ESPN 30 for 30:The Two Escobars (2010)

Directed by Jeff & Michael Zimbalist

The beauty of sports is that they are just games. For the most fortunate of those who play sports as youths, that game becomes a career in which there is money to be had. This year the big sports movie was Moneyball, and one of my favorite lines from that film was that “we are all told at some point that we can no longer play the child’s game.” Moneyball is about baseball and doesn’t have much to do with this film, I can admit that, but The Two Escobars seems to perfectly encapsulate the opposite of that sentiment. Soccer is a child’s game to you and me and most people in the world. But the most popular sport in the world also has its dark side, especially for those playing under circumstances which the players of the 1994 Colombian national team faced.

Pablo Escobar is a very famous Colombian native. Perhaps you have heard of him and perhaps you have not, but during the late 80s, early 90s Pablo Escobar made more money than anyone in the entire country of Colombia…as the kingpin to a rather large and extensive drug network. He was one of the most wanted men in the United States for his contribution to the “War against Drugs”, but Escobar smartly influenced the Colombian government to do away with extradition. He also smartly used soccer to help legitimize his billion dollar drug business by laundering the money under cash ticket sales, etc. With drug money supporting it, Colombian soccer rose to worldwide prominence, that is until the 1994 World Cup when, coming in as favorites, they lost, in part thanks to an own goal disgracefully, and mistakenly, committed by its star player, Andres Escobar.

Never has the competition of sports seemed to matter more or have more on the line than the Colombian soccer team under the checkbook of Pablo Escobar. There was an instance when Escobar had a referee murdered for his performance on the pitch. There was tons of money to be won and lost on the pitch for big time betters and drug lords, so when the Colombians lost in the World Cup, they lost more than just a soccer game. What the Zimbalist’s do so well, which most of the other films in the collection don’t have the time or in some cases the ambition to do, is to show us the complete picture. We get a fully fleshed out story about Pablo Escobar, about Andres Escobar, about the drug cartels in Colombia, and about the effect of the marriage of drugs and sports.

Entering the marathon, this was the only one I had seen. I watched it roughly a year ago and my reception was very favorable then. Nothing has changed in my eyes, though halfway through the series now, I don’t think I would call it my favorite of the films so far, but it is definitely a heck of a story, a heck of a film, and should be seen by any sports fan, or fan of real life drama. In America soccer is not nearly as big as the rest of the world, so I can see why some would be uninterested in this film, especially since it is about Colombian soccer and not American soccer, but the story told is a human one more so than a sports story. The fact that is also a sports story is just icing on the cake for me.

***1/2 – Great

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