‘Broke’: ’30 for 30′ Returns to ESPN on 2 October

“These players compete in everything,” says Herm Edwards, “That’s why they’re successful.” And according to Broke, it’s also one reason why some are unsuccessful when it comes to keeping hold of their fortunes. Re-launching EPSN’s brilliant documentary series, 30 for 30, Billy Corben’s documentary is essentially a series of interviews with raft of players, agents, money managers, and even a coach (that would be Edwards), recounting the effects of money on their lives.

The film takes on the bling-blingy look of Master P and Cash Money’s CD art from the early ’90s, with bills and cheesy fire effects as backgrounds. The athletes — all men, from the NFL, NBA, and MLB — describe their great wealth and their bad choices, their excessive consumption of cars and women and jewelry. Former small forward Jamal Mashburn puts it this way: “Those fat rope chains people used to have on their necks were the only way that they could say they were successful.” This sounds short-sighted now, and that’s his point, that kids from poor backgrounds believed they needed to show their new wealth, and as they did so, they essentially threw their money away. “We were draped… that was the word… we were draped in ‘jewry,'” remembers former wide receiver Andre Rison (he also remembers here being engaged to Lisa Left Eye Lopes, who infamously burned down his house, a vivid literalization of the film’s cautions).

Smart and splashy, the film is divided into very general and mostly predictable chapters (“Keeping Up With the Joneses,” “Hustler’s Paradise,” “Who Can You Trust?”), tracking patterns of excess from the moment when contracts “exploded” and 21-year-old kids were suddenly transformed into veritable CEOs, with no training and precious little good advice. The pattern persists, as stars ranging from Curt Schilling to Michael Vick to Vince Young sign contracts — with teams and also with companies like Nike, McDonalds, and UnderArmour — continue to lose all. Again and again, the film shows, athletes are tapped by family members and ever-expanding “entourages,” besieged by baby-mamas, and convinced to invest in ridiculous schemes (music companies, tomato farms, strip clubs). And again and again, they don’t plan ahead: the film alludes briefly to the costs they don’t anticipate, including medical expenses “associated with the types of injuries you might sustain.”

“Everybody wants to be rich,” says Nick Van Exel, appearing in archival footage. As pretty as that picture seems, not everyone wants to think about what it means or how to manage it.

RATING 6 / 10