|"Beat Notre Dame." - Jimmy Johnson|
To me, sports has always served as the perfect purveyor of life. Sports is life. So, in essence, life is sports. Within many of the greatest sports stories ever, there are countless lessons to be applied in life. ESPN's award-winning documentary series 30 For 30 reveals such lessons across the sporting landscape in compelling, barbershop-like storytelling fashion.
The U, for example. One of my favorites. Directed by Billy Corben, it documents the racial and cultural shift that transpired throughout the riotous inner-city streets of Miami, Florida, revealed to the world via then-relatively unknown University of Miami football team. In '79, during the time when predominantly white Coral Gables school rarely recruited disenfranchised youths to participate in the program, newly-hired coach Howard Schnellenberger begged to differ. He recruited "football players," regardless of ethnicity, troubling backgrounds or biases against the negative aspects of one's culture, which stood as the complete opposite of what U of M and fellow Division I college football programs had done beforehand. These extremely talented, yet rough-around-the-edges types of players either signed with historically black colleges or bucked college, altogether. Schnellenberger embraced the locals. The locals embraced him.
Five years later, the underdog 'Canes strode into the '84 Orange Bowl and left as National Champions, after a stunning victory over heavily-favored and defending champion Nebraska Cornhuskers, winners of twenty-two consecutive football games. The Miami Hurricanes had arrived.
Although Schnellenberger left the university shortly afterward for greener pastures of a pro football coaching position, the seed had already been planted. The stage, set. No longer was it a laughing matter of local Burger King food chains giving away free tickets to Miami football games to help struggling attendance. Now, fans wanted to attend just as much as high school seniors. So much in fact that, from '83 to '91, the 'Canes football program ran roughshod, completely dominating a pyre of media darlings such as Notre Dame, Nebraska, and Oklahoma along the way. Aside from routine off-the-field problems, the 'Canes bore a bigger, stronger, faster, swarming, arrogant collection of athletes, refusing to compromise bravado. Jimmy Johnson, who succeeded Schnellenberger, quickly implemented pro-styled offenses and defenses upon his arrival and publicly encouraged the take-no-prisoners mentality.
Whereas national media maintains a conventional angle towards whatever the camera lenses are focused upon, ESPN Films allowed directors to pinpoint narratives, offer first-hand accounts. If you're anything like the media, and believe in a snow white power structure, then everything about those 'Canes teams left a terrible feeling in the pit of your stomach. The nerves, you insisted. If you've ever resided in an economically-challenged, gold teeth, gold chain-wearing, 2 Live Crew music-loving area and often viewed as second-class citizens, then, for once, it felt good to witness one of your kind standing atop The Big Stage reppin' the hood. You understood the fact that in America there is such a thing as status quo and, despite whatever successes, certain individuals will never be accepted. That's just the way it is. So whenever the opportunity arises to stick it to status quo, then you do, and you stick it good. How? By simply being yourself. Why? Because you can. And if you happen to change the face of not only college football, but the entire culture, then more power to you.
In the end, after all is said and done, it might possibly be the one thing which cannot be taken away.
That is Sports. That is Life. That is The U.
Question: what is your favorite 30 for 30 episode?