ESPN 30 for 30 Shorts: The Great Trade Robbery (2014)

Directed by Stuart Zicherman

Recalling some of the most one sided trades in the history of sports can be a really fun exercise. Babe Ruth’s contract sold for $100,000? John Elway for Mark Hermann, Chris Hinton and Ron Solt? Dr. J to the Nets for $3 Million? The list could go on, but included in that list is the Hershel Walker trade the struggling Dallas Cowboys made, which helped build their dynasty. I don’t find it necessary to discuss the exact terms in this review, watch the film if you don’t know them. What I would prefer to do with this review is speak more generally about the different kinds of films we see from the 30 for 30 series. I bring this up because, to be completely honest, this particular film works more as a history lesson that it does as entertainment or artistic storytelling. In other words, the story being told is simple, and it is done in a simple and straightforward manner. The film exists to communicate the terms and results of the trade.

It’s a fine line between what this film does and what others in the series have done to set themselves apart. However, I struggle with films like this that are so straightforward that I feel like I’m more being informed than I am entertained. When that happens I don’t feel like it’s a true film, and that sounds harsh to say, and maybe I’m way off base to put it in those terms, but that is what I experienced with this particular film. “So that happened, and so what?” I understand the documentary genre, or maybe I don’t, but my favorite documentaries tell, yes, true stories, but do so in compelling, thought-provoking manners. The Great Trade Robbery does not do that. It exists to inform and toot the horn of Jimmy Johnson and Jerry Jones for pulling off one of the best deals (for the Cowboys, not the Vikings) in the history of sport.

It does a good job of informing the viewer of the circumstances of the trade, the terms of the trade, how and why the Cowboys pulled it off. From that perspective, it really does cover it’s bases in terms of the who, what, when, where, why and how questions. So I can’t complain too much. But it fails to color in that outline. It fails even to creatively color outside those lines.

** – Poor

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