An ESPN ‘30 for 30’ film that needs to be made

By John Taylor | Aug 14, 2012

Like many sports fans, I love the “30 for 30” documentaries that ESPN has produced since 2009.
I appreciated the network’s ability to land notable Hollywood directors like Peter Berg, Barry Levinson, Ron Shelton, and John Singleton to create these films, and provide a behind-the-scenes history of some of the important stories in the sports world since the 1970’s.
Though films about the demise of the USFL, how NASCAR mishandled driver Tim Richmond, the evolution of the University of Miami football program, and the events that led to the Colts leaving Baltimore for Indianapolis are amongst my favorites in the series, there are still a number of stories I hope become subjects for further films.
Though some may not be mixed-martial arts fans, it is undeniable that the Ultimate Fighting Championship is the fastest growing sports league in the U.S. However, this is a company that nearly ceased operations ten years ago. A film about the rise of the UFC in the 1990’s, their fast decline, and their triumphant return to the mainstream conscious would be a fascinating documentary.
The prominence of the mid-major in college sports is another film I’d love to see. If someone said 25 years ago that Butler would play in two NCAA basketball tournament finals in consecutive years, Boise State would defeat Oklahoma in a major football bowl game, and the mighty Alabama Crimson Tide would take a butt-whipping my the Utah Utes in the Sugar Bowl, I’m sure there would be ridicule in store.
I’d love to see a film regarding how these mid-major programs built their athletic departments so that they could contend with the historical powers in a particular sport, and if these blue prints for success can be copied by other small programs.
Barry Sanders and Napoleon Kaufman have both been interesting figures to me.  Both men are the only two running backs to have a lifetime average of 5.0 yards per carry since the 1970 NFL merger, and both left the NFL at high points in their careers, but for different reasons.
Sanders stated in his autobiography that he retired after ten NFL seasons because the culture of losing in Detroit depleted his competitive spirit, and Kaufman left after five seasons with the Raiders to purse a place in the ministry, despite averaging 1,000 per season.
I believe films that examine the circumstances regarding why these athletes left at the top of their careers would provide closure to fans that are still in shock about losing their beloved Sunday performers too early.
Former MLB catcher Pat Borders is a figure that is rare to find in today’s sports world. Borders debuted in the major leagues for the Toronto Blue Jays in 1988, and was part of their 1992 and 1993 World Series Championship teams. With a .450 batting average, Borders was actually named the MVP of the 1992 series against Atlanta.
However, his skills quickly diminished, and Borders left Toronto after the 1994 season. What makes his story is fascinating is that Borders remained a professional baseball player from 1995-2005, primarily as a minor-leaguer. Borders would play for nine teams in his last ten professional seasons, but played no more than 55 MLB games for one team during this stretch.
Boarders actually left professional baseball in 2000 so he could concentrate on playing for the U.S. Olympic team, and helped the baseball squad win the gold medal in Sydney, an accomplishment that is usually performed by college-aged ball players, not a 12-year baseball veteran.
A film about Borders’ unusual, yet accomplished baseball career would be a documentary I’d look forward to viewing, mainly because I’d love to get inside the mind of a former World Series MVP who lost his skill-set in the midst of his career, but accepted a place in the minor leagues for over a decade with the hopes of becoming a regular major league player again.