Hot Docs Festival: Sport Films

So here we are again one year later! Hot Docs: Canadian International Documentary Film Festival is back and just as good as ever. From opening night on April 28 to the final day on May 8 there are ample movies to choose from. Below are sport documentaries that are sure to be riveting. (All film synopses courtesy of Hot Docs. For the full schedule and showtimes, as well as costs visit the festival website:

GLEASON – USA – 110 mins
At age 34, former NFL defensive back and New Orleans hero Steve Gleason was diagnosed with ALS. With limited time left to live, he purposefully records his spirited and inspiring life .

Part riveting biopic, part legal thriller, this five-episode series from the makers of ESPN’s legendary 30 for 30 program brings new perspectives and unprecedented access to the complex story of America’s most famous murder trial.

Run away and join the circus performers – acrobats, trapeze artists, clowns and even horses – who’ve retired to Sarasota, forming a close-knit community of larger than life personalities that continue to defy gravity long after the thrills of the Big Top have ended.

GUN RUNNERS – Canada – 90 mins
Two of the most notorious warriors in Kenya’s magnificent Great Rift Valley trade in their AK-47s for sneakers and a chance to make their living as professional marathon runners in this powerful story of friendship, rivalry and sport.

A charming group of misfit skateboarders navigate the Georgian capital of Tbilisi seeking their place in the magical, dark and confining city that’s steeped in Soviet history and a conservative religion that’s completely at odds with their non-conformist outlook.

HIT IT HARD – USA – 51 mins
Meet the hyper-talented and unpredictable “rock star of golf” John Daly as he reflects on the chard-earned lessons of his incredible career: from winning two major tournaments despite being only self-taught, to facing the destructive lows of his addictions.

HOOP DREAMS – USA – 176 mins
This seminal and award-winning game changer tells the story of two Chicago inner-city basketball prodigies struggling with institutions that hold up unreasonable expectations and ignore the colossal burden carried on their young shoulders.

In his hometown of Hampton, Virginia, Steve James revisits the racially charged trial and conviction of high school basketball star Allen Iverson, which brought bubbling rancor to the surface and still haunts its residents.


Boy On Ice: The Life and Death of Derek Boogaard is RIVETING

As part of my reading escapade, I’ve been feverishly reading through Boy On Ice by John Branch, an award-winning sports journalist for the New York Times.

Boy On Ice chronicles the hockey career of Derek Boogaard, an awkward, shy, marginally talented kid from Saskatchewan who, because of his strength and size, was drafted into the NHL as an enforcer. This role, the horrific injuries that accumulated during on-ice fights, and the negligence displayed by NHL staff, led to his self-medication with, and addiction to, prescription drugs. In 2011, a year after signing with the New York Rangers, Boogaard overdosed on a combination of drugs and alcohol – he was 28. His family was devastated and in 2013 filed a lawsuit against the NHL. Just last year, charges were laid in connection with Boogaard’s death.

The book uses Boogaard’s life story as a case study of what can commonly happen to enforcers in the NHL. Branch integrates interviews with family, former teammates and enforcers, as well as history about the role of fighting and violence in professional hockey that has made “the enforcer” a peculiar, misunderstood, dangerous and tragic role.

An essential read for hockey fans or anyone who views sports through a critical and complex lense.

Sports Journalism: Gender Stirs It Up

Does anyone remember when Don Cherry said, live on CBC: Hockey Night in Canada in Spring 2013, that “I don’t believe women should be in the male dressing room”? And Ron MacLean reacted in embarrassment and total disagreement?

Cherry’s comments caused controversy because so much has changed and not changed. There are women who work in sports journalism and play sports and are good at both. Why the controversy over their presence? Is it because they disrupt people’s notions of what’s right and wrong in sports journalism and in regards to gender norms? Or is it because men just want to set the terms, expectations, and rules of sports journalism, and not be challenged by women to grow up, EVOLVE?

Whatever the reasons, women have every right to participate in all areas of sports journalism.

Sports Illustrated (SI) recently wrote about Fox’s decision to replace Pam Oliver, a seasoned NFL sports reporter, with Erin Andrews (who notices the differences in Wikipedia’s profiles of Oliver and Andrews? I do). Oliver, who has been working as an NFL sideline reporter for 20 years, was replaced/demoted due to “restructuring”, “rebranding”, whatever.

Yet as SI notes: “removing the well-regarded and well-connected Oliver from the No. 1 team, not to mention initially wanting her out of sideline reporting altogether, seems counter to what a sports network should want in an NFL reporter. Why the decision to make the switch? … A veteran NFL reporter -– who has worked in television and asked for anonymity -– offered another reason. ‘She’s not blonde, nor is she in the demographic,’ said the reporter. ‘I’m not naïve and I understand it’s a business, but I think that Fox did not treat her as befits a woman who has been the female face of their sports operation for the past 19 years’”.

When I googled women sports reporters what came up was a series of articles and lists of the hottest women sports reporters. How gross and insulting. Period. No other way to swing this – women are valued for their beauty, and if they’re smart on top of that, well great, but not the most important thing, if at all! Ugh.

The Bleacher Report has a list of the most popular women sports reporters. Notice a few trends?

Kate Fagan, a writer for ESPN, was interviewed about this by the Huffington Post. Fagan gets right to the point by saying: “I make a concerted effort to tweet stories written by women, to respond to emails and engage with other women in the business so that as we each grow in our careers, we have this circle and network around us and we’re not relying on the men above us to be the sole definition of our careers”.

Because if women were to solely rely on men for their advancement, they would be stuck…glass ceiling styles. That’s why it’s so important for women to support each other and advocate for diversity and access. Because if we don’t, outdated and superficial expectations are projected onto us, like, we don’t belong in men’s locker rooms or we don’t know shit about sports or we’re only watchable if we’re “beautiful” or “sexy” in a conventional way.

For anyone who thinks this, or like this, of women…you are a dinosaur.