_time to go through with a plan: My plan of rewatching all of ESPN’s 30 For 30 documentary series on DVD, and writing my thoughts on each episode. Although, really, to call them “episodes” doesn’t do
most of them justice. They’re all their own 1-2 hour documentary films, all released under one banner name. And they’re all about sports related things. So…without further ado…Kings Ransom!
_when 30 For 30 first ran, it took more than a full year for them all to air. So obviously, my memory of the first episode was a little hazy. I do remember my initial reaction to this episode though: Good, not great. By the end of the series, I was hooked. I was looking forward to watching the first episode, “Kings Ransom,” again to see if my opinion would change. So…did it? Not really. It’s a good documentary, but not a great one.
_”Kings Ransom” was made by Peter Berg and is about the trade of Wayne Gretzky from the Edmonton Oilers to the Los Angeles Kings in August 1988. Simple enough premise. We all know how great Wayne Gretzky was…or do we? The thing I loved about the 30 For 30 series was the ability to give the watcher a good perspective of what the story was about. Watching Kings Ransom again, that’s what I felt was missing: It assumes that the watcher knows how great Gretzky was. And I mean, sure, his name is associated with greatness. Most people know “He was really good.” But unless you already know, you won’t REALLY get the idea of how good he was. If you don’t watch hockey, you don’t know what 50 goals in 39 games means. They don’t mention that at the time of the trade, he had won 8 Hart trophies (MVP) in his first 10 years in the NHL. That at the time of the trade, he was already 2nd on the career points list. Sure, I knew this stuff…but I’m not everybody. This tells you “He’s the best player ever. Take our word for it.”
_the other problem is really not Berg’s fault, but it feels as if Kings Ransom was supposed to have been made at the time of the trade as opposed to 20 years afterward. Granted, the interview between Berg and Gretzky with Gretzky looking back is the best part of the documentary, but all of the talk about the trade itself and the things that went into it all come from interviews made 20 years after the fact. You don’t really get a clear picture of the business that went into the trade, more like a view through a foggy window; you can see the people, but the details are a bit blurry. Peter Pocklington says that they were a small market team and that they needed the money they got from the trade…and that’s as much detail as we get. How? They had won 4 Stanley Cups in 5 years. Sure, they’re a small market team…but that doesn’t get you any revenue? I realize that in most media, numbers bore people…but they don’t bore me! I want more numbers! Maybe if he had another hour, there cold have been some more detail to flesh things out?
_anyways, I know I’m being a bit nitpicky about it. I actually did enjoy it. As I said earlier, the interview with Gretzky is really good. I didn’t realize how open and candid he was the first time I watched it. Or maybe I should say, it didn’t really sink in the first time. There’s a part where he’s asked how many Stanley Cup’s he won in Edmonton and LA (Four and zero, respectively), and then asked how many he thinks he’d have won had he stayed…
“The team was good enough, maybe I would’ve won four more?”
“Do you think about that?”
“Yeah, all the time.”
The tone in Wayne’s voice when he says that…he says it very matter of factly. He truly believes he’d have won more Stanley Cups had he stayed, and he’s most likely right. But there’s no real hint of regret. He knows his legacy isn’t lesser because of it, and that in many respects, his going to LA helped grow the sport in the US.
_it’s crazy seeing the fans reaction to the Gretzky trade. Death threats to the owner, burning jerseys in the streets…I mean, yeah, Gretzky was the best player to ever play the game and he was traded. But they won the Stanley Cup again a year later. They were a great team even WITHOUT Wayne, which shows you just how loaded that team was. They traded the best player in the game for a couple players and cash and won a championship within 2 years. Holy shit.
_there were a few parts that I didn’t catch/notice on my first viewing that I definitely noticed the second time around. One was the footage of the wedding of Wayne Gretzky and Janet Jones, where, as people on the street are well wishing, you can hear one kid go “Hey Janet! I saw Police Academy 5!” Fantastic that that kid’s viewing of Police Academy 5 is forever documented in their wedding video. The second was less ridiculous…well, it was still ridiculous but in a different way. When talking about the trade, the owner, Peter Pocklington says that then General Manager and coach, Glen Sather was furious when he heard about the trade, but by the time he found out about it, they were too far in for him to do anything about it. What? The GM of the team got blindsided by this? “Oh hey, I know that you normally put together the team and stuff cause that’s your job…buuuutttttt I’m going to just negotiate to trade away the biggest star and best player on the team and not let you know, kay?” Holy crap. See, THAT’S the kind of thing that was kind of glossed over.
_so…Kings Ransom makes for a decent but disappointing start to the 30 For 30 series. A couple of the docs in the series got 2 hours to get all the content in, and looking back, another 30 minutes or so would have helped this one to flesh out the details surrounding the trade and give the viewer a better idea of Gretzky’s place in the game at the time of the trade. Oh well! Next time…”The Band That Wouldn’t Die.” See you there.