ESPN Films today revealed the films that will make up its fall 2014 30 for 30 slate. The series will return for a six-week run Tuesday nights on ESPN beginning October 7, with one additional film in December. This October marks the fifth anniversary of 30 for 30’s launch in 2009.
The upcoming slate will kick off with “Playing for the Mob,” which delves into how mobster Henry Hill once helped orchestrate the fixing of Boston College basketball games. The film is narrated by actor Ray Liotta, who played Hill in the iconic movie “Goodfellas.” Other film topics include: the 1989 San Francisco earthquake shortly before Game 3 of the World Series; the rise, fall and maturation of former Oklahoma All-American linebacker Brian Bosworth; and the incredible story of Livan and Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez, half-brothers who escaped Cuba separately and quickly made themselves into star pitchers in the major leagues. “Brothers in Exile” will premiere in Spanish on ESPN Deportes on Saturday, Nov. 1, at 9 p.m. ET.
Additionally, actor Michael Rapaport takes a look back at the championship teams of the New York Knicks in his film “When The Garden Was Eden,” which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival this year; and “Rand University” will explore the enigma that is former NFL star Randy Moss by going back to where he came from – Rand, West Virginia.
“The U Part 2” will debut after the Heisman Trophy presentation in December, making it the first 30 for 30 sequel. “The U,” a chronicle of the rise of the University of Miami football program in the 1980s, was one of the first 30 for 30 films, and subsequently became ESPN’s most-watched documentary film in history up to that point. In “The U Part 2,” director Billy Corben picks up where his original film left off, with Miami trying to recover from the devastation left by NCAA sanctions and scandals.
“Even though we have been at this for five years now, there is no shortage of incredible moments from the world of sports, so that enables us to continue making 30 for 30 films we’re proud of,” says Connor Schell, vice president and executive producer of ESPN Films and Original Programming. “The new slate takes a look at events and people that may be familiar to viewers, but our intent is to provide a totally different perspective through the visions of our various filmmakers.”
The “Playing for the Mob” debut on October 7 will be immediately followed by a special premiere of a new 30 for 30 Short titled “The Great Trade Robbery,” directed by Stu Zicherman. Launching on Grantland the next day, this short film is a first-person account by Jimmy Johnson of arguably the most significant trade in NFL history – when the Dallas Cowboys built their Super Bowl dynasty 25 years ago by sending star running back Herschel Walker to the Minnesota Vikings.
30 for 30 films will air on ESPN as follows (all times ET):
Tuesday, Oct.7, 9 p.m. – “Playing for the Mob”
Tuesday, Oct. 14, 10 p.m. – “The Day The Series Stopped”
Tuesday, Oct. 21, 9 p.m. – “When The Garden Was Eden”
Tuesday, Oct. 28, 9 p.m. – “Brian and The Boz”
Tuesday, Nov. 4, 9 p.m. – “Brothers in Exile”
Tuesday, Nov. 11, 8 p.m. – “Rand University”
Saturday, Dec. 13, 9 p.m. – “The U Part 2”
Additionally, “It’s Time” will make its ESPN debut on Tuesday, Sept. 30, at 9 p.m. The film, which tells the tragic but inspiring story of Ole Miss defensive back Chucky Mullins and the bond formed with Vanderbilt running back Brad Gaines, recently premiered on the SEC Network as part of ESPN Films’ SEC Storied series.
In celebration of the fifth anniversary of 30 for 30, ESPN Films will be releasing a limited edition 100-title “30 for 30 Fifth Anniversary Collection” on November 25, featuring the complete set of 30 for 30 films as well as Nine for IX and some 30 for 30 Soccer Stories and 30 for 30 Shorts titles.
Additional information including film clips and director statements and bios will be available on the 30 for 30 website espn.com/30for30; Follow 30 for 30 on Facebook (facebook.com/espn30for30) and Twitter (@30for30).
30 for 30 Film Summaries:
“Playing for the Mob,” directed by Joe Lavine & Cayman Grant (CLIP)
What happens when you combine “Goodfellas” with college basketball? You get “Playing for the Mob,” the story of how mobster Henry Hill — played by Ray Liotta in the 1990 Martin Scorsese classic — helped orchestrate the fixing of Boston College basketball games in the 1978-79 season. The details of that point-shaving scandal are revealed for the first time on film through the testimony of the players, the federal investigators and the actual fixers, including Hill, who died shortly after he was interviewed. “Playing for the Mob” may be set in the seemingly golden world of college basketball but, like “Goodfellas,” this is a tale of greed, betrayal and reckoning. Ultimately, they both share the same message: With that much money at stake, you can’t trust anybody.
“The Day The Series Stopped,” directed by Ryan Fleck
On October 17, 1989, at 5:04 p.m. PT, soon after Al Michaels and Tim McCarver started the ABC telecast for Game 3 of the World Series between the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland Athletics, the ground began to shake beneath Candlestick Park. Even before that moment, this had promised to be a memorable match-up: the first in 33 years between teams from the same metropolitan area, a battle featuring larger-than-life characters and equally colorful fan bases. But after the 6.9 Loma Prieta earthquake rolled through, bringing death and destruction, the Bay Area pulled together and baseball took a backseat. Through archival footage, previously untold stories from players, officials, San Francisco and Oakland citizens affected by the earthquake, and a scientific look back at what happened below the earth, “The Day The Series Stopped” will revisit that night 25 years ago. The record book shows that the A’s swept the Giants, but that’s become a footnote to the larger story of the 1989 World Series.
“When The Garden Was Eden,” directed by Michael Rapaport
In the early 1970s, America was being torn apart by the war in Vietnam, with racial unrest in the streets and a distrust of the White House. But there was a happier place where men of different backgrounds showed people what could happen when you worked together: Madison Square Garden. “When The Garden Was Eden” (based on the book by Harvey Araton) explores the only championship years of the New York Knicks, when they made the NBA Finals in three out of four seasons, winning two titles. Stitched together by Red Holzman, the previously mediocre Knicks might have seemed an odd collection of characters: a forward from the rarefied air of Princeton (Bill Bradley), two players from the Jim Crow South (Willis Reed and Walt Frazier), a blue-collar guy from Detroit (Dave DeBusschere), a pair of inner-city guards (Earl Monroe and Dick Barnett), even a mountain man from Deer Lodge, Montana (Phil Jackson). But by embracing their differences and utilizing their strengths, they showed the NBA and the world what it was like to play as a team. That they did it on the stage New York City provided made it all that much sweeter.
“Brian and The Boz,” directed by Thaddeus D. Matula
In some ways, Barry Switzer and Brian Bosworth were made for each other. The Oklahoma coach and the linebacker he recruited to play for him were both outsized personalities who delighted in thumbing their noses at the establishment. And in their three seasons together (1984-86), the unique father-son dynamic resulted in 31 wins and two Orange Bowl victories, including a national championship, as Bosworth was awarded the first two Butkus Awards. But Bosworth’s alter ego – “The Boz” – was taking over. Eventually, he went on a downward spiral and became known as an NFL bust. In “Brian and The Boz,” the dual identities of Brian Bosworth are examined as he looks back on his life and passes on the lessons he’s learned to his son.
“Brothers in Exile,” directed by Mario Diaz, produced by Major League Baseball Productions
Major League Baseball has been transformed by the influx of Cuban players like Aroldis Chapman, Yasiel Puig and Jose Abreu. But a special debt of gratitude is owed to two half-brothers whose courage two decades ago paved the way for their stardom. “Brothers in Exile” tells the incredible story of Livan and Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez, who risked their lives to get off the island. Livan left first, banking on his status as the hottest young prospect in Cuba, to defect via Mexico and sign with the Florida Marlins, for whom he soon became one of the youngest World Series MVPs in history in 1997. Staying behind was Orlando, who was banned from professional baseball in Cuba for life because he was suspected of having helped Livan escape. Then, on Christmas 1997, an increasingly frustrated and harassed Orlando left Cuba in a small boat. He was stranded on a deserted island for days before being picked up by the U.S. Coast Guard. Less than a year later, “El Duque” was helping pitch the New York Yankees to a world championship, completing a most unlikely journey for two brothers who rode their arms to freedom and triumph.
“Rand University,” directed by Marquis Daisy
Randy Moss has long been an enigma known for his brilliance on the football field and his problems off it. “Rand University” gets to the intersection of those aspects of Moss by going back to where he came from – Rand, West Virginia – and exploring what almost derailed him before he ever became nationally known for his extraordinary abilities as a wide receiver. After overcoming troubles with the law, losing the opportunities to play at Notre Dame and Florida State and then reviving his enormously promising football career at Marshall University, all that was good and troubling about Randy Moss materialized on the day of the 1998 NFL Draft. Twenty picks were made before the Minnesota Vikings selected him in the first round. Based on what unfolded throughout Moss’s NFL career, the teams that passed on him may have had a mixture of regret and relief.
“The U Part 2,” directed by Billy Corben
Produced in 2009 for the 30 for 30 series, “The U” took a look at all that was good and bad about the rise of the University of Miami’s football program in the 1980s. But that wasn’t the end of the story. “The U Part 2” picks up where the original film left off, with the program trying to recover from the devastation left by NCAA sanctions and scandals that had some calling for the school to drop football. The Hurricanes rose from those ashes to win another national championship, only to face new controversies when a booster used a Ponzi scheme to win favor with the program.