Save The Last Dance – The Sports Shows I’ve been Watching in Isolation

Written by: Ewan Galbraith

2020 by all accounts should have been the definitive summer of sport with a schedule filled to the brim with sporting greatness, with Wimbledon and the Tour de France set to be joined by the Euros and the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics. Alas with the introduction of Social Distancing and the closure of international borders, this long awaited summer schedule has been postponed for the foreseeable future. To tide sports fans and athletes over until we can next compete at the Stevie, catch a game at Garscube, or even throw a frisbee in Kelvingrove I’ve put together a list of the sports content that I’m watching on demand that are keeping me entertained and motivated as I await what will surely be a glorious return to live sport. 

The Last Dance (Netflix) 

Forget Joe Exotic, Netflix’s new king of documentaries is the one and only Michael Jordan. The Last Dance follows Jordan and the Chicago Bulls as they rally together to chase one more championship amidst the internal and external pressures that seek to shatter the teams identity. Released episodically this documentary provides a comprehensive insight into the Bull’s sporting dynasty built by coach Phil Jackson and contextualises Jordan’s profile as not only Basketball’s Superstar but as the biggest celebrity of the 90s. Additionally, the use of clips from televised games interspersed by interviews with Jordan’s nearest and dearest, including a certain few public figures, allows even the newest basketball fan to get invested in a storyline that spanned an entire decade and witness for the first time some of the best basketball played by some of the worlds greatest players. In all, The Last Dance and its long form format brings together the best of live sport and the accessibility and convenience of on demand streaming to craft a sporting experience that you won’t want to miss out on. 

Sunderland ’Til I Die (Netflix) 

Sunderland ’Til I Die carves its place in this list by highlighting the heartbreak that often goes hand in hand with football. Perhaps the antithesis to the glitz and glamour of the NBA portrayed in The Last Dance, this behind the scenes look into Sunderland’s season in the championship following relegation provides a holistic and grounded approach to the sporting world that details everything from the frustrations of the club’s fans to its managerial mishaps. ’Til I Die is a documentary that’s just as much about the people of Sunderland as it is the football club and it is in engaging with the supporters who live and breathe football that it captures the essence of club sport. My self-isolation takeaway has to be the optimism of the people in Sunderland. Regardless of everything that is thrown at the fans and the club there always remains the  relentless hope that  next season will be their season and it is perhaps necessary that we echo this sentiment throughout lockdown. We may not have football now, but I can guarantee that when the time comes for next season every single fan will be celebrating what will surely be a glorious return to sport. 

Cheer (Netflix)

When it is taken into account that our governments advise that we stay six feet apart from one another, the Navarro College Cheerleading Team appear to be from another world as they meticulously construct their 20 man human pyramid. Documenting the trials and tribulations of the most competitive cheerleading programme in the States, Cheer centres in on the student experience of sport, with the sacrifices and successes of each athlete placed front and centre as they work tirelessly towards the national championships held annually at Daytona Beach. It is immediately evident that cheerleading demands that their athletes excel physically and maintain a real mental fortitude and it is Cheer’s decision to highlight the trials and tribulations faced by the students of Navarro alongside their sporting prowess that provide a distinctly relatable perspective into the world of elite college sport. Navarro introduces us to a group of students performing at the highest possible level in a sport that is growing rapidly worldwide, and when considering that the Glasgow University Cheerleaders are the reigning National Grand Champions, Cheer is the perfect introduction to a dynamic and exciting sport that is both a worldwide phenomena and occurring locally across our city. 

Club de Cuervos (Netflix)

This list’s first departure from the documentary format is also our first venture beyond the English Language. Club de Cuervos follows a Mexican football club following the death of its longtime owner, and the ensuing aftermath as his two children compete for control of the club in his place. With four seasons available on Netflix and highly positive reception from both critics and viewers alike, including a nomination for best International Comedy at the  Emmys, Club de Cuervos blends family drama with football whilst never losing it’s belief that just as sport causes competition so too  does it  have the potential to bring us together. For the binge-watchers among us, or simply those willing to give something new a try, Club de Cuervos’s use of sport as a setting to explore family and community makes this comedic drama a truly compelling watch. 

Moneyball (Netflix) 

What more do I need to say other than Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill? Perhaps that the movie was both nominated for six Oscars and is based on the true story of the Oakland Athletic Baseball Team and their 2002 season. Despite offering a compelling argument in favour of statistics as the definitive deciding factor of sport, this movie has real heart and is driven by superb performances by both Pitt and Hill who shine as underdogs trying to beat a system that is by all accounts stacked against them. From the viewers invested in the intricacies of performance sport to those just  invested in curling up and enjoying a good movie, there is a lot to take away from Moneyball for everyone, not just for the stats students among us. 

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