Sports’s not about sport, it’s about politics, passion and emotion, says streaming columnist NICK OVERALL.
EARLIER this year, Netflix’s “The Last Dance” made a massive slam-dunk in the streaming world.
It’s the brilliant basketball documentary series following the Chicago Bulls and the story of Michael Jordan progressing from high-school promise to global household name.
Across the streaming world more widely though, we can see the rise in viewing of sporting documentaries, especially after the success of the Netflix production. This week I’ve dug more into the sub-genre and what’s on offer makes for some fantastic viewing.
As a self-confessed cricket nut, I was captivated by “The Test: a new era for Australia’s team”. It’s an eight-part documentary series on Amazon Prime exploring the aftermath of the infamous “sandpapergate” scandal, where legends of the game, Bancroft, Smith and Warner were seen trying to alter the condition of the ball in a series against South Africa.
“The Test” is the story of the team that rose from the ashes of the controversy and how it, along with Cricket Australia, fought to win back fans and the respect of the world.
What we’re met with behind the scenes is a fascinatingly far cry from what we see on commercial television. The intensity of the game and just how demanding it can be on a team is shown in all its detail.
But of course, much like life itself, the lowest of the lows come with the highest of the highs. Seeing the team slowly claw its way back up the slippery ladder of success and the celebration that comes with it makes for an inspiring and rewarding story.
In one particularly touching moment, we see the Aussies visit the Western Front on a tour of Europe and they reflect on the way that men of their age were once involved in a fight of far more import, for their country and each other, but still brothers in arms, albeit facing different struggles.
It’s not all cricket, though. If football (soccer) interests you more, Amazon has another ongoing series titled “All or Nothing”. Across different seasons, this offers a look at the passion, dedication and skill involved with teams of the English Premier League.
One season focuses on Manchester City and the gruelling practice and preparation that goes into holding a spot in one of the most intensely competitive clubs in the world.
The second and more recent season shifts to Tottenham Hotspur and the story of one of its most defining seasons in the history of the game. Particularly, a focus is given to the then new manager José Mourinho and how he came to be considered one of the greatest managers of all time.
In the area of less conventional sports, Disney+ has “Free Solo”, a gripping account of the story of Alex Honnold and how, without the assistance of any ropes or safety harnesses, he dared to climb a 900-metre vertical rock face, entirely captured by a camera crew.
It is nail-biting, eye-popping stuff and the film digs deeper than just the feat itself. We get to see the psychology of Honnold, his upbringing and how he got interested in the quaint idea of climbing cliffs without safety ropes.
Fascinating as well is how the documentary examines the feasibility of a relationship when a partner’s hobby involves a good chance of his not coming home at the end.
No matter any interest in sport, or any one code, the excellence in production of these documentaries offers more than just insight into the games they capture. To be found is an exploration of resilience, independence, politics, competitiveness, winning, losing and just about every human emotion that makes up our lives. What sport is all about, really.
We, the viewer, may not be playing sport internationally or climbing mountains, but the relatability and inspiration that can be found in these stories have the ability to teach us all something new.
More of Nick Overall on Twitter @nick_overall