Directed by Marc Kinderman
No ESPN 30 for 30 Short has been as timely or relevant as No Kin to Me, and it is mostly not by design. With the NCAA Tournament right around the corner, it goes without saying that ESPN planned the release of this NCAA basketball-centric short to coincide with the event. However, what they couldn’t have ever predicted was the passing of Nancy Reagan, former First Lady and wife of Ronald Reagan, whose assassination attempt is a major player in the narrative being told in No Kin to Me. As the story goes, in 1981 the NCAA still played a Third Place consolation game at the Final Four. After a particularly poor and frustrating performance in the national semi-final game, Louisiana State star player Rudy Macklin intentionally fouled out of the Third Place game, which was played in the wake of Reagan’s assassination attempt. When asked after the game whether the Reagan shooting affected his performance, Macklin told reporters, “He’s no kin of mine,” which was picked up and taken out of context to lambaste Macklin.
There are so many unfortunate things that happened to culminate in this controversy, and seeing Macklin’s story reassures me of the famous line having been taken out of context. What Marc Kinderman’s film does is give Macklin a platform to tell his side, to be forgiven for perhaps a poor choice of words, no matter their intent. However, I’m not sure this is the type of story that fits the format all that well. It falls back into the convention of the 30 for 30 Short series by taking a SportsCenter feature, extending it out and slapping the 30 for 30 label on it. It’s a story well worth telling, but by recapping the NCAA format, the background of the shooting, when all the things come together at the end, there isn’t nearly enough time to spend on how the event has impacted Macklin’s life then and now, what his support was like, then and now. In the end, the center of the story feels slighted in order to make room for the content to give the story context, which is a shame.
However, I couldn’t help but think about the event through the lens of today’s social media storm, and how things may have played out completely different. The Reagan news would have been immediate, and the consolation game likely cancelled (if it were still being played at all – there hasn’t been a Third Place game since 1981). The news of Macklin’s comments, though, would have exploded through social media and he would have been tried and convicted within minutes, without even a chance of telling his side of the story. By the time he would have a chance, our society would have already passed judgement and his words would have fallen upon deaf ears. In this way, I can read No Kin to Me as a cautionary tale to today’s athletes, and really anyone, to be careful what they say, how they say it, when they say it, and where they say it, because with social media as it is now, we’re all on trial every minute of every day.