Tuesday, December 15, 2009

30 for 30: Da U

ESPN wrapped up the fall schedule of 30 for 30 documentaries with "Da U". It was by the director of "Cocaine Cowboys", and it was wonderful. The director had an original score done that was straight out of the 2 live crew bad 80s rap field. The interviews were with the three coaches who created, nurtured and cemented Da U's rep and the big names who contributed on the field. It was set up in a chronological manner. This really helped the narrative of sleepy football program that bursts onto the scene, builds on its success and becomes the flashiest, most notorious program in the nation.

The interviews involve all 3 coaches and prime time players. There are a couple of sports writers thrown in there, but this is not a documentary that has some key figures involved and then a bunch of old sportswriters talking about the person, team, event, or subject. Much gets tackled here: drugs, the city, the school, crime, riots, race, trash talking, dancing and yes, even football. Miami in the 80s is like NYC in the 70s. I'd love to have been able to float in a bubble like a ghost of Christmas past and view it.

What I never realized as a youngster was how so many of the players were homegrown talent right from south Florida. Coach Schnellenberger knew the level of talent in Florida, and went out of his way to keep that talent at home. I liked the little recruiting stories of how he'd leave his pipe, and how he'd go into the crappiest parts of Miami for recruiting visits. I'd like to know why non-Miami guys went to Da U or were drawn to Da U in the program's infancy. The program in the 80s had such a Miami flavor. The terrible fashion, gaudy jewelry, and blue blocker shades look really funny now, and I cannot believe anyone took these guys as cutting edge. Jimmy Johnson even mentions the fact that he dug Miami Vice and wanted to be on it. That's what some of the candids look like: Miami Vice set shots.

There is an element to this Miami 1980s era that is missing in many sports today: fun. USC football claims to have fun and be loose, but they have nothing on Da U in the 80s. They made up dances, coordinated celebrations, and continued their dancing on the sidelines. Pro sports are too businesslike, and the NCAA has reined in modern college football. College basketball has fun moments, but that's more from the wonderful crowds. Da U had players who could teach you dance moves after good plays. The only times I've seen a 'roger rabbit' dance move on a football field was by not 1, not 2, but 3 different Miami players. These guys are characters. Some are genuinely funny. My favorite quote might be "I remember Deion Sanders' jheri curl juice shaking all over the place" said in a deadpan delivery.
Director Billy Corben loved his city, loved his university and loved this team. It shows in this doc. I know it's asking too much, but if he could do a 2nd doc on the fall and rebirth of the program from 1994-now, I'd spit nickels. I'd buy this on DVD. This doc sets the bar pretty high for ESPN, and I doubt they can duplicate the fun and entertainment value this doc packed. I have high hopes for the Iverson, Reggie/Knicks, Chrissy/Martina and especially the one on "Charismatic". Charismatic was the horse that was one split foreleg from winning the Triple Crown, and if you watched the Belmont live that day and saw that jockey crying on the track and didn't tear up yourself, you don't have a heart. Sports are a silly diversion but somestimes they can make you feel emotion. Da U made people reacy strongly to their antics, attitude and play. I loved their fun, as did many other kids of the 80s, and am thankful to see the backstory to Da U in a doc. While I continuously dog ESPN for their lame hype machine and poor work, this 30 for 30 idea may be their greatest creation. Tahnk you ESPN, Corben and especially all of the coaches and players who gave their time and shared their memories.

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