ESPN 30 for 30 Shorts: Unhittable: Sidd Finch and the Tibetan Fastball (2015)

Directed by Peter Sillen

With the coming of April comes the march of April Fools. I’ve never been a huge proponent of the tradition, often finding the “jokes” not to be funny on the basis they’re too unbelievable or unconvincing. Each year we have them, and while most are not very good or very funny, there are always a few that seem to be worth it. Then there is Sidd Finch. Having not been alive in 1985, I do not have firsthand knowledge of this hoax, or how the general public reacted to the April 1 issue of Sports Illustrated, which featured a story on the best pitching prospect of all time, Sidd Finch, who could throw a fastball 168 mph.

In retrospect, a story about someone who can throw the ball 168 mph is certainly too good to be true, but the way Sports Illustrated sold the hoax makes it a classic April Fool’s joke. Recruiting reporter George Plimpton to cook up the hoax, Sports Illustrated depended on its stellar record as an accurate, fair sports magazine to lull their readers into the disbelief of such an uber prospect as the Met’s Sidd Finch. Featuring the right formula of fantastical storylines plus the right players willing to participate in this farce, Plimpton backed up his made up player with real life Joe Berton and the willing participation of the New York Mets, making the story and the photographs seem that much more real.

Thinking of the circumstance in today’s terms of social media and immediate personal reaction, the story wouldn’t stand a chance, but that makes the “curious case of Sidd Finch” no less impressive an April Fool’s joke. Peter Sillen’s film gives us a fun look into the pieces that went into orchestrating the successful joke. Sports are part of American entertainment. They exist for our pleasure and enjoyment. Often the players and fans get caught up in the competition of the game and the joy and pleasure are lost. Sidd Finch is a good reminder that sports are meant to be fun, and that there is plenty of fun to be had both on and off the field of play.

*** – Good

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