Directed by Maura Mandt & Josh Swade
As I sit here watching college basketball, I begin to realize just how popular the game has become. March is marked each year with a full slate of incredible games, incredible moments, and even non basketball fans find a way to get involved by filling out their brackets. I look at the NBA and even the Olympics and I see that the game has become a worldwide sport with participants and stars from all across the globe. But it all began here in America. It is an American sport, and one in which we take great pride in. Of the three major sports with roots in America (Baseball, Football and Basketball), basketball continues to be the most accessible for participants.
Like any sport, basketball fans are just as passionate as any other sport. Everyone has its fanatics, though it seems as though the college level always seems to have another level of dedication and lunacy when it comes to rooting for your team.One such fan is Josh Swade, whose dedication to the University of Kansas program is incredible. So incredible that when the original rules of the game, written by Dr. Naismith and posted in a gymnasium in Springfield, Massachusetts, when those rules became available at auction, Swade set out on a mission to recruit the boosters of the university to help him procure it, to bring it home to where he was convinved was the only place the rules belonged: Lawrence, Kansas.
It becomes hard to argue Josh’s point when the history of the game and all the influential figures connected to the Kansas program. Then again I have never been one to be crazy about sports memorobilia. As a student of history I can certainly appreciate it, but unlike Josh, I would never in a million years thought of trying to attain a piece of history for millions of dollars, especially if I didn’t have the money to begin with. In addition to the monetary hill which Swade had to climb, he was also faced with a race against time as his mission began a mere month before the auction was set to take place. Lucky for us, Josh brought a camera along when he visited the rich boosters to solicit their millions.
The problem with the film quickly becomes obvious. His passion is very specific, and I struggled to ever connect with his purpose, especially after his very unprepared, basic, and futile attempts to convince the boosters to support him. The moments he spends with these rich families are painfully awkward and reveal his lack of planning. I found it increasingly difficult to get on board with what Swade was attempting to accomplish. The other side of the coin in this situation is clearly how the story played out, and because it ended as fortuituously as it did, a whole new perspective can be taken when viewing the obsessession.
The last 15 minutes of the film redeem much of the awkwardness and indifference of its beginning. Once the auction itself kicks off, I found myself so much more interested in its outcome. I thought there was no way they ever had a chance to actually pull it off, but miraculously they did. I’m not even sure that I can even appreciate it right now. But as great as those moments were while watching the film, I couldn’t keep it out of my mind how pointless it all must have been. There are the crazy fans like Swade who will cherish the rules every day the rest of their lives, but were the millions paid worth it for the general student who supports the program? Were the millions worth it for the businessman who sponsered the the push to win them at auction, or did he just feel pressured with the cameras and the weight of the situation on his shoulders? Perhaps that is the cynic in me, but there was certainly something that felt a little off in my experience with this one, even if it did feature its moments.