ESPN Films’ Peabody and Emmy Award-winning 30 for 30 series continues this fall with three new documentaries that will air in October, November and December. Currently in the midst of its third volume, the series is fresh off a summer which featured the popular and critically acclaimed premieres of both “O.J.: Made in America” and “Doc & Darryl.”
Providing the tip-off for the fall offerings on Tuesday, October 18, will be “Phi Slama Jama,” a brief yet captivating era at the University of Houston, and a story ultimately captured for all it was and what might have been in the famous 1983 NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship Game.
Two weeks later, another narrative is revealed in “Hit It Hard,” a look back at the rags-to-riches-to-rags saga of golfer John Daly.
Then, following the Heisman Trophy presentation on Saturday, December 10, ESPN will debut “Catholics vs. Convicts,” a return to the unforgettable 1988 football game between Notre Dame and the University of Miami that sparked far more than just a t-shirt.
“With each of our 30 for 30 films this fall, there’s a level of rebelliousness, controversy and intrigue in the main characters,” says ESPN Films Vice President and Executive Producer John Dahl. “That desire to do it their own way brought along a fair share of criticism, but also helped fuel the pursuit of their goals.”
Below, find full breakdowns of each as well as trailers:
— “Phi Slama Jama” directed by Chip Rives
Tuesday, October 18, 8 p.m. ET on ESPN
They were the most popular fraternity on the campus of college basketball in the early 1980s. Led by a Nigerian soccer player named Hakeem Olajuwon and a lightly recruited hometown kid named Clyde Drexler, the University of Houston Cougars not only electrified the NCAA Final Four with three straight appearances (1982-84), but they also helped transform the game itself. In this 30 for 30 film, director Chip Rives brings back the high-flying circus act under ringmaster Guy V. Lewis and spins a tale of true greatness and crushing heartbreak. But while exploring that larger narrative, Rives also focuses on the disappearance of enigmatic role player Benny Anders and the lasting brotherhood that compels teammates and 1981-82 co-captains Eric Davis and Lynden Rose to try and find him after more than two decades of mystery. Trailer:
— “Hit It Hard” directed by David Terry Fine and Gabe Spitzer
Tuesday, November 1, 8 p.m. ET on ESPN
If professional golf were put to country music, then the song would be about John Daly. Ever since he shocked the sports world by winning the PGA Championship at Crooked Stick 25 years ago, the blond bomber from Dardanelle, Arkansas, has been one of the most popular—and polarizing—figures in a sport that cherishes its traditions and minds its manners. In this revealing and rollicking 30 for 30 film, directors Gabe Spitzer and David Fine cover Daly’s rise and fall, his redemption at the British Open in St. Andrews in 1995, and his struggles with booze, food, gambling, women and depression. They also uncover a person whose story runs much deeper than his motto of “Sip It, Grip It, Rip It.” Trailer:
— “Catholics vs. Convicts” directed by Patrick Creadon
Saturday, December 10, 9 p.m. ET on ESPN
On October 15, 1988, Notre Dame hosted the University of Miami in what would become one of the greatest games in college football history. It was tradition vs. swagger, the No. 4-ranked Fighting Irish versus the No. 1-ranked Hurricanes, one coaching star, Lou Holtz, versus another, Jimmy Johnson. But the name still attached to the contest came from a t-shirt manufactured by a few Notre Dame students: “Catholics vs. Convicts.” In this 30 for 30 documentary, director and narrator Patrick Creadon (Wordplay, I.O.U.S.A.) doesn’t just look back on the epic game. He explores the deeper narrative as a Notre Dame senior at the time, a close friend to the young men in the middle of the “Catholics vs. Convicts” controversy (Joe Fredrick and Pat Walsh) and a fellow classmate of the player behind center for the Fighting Irish (quarterback Tony Rice). The coaches and players open up about the fight that started the game, the highly debatable calls that are still being talked about and the insensitive aspects of the irresistibly popular t-shirt. As compelling as the tale of Notre Dame’s dramatic victory is—even losing quarterback Steve Walsh calls it “a helluva ballgame”—the backstory is just as riveting. Trailer: