By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard
The ESPN 30 for 30 series has brought us many great stories. From the ‘Guru of Go’ to ‘Small Potatoes’ to ‘Pony Express’ to ‘The Two Escobars’. The series has continued to knock one documentary after another out of the park. They have also struck out a few times and they struck out looking on ‘Trojan War’.
‘Trojan War’ is the first film in Volume 3 and was directed by Aaron Rahsaan Thomas. Thomas is an accomplished TV Producer but in this his Directorial debut, he fell short. ‘Trojan War’ showed a massive lack of creativity and professionalism with it’s poor VO (done by Thomas) and its script direction graphics wiped on the screen with cliched typing sound effects. After about 15 minutes it felt like nails down a chalkboard.
If you could get over that and know anything about the era then you would know how much they left out. The loss to Cal in 2003 was huge. It cost them a berth in the National Title game and they ended up having to split the National Title with LSU. Zero mention of that. Instead they filled the 90 minute documentary with a lot of interviews with people who didn’t really matter (a backup quarterback who threw two touchdown passes? Really?)
The fact is (and through no fault of Thomas) that this story has been done by NFL Network’s ‘A Football Life’ last year and it’s too soon for people to really open up about the era. One for the main pillars of the story, Reggie Bush, didn’t even do an interview. It was partially because of decisions he made that USC’s “era” ended. This story would have been better served being done 10 years from now when the dust truly settled.
One good takeaway from the film was Pete Carroll. How he changed his style and the culture he developed at USC were the solid takeaways from the film. In all honesty, ESPN just should have done a 30 for 30 on him and dived deeper into how he changed his coaching style and became successful on the collegiate and professional level after being a below average head coach as his two previous NFL stops.
ESPN 30 for 30 is a solid film series. The vast majority of the stories they have told to this point have been compelling and well done. One of 30 for 30’s creators was Bill Simmons who was unceremoniously removed from ESPN earlier this year. You can’t help but wonder if ‘Trojan War’ would have been better if Simmons was still in ESPN’s good graces. It might have been better if it wasn’t made at all. A very disappointing start to Volume 3.