ESPN's "30 For 30" series of documentary films is a welcome holiday gift, particularly for sports fans who grew up with the fledgling cable network in the '80s.
The series, which presents 30 sports documentaries to celebrate the network's 30th anniversary year, is the brainchild of ESPN.com columnist Bill Simmons. It taps noteworthy directors to tell the stories of Jimmy the Greek, the USFL, the death of Len Bias and the deal that brought Wayne Gretzky to Los Angeles.
And if you happened to be among the 38,646 fans at Camp Randall Stadium on Sept. 9, 1989, to see the Miami Hurricanes taunt and intimidate their way to a 51-3 trouncing of the Badgers, you'll be interested in the series' latest offering, The U.
True-crime documentarian Billy Corben produces the film, interviewing dozens of players from the Miami teams that won national titles in 1983, 1987, 1989 and 1991. As college football fans of a certain age will remember, those teams defined brash.
"We came out of the tunnel looking to start a fight," says one of the players. "It's called swagger," says another.
The film doesn't defend the antics, and the players, 20-plus years removed, offer no apologies. Corben places the program's ethos in the context of Miami in the '80s, when race riots, cocaine wars and the arrival of Cuban refugees were in the headlines.
Of course, Wisconsin faces Miami in the Champs Sports Bowl on Dec. 29 in Orlando. The U can be seen two days earlier, on Sunday, Dec. 27, at noon on ESPN.