Tuesday, November 23, 2010

ESPN 30 For 30: The Best That Never Was

Running on the treadmill, I watched The Best That Never Was over a couple of different nights. This is the twenty-ninth and next to last installment of ESPN's 30 for 30 film series. The Best That Never Was is the story of football star Marcus Dupree.

Marcus Dupree was raised in Philadelphia, Mississippi. This town is notorious for the murder of three civil rights workers in 1964. The movie Mississippi Burning was based on these murders. About the town, Martin Luther King actually said "This is a terrible town, the worst I've seen." Before starting to examine Dupree's career, the film explores the history of the city.

Marcus Dupree was one of the most highly recruited high school athletes ever. Willie Morris wrote a novel about the process called The Courting of Marcus Dupree. I have brought an electronic copy of the book for Kindle on my iPad that I have started to read.

The never before seen footage of Dupree playing high school football in Philadelphia is amazing. It literally looks like a man playing amongst boys. They claim that he returned every kick-off for a touchdown. The footage from his first year at Oklahoma is equally amazing.

From there, things start to go wrong. Dupree drops out in his sophomore year at Oklahoma, plays the 1984 and part of the 1985 season with the USFL New Orleans and Portland Breakers and then after 5 years away from football played the 1990 and 1991 seasons with the Los Angeles Rams.

This is one of the few films in the 30 for 30 series that is two hours in length. Nevertheless, it does not drag; there is a lot of ground to cover in the game footage and the interviews with the key people. I was particularly intrigued by the interviews with Barry Switzer; he was coach at Oklahoma when Dupree was there. I am not sure that I would buy a used car from Switzer.

Like a number of the 30 for 30 films, this was a story that I really did not know very much about. I enjoyed it and would place it in the top half of the 30 for 30 films.

Bill Simmons did a podcast with the Jonathan Hock, the film's producer, that is a nice supplement to the documentary.

The film is available on Amazon.

The Best That Never Was is also available on iTunes.

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