Philly needs more sports documentaries about its past

SIXR JUNE 3, 2001 — NBA PLAYOFFS EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS GAME 7 — BUCKS at 76ERS–Sixers Allen Iverson listens for the roar of the crowd as he celebrates during the closing seconds of the Sixers 108 – 91 win over Milwaukee to capture the Eastern Conference Championship. PHOTO BY JERRY LODRIGUSS

We live in Bizzaredelphia, where summer leagues and futures games have become more important and easier to watch than the events that actually count in the standings. The minors mean more than the majors, the drafts are the highlight of the season and we always seem to be waiting for the start of Eagles training camp even though disappointment has been the final destination for 56 straight years.

Our city’s teams should adopt Eeyore as their official mascot and prominently post his witticisms in all the professional sports venues.

Could be worse. Not sure how, but it could be.

I’d look on the bright side if I could find it.

Weeds are flowers, too, once you get to know them.

It’s not much of a tail, but I’m sort of attached to it.

End of the road. Nothin’ to do. And no hope of things getting better. Sounds like Saturday night at my house.

It never hurts to keep looking for sunshine.

That pin-tailed donkey is brilliant.

Former Phillies manager Charlie Manuel (right) would make a great subject for a sports documentary. DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer

As we await a better tomorrow, it should be noted that a better job could also be done at chronicling our yesterdays. There is certainly a thirst for remembering the past. There was a decent crowd Sunday night at the Wells Fargo Center for three-on-three old-timers basketball games that included player/coach Allen Iverson; and remember how the Flyers and Penguins filled the WFC for an alumni game earlier this year?

Despite the current malaise in the Philadelphia sports landscape, the history remains rich and no place remembers its winners more than we do. Perhaps that has something to do with the infrequency of success. Regardless, it is a credit to the fan base.

You would never know about the city’s great history, however, by watching ESPN’s 30 for 30 series. I confess to loving almost all of the sports-related documentaries ESPN has done during this decade, but I am also disappointed in how seldom the focus has been on Philadelphia.

There was a film about Iverson in Volume 1 of the 30-for-30 series called No Crossover: The Trial of Allen Iverson, but the focus was on the bowling alley brawl he was involved in as a high school kid in Virginia rather than his Sixers career. Volume 3 of the series has a feature on the tragic wrestling story involving Mark and Dave Schultz and John du Pont, but that’s a Philadelphia-related story we wish had never happened.

You want New York stories? The most recent release is about two talking heads on the New York radio scene – Chris Russo and Mike Francesa. There’s a Doc and Darryl documentary on Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry. There’s a story about Madison Square Garden and, by my count, a total of 14 30-for-30 documentaries that involve the Big Apple.

You want Los Angeles stories. The 30-for-30 series started with the story of Wayne Gretzky’s trade from Edmonton to the Los Angeles Kings and recently we got a heavy dose of the rivalry between the Lakers and Celtics. Boston, naturally, is another city that gets more attention than Philadelphia. So does Chicago and Miami and the University of Oklahoma.

There is a film entitled The Real Rocky, but that focuses more on a guy from North Jersey – the Bayonne Bleeder, Chuck Wepner — than the fictional character from Philadelphia.

All the documentaries are well done, which is why I wish ESPN would tell some Philadelphia stories.

Ken Burns was guilty of Philadelphia neglect in his Baseball documentary, too.

HBO did a terrific documentary on the Broad Street Bullies in 2010 and the NFL Network has done some solid work on Philadelphia subjects, but the league’s film-making ability was much better when it was in the brilliant hands and minds of the late Sabols, Steve and Ed.

Most disappointing is that our local version of ESPN has not picked up the slack and created an archive of quality videos detailing the fascinating history of Philadelphia sports. Given the tax breaks Comcast has received from the city, not to mention the ridiculous cost of cable television, it should be the company’s civic duty to produce better programming.

The Baker League Movie was a step in the right direction, but the recent airings of Iverson’s early career is nothing but cheap, poorly done programming. If you want to tell an Iverson story, report it and tell it with the same quality ESPN does on all its subjects unrelated to Philadelphia.

Wouldn’t you love to see a well-done history of the Sixers-Celtics rivalry? It might not match the Lakers-Celtics, but it is pretty darn good.

Wouldn’t a tale about the life and times of the 1993 Phillies that detailed that magical season and what has happened to the players since be riveting?

Charlie Manuel’s fascinating tenure with the Phillies would surely attract viewers. There are endless subjects waiting to be addressed.

Time’s yours CSN Philly. Please use it to give us some better programming regarding the past.