ESPN 30 for 30 Shorts: Delaney (2015)

Directed by Grant Curtis

The National Football League is arguably the most popular sports league in America today, having surpassed Major League Baseball as the nation’s pastime. That pains me to say as a baseball fan, but the numbers tell the story of unparalleled popularity in the sport of football in this country. Of course, with popularity comes fame and fortune and player worshipping. It doesn’t really matter the sport. With the violence of football though, player’s careers are so much shorter in the NFL than probably any other major professional sport. The running back position in particular has become a peculiar position, seeing peak performance for such a short while before fading back into black and never seeing a football field again. These bursts of light on the football field are great to see in action. But in the case of Joe Delaney that light went out far too early.
Delaney was the star running back of the Kansas City Chiefs when he tragically drowned while attempting to save three young boys who were drowning in a pond near a water park. Delaney’s star was rising on the football scene, giving new life into a down franchise that had struggled for years before Delaney’s arrival. He gave hope to the Kansas City fan base. These types of stories are always a little hard to take given their tragic nature. In a short format, the director, Grant Curtis here, has only a limited time to show us who Joe Delaney was as a man, and why we should care deeply about his unfortunate passing. Curtis does about as much as he can.
Delaney was a very simple southern man who put others before himself in most every way. He worked hard to provide for his family and only expected enough change in his pocket to buy a Coke at the store when he liked. His selflessness was admirable, and something that many modern day diva athletes seem to miss on the field and off (though not all, there are good men in every league today that do great work in their communities). The cartoon recreations seem out of place in the flow of the story of Joe Delaney, but other than that, Curtis shows us a brief glimpse of what made Joe Delaney a beloved father, husband, teammate and football player. Little more can be asked of the format.

*** – Good

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