Being the avid sports fans we are, the writers here at Sideline Warning Sports can’t help but love ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentaries. Even though the creator of the 30 for 30 series, Bill Simmons, has left ESPN for HBO, the show must go on.
ESPN, we are here to give you our ideas for six new 30 for 30 documentaries so that your staff doesn’t have to try. Hire us.
2011 St. Louis Cardinals Path to World Series Champions (Bear)
Okay I know I have a
little huge bias towards the St. Louis Cardinals, but come on, this was one of the most improbable teams to win the World Series.
On August 24th, this team was 10.5 games behind the wild card-leading Atlanta Braves (note that this was before the wild card play-in game). Their playoff odds at that point were 1.3 percent.
The two teams went in opposite directions. The Cardinals stayed extremely hot throughout the end of August and September, including a three-game sweep over the Braves, falling just one games behind Atlanta heading into the last three games of the season.
As fate would have it, the Cardinals wound up playing one of the worst teams in the league in that last weekend, the Houston Astros, while the Braves had to play division rival and NL-leading Philadelphia Phillies. The Cardinals took two of three from the Astros and the Braves lost two of three against the Phillies, which made the Cardinals the wild card winners.
Heading into the playoffs, the Cardinals were set to play the powerful Phillies in the first round. Philadelphia had home-field advantage, the best pitching duo in Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee, and powerful hitters in Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, and Jimmy Rollins.
Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter won two games on short rest, for the first time in his career, including a winner-take-all game 5 against Halladay. Carpenter’s three-hit shut-out 1-0 victory in Philadelphia helped advance the Cardinals to the NLCS.
The Cardinals were matched-up against NL Central rival Milwaukee Brewers. The world was introduced to David Freese in this series. Freese posted a .545 batting average, hit 3 home runs, drove in 9 runs, and scored 7 runs in the series and was named NLCS MVP as the Cardinals won in six games.
The AL champion Texas Rangers made for an incredible match against St. Louis. They wanted revenge after losing to the Giants in the World Series the previous year.
After trading wins in the first two games, the Cardinals came out guns-blazing in game 3. Albert Pujols became just the third players to hit three home runs in a World Series game.
The Rangers won the next two games, making the series 3-2 in the Rangers favor. Then came one of the most memorable finishes to a postseason game in MLB history. The Cardinals were down 7-5 in the bottom of the 9th inning. David Freese comes up to bat with two outs and Pujols and Berkman on base. Freese is down to his last strike and the next pitch is the last remaining hope of the Cardinals taking home the title. He smashes a triple over Nelson Cruz’s head in right field and scores both runs, tying the game. Freese’s hit was off of Rangers closer Neftali Feliz, who had been near impossible to hit all postseason long.
The Cardinals joy did not last long though. In the top of the 10th, Josh Hamilton homers to extend the Rangers lead to 11-9. But yet again, the Cardinals find a way to tie the game when down to their last strike. This time the hero was Lance Berkman.
The Rangers made no noise in the top of the 11th. With no outs in the bottom of the 11th, the St. Louis native Freese sends a ball over the wall in deep center field. Freese is mobbed as he touches home plate in one of the most entertaining games in baseball history.
The Cardinals would end up winning game 7 at home, again with Chris Carpenter on short rest. They were the last men standing in October and World Series champions for the 11th time in the team history.
1996 NLCS (John)
In one of the most amazing, incredible, remarkable, wild National League Championship Series ever, the Braves beat the Cardinals 4 games to 3.
Just kidding, I have literally no clue what transpired during that series besides the outcome (I was like a month old). That’s a horrible 30 For 30 idea, but Bear annoyed me by bringing up 2011, which saw a Braves’ September collapse that haunts me still today.
According to my research the Braves came back from a 3-1 hole to win Game Seven 15-0. So take that, Bear and the Cardinals.
2007 College Football Season (Bear)
This is one of the craziest seasons to date in college football history. We saw a meteoric rise in teams like USF and Kansas, who both made it as high as no.2 in the BCS standings.
There were plenty of powerful teams that fell multiple times in a season. Michigan paid FCS Appalachian State to beat them in the Big House. Week 5 consisted of no.3, no.4, no.5, and no.7 getting upset. Cal’s Tavita Pritchard made his first career start on the road at no.2 USC, who had not lost a home game in 35 attempts. Pritchard led the Golden Bears a victory over the Trojans with a game-winning drive that ended with 49 seconds left. That drive included a 4th and 20 conversion.
Week 6 was the first time that both no.1 LSU and no.2 Cal lost on the same day since 1996. LSU was able to pull off two scares from Auburn and Alabama, but lost to a Darren McFadden-led Arkansas team. Missouri soared to the top spot in the standings after beating Kansas in one of the better games of the season.
The Tigers would not remain in that spot for long as they were beaten badly by Sam Bradford and Oklahoma in the Big 12 Conference Championship. 2007 s the emergence of Colt Brennan, the Hawaii quarterback who put up gaudy numbers all season long in June Jones’ spread offense.
2007 was also the year of Tim Tebow. Tebow was the most electrifying player in the country. He ran Urban Meyer’s run and shoot offense to near perfection, throwing for over 3200 yards, 32 touchdowns to only six interceptions. Tebow racked up over 800 yards on the ground and 23 touchdowns. His total touchdowns would break an SEC record. Tebow won the Heisman with ease.
Ohio State would make it to the BCS National Championship for the second year in a row. Squaring-off against the Buckeyes would be Les Miles and the LSU Tigers, who made it to the game by the grace of God. For the second year in a row, Ohio State would lose to an SEC powerhouse.
There were so many upsets throughout the year it became hard to keep track. Here is a list of the notable upsets throughout the season.
- Appalachian State over #5 Michigan in the Big House
- Auburn over #4 Florida in the Swamp
- Colorado over #3 Oklahoma
- South Florida over #5 West Virginia
- Stanford over #2 USC in the Coliseum
- Kentucky over #1 LSU
- FSU over #2 BC
- Illinois over #1 Ohio State
- Arkansas over #1 LSU
- Pitt over #2 West Virginia
The 1992 Hooters 500 and its tragic aftermath (John)
The final race of the 1992 NASCAR Winston Cup season saw the dramatic conclusion of the tightest pre-Chase championship battle in NASCAR history, the most unlikely underdog champion is NASCAR history, and marked a clear paradigm shift in the sport.
Coming into this final race, held at Atlanta Motor Speedway, a record six drivers were still mathematically eligible for the title. The favorite was the young gun Davey Allison, son of legend Bobby Allison. He led Alan Kulwicki by 30 points entering the race, and with 5 wins on the season including the Daytona 500 he looked poised to dominate the sport for the next decade.
Meanwhile, in a time when NASCAR was shifting towards wealthy multi-car teams while still being dominated by southern drivers, Alan Kulwicki stood out as a maverick. The college educated northerner insisted on doing things his own way, refusing to sell out as he owned, drove, and engineered his number 7 Ford. Kulwicki was an underfunded outsider compared to his competitors, which made his contention remarkable.
In third 40 points back was perennial fan favorite Bill Elliot, the 1988 champ. He was followed by usual contenders Harry Gant, Kyle Petty, and Mark Martin. Of the six in contention, Elliot was the only one with a title.
Also in the field was 7-time champion Richard Petty “The King” making his final career start, and a kid from California named Jeff Gordon making his first career start.
As the race progressed, every title contender led except Kyle Petty, and through lap 100, they ran 1-5. Gant, Kyle Petty, and Martin would fade from contention, while Richard Petty, Jeff Gordon, and Davey Allison would all get caught up in accidents. This eliminated the favorite Allison from contention, leaving only Kulwicki and Elliot to fight for the championship.
Kulwicki and Elliot ran 1-2 throughout the thrilling final stretch of the race. Although Elliot won the race and led 102 laps, Kulwicki finished second and calculated his strategy perfectly to lead 103 laps and secure the bonus points for leading the most laps and win the Championship. The unlikely underfunded underdog took championship in what was then the closest margin ever.
In addition to the remarkable race and championship battle, in retrospect the 1992 Hooters 500 marked a turning point in NASCAR history. Richard Petty retired, and with him went NASCAR’s old rural southern roots. In came Jeff Gordon, and with him came the revolution that turned NASCAR into a wealthy, corporate, nationwide sport.
The race also serves as a grim reminder of what could have been. A race characterized by the bright future of Davey Allison and the heroic victory of the underdog Alan Kulwicki would seem to be the first of many races to remember them by, but instead it stands as one of the last. Allison would never get the chance to build an all-time great career, and Kulwicki would never get to defy the odds and defend his title after both drivers tragically perished in aviation accidents during the following season.
The 1992 Hooters 500, including its buildup and aftermath, is a pivotal race in NASCAR history that deserves to have its story documented to a larger audience.
MLB Players During WWII (John)
These days it’s impossible to imagine sports superstars dropping everything and going to war. While its not something I know a lot about at this point, a documentary that followed the exploits of players like Ted Williams, Warren Spahn, and the likes during the war would be fascinating. It would be a tough documentary to make given the amount of research required and the impossibility of first person interviews, but surely there are some stories that need to be told.
April 12, 2013 (Will)
Three of the greatest athletes ever, three of the most prominent players of my lifetime, three events within just seven hours of each other, less than one weekend, three careers saw the beginning of their demise.
About 6:30 PM, EST – Augusta, GA
Tiger Woods tees off on the 15th hole in the second round of the Master’s – while tied for the lead. Woods takes an illegal drop that ultimately causes some chaos and costs him two strokes. As far as my memory serves, to date this was the last time Tiger Woods led at a major.
Granted, Tiger’s demise had been a long time coming – but when he teed off on 15 at Augusta, he was the co-leader at a major. Something that hasn’t happened since.
Around 9:00 PM EST (various other times as reports come out)
Stories break that Alex Rodriguez has attempted to purchase papers from a Florida clinic in efforts to cover up biogenesis purchases. The was another big step in the spiral that led to his suspension.
A-Rod was coming off injury and missing all of spring training when this next blow in his steroid/HGH cycle hit. Rodriguez has somewhat bounced back for a respectable 2015 campaign, but he will never return to what he once was (obviously now that he is 40) but the shame that the scandal and suspension brought will be pretty much irreversible (as we’ve seen with the recent HOF voting).
About 9:45 PM PST – Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
Kobe Bryant tears his achilles late in the fourth quarter. (Proceeds to hobble to the line and make two of two free throws).**
Bryant’s injury came when the Lakers were still a playoff team and this seemed to trigger the path that has led to the current Laker situation. Bryant’s overall play was in decline (only because of age) but the Achilles injury was the knockout punch that hindered his play the most and expedited him hanging it up after the 2015/16 season.
The thing is, their careers didn’t end on April 12, 2013. But when they woke up on April 13, the trajectory of their brilliant careers had been significantly and negatively altered. They all played again and even have had successes. April 12, 2013 simply began the end of the careers of the greatest golfer of my lifetime, the greatest basketball player of my lifetime, and possibly the greatest five-tool baseball player of my lifetime as well. I can’t think of another instance where such a thing happened in one day, much less within just over six hours.
**Side note, Steph Curry scored 47 with 9 assists that night
The Legend of Ali Dia (Will)
This is the story of a man who basically frauded his way to an appearance in the best soccer league in the world using only a made up connection to George Weah and a lot of luck, but no actual soccer ability. Dia bounced around using word of mouth and his “relation” to Weah to pick up contract after contract, and he simply disappeared when each club discovered he couldn’t actually play. On November 22, 1996, he showed up at Southhampton, found his way into a one month contact, and on November 23rd played 53 minutes of English Premier League soccer against Leeds. He was released again days later, disappeared completely after a few brief stints at small, lower tier clubs.
The extremely entertaining full story can be found here: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2551248-the-search-for-ali-dia-legendary-football-hoaxster-turned-houdini
Those are our ideas. Your move, ESPN.