ESPN 30 for 30 Shorts: The Throwback (2016)

Directed by Erin Leyden

With the college football season now over (sorry, this debuted in December around the Heisman Trophy presentation, but just getting around to it now), the sports world will begin to turn focus on the upcoming baseball season while the NHL and NBA start their stretch runs to the playoffs. For hardcore college football fans, however, January becomes the run up to National Signing Day and college football recruiting. Anymore in college football, positions are so specialized that a 17 year old kid could be recruited for the same spot he’s played his whole life and will continue to play. There are a few exceptions, with the designation of ATH for athletes who could play multiple positions, but even those end up settling on a single position by the time they see the field in college. And then there is Gordie Lockbaum.

Gordie Lockbaum was a once in a lifetime type of player for Holy Cross in the mid 1980s. Over three decades ago is a long time, but even then it was unusual for a player to be as versatile as Lockbaum, who played both offense and defense, often playing well over 100 plays per game. As a running back and defensive back, Lockbaum became a Heisman Trophy finalist two years in a row as a result. It’s strange to revisit this, even as we saw Jabrill Peppers play both offense and defense some this year for Michigan, to see someone playing true Iron Man football, both ways for the entirety of the game. Not only have positions become so specialized, but sports in general have become so specialized, even at the high school level. The best athletes concentrate on their best sports instead of playing football, basketball and baseball, for example. Thus Lockbaum being considered a “Throwback”.

Erin Leyden’s film does nothing more than featuring Lockbaum’s story, bringing up a peculiarity in a college football landscape where the thought of another Lockbaum seems like an impossibility. It is no better or worse than most other films in the 30 for 30 Shorts series in its production and presentation. It tells Lockbaum’s story and brings little else to the table, which seems to be what the series has often becomes. More artistic and deeper thinking films like I Am Yup’ik are fewer and further between in the series, but that’s what makes me coming back to find another gem. In the interim, ESPN’s penchant for finding interesting stories and presenting them in a competent manner is impressive enough for a series that now spans over fifty films.

** 1/2 – Average

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