With apologies to whichever group of real housewives for whom you or your spouse have an unhealthy affection — it is OK, no one is judging you — TV executives have begun to realize that the only reality programming that still satisfies consumers and advertisers alike is sports. The need to watch it in real-time affords sports a lofty and coveted status as a thoroughly DVR-proof entity. The truly transcendent potential for sports content, though, lies in the other reason why audiences have such a hard time turning away from the action: the genuine human drama.


The multi-layered nature of transformative sports moments and the protagonist-villain dynamic contained therein have led to the explosive growth of the sports documentary industry. While sports moments have always endured across generations, there is a renewed and vibrant appreciation for the convergence of unique circumstances and colorful characters that make these moments possible.


ESPN’s “30 for 30” franchise has elevated this story-telling platform to a remarkable degree and has leveraged our fierce emotional loyalty to our teams while also challenging us to develop a receptivity to new ideas, new heroes and new heartbreaks. For so long, we have been conditioned not to put ourselves in the shoes of our rivals or to have the audacity to humanize those teams or their fans. With the emergence of “30 for 30,” however, we cannot help but embrace the universality of the sports fan experience. While I can not say with certainty if learning to love thy sports neighbor is a good thing, it is an illuminating one.


As ESPN often does when it realizes it has a good – or illuminating – thing on its hands, it is going all-in with the documentary business. So much so that one of the most highly anticipated elements of this year’s Tribeca Film Festival is the Tribeca/ESPN Sports Film Festival. If you are looking for a reason to cry while visiting Tribeca – other than having to pay $18 for a cocktail – this should do the trick.


Kicking off this Friday, Apr. 25 through Saturday, Apr. 26, and featuring eight original releases, The Tribeca/ESPN Sports Film Festival is understandably soccer-slanted this year, given the June kickoff of the World Cup — which can also be seen on ESPN — they do love their corporate synergy. Maradona gets top billing in the “Maradona ’86” feature release, while the lesser known 1973 World Cup qualifier between the Soviet Union and Chile is the subject of the riveting “The Opposition.”


(Related: Will Brazil Be Ready Be Ready For the 2014 FIFA World Cup?)


Toss in “Champs,” a re-examination of the 1997 Mike Tyson vs. Evander Holyfield ear-in-mouth episode, and “When The Garden Was Eden,” a send-up to the New York Knicks championship squads of the ‘70’s — we actually have documented evidence of the Knicks not being a total embarrassment! — and this is a downtown sports buffet worthy of a trendy Tribeca brunch spot.


The willingness of top flight directors like Peter Berg, as well as actors and athletes, such as Michael Rapaport and Steve Nash, to turn the lens on sports subjects continues to be an exciting development for all of us. Rarely are we allowed to rally around sports without being divided by our rooting interests. The Tribeca Film Festival and the wide-ranging commitment by content producers to tell profound sports stories remind us that it’s actually pretty cool to cheer for the same team.



What sports moment would you like to see immortalized on film? What is your favorite sports movie, documentary or otherwise? For my money, nothing can hold a candle to 1994’s Hoop Dreams.  Let’s talk flicks in the comments section below, or you can always find me on Twitter @endbadly.