More on the Cooperstown collection of photos, memories and mysteries in the coming days. Landed back in L.A. a few hours ago and in the process of reassembling things.
Two things about the Tuesday night TV land adventures:
== “The Two Escobars,” part of ESPN’s “30 For 30” documentary series, directed and producted by Jeff and Michael Zimbalist, debuting today at 6 p.m. on ESPN (right after the “World Cup Primetime” show).
We caught this at a special ESPN Zone screening a few weeks back and still get chills thinking about it. On June 22, 1994 U.S.-Columbia World Cup game at the Rose Bowl — exactly 16 years ago — Columbian captain Andres Escobar had the own-goal that led to the U.S. victory. And led to his demise when he returned home.
It also effectively cut the countries’ ties with the sport of football. Columbia hasn’t been back to a World Cup since that time when drug lords were the chief financiers of keeping not just the local players from defecting to stronger countries, but also buying other players to play for Columbia’s team. The sport was known as “narco-soccer” in the underworld, with drug baron Pablo Escobar (no relation to Andres) starting the business model for how this would operate, and thrive, through fear and death and execution.
“A triumph … few movies have better documented both the good and bad of sports,” said a reviewer for The Associated Press, after the doc was presented at the recent Tribeca Film Festival, Cannes and the Los Angeles Film Festival.
You not only get to hear what happened leading to Andres Escobar’s death — he went out to a night club and got into an argument with some drunks who shot him in his car — but how the country reacted to it, starting with his sister, Maria, teammates, friends and coaches. The conclusion seems to be: If Pablo Escobar were alive, Andres Escobar would be as well. They were killed by the same people.
It’s a new way to think of how a soccer game ends with a shootout.
The doc (linked here) repeats Saturday at 7 p.m. on ESPN Classic and July 1 at 10:30 p.m. on ESPN2. There are three more showing later in July.
Also if you missed it, the “30 For 30” documentary called “June 17, 1994,” about what happened in sports the day the O.J. Simpson freeway chase occured, reairs on June 30 at 8 p.m. on ESPN2.
== Episode No. 159 of “Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel” airs at 10 p.m. on HBO, looking back on the perfect game from the Oakland A’s Dallas Braden (with Frank Deford), a feature on Welsh rugby national team member Gareth Thomas and his life now as an openly gay man, a report on racism that still exists in professional soccer (from Gumbel) and a feature on how Brownsville, Tex., has become the place for young chess champions to thrive (from Mary Carillo).
Gumbel closes the show with this commentary:
“Finally tonight, a few words about this year’s World Cup. I confess that I love everything about it, particularly, those aspects that many Americans are whining about.
“Where the game is concerned, I love that they have running time and don’t compromise the flow for the sake of TV commercials. I love that the referees don’t stop the action to let replays warp their beautiful game and I love that their announcers, unlike Americans, don’t feel the need to characterize everything that’s surprising as also unbelievable.
“As for the players, I love how they mimic NBA stars and go down dramatically, as if they have been shot whenever they are fouled. I love the single names: Ronaldo, Kaka, Drogba — all of which sound a lot more elegant than Manny, Pudge and Big Baby. And, I love the national pride that is shown each game. It’s real and it’s genuine, the kind the Olympics tries to force on us every four years.
“Off the field, I love how the crowds never stoop to something as silly as ‘the wave.’ I love the purity of their sidelines — no hangers on, no mascots and best of all, no cheerleaders. I even love the vuvuzelas. Yes, they are noisy, but they are preferable to the deafening din of the weekly Billy Bob 500, or the phony piped in efforts at U.S. arenas, where choreographed chants of ‘dee-fense’ pass for originality.
“Lastly, I love that at the World Cup, there are sporting people representing cultures from all over the world and befitting grownups, not a one of them seems obsessed with what conference Texas plays in, whether Brett Favre ever comes back, or where LeBron James ultimately goes. At least we’ve one pocket of sanity, if only for two more weeks.”
About as sane as how soccer used to be in Columbia.