30 for 30 Season Debuts With 'Broke'

Andre Rison and others explain where all the money went

Andre Rison in 'Broke'
Andre Rison in 'Broke'

When 30 for 30 was first introduced in 2009, creator Bill “Sports Guy” Simmons said his goal was to present 30 individual stories that would hopefully resonate in a larger context. It seems that is not going to be a rule-of-thumb for the second go-around for the ESPN documentary series.

Broke, directed by Billy Corben (Cocaine Cowboys), ignores the singular story of an athlete going bankrupt. Instead, the doc plays out more as an anthology detailing the many ways in which athletes go from being millionaires to declaring bankruptcy in a time span of as little as two years. As Corben put it in a recent interview, he tried to “create an anecdotal how-to guide for how to be broke,” but what we’re left with is a broad story that feels like Corben only scratched the surface of this fascinating epidemic in sports.

This is not necessarily Corben’s fault. Despite a large number of players in professional sports going broke after only a few years of retirement, as few as 30 interviews were conducted.* Most players reasonably didn’t want to get in front of the camera to talk about how they lost all of their money. In fact, of the 58 players listed at the end of the doc as having declared bankruptcy, Corben interviews only Andre Rison and Bernie Kosar on camera. (Clips of some of the other athletes come from past interviews.)

* Herm Edwards, being one of those interviewees, is seemingly only included to give sound bites. He provides no personal stories, no anecdotes about players he coached, nothing. It’s as if Corben needed a few lines read and grabbed the first NFL analyst he could find on the ESPN campus. (If so, I wish he had run into Steve Young first.)

Still, I would rather have watched a two-hour program on the rise and fall of Andre “Bad Moon” Rison over this how-to-guide doc. Rison comes out as the clear star of this story, for better or worse. While Leon Searcy and Keith McCants dress themselves in T-shirts and remorse, Rison presents himself in a shiny suit, resplendent with arrogance. I imagine that a two-hour doc on him would have taken off the sunglasses and exposed a few layers of Rison that we were unable to see in Broke.

And if Rison is the star of this story, Kosar is the tragic figure. The former Miami Hurricane appeared in Corben’s other doc for ESPN, The U, and the director had no idea at the time that Kosar was in financial trouble. He didn’t look nearly half as bad as he does in this film, and it’s saddening to watch him talk about the issues he has had in his life. ** (“When people don’t think you have money,” he says, “they don’t call you as much … family included.”) Again, I would have loved to spend two hours with a player like Kosar and the saga of his rise and fall.

** All I ever used to think about when I heard Kosar’s name was the Fake Spike play that Dan Marino executed vs. the New York Jets in 1994. Kosar was supposedly the one who thought to run that play. Now I have to share that memory with the visual of his sad, beaten, defeated face.

One thing I didn’t get to ask Corben in a recent interview was whether he felt there was one step in the how-to guide that he could have spent a larger amount of time on, because I felt each step could have been a two-hour doc on its own. Don’t just give me five minutes on all the problems athletes have with “baby mama drama,” give me 90 minutes.

Alas, we’re relegated to short blips about Baller Alert and what it means to “make it rain.” (It’s 2012, we all know what that means, but thanks for the vocabulary lesson.)

Extra Point

Here are some other things I could have watched two hours of:

- Ed Butowsky Stories: His story about wrapping furniture in inflatable plastic still confuses and delights me in equal measure.
- The Rise and Fall and Rise and Fall and Rise and Fall of Ron Artest: Metta World Peace only got a two-second shout-out in the doc, but you know that’s going to be in the next batch of 30 for 30. Just wait.
- Andre Rison singing TLC songs.
- Curt Schilling trying to be humble and failing.
- Going Through Leon Searcy’s Closet: If every shirt of his is as good as his Sanford and Son shirt, then it’s going to be a great two hours of television.
- Herm Edwards explaining the economy.

Alright, sound off in the comments section. What's your take on Broke?

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