The conclusion of “The Last Dance” 10-part documentary on Michael Jordan is going to leave a big void in my television viewing. It was must-see programming with its behind-the scenes access.
Perhaps ESPN could milk it a little bit more and give us “Jordan: The Wizards Years.”
I’ll admit that I initially thought 10 parts might be excessive. Once again, I was wrong.
Is there anyone else who could hold my interest in a 10-parter, assuming that it’s done as well as the Jordan documentary?
* Let’s start with Cal Ripken Jr.’s 1995 season and “The Streak.” That season alone provides sufficient content, but there also would be the freedom to rewind to his childhood, his rookie year in ‘82, the MVP season and World Series title in ‘83, the 0-21 start in ‘88 and the “Why Not”” season in ‘89.
Seems like a no-brainer to me. But keep in mind that there would have to be footage and access from those seasons. It’s obviously too late now to start shooting.
We’ll pretend that it exists.
A Ripken documentary would have to include his detractors. The crowd that considered The Streak to be selfish and a detriment to the team and player. Bring on the critics and let him respond again.
It also would have to include the knee injury sustained in the Mariners brawl that almost ended The Streak. Head athletic trainer Richie Bancells kept it alive. Hearing him tell the tale would be fantastic.
Hearing anything from Bill Ripken would be entertaining.
* I’d also be glued to the set for a 10-parter on Albert Belle.
Imagine the possibilities.
His LSU days as Joey Belle and the time that he went after a fan who taunted him from the stands with racial insults. His transition into one of the most feared sluggers in baseball with the Indians, and all of the trouble that followed him.
The corked bat incident in 1994 and pitcher Jason Grimsley’s role in swapping it. You could devote an entire episode to it.
The “Mr. Freeze” nickname born from the day that Belle destroyed a thermostat with his bat.
The motivation for the Orioles signing Belle - their fear that he was headed to the Yankees.
The mini-tantrum in the clubhouse during Belle’s first spring training with the Orioles that made it onto the Associated Press wire and hastened the erosion of the media’s relationship with him. It also led to a new rule that we weren’t allowed inside during games.
The dugout eruption in Atlanta after manager Ray Miller removed him from right field. The clubhouse television destroyed by a thrown beer bottle.
The degenerative hip condition that forced his retirement. There are lots of stories that came out of it. Manager Mike Hargrove would be a crucial figure in them.
Former PR director John Maroon, who worked for the Indians before coming to Baltimore, also would have to be interviewed. Same with the Ripken documentary. And Maroon is a great storyteller.
(He also makes a great martini, but it does us no good here.)
You’d need people to come clean with the Belle incidents that never were made public.
You’d also need Belle’s cooperation, which could be an issue. I don’t know whether he’s softened over the years.
Unfortunately, there are people closely connected to the Belle story who no longer are with us, including his twin brother, Terry, and former Baltimore Sun beat writer Joe Strauss.
Terry Belle, who was friendly to the media and given ballpark access usually denied a sibling, died in a car accident in 2011. Strauss, whose coverage of Albert Belle, and pretty much anything in baseball, was unparalleled, passed away in 2015 from complications related to a yearlong battle with leukemia.
Belle ordered a post-game press conference after a three-homer game at Camden Yards for the sole purpose of calling Strauss a liar. That, too, would be in the documentary.
* Give me 10 parts of a Pete Rose documentary. An unfiltered look at baseball’s all-time hits leader.
His playing and managing days, and the gambling that led to a lifetime ban and exclusion from the Hall of Fame.
The Big Red Machine is legendary. I’d love to get a closer look at it.
Rose wasn’t known a peach of a guy. His failings as a husband, his absence as a father and the pressure that came from trying to follow in his footsteps. It’s all in there.
We’d also get to relive the 1970 and 1983 World Series. A bonus for Orioles fans.
(Sparky Anderson was 36 years old, the youngest manager in baseball, in 1970. Check out the footage. He still looks like your grandfather.)
* Make a 10-parter on Barry Bonds and we can watch him grow.
But seriously, there’s so much about Bonds on and off the field that the viewing public would find interesting.
If you think former teammates had issues with Jordan, imagine what they’d say about sharing a clubhouse with Bonds.
* Ten parts might not be enough for Muhammad Ali, but I wish someone would try.
There have been many documentaries and films on “The Greatest.” Maybe it’s all been told.
That would be the only reason to exclude him. Otherwise, is there anyone more worthy?
The footage outside the ring is plentiful, but again, we’ve seen so much of it. And there’s already a “30 for 30” on Ali’s disastrous fight against Larry Holmes, when he never should have been allowed inside the ring.
What I’ve always wanted to know is how anyone could sanction his last fight. Holmes wasn’t it.
Ali lost a 10-round decision to Trevor Berbick on Dec. 11, 1981 in Nassau, Bahamas. Give me more on that one. Ali being allowed back in the ring, his training - and everyone who tried to talk him out of it and wanted no part of it - and the fight.
* The rise and fall of Mike Tyson also would be fascinating to me.
The man made a lot of bad decisions. Let’s follow him through every single one.
Tyson destroyed opponents - his knockout of Michael Spinks took about 12 seconds and I should know because I paid money to watch it at the old Baltimore Arena - but he also was the victim of one of the greatest upsets in sports history.
The loss to Buster Douglas deserves its own night, but there’s already a “30 for 30” on it.
The fights against Evander Holyfield deserve their own night, but there’s already a “30 for 30” on it.
Maybe there’s nothing left to say about Tyson.
* I have no interest in World Wrestling Entertainment, but as a kid I was a huge fan of the World Wide Wrestling Federation.
You know, back when it was real.
Bruno Sammartino, George “The Animal” Steele, Haystacks Calhoun, The Valiant Brothers, Chief Jay Strongbow, Spiros Arion (who turned on Strongbow and tore up his headdress in the ring while Strongbow’s arms were pinned in the ropes), Jimmy Superfly Snuka, Superstar Billy Graham, The Wolfman (from parts unknown), Bob Backlund, the managing trio of Captain Lou Albano, Classy Freddie Blassie and The Grand Wizard of Wrestling.
Those were the days.
There’s a rabid wrestling fan base that would flip out over it. The documentary could start from the “sport’s” inception, way before my time, and progress to the current lineup of entertainers.
Too limited of an audience?
* “The Danny Valencia Story”
I don’t see that one getting much traction, but I’d watch an entire episode devoted to his hair. Maybe two episodes.
Today’s question: Which athlete should also get a 10-part documentary series?