One benefit of watching a sports documentary is that you don’t need to be an avid fan to glean information. The history of the tragic 9/11 events, for instance, is common knowledge. But adding an extra layer of how the 2001 World Series impacted New York City residents is particularly poignant.
Likewise, stepping back and taking an objective look at OJ Simpson adds another dimension to the story that played out 25 years ago. These are three of the most fascinating sports documentaries in recent years.
1. Nine Innings From Ground Zero
In the months after the tragic events of September 11, 2001, the World Series provided a sense of normalcy for a city that was completely devastated. HBO’s documentary details how both the New York Mets and Yankees were instrumental in returning to business as usual.
Team members, managers, and owners were proactive in community involvement. Whether it was answering letters, showing up to surprise fans, or handing out water bottles, team t-shirts, and supplies, New York’s beloved MLB teams pitched in to lend support.
Nine Innings from Ground Zero, however, specifically depicts the Yankees’ bid for the World Series’ trophy. As the team battled the Arizona Diamondbacks into November, the film captures not only the recovery process, but the resilience and determination of a city brought to its knees.
While the Yankees were ultimately unsuccessful in the final outcome of the World Series, there were some heart-stopping moments in their pursuit. In the end, it’s a tale of respect and passion.
2. O.J.: Made in America
Tagged “The Trial of the Century,” O.J. Simpson’s 1995 trial for the murder of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman was one of the most polarizing in modern U.S. history.
Through film footage, and personal interviews with more than 70 of Simpson’s colleagues as well as those directly impacted by the events, ESPN captures the blistering hot commentary on race, domestic violence, and the American justice system.
Even for those who remember Simpson as USC’s 1968 Heisman Trophy winner or his record-breaking 2,003 rushing yards in the NFL, Simpson the man remained an enigma. The documentary details Simpson’s personal history as an impoverished youth growing up in San Francisco’s projects, his unique athletic talent, and his laser-focused drive.
The subtext to Simpson’s own personal determination is the parallel story of American culture that had every bit as much impact on his success and ultimate downfall as his own will. It’s in the defining and intertwining the elements of celebrity and entitlement that make O.J.: Made in America such a compelling story.
3. Dark Horse
If you’re a fan of underdog stories, the real-life tale of racehorse Dream Alliance and the working-class Welsh villagers who bred and supported him is one to watch.
One of the most class-defining sports has to be horse racing. A barmaid, who’d always had a dream of breeding a racehorse, isn’t deterred by the caste system. She convinces a dozen other working-class locals of the coal-mining town to combine resources and invest £300 to purchase a thoroughbred mare.
They finance the services of a stallion to work his magic, and as their dream becomes reality, Dream Alliance is born. Through a weekly £10 weekly allotment from each of the investors, the village’s thoroughbred is trained to eventually win the country’s pinnacle racing event, The Welsh Grand National.
It’s not a linear tale of success with a pot of gold waiting at the finish line. Instead, Dark Horse delivers a message about the power of community and overcoming obstacles.