Directed by Michael Husain
The “short” format allows for any multitude of interesting story to be told and given its due time, whether it has the potential of interest to sustain a feature length style delivery or not. Many times, stories are slight enough to have a need to be relegated to such a format as the short, and are better served in an efficient narrative such as the short. ESPN’s series of short films have been a mixed bag, with some being electrifying and endlessly fascinating, while others simply feel lacking. Slick, Nancy, and the Telethon is the type of film which feels right at home in the format.
In my lifetime, the Indiana Pacers have always been a part of the NBA, so any mention of their time in the ABA goes with no context for what that world of basketball looked like. For me, the Indiana Pacers are Reggie Miller, and Austin Croshere hitting clutch threes in a playoff outburt in the post-Jordan Eastern Conference era. But for many others, and I’m sure many basketball fans from Indiana, the Pacers mean much more than that, hearkening back to the era of the red, white and blue ball of the ABA, and their struggles to remain a financially viable franchise. Enter Bobby “Slick” Leonard and his wife Nancy Leonard, and the idea to do a telethon to raise the requisite funds to stay in operation.
Seeing this story, it is immediately apparent that this was a different era. Being a sports fan, I know about the disconnect between stardom and monetary compensation from days of yesteryear in any sport. Today, players make millions, almost like it was nothing, as the cash flowing in from television, endorsement deals, and revenue sharing agreements all but assure any franchise of their place in a respective “major” league (re: Florida/Miami Marlins). But seeing this different era reminds us of not the why, but the how of loving sports. We love sports by shelling out our hard earned dollar for entertainment, and as such we take pride in the teams we cheer for, and jeer those we despise. Slick, Nancy, and the Telethon shows us the kind of community sports should be all about.