Friday Media Quicklinks

Just a few links this morning while Ryan readies this week’s Sports Media Musings…

Baseball takes two from NFL – Chad Finn has the World Series taking two nights in the ratings war with the NFL, as baseball beat football on both Sunday and Monday night this week. Chad also reports that NESN has hired NH native Jamison Coyle ( @Jamison_Coyle )  to replace Jade McCarthy on NESN Daily.

Fox 25’s Kristine Leahy arrives with new, youthful outlook – Bill Doyle talks with the 25-year-old Leahy, (@KristineLeahy ) who has been a sports anchor at Fox since July after two years as the Celtics web and in-arena host. She had also previously hosted the Top 5 at WEEI.com.

Media Roundup – Cowher Talks Pats/Steelers – In my SBNation Boston Media column, I’ve got CBS’ Bill Cowher talking about the Patriots, a team he knows a thing or two about losing to.

The Best Sports Section in History – Grantland has a column this morning from Nell Scovell, who talks about being a young writer working with the likes of Will McDonough, Bob Ryan, Michael Madden, Lesley Visser, Peter Gammons, and Leigh Montville.

 

ESPN Films “Unguarded” Delivers Un-Filtered Journey of Demise & Re-Emergence

Last night I had the opportunity to catch a screening of the new ESPN Films documentary, “Unguarded.” The film tells the story of local basketball legend, Chris Herren. The former NBA player’s story is well documented. In fact, in one form of medium or another, Herren’s ongoing journey has always been disseminated.

Bill Reynolds, of the Providence Journal, wrote about the heralded prospect’s recruiting courtship in Fall River Dreams. An unfinished documentary, presumed to revolve around Herren’s life as a young father preparing for the NBA Draft, was taped in 1998. Finally, last year, Reynolds and Herren teamed up to write Basketball Junkie , which told the story of Herren’s demise and re-emergence.

“Unguarded” almost serves as a bow tie, fusing the coverage of Herren’s life into one gripping film. This presented both challenges and advantages to the film’s director, Jonathan Hock.

How do you re-formulate a story that has already been told?

Hock made two critical (and successful) choices in “Unguarded.” First – much like the 30 For 30 film “June 17, 1994” – Hock chose not to directly interview his subject. Instead, Hock used footage from a variety of speaking engagements Herren frequently does to narrate the documentary.

This ingenuous move proved to be effective because of Herren’s audience. Hock picked roughly four settings to cut and paste from: A high school, basketball camp, military base, and rehabilitation center for prisoners. This eclectic mix of people gave the viewers authentic reaction to Herren’s life. The decision re-affirmed the power of Herren’s story and eliminated any desensitization viewers may have had.

The second choice was selectively pulling the footage from the unfinished documentary from 1998. There were over 140 hours of material, which Hock jovially described as hitting the lottery. The footage was jarring because Herren – who had struggled with a cocaine addiction in college – was newly married with a son. One got a sense of the pensive hope surrounding the family as Herren’s career progressed to the NBA. With his dreams coming to fruition, anything for the young family seemed possible. However, little did the family know, Herren would be pronounced legally dead for 30 seconds after a heroin overdose a mere eight years later.

In my eyes, there are two underlying themes in “Unguarded.” First and foremost, is a family persevering through a father’s sickness. Herren’s addiction never was properly addressed until after he had thrown away his career. Everything was an illusion created in part by Herren’s profile. This isn’t a basketball film, frankly, because for a majority of his life post-Fall River, Chris Herren didn’t care about basketball.

“There was always this feeling of ‘We’re turning it around, because now we are doing this. Now we are good because we’re doing that.’…I kept his addiction going as much as he did,” Herren’s wife, Heather.

Secondly, in my view, is being a product of your environment. Herren had the weight of Fall River’s aspirations on him at a young age, and he delivered. The film conveyed the town as a security blanket for the former savant of the hardwood.

“There is something special about this place (Fall River). You don’t want to let it go. And, it doesn’t want to let you go either.” – Chris Herren, 1998

Herren notes his troubles started at Boston College when he first used cocaine, “It opened up doors I couldn’t shut for 15 years.” After being kicked out of “The Heights,” Herren fled to Fresno State. His game excelled out west, despite lingering drug issues, and his professional career as a Denver Nugget started auspiciously as well.

Unfortunately, when he was traded to the Celtics, Herren re-discovered addiction – this time in the form of the omnipotent pill, OxyContin. Herren’s brother lamented that the move back to Boston was a “death sentence.” Every instance Herren was placed around Fall River his life seemingly regressed into a worse drug and (ultimately) deeper addiction.

If I were to find one fault in “Unguarded”, I would point to the length. The film is nearly two hours and will certainly be laborious to sit through with interjected commercial breaks. On the contrary, there isn’t one portion of the documentary I can point to and say, “That was unnecessary.”

The portrayal of Herren’s older brother as a folk figure, who piloted Durfee to over 40 straight wins, was necessary to accentuate the pressure put on Chris to perform well. The discussion of Herren’s relationship with his wife was also necessary to substantiate the powerful bond that would not break, even at the worst of times. Herren’s cavalier attitude towards his front-page picture on the Boston Herald and urgency to replenish his pill supply displayed how far his priorities had been displaced.

There were also the anecdotal pieces that aided the film such as Herren’s performance against UMass coming off an all-night bender, the Denver Nugget veterans taking Herren under their collective wing to ensure he would remain sober, and the relationship with Jerry Tarkanian.

Overall, “Unguarded” continues to hit the ambitious target that ESPN Films strives to aim for. “Unguarded” premieres Tuesday night at 8:00 pm.

Understated Steelers Week Moves On

I don’t know about you, but I’m a little sick of the stories and talk that Tom Brady owns the Pittsburgh Steelers. I take a little solace in that fact that Brady himself isn’t buying it.

Sure, these aren’t the 2008 Steelers here, but they’re more than capable of beating the Patriots on Sunday. Maybe it’s the bye week, or all of the Red Sox drama, but this game is getting shockingly little play around here. Its seems a given in many quarters that the Patriots will win, always a dangerous position to take.

Pats Pregame Points: Game Seven At Steelers – Chris Warner on Patriots Daily hits on some areas to look at in this one.

Versus Pats, Steelers’ D never rests – Chris Forsberg has the Steelers defense looking for answers for this one.

Patriots, Steelers are proof that stable QB/coach relationships are big key to success – Christopher Price has these two teams as prime examples of stability. A Sherrod Blakely has more on the topic. Paul Kenyon says that this game will showcase two of the NFL’s best.

Can the Patriots pass defense find a way to keep Steelers receiver Mike Wallace grounded? – Nick Underhill says that keeping the explosive wideout under wraps will be a challenge for the Patriots. Karen Guregian says that cornerback play will be key for the Patriots.

Roethlisberger a big pain for opponents – Julian Benbow looks at what makes the Steelers QB so tough. Glen Farley says that Roethlisberger is “big Ben,” not “gentle Ben.”

Scott Zolak: Steelers should throw on Pats – The 98.5 mid-day host (and Pennsylvania native) tells a PA newspaper what the Steelers need to do to beat the Patriots. He also talks about his role at 98.5 and on the Patriots radio broadcasts.

Patriots must look for safety first – Mark Farinella says that Brady the Patriots must always be aware of where Troy Polamalu is.

Dan Koppen with down time – Rapoport’s notebook has the injured Patriots center staying upbeat dispute not being able to play. The other notebooks this morning reference Rob Gronkowski issuing an apology or saying sorry , when in reality, he didn’t do either. He expressed regret over the incident, but didn’t actually apologize, either to Robert Kraft or the media.

Joe Maddon might not be a fit for the Red Sox, but he knows somebody who might be – Rob Bradford has the Tampa manager touting his bench coach, Dave Martinez for the Red Sox job.

Cherington’s first task a daunting one — hire a manager – Tim Britton looks at the first step for the new GM.

Repairs start with starters – Michael Silverman says that starting pitching is a close second.

Jays may target David Ortiz – Scott Lauber reports that the Blue Jays might make a run at the Red Sox DH.

Why it might be close to freakout time for the Bruins – DJ Bean says that you might need to keep your hand close to the panic button.

Comfort zone isn’t good place for Bruins – Kevin Paul Dupont says that the Bruins just look too comfortable on the ice.

Kelly key to new ‘SKL’ line – Mick Colageo looks at a revamped line that will be on display tonight. Mike Loftus has more on the new line.

Ryan Hadfield will be by later this afternoon with a review of the new ESPN Films production “Unguarded,” about  Fall River’s Chris Herren, which had a special premiere in Boston last night.