With the coronavirus pandemic halting most of the sporting worlds. American sports fans are dying to eat up any sports content they can. This caused ESPN to release its hit 10-part documentary, The Last Dance, two months early. Now that the Michael Jordan series has aired its last episode, the network is looking for its next big hit. Could its Roy Halladay documentary be just that?
Why Roy Halladay?
Halladay had a 16-year career, as Baseball-Reference details, but his journey to greatness took several years after getting drafted in 1995. He spent the majority of his time in Major League Baseball with the Toronto Blue Jays, where he started as a relief pitcher.
There, he fought for several years to become a full-time starter for the club. That time came in 2002 when Halladay was an official member of the starting rotation for the Blue Jays. He started 34 games and went 19-7 during his first year as a starter.
By the following year, in which he started 36 games, Halladay had a 22-7 record on the mound and completed nine games. He was that year’s Cy Young winner. Over the next decade, Halladay became one of the most reliable arms in baseball. After 11 years in Toronto, however, Halladay was traded to Philadelphia. There, he had a late-career resurgence.
A second chapter for Halladay
In 2010, Halladay was 33 years old. While still a star pitcher, many presumed he was on the path to regression. He responded with one of his best seasons to date, pitching to a 21-10 record and 2.44 ERA. He pitched his only perfect game during the 2010 season and went on to pitch a postseason no-hitter in October.
His legacy was secure. Halladay pitched three more years, but after a rough 2013 season, he retired for good. A surefire Hall of Famer, Halladay was on the cusp of joining the exclusive club when tragedy struck. According to USA Today, he was piloting a private plane when it crashed off the coast of New Port Richey, Florida.
An autopsy later found traces of alcohol, morphine, amphetamine, and the sleep aid, Zolpidem. The baseball world was in shock. He was posthumously inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in January of 2019.
Hidden behind the perfect games and Hall of Fame performances was a man with demons, as Awful Announcing details. As the autopsy showed at the time of his death, Halladay had a pharmacy of pills in his system to combat his struggles. Always candid about his struggles, his widow, Brandy, spoke to his imperfections when accepting the honor on behalf of her late husband.
Halladay struggled with several mental health issues throughout his life, and the drugs he took to combat that may have played a part in his death. Like so many great documentaries, this one, called Imperfect, will show a beloved, but flawed athlete through the eyes of those who were around him. It is not meant to demonize him, but show that even the superstars we see on ESPN have demons like the rest of us. The documentary will air on ESPN on May 29.
ESPN’s documentary strategy
The Last Dance was a mega-hit. Offering a candid look inside Jordan’s final year in Chicago with the Bulls and interspersing it with highlights from his career, it was the most complete look at the most storied name in sports. In a world that was already starved for sports, ESPN made the right call moving the documentary from June to April to capitalize on the quarantine. It was a ratings smash.
The network hopes to keep up this success by releasing not only Imperfect but other documentaries about Bruce Lee, Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire, Lance Armstrong, and several other big names in the coming weeks, according to Deadline. None will likely have the impact of The Last Dance. But they could be the network’s key to ratings glory in a time when they cannot fall back on traditional live sports.