Gary ‘Lazarus Lake’ Cantrell, the founder of The Barkley Marathons, named the race after his longtime neighbor Barry Barkley. (Courtesy of Brian Dalek)
Finals are right around the corner and everybody knows that the lack of motivation to study can result in procrastination, and if you are like me you pass the time by watching sports documentaries on Netflix.
Now that the ESPN 30 for 30s are no longer available for streaming, viewers have to dig to find quality films.
Here are a few unconventional documentaries that provide insight into athletes’ lives that everyday people do not get to see.
“Nowitzki: The Perfect Shot” – 2014
Although the title is misleading, this film portrays Dirk Nowitzki’s life as one full of hard work.
The documentary opens at the Institute of Applied Nonsense where Nowitzki’s childhood trainer and life-long friend Holger Geschwindner teaches the game of basketball in an unconventional way.
Nicknamed the “Einstein of basketball,” Geschwindner thinks outside of the box.
Geschwindner developed software called Dirkometrix that allows you to create a stick figure with any specifications such as, height, arm length, shoe size and more, put that figure on any planet and calculate the best way to get the ball in the basket.
“The research he does with others and alone with kinematic motion and the calculation of throwing motion everyone just says, ‘he’s nuts!’” said Thomas Neundorfer, a friend of Geschwindner.
Interviews with family and friends show Nowitzki’s character throughout the first half of the film. In the second half, interviews with Marc Stein and others provide insight to how hard things were for the young German as he made his transition to the NBA.
“The speed of the game, the physicality of the position because he had to play power forward, just living day-to-day life I think was a huge adjustment for him,” said Stein.
It did not help that European players were branded as “soft guys that could not play defense.” After a gutsy performance in the 2001 playoffs, Dirk put all of that to rest.
“He gets his tooth knocked out,” said Stein. “He came back and the [Mavericks] ended up winning that series in five games. That was another one of those moments that really established Dirk as not this average European guy.”
The documentary ends with a few quotes from Nowitzki as he is driving, quotes that embody the kind of person he is and how money and fame never changed him.
“It’s crazy if you think about it. I’m pretty good at throwing a ball into a basket because I’m nine feet tall,” he says. “It’s a bit unreal people wanting my autograph or my photograph because I’m good at shooting hoops.”
“All Work All Play” – 2015
This documentary focuses on two professional E-Sports teams playing League of Legends, Cloud9 and Team SoloMid (TSM), as well as the Intel Extreme Masters Director of Pro Gaming Michal Blicharz.
E-Sports is something that people are not familiar with unless they are directly involved. “All Work All Play” provides viewers with a better understanding of the professional gaming world and the struggles that go along with the business.
Starting out as a competitive player, it was hard for Blicharz.
“The first place prize was $50 and I would have to win that $50 not to starve for the week,” he said.
His dream of becoming successful at this and making it his career is shared by every player that plays professionally.
“When there were no video games kids played soccer, they played football,” said Jarett Cale, a host for IEM. “They had dreams ‘if I could do this for a living man,’ but not almost every kid plays video games and for the first time there are kids doing that, and that dream is powerful.”
Not only is the dream powerful, but it is arguably more difficult than pursuing a career in the NFL or NBA. The struggle is worth it when you factor in a six-figure base salary, money provided from streaming and the heavily coveted prize winnings.
But with countless countries developing competitive teams, reaching the pinnacle is something that some can only dream of; and for North American teams, it seemed like an eternal slumber.
For a long time, North America has been vastly inferior to European and Korean teams. But at IEM Katowice in 2015, Team SoloMid and Cloud9 try to break the stigma.
“I don’t think you need words to translate what the phenomenon of E-Sports is,” says Blicharz.
But this documentary clearly conveys that this industry is only getting stronger.
“The Barkley Marathons: The Race That Eats its Young” – 2014
This film is the perfect way to finish the list because only 10 runners have finished The Barkley Marathon in its first 25 years of its existence.
A small town of Tennessee hosts the somewhat-secret race every year. Out of hundreds of applicants, 40 are selected every year and are sent letters of condolences by the creator, Gary ‘Lazarus Lake’ Cantrell.
The film features interviews of Cantrell, other people involved in the creation of the race and runners that have 60 hours to complete five 20-mile loops that consist of a 12,000 feet climb and descent.
The race was inspired by the James Earl Ray prison escape that brought him through the same mountains that the race goes through. Locals thought his 54-hour attempt that got him only eight miles was ‘pathetic.’
“I occasionally get angry mail,” said Cantrell, “from people who believe this is some sort of a tribute to James Earl Ray. It is much more of the opposite.”
People’s ideas of success are different for the Barkley. Some want to finish a loop, some want three and some just want to survive.
After finishing the race a year before, Brett Maune said, “I feel like I have some unfinished business with not getting the record.”
2012, the year this race was documented, marked the first time three people completed the race. Maune broke the course record by more than three hours. His final time was 52 hours, three minutes and eight seconds.
Finals can be tough, and even if you would not watch these to procrastinate, they give your mind a chance to reset. Sit down, take a break and enjoy these flicks.
But whatever you do, do not take finals advice from “Lazarus Lake.”