'When We Were Kings' SUCKED (&etc re: sports videos)

What I hoped for, wanted, thought I was getting at least a piece of:

• Sonny Liston. Highlights of his career. His rise to fame. Condensed version of the fight that propelled him to champion and/or fight in which he bested, umm, whatshisname, Floyd Patterson?

• Cassius Clay, Olympics. Complete footage of his prize-winning fights, perhaps preceded by some prelim bout footage. Seeing him get his gold medal.

• Liston versus Clay. The whole fight, start to finish, plus commentary both contemporary and retrospective.

• Ali refusing the draft, losing his title. Assorted shit.

• Ali versus Frazier: the buildup. Commentary both contemporary and retrospective.

• Ali versus Frazier: the fight itself, the whole thing start to finish plus commentary both contemporary and retrospective.

• Ali versus Frazier, the rematch: ditto

• Larry Holmes. Short recap of history, rise to fame. Footage of major bouts before Ali.

• Ali versus Holmes. some good footage. Some commentary, some interviews.

•Foreman, career of, prior to Ali. Significant chunks of bouts leading up to world championship, significant chunks of bout that made him world champion, assorted clips of post-championship defense of title bouts, short vignettes of contenders who failed to knock him off between attaining title and Ali.

• Ali versus Foreman: entire bout from start to finish plus commentary both contemporary and retrospective.

•Remaining career of Ali, snippets, interviews, etc.

• Ali, career stats, wrapup, some commentary, some interviews.

What I got:

• Brief footage, Cassius Clay versus Sonny Liston

• Ali refusing the draft, losing his title. Assorted shit.

•Ali versus Foreman, buildup, interviews, contemporary and retrospective.

•Extremely protracted footage of flying to Zaire (Foreman and Ali) James Brown and god knows what else, more buildup to Ali versus Foreman.

• Yet more ferCryinOutLoud fuckin’ buildup to Ali versus Foreman.

• And even yet more, no kiddin’, fuckin’ buildup to Ali versus Foreman. Yer wastin’ footage.

• And yet again still even yet again yet more, again no fuckin’ kiddin’, fuckin’ buildup to Ali versus Foreman. Yer wastin’ even yet more footage and I’m glad I got fast-forward.

• Ali versus Foreman, FINALLY, not the entire fight just some footage from a few rounds.

• Assorted wrapup crap.


It’s a continuation of an ongoing experience much deserving of a rant.

Why the fuck can’t you rent a decent synopsis of sports events, ever, anywhere?

I don’t even have TV reception and mostly I don’t care about sports. By way of confession. I suppose there are folks out there who would have the attitude that if I don’t care enough about sports to watch full-time on the off-chance that something worth watching will come along, I don’t deserve to be able to buy that experience later on. To you folks I say: whatever. But if I was ever, conceivably, going to develop some interest in sports it would originate from being able to rent the highlights, with some sense that it had been regarded by True Sports Fanatics as The Thing To See, so I could get a taste of what you folks are shouting about and maybe develop a bit of appreciation for the drama and the triumph and so on.

I find most of the experience of watching baseball to be astonishingly boring, but if it were available for VCR/DVD rental I’d rent the career of Roberto Clemente with the Pittsburgh Pirates and see what my Dad thought was so fantastic a few decades ago.

Likewise, I’d rent the season in the 60s when the NY Mets won, the “Miracle Mets” I think they called it. Watch the whole season. Maybe get a taste for it.

College football. By coincidence I happened to be living in Athens Georgia when a fellow named Herschel Walker propelled the Athens Bulldogs to the championship via something called the Sugar Bowl, I think it was in Louisiana and by that time there was some new kind of bowl deelie whereby for that year the Sugar Bowl was gonna determine the overall champ and the Bulldogs got the invite and the win. I have more appreciation for college football (not pro, that bores me) than for baseball and this would be fun to watch.

Nadia Comenichi, the gymnast from the 70s. I’d like to see all her events, with her competitors and then her, and watch her win again. Likewise Mary Lou Retton in the 80s and her competitors and events and her win. Each event, start to finish.

Also from the Olympics, the time, whenever the heck it was, that the US defeated the USSR hockey team and surprised everyone, I’d like to see every hockey match from that Olympiad and the US win. Start to finish.

Jackie-Joyner Kershee or something like that, I’d like to see her career. Also that of her cousin or sibling or whatever she was, Florence Joyner Griffith. All the highlights and total non-interrupted footage of their best meets. This was long after I stopped having TV reception so I only read about it.

The women’s soccer team of the US, recent history. Also long after I no longer had TV reception. Show me the training stuff, then the meets of the Olympiad and let me watch them win.


OK, you get the picture. So tell me: why can’t I rent this stuff? Am I weird in my tastes, such that they couldn’t make money hand over proverbial fist if they released such DVDs? What’s the reason why all this sports footage isn’t readily available, and what’s on the shelves instead is some dipshit blabbering away for a quarter hour at a time (usually some football jerk named ‘Madden’, I think?) with short 3 minute clips of sports footage interspersed hither and yon?

They were sisters-in-law. Jackie Joyner-Kersee’s brother, Al Joyner (himself an Olympic athlete - gold medal in the 1984 triple jump) married Florence Griffith, who then took the name Florence Griffith Joyner.

I remember a cute news story in the late eighties about Jackie and Al’s newborn daughter being offered atheltic scholarships. Considering the child’s genetic advantage, it seems like a safe bet.

I’m not getting your beef with When We Were Kings. It was made (and marketed) as a documentary about the Rumble in the Jungle, not about the life of Muhammad Ali.

Speaking as a sports fanatic, I loved having the focus be on this one fight. Because it’s not only about one fight, it’s also about Ali’s comeback, and Vietnam, and race in sports, and race in America, and race in Africa, and Don King. This fight is important enough that it deserves its own documentary, and the footage from the fight and the preparation leading up to it was filmed with the specific purpose of making such a documentary.

But I agree that Ali’s entire career was fascinating from start to finish. If you’re looking for more, I’d recommend reading Muhammad Ali: The People’s Champ, which is a nifty collection of essays about various points (both highs and lows) in his career.

In my opinion, “When We Were Kings” was a masterpeice of documentary cinema. I loved every minute of it.

I have to admit, too, I thought the documentary was specifically about the Rumble in the Jungle, not boxing genreally, or Ali’s entire life. I chuckled (as did most of the audience at my screening) during a bit in the George Plimpton interview when they showed a photograph from the fight and Plimpton can been seen sitting at ringside with his mouth wide open in awe.

Ditto. It’s a perfect time capsule of the period and a brilliant tribute to a one-of-a-kind icon. The OP’s whining because he didn’t get a 10-hour ESPN mini-series, when WWWK is about something completely different (and that whooshing sound is all that “wasted footage” going over his head).

OK, I didn’t realize it had been marketed as being about that one fight. I had always heard it brought up in discussions about excellent athletes and the excellence of Muhammad Ali in specific, and somehow ended up thinking it was about him and the fighters he went up against during his career.

Even so, even if it was about this one fight, it would have been nice to see the fight. Not just a small handful of clips from it.

I thought it was very good, too. And yeah, it’s not fair to judge it as a documentary on Ali’s life when that wasn’t what it was supposed to be.

OK, I recant. It is totally unfair of me to judge “When We Were Kings” based on what I thought I was renting. Can I start over?

The OP I should have written:
**
Why the fuck can’t you rent a decent synopsis of sports events, ever, anywhere?
**
I don’t even have TV reception and mostly I don’t care about sports. By way of confession. I suppose there are folks out there who would have the attitude that if I don’t care enough about sports to watch full-time on the off-chance that something worth watching will come along, I don’t deserve to be able to buy that experience later on. To you folks I say: whatever. But if I was ever, conceivably, going to develop some interest in sports it would originate from being able to rent the highlights, with some sense that it had been regarded by True Sports Fanatics as The Thing To See, so I could get a taste of what you folks are shouting about and maybe develop a bit of appreciation for the drama and the triumph and so on.

I just rented what I thought was the primary boxing bouts of Muhammad Ali and his primary competitors (Liston, Frazier, Holmes, Foreman), expecting to see the complete matches start to finish — at least the main matchups — and instead it was a documentary about just the Ali-Foreman bout, and with scant footage of the fight itself. My error there, but why can’t I find and rent the fights themselves? I never saw them.

I find most of the experience of watching baseball to be astonishingly boring, but if it were available for VCR/DVD rental I’d rent the career of Roberto Clemente with the Pittsburgh Pirates and see what my Dad thought was so fantastic a few decades ago.

Likewise, I’d rent the season in the 60s when the NY Mets won, the “Miracle Mets” I think they called it. Watch the whole season. Maybe get a taste for it.

College football. By coincidence I happened to be living in Athens Georgia when a fellow named Herschel Walker propelled the Athens Bulldogs to the championship via something called the Sugar Bowl, I think it was in Louisiana and by that time there was some new kind of bowl deelie whereby for that year the Sugar Bowl was gonna determine the overall champ and the Bulldogs got the invite and the win. I have more appreciation for college football (not pro, that bores me) than for baseball and this would be fun to watch.

Nadia Comenichi, the gymnast from the 70s. I’d like to see all her events, with her competitors and then her, and watch her win again. Likewise Mary Lou Retton in the 80s and her competitors and events and her win. Each event, start to finish.

Also from the Olympics, the time, whenever the heck it was, that the US defeated the USSR hockey team and surprised everyone, I’d like to see every hockey match from that Olympiad and the US win. Start to finish.

Jackie-Joyner Kershee or something like that, I’d like to see her career. Also that of her cousin or sibling or whatever she was, Florence Joyner Griffith. All the highlights and total non-interrupted footage of their best meets. This was long after I stopped having TV reception so I only read about it.

The women’s soccer team of the US, recent history. Also long after I no longer had TV reception. Show me the training stuff, then the meets of the Olympiad and let me watch them win.

Does anyone have an explanation for why famous sports events don’t seem to be available for rental?

Because most people treat sports as ephemeral.

Because there are too many sports to choose from and most sporting events last several hours.

Because the potential consumer market is a niche one, and the producers would, in all likelihood, not make back the production and marketing costs of most of these tapes/DVDs of the type you mention.

There are also probably licensing issues involved with most sports (leagues, Olympics, universities, etc.).

One reason there was so much Zaire-based footage available: the delay of the fight caused by Foreman’s getting cut during sparring. This left lots of journalists sitting around waiting for six weeks, so they interviewed anything that moved.

I agree, Bryan that shot of Plimpton and Mailer reacting to the knockout punch is priceless.

Regarding Clemente: he was a great a player (his throwing arm was truly awesome). But his dignified, magnanimous persona played a big role in his popularity. His selflessness especially – recall that he died on New Year’s Eve flying relief provisions to earthquake victims for an organization he was honorary chairman of.

I was born in 1959, and grew up 75 miles south of Pittsburgh. Kids in my neighborhood argued over who their second favorite ballplayer was (generally Mays or Mantle). Everyone agreed Clemente was number one.

When the outcome of the event is already known, the experience of watching is diminished greatly. Even for ‘classic’ sporting events, there aren’t enough people who want to watch when they already know who is going to win.

I guess this means you don’t get ESPN Classic. They’re great for historic sporting events and player biographies.

I wrote a small piece on this recently and I honestly don’t think it’s a major factor, not when so much of the DVD market is people rewatching things they’ve already seen dozens of times. Reality shows have DVD sets, there is a network devoted to re-running old game shows and you’re telling me there isn’t a market for a complete broadcast DVD set of (say) a World Series?

About the only set of these I’ve seen that exist is the 72 Summit Series between Canada and the USSR, and I’d like to see more along this line.

I agree with AHunter3. It’d be great if I could rent, say, the TV broadcasts of the ‘91 Eagles season at Blockbuster the way you can rent a season of a TV show. I’m going nuts just thinking about the possibilities. Barry Sanders’ entire damn career. Skinny Jordan, back when he was putting up 35/8/8 every night. The Greatest Game Ever Played. Magic Johnson’s rookie season. The entire McGwire/Sosa chase. Doc Gooden when he was Doc Gooden. Phi Slamma Jamma. Hank Gathers and Bo Kimble. Hell, how about every single damn game from the NCAA Tournament of your choosing? Tell me there’s not a market for some of this.

I know you can get a tape of some of these games from NFL Films and similar outlets, but it’s definitely not as widespread or as easily accessible as it could be. Do you know how much I would pay to have the entire '96 Kentucky basketball season on DVD?

I second Jeff Olsen’s suggestion of ESPN Classic, although I can see how someone who wasn’t really a full time sports fan might not find it worthwhile to pay for whatever premium cable package gets you ESPN Classic.

I personally would love to see footage of the kind you describe available for rent or purchase on DVD, but I can see as how it would be a risky undertaking for the copyright holders – they’d have to invest in the production, and most likely only find a limited market. I’m going to guess that most casual fans prefer the highlight reels (as are currently available) and only the most rabid fans would really be repeat customers for the entire games/competitions/matches variety.

I’m hopeful that as other types of media distribution become more mainstream, that someone is going to figure out that there might be a market, although relatively small, for that kind of classic sports footage. Direct pay downloads, for example, would have a much smaller production cost than a DVD. Man, I could watch the Bills-Oilers Wild Card Playoff Game EVERY DAY. TWICE A DAY!

Since Jackie and Al are brother and sister, I don’t think any child they had would have any genetic advantage!

It was Al and Florence Griffith Joyner who had a daughter.

I don’t believe Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Bob Kersee have any children.

Whoops! I meant Al and Flo, natch.

Though Al and Jackie’s theoretical child might have an edge, with that third leg and all.

Great, great film. It’s hard to remember now just how much of a force in American society Ali was then, before his Parkinson’s and his punch-drunkenness, but “When We Were Kings” brings it all back. There is simply no comparison to the sport’s status today, nor to the ferment at which he was at the center. Just listen to Ali talk for a few minutes in the film, the thing he did best.

Then, too, it’s a reminder that George Foreman wasn’t always the fat, grinning, amiable BBQ-grill pitchman he is now. He was angry, powerful, inarticulate, and was able to be represented in every way as the shuffling Negro of the past while Ali was the proud, independent black man of the future - and yes, I know that was the image Ali and his entourage - remember when athletes had entourages, not posse? - created. That situation too has no parallel today, and the film brings that back too.

I could have done with less screen time given to snobbish writers trying to pretend they were in solidarity with their ghetto brothers, though.

Chant with me: A-li, bomaye! A-li, bomaye! A-li, bomaye!

My favorite moment in the movie was the Zaire-born artist, whose name escapes me, who was around 15 when the fight happened.

He was speaking in (Swahili?) with subtitles.

"*Mohammad Ali was like a sleeping elephant.

"You can do anything you want around a sleeping elephant.

"But when he wakes up… he tramples everything.

"Ali, bomaye *, etc."

The best summary I can think of for the film is a quote attributed to everyone from Lincoln to Ghandi: “The best way to destroy your enemy is to make him your friend.”