasons, but their lofty standards. Give the Bengals a wild card berth. 

 

AFC South:

  1. *Indianapolis Colts (11-5)
  2. Tennessee Titans (8-8)
  3. Jacksonville Jaguars (6-10)
  4. Houston Texans (5-11)

The Colts are the cream of the crop here. A lot of experts are picking bigger things from the Titans this year, but I am definitely not sold on Jake Locker picking up his game that much, and I think there are questions on their O-line. 

 

AFC West:

  1. *Denver Broncos (13-3)
  2. *San Diego Chargers (10-6)
  3. Kansas City Chiefs (7-9)
  4. Oakland Raiders (5-11)

The Broncos are the pick for one more year, barring any type of injury to Peyton Manning. The Chargers got the offense rolling last year, and they should be able to overcome a questionable D to get the wild card.

 

NFC East:

  1. *Dallas Cowboys (9-7)
  2. Philadelphia Eagles (8-8)
  3. Washington Redskins (7-9)
  4. New York Giants (5-11)

Ugh. This division is pretty ugly. Even as absolutely brutal that Dallas D is, they still are the least awful team in this division. The Eagles have potential to be very good, but I think they take a step back this year. 

 

nfl4NFC North:

  1. *Green Bay Packers (12-4)
  2. *Chicago Bears (10-6)
  3. Detroit Lions (7-9)
  4. Minnesota Vikings (7-9)

A healthy Aaron Rogers means a division crown for the Packers. I like the Bears this year too, thinking perpetually that Jay Cutler will figure it out and have a great year at some point.

 

NFC South:

  1. *New Orleans Saints (11-5)
  2. Atlanta Falcons (9-7)
  3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-8)
  4. Carolina Panthers (6-10)

Big drop for Cam Newton and the Panthers. You need receivers to catch the ball! Saints take it easily, over a couple of teams that are improving, but not there yet. 

 

nfl5NFC West:

  1. *Seattle Seahawks (12-4)
  2. *San Francisco 49ers (11-5)
  3. Arizona Cardinals (8-8)
  4. St. Louis Rams (5-11)

Sorry Rams, but Shaun Hill is not an answer at QB. They needed to address this earlier than after Sam Bradford got injured, which we all kind of knew was going to happen at some point. He has been a band-aid over the past couple seasons. The Champs and the Niners are still among the best teams in the NFC, and the whole league. Seattle is just too silly good at home to not think they will go 8-0 or 7-1 at home again this year. They will take it once again. 

 

Way Too Early Super Bowl Pick:

I’ll go against all the traditions and statistics, and pick the Seahawks to win it all again. If they have home field advantage in the playoffs, they will roll, but I think they are good enough to go into Green Bay, New Orleans, or San Francisco and take a playoff road game. I’ll take them beating the Patriots in the big game. 

At the Ballpark: US Cellular Field (Chicago White Sox)

At the Ballpark: US Cellular Field (Chicago White Sox)

Chicago is a great American city, one that is deserving of all the kudos and reviews that it receives. It is a start where there is tons of art, great food, incredible music.

And, Chicago is one hell of a sports town.

The NBA Bulls had their magical run of championships with Michael Jordan at the helm, creating a modern dynasty with two 3-peats in the 90’s. The Cubs, despite their century of futility, are still one of the most popular ball teams in the States, and have provided some memorable moments over the past years, finding new and impressive ways to lose. The Blackhawks of the NHL have come back from the depths of brutality to become a true force in the league, winning Stanley Cups in two of the last three years. The Bears may not be winners, but they are a consistently strong and beloved team in the city.

white soxOh yeah, there are also the White Sox. The forgotten team in the great city. Sure, they are more successful than the Cubs, even winning an improbable World Series in 2005. But they continue to be the second team in a two-team baseball town.

While the Cubs are nestled in the comforts of Wrigleyville, the White Sox are stuck out seemingly in the middle of nowhere. The stadium is near a subway station (or semi-near, anyways), and a massive parking lot, which takes away from any surrounding splendor that so many other modern ballparks are becoming known for. Even though it isn’t, The Cell seems like an old concrete beast reminiscent of the stadiums built in the 70’s and 80’s. It is really far nicer than they were, but being in such an open space gives off such an appearance.

Walking into the stadium, there is a lack of the same sense of awe that other ballparks have created. It is a nice place, and doesn’t at all seem dated even though it was built in 1991 (which is now considered to be an older stadium, with so many teams getting brand-spanking new parks in the last decade).

One major flaw with the stadium, is the brutally chilly winds that soar in from the outfield. Granted, the day I watched a game there, it was already a cold May day, but the wind made it frigid. Instead of consuming my usual amount of beers (a lot), we were forced to drink coffee and hot chocolate to warm ourselves and our freezing cold hands. In fact, it was so cold that day, that even though there was a double-header, we could only muster the first game against the Seattle Mariners. This was coming from a couple of Canadians who were definitely used to the cold.

The amenities at The Cell are fine. The food is solid, and it was a pretty sparse crowd there, so the lines were always quick and reasonable. The team shops inside were pretty good, although much smaller than I had seen at other parks. If there were a sellout during the playoffs, or another highly intense and important game, I could see it getting a little ridiculous in there.

As far as pricing went, it was a far cheaper place to see a ballgame than at Wrigley Field. The tickets are definitely reasonable, as we had decided on seats along the right outfield side, not the usual up-close and personal seats we had become accustomed to. The sightlines were solid, and the seats themselves were as comfortable as anywhere else.

US. Cellular FieldOverall, there is nothing to complain about at the New Comiskey. Wandering through the outfield, there are some cool statues and things to look at, but it really did lack the panache of other parks.

While the White Sox have been better than the Cubs over the past decades, based on their home, it is understandable why they are the more ignored of the two teams. A good stadium, a solid team, but it truly seems to lack soul.