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Hit a Home Run with These Sports Documentaries

There seems to have been a surge in sports documentaries over the last few years. Either that, or I’m just noticing them more, which is a very real possibility as well. From “The Last Dance” (2020) about Michael Jordan’s career, to “Tiger” (2021), HBO’s brand two-parter about Tiger Woods, these documentaries have received quite a bit of attention – and praise – from both hardcore sports fans and casual spectators alike. After all, sports are suspenseful, dramatic, and – whether you are interested in the individual players, the game, or both – they tend to be emotionally engaging. If you’re looking for something the whole family can enjoy, check out some of these films in our collection.

Football season has come to a close, but you can still get your fix. “Four Falls of Buffalo” (2015) looks at the Buffalo Bills’ run of four consecutive Super Bowl appearances in the 1990’s: a huge accomplishment that was slightly (ok, entirely) overshadowed by the fact that they lost each one. If you’re getting in the mood for Super Bowl LV, though, it’s a great story. If you want a real throw-back, try “Harvard Beats Yale 29-29” (2008), a breakdown of one of the most legendary games in the history of sports, between two undefeated rivals. “The Two Bills” (2018) dives into the complicated and often tumultuous relationship between illustrious coaches Bill Belichick and Bill Parcells, featuring candid interviews with both. For those more interested in more drama than sports talk, there’s always “O.J.: Made in America”, documenting the rise and fall of the infamous O.J. Simpson.

If you’re already gearing up for baseball season, give “Fastball” (2015) a try. In it, baseball legends (like Derek Jeter and Hank Aaron) and scientists alike discuss the sport and try to deduce who threw the fastest pitch in history. Personally, the game of tennis has never interested me much, but I still enjoyed “John McEnroe: In the Realm of Perfection”; though, truthfully, I appreciated the clips of McEnroe throwing tantrums quite a bit more than I appreciated his volley technique.

Let’s not forget, not all sports are team sports. One of my favorite documentaries is “Free Solo” (2018) which profiles rock climber Alex Honnold and his historic ascent of Yosemite's El Capitan…without ropes. Climbing a 3,000 foot rock alone is about as far from a team sport as you can get, but when it comes to athleticism, human drama, and nail-biting suspense, it definitely does not disappoint. Along the same lines, “Boston: The Documentary” (2017), recounts the stories of several inspirational and incredibly dedicated marathoners who participated in the renowned race. It’s also narrated by Matt Damon, so there’s that.

These titles represent just a tiny portion of the collection, there are plenty more! And, of course, if documentaries aren’t your thing there are countless feature films about sports, biographies and autobiographies about specific athletes, and a massive number of nonfiction books on the subject. Feel free to reach out for more recommendations!

By Cassie Skobrak, Reference Librarian