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Friday, Feb 14, 2014
Both careful and compelling, Nan Burstein's film looks back on the rivalry between the golden girl Kerrigan and the hardscrabble Tony Harding as well as a number of related stories, not least being the TV coverage of every creepy or melodramatic moment.

The start of the Sochi Olympics has been attended by all sorts of stories, sensational and informative, trivial and jingoistic. Some of these stories you might expect, like the security concerns, the new sports, or the hottest athletes, you may also have seen some that are more sobering, say, the stray dogs of the anniversary of Nodar Kumaritashvili’s death. Among the stories you might not have expected—or might rather not revisit—is occasioned by another anniversary, namely, the 20 years that have passed since the attack on Nancy Kerrigan.


While it’s easy enough to fall into tabloidy versions of this revisiting—helped along by Kerrigan’s new gig as a commentator for NBC—it may be more enlightening to reconsider the event by watching 30 for 30: The Price of Gold, now available on Netflix. Both careful and compelling, Nan Burstein’s film looks back on the rivalry between the golden girl Kerrigan and the hardscrabble Tony Harding as well as a number of related stories, not least being the TV coverage of every creepy or melodramatic moment. To that end, it offers a number of perspectives, primarily Harding’s, but also Kerrigan’s husband and manager, Jerry Solomon (Kerrigan herself declined to be interviewed for the film), as well as other skaters, coaches, and reporters, as well as Harding’s childhood friend. What emerges is a remarkable saga having to do with the vagaries of figure skating as sport, art, and industry, entrenched in all manner of corporate and commercial structures focused on selling product—from the Olympics per se to hair products to breakfast cereal. It’s an insight too often obscured by the lingering hysteria over Harding and Kerrigan.


See PopMatters’ review.



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Monday, Feb 3, 2014
Despite high expectations, TV’s biggest event didn’t bowl us over.

Super Bowl XLVIII was the highest rated event in the history of television, meaning that a lot of people who don’t watch football on a regular basis were watching. While we don’t know this year’s numbers yet, but the average musical performances, (mostly) underwhelming commercials, and stilted game probably left many viewers feel a little cheated.


Not everyone was able to see the full event, however, so here is PopMatters’ recap of what happened when.


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Tuesday, Aug 20, 2013
The 1999 FIFA Women's World Cup winners reunite and reminisce in this commemorative documentary.

“They are the best known group of unknown women ever to captivate America,” announces Tom Brokaw at the start of The ‘99ers. Premiering 20 August on ESPN, Erin Leydon’s documentary looks back on the moment when the US women’s soccer team made themselves known—everywhere. While the precise moment might be named—July 10, 1999, when the team beat China to win the World Cup at the Rose Bowl, the metaphorical moment is broader, more resonant, even timeless. The film is structured around a gathering of eight of the players, including this film’s producer Julie Foudy, captain Carla Oberbeck, and Brandy Chastain, the one who took her shirt off. They walk back into the stadium and plop down on the turf, laughing and growing tearful over memories of their campaign, over years, to build support for the sport in the US, to achieve their own excellence as a group, and to weather their own storms, from Michelle Akers’ chronic fatigue to Mia Hamm’s reluctance to play the role of the media darling.


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Monday, Jun 3, 2013
The film captures the sheer joy and the sincere commitment players bring to the battle, their mutual appreciation and their deep understanding of history.

“Go hard or go home.” Looming against a blue sky and brick walls, Pee Wee Kirkland asserts, “We changed basketball.” Playing the game on outdoor courts in New York City, he and his fellows forged a new attitude, a new style. “It was about living up to what you said, it was street flavor basketball.” Indeed, the pick-up games he’s describing have shaped all of basketball, a point illustrated over the past couple of weeks during the Eastern Conference Finals between the Pacers and the Heat, characterized by impressively athletic, physical play and all manner of trash talk.


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Thursday, May 16, 2013
The documentary extols Wambach's hard work and talents, her strength and control, and her willingness and ability to play the women's game "like a man."

“You have to be willing to sacrifice everything,” says Katie Wano, “Because once you’re in the air, you have nothing to protect you.” Wano played with Abby Wambach at the University of Florida in Gainesville, and as she speaks, Abby Head On, illustrates just how thrilling and challenging the move can be. Airing as part of ESPN’s Storied series starting 15 May, the documentary celebrates Wambach’s many achievements and narrates her life story, with the sorts of images you might expect: photos of her childhood, the youngest of seven children growing up in PIttsford, New York, apparently competitive from the moment she could be, admiring talking heads, and swelling music on the soundtrack, or, during moments of seeming reflection, an earnest piano plink. Following a basic chronology, from Wambach’s high school stardom through college and then her triumphs as a professional player, the film notes the 2008 friendly game, the 32-year-old Wambach’s 200th, termed by narrator Jack Youngblood a “testament to her durability.” The film includes as well a particular test of that durability, when Wambach collided with another player in 2008 and broke her leg. While she takes it as a lesson that “You can’t get too emotional,” US women’s national team head coach Pia Sundhage remembers thinking, “Gold medal, here we go, off.” At the London games in 2012, the US women’s team does win, with Wambach making a dramatic header.


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