I like playing sports, but I don’t like watching games. Hence, each baseball game saw me reading a book in the stadium, and usually something so thick and outrageous that I would peek up at the jumbotron to see if the announcers noticed (because the Diamondbacks used to pan the camera to the audience to find something funny and unusual). I do like sports documentaries, though, and I find encouragement and lessons one can learn in them.
Untold is a sports documentary series on Netflix. The first three I watched of the series encouraged me. Untold: The Race of The Century is about the Australian team’s determination to beat America in the America’s Cup race. The Australian team beat America by thinking outside the box. A man with no higher than a 12th-grade education redesigned their Sailing hydrofoil (completely within the rules). The team strategically kept the Sailing hydrofoil a secret until after the race was over. The New York Yacht Club elite would have dismissed this man, but the Australian team trusted each other and worked together. The man who made the Sailing hydrofoil didn’t let his lack of education fuel his insecurity, and keep him from helping his country.
My current favorite, and one saved to my watchlist, is The Last Dance. This features Michael Jordan and the Bulls basketball team. It’s worth rewatching sometimes, and last night, the episode shared through interviews and commentary how Phil Jackson, the new coach, taught Michael Jordan to trust his team. The prior coach always put the ball into Michael Jordan’s hands. Phil Jackson wanted a more creative approach and taught Michael Jordan that his team was there to help. In one game, Michael was told to pass the ball to Paxson. Paxson made basket after basket. The opposing team kept trying to block Michael and didn’t expect him to pass the ball to Paxson. Through this, Michael learned teamwork. He put aside his own agenda for the good of the game. Michael is even known for mentoring others along the way, for example, Kobe Bryant.
Most of the sports documentaries embrace reprehensible actions and scandals because that’s what makes ratings and money. Few good documentaries exist to show a story of overcoming something and making morally or biblically right, but difficult choices, or failing and making things right.
We need to tell better stories. The kind of stories that change lives and aren’t echo chambers. Getting comfortable is the enemy of creativity. An environment that lacks challenge means the creative can’t grow. Like in sports, the athlete has to train and listen to their coaches. The pain is momentary, but persevering through it means the results will be eternal.