ESPN 30 for 30: Big Shot (2013)

 Directed by Kevin Connolly

Admittedly, this is where the series left off for me. The large majority of the blame can easily come from life itself, as professionally and personally my schedule filled up. But looking at the entry itself, Big Shot, it very well may shoulder at least some of the blame. A lot of things had to come together to make this film so far from anything I should be remotely interested in. Hockey in and of itself is not a sport I hate by any wide margin. In fact I call myself a casual fan. Casual in the fact that I know my hometown team and a few of the really big names in the sport. I may  go to one or two games a year, and watch a handful more on television, but past that my knowledge of the sport and certainly of it’s history is well below my general knowledge of several other sports.

The question in this film is “who is John Spano”? I don’t know, should I know who that is? As a non-hockey fan perhaps I shouldn’t, but the coup he orchestrated is impressive and laughable at the same time, leading me to a certain level of disbelief that I hadn’t heard of John Spano. Back in the 90s, a struggling New York Islanders franchise found its savior in the form of Texas tycoon John Spano. The Islanders had a storied history, a tight-knit fan base like a small hometown community, a horrid new logo, and too many losses to count. In steps Spano to buy the team, make the moves, and bring the franchise back to prominence. 

Uh, one problem. Spano may be a rich man, but he hardly has millions of dollars. This is incredible on a number of levels. So wacky it can’t be true. A man, while rich by many standards, bought a professional hockey team in America while having less than a million dollars to his name. How in the hell did he even think about pulling that off? Connolly narrates us through the basics. Fake documents, creative stall tactics, and other miscellaneous mistakes or assumptions made by both the Islanders and the NHL. For such a wacky story, the film isn’t nearly as entertaining as it should be. I want to sweat it with Spano as he’s dodging bullets. Where are the play by play, nitty gritty details of the process, the crime, the impossibly bold acquisition of a pro team with merely thousands of dollars? That is what this film is missing, and I think much of it comes from Spano once again.

Kevin Connolly, admitted major Islanders fan, never gets the info he needs for his film. As a result, much of it is much too basic and he ends up relying on his narration as opposed to capturing the information in compelling interview situations. Surprisingly, Connolly managed to convince Spano to sit down for the film, but boy is it a disappointing conversation. Perhaps Spano, while willing to sit down with Connolly, was unwilling to part with the specifics, but the questions that ended up making the film made little impact to paint the fuller picture. The film suffers from lack of life. Nothing exceptionally compelling is ever shot into this firecracker of a story. Big Shot turns out to be a heap of unfulfilled potential, which may be worse than if it were just plain bad instead.

** – Poor

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