What if I told you one of the best things a sports fan can watch is not the sport itself but instead a documentary? That’s what ESPN found out in 2009 when it launched the “30 for 30” series, intended to be just 30 documentaries chronicling the best sports stories over the network’s three decades. Little did ESPN know, the series took off. There have been 90 “30 for 30” documentaries made, with 21 other stories coming by way of spinoffs. As long as the ratings hold up, there seems to be no end in sight for the series. Luckily for sports fans, there are plenty of stories yet to be covered. With the current scene of the sports world, there are so many possible “30 for 30s” happening now or in the past year, and I’ve chosen what I believe would make the most appealing and realistic five.
1. Vegas Golden Knights
“What if I told you after a horrific night in Las Vegas, an upstart band of misfits would create many golden nights down the road?”
The Las Vegas Golden Knights are the most successful expansion team in the history of first-year expansion teams in the four main American leagues (NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL). They hold a 40-16-4 record and lead the NHL in points with 84. No other expansion team in the four leagues has ever had a winning record in its first season, but the Golden Knights are doing that and much more. Players teams didn’t want anymore, whether because of recent play, contract size or age, have come together in southern Nevada to make something special. The success and the group of misfits storyline is there, so that would make a solid “30 for 30.” Unfortunately, that’s not the whole story. The Knights dropped their last preseason game on Oct. 1 to the San Jose Sharks at home, but the world and the city were oblivious to what would happen a few hours later. A short way down the Las Vegas strip from T-Mobile Arena, a shooter took the lives of 58 concertgoers outside Mandalay Bay resort and casino, injuring 851 others in the deadliest mass shooting in American history. Five days later, the Golden Knights began their historic season. Not only is the sports story there, but also there’s a real-world background behind it, likely making for a “30 for 30” someday.
2. The year of the backup quarterback
“What if I told you sometimes what champions are made of is sitting on the bench?”
The 2017 season for football on the college and pro levels was an enigma, to say the least. A recurring theme was the rise of the backup quarterback, as witnessed in the championship games of each. Alabama trailed Georgia by double digits at halftime of the college football championship game. Nick Saban made the gutsy move of benching starter Jalen Hurts and turning to true freshman backup Tua Tagovailoa to ignite the Crimson Tide offense. That’s just what he did, throwing three touchdown passes in the second half and overtime. The winning throw was a 41-yard overtime dime to defeat the Bulldogs and quarterback Jake Fromm, who also started the season as his team’s backup.
The Philadelphia Eagles were riding high in the NFC until star quarterback Carson Wentz tore his ACL in Week 14, ending his season. It seemed hope was lost for the team, but in stepped backup Nick Foles. Although the Eagles were the No. 1 seed in the NFC, they were underdogs in every playoff game. The Eagles still went on to win the NFC Championship against the Vikings and Case Keenum (who was, you guessed it, a backup quarterback) and Super Bowl LII behind Foles’ arm. I can see a “30 for 30” about this, chronicling the stories of Tagovailoa and Foles, with sidebars on Fromm, Keenum and even a flashback to 2001 with backup-turned-Super Bowl quarterback Tom Brady, whom Foles defeated to win the Super Bowl.
3. The USMNT missing the 2018 World Cup
“What if I told you a night in the Caribbean can change a sport forever?”
When one thinks of countries that can break the United States’ men’s soccer players’ hearts, Trinidad and Tobago doesn’t usually come near the top of the list. That was exactly what happened on an October night in the Caribbean, though. The small island country dropped the United States men’s soccer team 2-1 and dashed any hopes of the Americans making the World Cup in 2018. The U.S. was put in shock. With rising stars of the sport, including Christian Pulisic, it was impossible to think it could happen. But it did. A “30 for 30” about this could examine the landscape of U.S. soccer before the loss and how it changed over time because of it. A perfect time to release this would be right before the 2022 World Cup or after a great showing in a future one, assuming the U.S. makes it.
4. Trae Young
“What if I told you the next Steph Curry couldn’t buy a bucket at the pro level?”
This entry is purely speculative, as we are still too early in Young’s career to come to any conclusions. The thought of a rise-and-fall documentary over Trae Young, though, intrigues me. Young, an Oklahoma point guard, has set the college basketball landscape on fire, and the amount of coverage ESPN uses to him shows how impactful he’s been. Then what happens if he goes to the NBA and falls flat on his face? That would be a great story, similar to the Marcus Dupree “30 for 30.” Of course, if Young goes on to great success, then that would be a whole different story and one not quite as interesting.
5. The Ball family
“What if I told you father thinks he knows best and lets everyone know it?”
Find a more entertaining story in sports during the past year than the Ball family. It would be extremely tough. Whether you like Lavar Ball, he has taken himself, his sons and his brand to the moon. Through the rise of Lavar, from Lonzo’s entrance in the NBA to LiAngelo’s China fiasco and LiAngelo and LaMelo’s move to Lithuania, this possible “30 for 30” has a shot to be the most absurd yet entertaining one of all time.