Sports Documentaries

Over the weekend I finished watching a few DVDs I need to send to Kevin. Two of those were sports documentaries: Ken Burns’ Tenth Inning and Stevan Riley’s Fire in Babylon. Both are notable for using sport a a lens with which to examine social history.

There’s an interview with Burns in the extras for Tenth Inning in which he says he sees Baseball as a kind of sequel to his famous series about the American Civil War. Both of them are projects that examine American history. Tenth Inning fits right into that theory. Although it is fairly recent history, the Dot Com Boom and 9/11 are well worth historical examination, and once again baseball proves a fascinating lens through which to do so.

Fire in Babylon takes us to another part of the American continent, and another sport. It celebrates the creation and 15-year domination of the great West Indies test side. The stars of the show include Clive Lloyd, Viv Richards, Michael Holding and Bunny Wailer. I loved it, especially the extra that is made from a series of interviews with Sir Geoffrey, Lord Gower and Imran Khan where they talk about having to face up to the West Indies pace attack. If any of my American friends want to know why I think baseball players are a bit wussy (though I now understand the game much better than I did when I wrote this) they should watch this documentary.

A brief warning for my West Indian friends. There’s one extra that is an interview with cricket historian David Frith. He’s so smarmy and vile that you may end up wanting to punch your TV. I know I did. Thankfully the main film makes it very clear how West Indies developed their pace attack as a response to the physical battering they took from Lillee and Thomson, and the racist abuse they got from the Australian crowds, in 1975, and this exposes Frith’s comments beautifully.

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