HBO Sports Documentaries
Under the guidance of Seth Abraham and Ross Greenburg, HBO’s sports documentaries have been in a league of their own throughout the 1990s. Lyrical, revealing, and invariably touching all the bases, productions ranging from When It Was a Game to Babe Ruth to the recent Sugar Ray Robinson: The Bright Lights and Dark Shadows of a Champion have given viewers a sharp perspective on sports and sports figures. Their exploits are celebrated, as they should be. But we also learn what made sports heroes tick, and in some cases, ticking time bombs. HBO’s biography of Sonny Liston, the ill-fated heavyweight boxing champion, was brimming with knockout insights into his character and environment. Where Have You Gone, Joe DiMaggio? laid bare both his enormous talent and his seeming inability to be a regular Joe with teammates. And last year’s Sugar Ray Robinson, buoyed by an original jazz score from Wynton Marsalis, told the boxing champ’s story without pulling punches. Said veteran writer Jack Newfield: “He created a new place for the imagination of a fighter, the way Louis Armstrong or Frank Sinatra or Marlon Brando opened a new room in their art form.” The same can be said of HBO’s sports documentaries, which today receive a well-deserved Peabody Award for consistently playing at a higher level.