Tuesday, October 07, 2014
The problem with Playing for the Mob
I wanted to love this movie and come out as a big Jim Sweeney fan. After watching ESPN's 30 for 30 on Playing for the Mob, I am disappointed in both.
First, the actual movie. I think 30 for 30 is one of the best things ESPN has ever done. I especially think the college sports subject matters work best since they haven't been exhausted by other outlets. The U, The Best that Never Was, and Pony Excess were excellent. Even Chris Herren's movie -- that wasn't officially a 30 for 30 -- was great. This film lacked the energy and flow of those previous movies. There was nothing original. It was competent enough, but the pacing was slow. But the biggest problem with the film was the probably its selling point in getting made -- the Goodfellas' connection. Goodfellas is a masterpiece. The acting, the drama and even the humor are still fresh with each viewing. That film takes you into a world and gives you the look, the feel and even the smells of this unique time and place. If you are going to incorporate Goodfellas into your documentary and even top it off with Ray Liotta's narration, you better have something great and fresh. This isn't it. Goodfellas builds into a frenzy, especially during Hill's coke-fueled arrest. This film doesn't build. Instead it scatters all over the place. First it is a low-level mob story. Then a college jocks getting in over their heads film. Then it becomes a Henry Hill story and then it becomes a Kuhn-Sweeney story. It is certainly not a BC story and it is not really a college basketball story.
The film wraps up with Sweeney's anger and frustration with his part in the scheme, his association with the scandal and his relationship with BC. He's adamant that he didn't shave games and that he was just in over his head. College kids do dumb things. We all make mistakes that can follow us long after. I don't know what Sweeney did or didn't do. The film gives him his time to clear his name but like the juror in the film, I still feel like Sweeney knew and did more than he admitted.
Of other folks BC figures featured, Bowie comes off well and didn't get a fair shake. McDonald represents BC well but also helped expose how sloppy and disorganized the whole fix was. Cobb seems to have a healthier perspective than Sweeney. I don't understand why Tom Davis still can't talk about it.
The film does confirm that this was always a sexier story than an actual conspiracy. No one made real money. They couldn't shave games properly. It was only uncovered because of Hill's big mouth. I don't think BC ever did anything wrong. This could have happened anywhere...even BU like Hill initially remembered. The school suffered a media black eye and was amplified years later with the Football gambling scandal. Maybe this film will finally put it all to bed. I understand why the school doesn't want to deal with Jim Sweeney. Why should they? What does BC owe Sweeney? Who is entitled to closure in life for anything? Let alone when you are potentially culpable in a crime. Sweeney brought out his Eagle of the Year award for the film. Even if he didn't commit a crime, did he really live up to the ideals of the award?
I don't expect BC to change its position on any of the guys involved and I don't think they should.