Sports TV News
ESPN Films Announces New 30 For 30 Projects
ESPN Films today announced several new 30 for 30 projects including documentaries on the ’85 Chicago Bears and the Duke lacrosse scandal, and the group’s first-ever miniseries event, “OJ: Made in America.” The third volume of the award-winning and critically acclaimed 30 for 30series will continue with the premiere of “The ‘85 Bears” on Thursday, Feb. 4, at 9 p.m. ET, followed by “Fantastic Lies” on Sunday, March 13, at 9 p.m. ET, both on ESPN. “OJ: Made in America” will debut in June.
“30 for 30 strives to be the gold standard of sports storytelling and continues to deliver thought-provoking documentaries that give viewers a unique point of view into a particular story,” said Connor Schell, senior vice president, ESPN Films and Original Content. “The projects coming in 2016 showcase some of our most ambitious work to date and we’re proud to work with this diverse group of incredible filmmakers who have again raised the bar when it comes to high quality storytelling.”
“The ’85 Bears,” directed by Emmy Award winner Jason Hehir (“The Fab Five”) and executive produced by Vince Vaughn and Peter Billingsley, will look at perhaps the most famous football team of all-time – the Super Bowl XX champion Chicago Bears – on the 30th anniversary of their epic triumph. The birth of Buddy Ryan’s 46 Defense, the sweet-revenge victory over the 49ers, the loss to the Dolphins that ruined their perfect season and the “Super Bowl Shuffle” that was filmed the day after, are all topics explored in this film about a group of misfits who became the toast of football.
“Fantastic Lies” will return to the night of March 13, 2006, when Duke University lacrosse players threw a team party that ended up changing lives, ruining careers, tarnishing a university’s reputation and even jeopardizing the future of the sport at the school. The film, from acclaimed director Marina Zenovich (“Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired”), will premiere on the 10th anniversary of the party that ignited what became a national firestorm and resulted in a highly-charged legal investigation. Usually confined to the sports section, lacrosse suddenly appeared on the front pages of newspapers because of the lurid details of the case and the hot buttons that it pushed: sex, race, class, violence.
“Our first two films of the year highlight the diversity of topics that we seek with the 30 for 30series,” says John Dahl, ESPN Films Vice President and Executive Producer. “The Bears film offers a fresh yet nostalgic look at one of the most iconic teams in NFL history while the hard-hitting “Fantastic Lies” goes far beyond the playing field with an examination of how multiple factors led to a miscarriage of justice.”
Another 30 for 30 film premiering in April will look back on the electrifying Orlando Magic of the mid-90s, directed by Erin Leyden (“The 99ers”) and Gentry Kirby and executive produced by Penny Hardaway and Shaquille O’Neal. Coming this summer, directors Judd Apatow (“Trainwreck,” “This Is 40”) and Michael Bonfiglio (“You Don’t Know Bo”) will explore the connection between the lives and careers of former New York Mets superstars Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden (executive produced by Radical Media’s Dave O’Connor and Justin Wilkes).
Also this year, ESPN Films will debut the group’s most ambitious project to date, “OJ: Made in America.” The five-part documentary is a miniseries event and the first episodic documentary by ESPN Films, starting a new chapter for the 30 for 30 brand. Directed by Peabody and Emmy winner Ezra Edelman, “OJ: Made in America” examines the history of race over the last several decades through the lens of OJ Simpson’s rise and fall.
It is perhaps the defining cultural tale of 20th-century America, one that centers around two of our country’s greatest fixations: race and celebrity. “OJ: Made in America” will explore these themes in tracing a personal journey, from how Orenthal James Simpson first became a football star, to why the country fell in love with him off the field, to his being accused of murdering his ex-wife and his subsequent acquittal and why he is now sitting in jail 20 years later for another crime. This 10-hour epic will have its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on January 22 and will debut on television in five parts in June.
Schell said, “’OJ: Made in America’ is unlike anything ESPN Films has done before and Ezra’s phenomenal work has taken one man’s story and, through it, explored the topics of celebrity, sports, police brutality, race relations and domestic violence.”
Jason Barrett is the owner and operator of Barrett Sports Media. Prior to launching BSM he served as a sports radio programmer, launching brands such as 95.7 The Game in San Francisco and 101 ESPN in St. Louis. He has also produced national shows for ESPN Radio including GameNight and the Dan Patrick Show. You can find him on Twitter @SportsRadioPD or reach him by email at JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com.
Sports TV News
Mike Breen: My Dream Was to Be a DJ at WPLJ
“I enjoyed being on the air and talking. So my initial thought was, ‘I’m going to be a disc jockey.’”
These days, WPLJ in New York City is a Christian station owned by the Educational Media Foundation. When Mike Breen was a kid in Yonkers though, it was one of the most influential rock stations in America and the man who is now known as the voice of the NBA wanted to be on the air there.
On the latest edition of Dan Le Batard’s South Beach Sessions podcast, Breen revealed that he always loved sports. His first introduction to broadcasting though came from a neighbor named Tony Minecola. He was a few years older than Breen and studying to be a radio broadcaster in college.
“He built a radio station in his basement and played disc jockey,” Breen told Le Batard. “’He had commercials, records, you know, everything. Like it was a real radio station, only it only went from one room to the next. That was what he was into, and that’s what he was going to college for. And we used to hang out in the basement all the time. And one day he says, ‘Hey, why don’t you come in? You want to you want to be the DJ for a little bit?’ And I’m like, okay, let me try it.’ And I fell in love with it.”
Mike Breen didn’t just fall in love with the idea of radio. He saw it as a viable career and knew exactly where he wanted it to take him.
“I enjoyed being on the air and talking. So my initial thought was, ‘I’m going to be a disc jockey.’ WPLJ was like the big rock station in New York back at that time, and I thought, ‘I’m going to be a DJ on WPLJ.’ That was my first goal.
Through the 70s and early 80s, WPLJ was an album rock station. Some of its most iconic on air personalities included Carol Miller, Pat St. John, Fr. Bill Ayers, and Mark Goodman, who was eventually one of MTV’s original VJs.
Breen said he loved the rock music of the time, especially Jethro Tull and Bruce Springsteen, but he realized that a broadcasting career could keep him close to sports too.
Obviously, he chose well. That is not to say that he couldn’t have been a great DJ if given the chance, but he went on to be the voice of the New York Knicks and has called more NBA Finals games than anyone else in history.
WPLJ was out of the rock business by 1983 when it became a pop station.
Sports TV News
New Episodes of Beyond Limits Coming to CBS Sports
The series, which first premiered in September 2021, is produced by the CBS Sports Race and Culture Unit, with senior producer Sarah M. Kazadi.
CBS Sports is set to premiere new episodes of its franchise Beyond Limits, which celebrates athletes who go beyond the implicit boundaries of sports and society. Three half-hour episodes will be hosted by CBS Sports reporter AJ Ross, and will also air on CBS’ linear channel and stream live on Paramount+.
The first episode of the season is titled “Who I Am,” and it will feature Byron Perkins, who is the first openly gay football player at a historically black college or university (HBCU). Perkins is a redshirt senior at Hampton University. The show will also discuss the relationship he has with his mother and how she has impacted him both as a person and an athlete.
Two more episodes will premiere throughout the season – one on making sports adaptable and accessible; and the other featuring athletes who have moved into executive roles. The latter show includes interviews with NBA Executive Vice President and Head of Basketball Operations, Joe Dumars; New Orleans Pelicans Vice President of Basketball Operations and Team Development, Swin Cash; and NFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations, Troy Vincent.
The series, which first premiered in September 2021, is produced by the CBS Sports Race and Culture Unit, with senior producer Sarah M. Kazadi. Its first episode premieres on Sunday, June 11 at 1:30 p.m. EST/10:30 a.m. PST, and should provide fans with unique storytelling and spotlight into the journeys of various key figures in sports and media alike.
Sports TV News
ESPN Colleagues Pay Tribute to Neil Everett
“It was universal praise from the people that knew and worked with Everett.”
Neil Everett has become one of the faces of SportsCenter. After 23 years at ESPN, he announced that he is leaving the network.
Colleagues at the World Wide Leader took to Twitter to share their thoughts. It was universal praise from the people that knew and worked with Everett. Chief among them was his SportsCenter partner of fourteen years, Stan Verrett.
If Root Sports Northwest requires references, there are plenty ESPN colleagues past and present that were immediately ready to vouch for Neil Everett.
Everett was not laid off. He turned down a new contract that would have forced him to take a pay cut.
The Walt Disney Company is in the middle of layoffs effecting every division. CEO Bob Iger has tasked his leaders with reducing costs by $5.5 billion and cutting 7000 jobs.