Coronavirus: 12 sports documentaries to watch while quarantined during COVID-19 outbreak


Among the many things people will miss out on because of the sports world coming to a complete halt as a result of the coronavirus includes the unscripted drama and stories that emerge from professionals playing these games for the fans’ entertainment. But while new chapters in the stories of each sport have been put on hold, those that have already been written are still quite riveting.

So many of the greatest moments and big picture tales from all over the world have been archived in the form of documentaries that are available to watch now through various streaming services. Some focus on the build up to one particular match, game or moment, while others focus on the societal impacts that sports had in a town, city or country. They even also alternate between subjects that have near-fairy tale endings of success, and those that are either open-ended or result in failure.

As fans wait for the return of live sports, here are some documentaries that will not only help pass the time during self isolation but also maybe help some people get a better understanding of the game they love.

42 to 1 (2018)

This documentary tells the story one of the greatest upsets in sports history, when Buster Douglas knocked out Mike Tyson in the 10th round of what should have been a tune-up fight for the then-undisputed heavyweight champion. The title, 42 to 1, references the betting odds given to Douglas by The Mirage, the only casino to create odds for the fight.

The Class of ’92 (2013)

This British documentary focuses on the six standout players of Manchester United’s renowned Class of 1992 which includes David Beckham, Nicky Butt, Ryan Giggs, Gary Neville, Phil Neville and Paul Scholes. The film follows the group’s history from a youth cup victory in the titular year through United’s 1999 season where they won the Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League from the perspective of the now ex-players. The Class of ’92 also places all the on-field occurrences for the players at the time in the context of how Manchester was shifting culturally during that decade.

Free Solo (2018)

Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin profile rock climber Alex Honnold as he prepares to free solo climb El Capitan, an over 3,000-foot tall cliff in Yosemite. The documentary itself follows Honnold over the course of two years as he prepares for this incredibly dangerous task while tackling subjects like the danger of this pastime, Honnold’s relationship with his girlfriend, Sanni McCandless–which naturally gets pushed to the brink with this Captain Ahab-like goal of his–and the looming specter of Honnold’s potential death begin caught on camera.

Hoop Dreams (1994)

Arguably the greatest basketball film of all time, Hoop Dreams is the story of William Gates and Arthur Agee, two black teenagers from Chicago, who have ambitions of making it to the NBA and get recruited to a predominantly white high school to get more attention from colleges. While neither subject’s name will stand out to anyone who has not already watched the film, the way this documentary broaches the issues of race, socioeconomic issues and American educational values make it beyond compelling.

Icarus (2017)

Bryan Fogel’s dive into illegal doping in sports somehow uncovered a state-sponsored program for Russia’s Olympic team that allowed for athletes representing that country to covertly cheat in sporting events dating back to the 1960s. As one might expect when one of the largest cheating operations in sports history gets uncovered, the drama mostly comes from a fear for whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov’s safety.

Knuckleball! (2012)

Back in 2011, there were only two notable knuckleballers in Major League Baseball: Tim Wakefield and R.A. Dickey. Directors Ricki Stern and Anne Sundberg capture the season of each pitcher, who are in very different places in their respective careers. Wakefield was already an established name with an established reputation of being a knuckleball thrower, and in his final season trying desperately to get the 200th win of his career, with his own team suffering the consequences of his failed attempts. Dickey was working on making a full-on return to the big leagues after adding the knuckleball to his repertoire proved to give him considerably more success on the mound. The documentary covers the lives of both athletes along with the history and reputation of the knuckleball.

Mike and the Mad Dog (2017)

A fascinating look into the progenitor of what sports talk radio is today, Mike and the Mad Dog plots the rise and unfortunate fall of the titular radio show hosted by Mike Francesa and Chris “Mad Dog” Russo. The film is filled with older clips of the glory days of the show and sees how the two have carried on up to that point in each of their lives.

OJ: Made In America (2016)

This five-part documentary series uses O.J. Simpson as the lens to view American life with regard to race and celebrity. The series follows the life of the former running back from his childhood and glory days at USC to his famous murder trial, police chase in the white bronco and his Las Vegas robbery that gave him his most recent stint in prison. All of that is explored while images of what was going on with race relations in the country are interpolated within his story.

Survive and Advance (2013) 

In one of the greatest runs in college basketball history, NC State coach Jim Valvano led his team through nine win-or-go-home games that eventually resulted in a surprise upset in the NCAA title game against a No. 1-seed University of Houston squad that included Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler. The story of the leader of the unlikeliest champions ever turned tragic when Valvano was diagnosed with cancer, but is briefly able to put together an inspiring speech that has a message which still powerfully rings true for many today: “Don’t give up, don’t ever give up.”

The U Parts 1 and 2 (2009, 2014)

Whether you’re interested in learning more about two of the most swagger-filled generations of college football the University of Miami–or even the sport, for that matter–had ever seen, or you just want to enjoy the schadenfreude of witnessing the crushing fall from grace after the team’s braggadocios ascent, the first and second versions of The U 30 for 30 seem to have something for every college football fan.

Without Bias (2009)

Len Bias was destined for greatness after four spectacular years playing for the University of Maryland, as the Boston Celtics drafted one of college basketball’s most talented players as the heir apparent to their aging core, and specifically a successor to Larry Bird. But that destiny never came to fruition as Bias died from a drug overdose shortly after his professional dreams came true. The Kirk Fraser-directed documentary explores Bias’s life, death and the cultural impact the two had on the community and the country.

You Don’t Know Bo (2012)

Bo Jackson is the last athlete whose childhood is filled with believable yet unconfirmed tall tales that refer to his superior athletic ability. Michael Bonfiglio uses You Don’t Know Bo to dissect the facts of Jackson’s accomplishments and feats, while also analyzing the larger than life figure that consumed pop culture during his all-to-brief reign as the most dominant two-sport athlete in the country.





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