Last October, ESPN unveiled a tremendous string of documentaries. The 30 for 30 series captured impactful moments from the past 30 years on subjects provocative in nature. Thanks Bill Simmons!
We are nearing the end of the series. This past Tuesday was the 28th feature film. John Singleton directed Marion Jones: Press Pause and expectations were high.
Singleton directed several high profile movies in the past, including Boyz n the Hood, Higher Learning and Four Brothers.
Current Tulsa Shock member and former queen of track and field, Marion Jones figured to tell an intriguing story.
Something was amiss. To use a sports analogy, Josh Hamilton belted a shot, but it was caught at the warning track. So close.
Here are several highlights from the one-hour special. It replays this Thursday and Sunday if you missed it, check your local ESPN listings.
Like many of the stellar documentaries, Singleton seamlessly weaved actually footage with commentary. Marion Jones provided insight and a glimpse of her gregarious personality which made her the top female athlete of her generation.
"The most devastating loss was the loss of my freedom," Jones said. "I went to prison."
To Jones credit, she made no excuses. Many athletes blame mistakes, rouge trainers or the competitive nature of their job as the reason to cheat. She owned everything.
She won five medals during the Sydney Olympics, three gold and two bronze. She was stripped of the medals by the International Olympic Committee.
"I took performance enhancing drugs and I lied about it. I have betrayed your trust. I have no one to blame but my self for what I have done.
I have been dishonest and you have the right to be angry at me."
Honorable notion, but filed under too little too late by the federal prosecution. This admission came after she was busted.
Back in 2004 she was in full denial even though rumors were swirling. "I am for a drug-free sport. I always have been and I always will be. I was not going to risk my family's future, lifestyle, reputation."
She even used the "never, ever" wording that Rafael Palmeiro uttered in court during the baseball inquisition.
When brought in by the feds, the interrogation went on for hours. The 'gotcha' moment was when the feds dangled a baggy with vials in her face. Did she know what this was? Did she ingest? The questioning caught her off guard and she went into denial mode.
Here is one of my issues with the film. When and how did the feds bust her? How was she told? She seemed confused about the court proceeding. So was the audience.
They mentioned a raid on BALCO. Files were found on Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi and Marion Jones. However, the next moment was Jones apologizing in front of the media.
She served six months in a federal prison down in Fort Worth, Texas -- 49 days were spent in solitary confinement because a roommate "tried" Jones.
Jones protected herself by bashing the girl over the head with a water cooler. John Singleton and Jones walked outside the prison retelling the details.
Now Jones is out of prison and making up lost time with her two boys. They show home video footage of her about to give birth to a daughter.
She then goes through the routine of getting in playing shape for basketball. Several testimonies from former teammates, her college coach and sports writers tell her story of redemption.
Here is what lacked: No mention of former husband C.J. Hunter. Hunter withdrew from the Sydney Olympics citing a bum knee but later news broke that he failed four pre-Olympic drug tests. Again, no mention in her story.
While driving and talking with the director, you notice Jones still rides in style in her BMW. She also has a nanny assisting with her household it would seem.
Many of the 30 for 30 documentaries have major conflict and conflict resolution.
King's Ransom dealt with the destruction of an entire sports nation. Without Bias detailed the life and death of a young man who overdosed on cocaine.
The U stirred the racial emotions of college football. The 16th Man featured Nelson Mandela's controversial support of the Springboks national team affected post-apartheid South Africa.
You get the idea. While Jones story resonates and needed to be told, perhaps Singleton was too much of a Jones fan to tell it completely.
The shots taken from the Dallas area high school were poignant.
"We have a lot of role models that we see on the screen, but we don't have a lot of people come talk to us and show us that they really care," said a young student, Xavier Henderson.
Tulsa anchors the final stages of the show. As we have mentioned previously, the signing of Jones and Nolan Richardson may not win games, but strike blows in the publicity department.
"It's a tremendous pleasure to be here in Tulsa," she said during her press conference alongside Richardson.
Edwin Moses, a decorated Olympic hurdler, acted like the antagonist at times during the film. Otherwise, a cranky white reporter was the other one questioning Jones during the flick.
Doing six months in prison is no joke. Her fall from prominent worldly sports figured to role player on a subpar team in a fledgling league is eye opening.
We could have used more tails of loss such as sponsorships. Surely she received disappointing letters from fans. Her children are young, but maybe a word or two from them about missing mommy time would have hit a few strings.
Her road to redemption happens in our backyard. Tulsa area organizations, schools and leagues would be wise to reach out to Jones.
Her message is powerful. She seems like an excellent conduit to preach right from wrong.
American loves a comeback story. We cheer for the underdog. Her drive to turn her life around should be commended.
"The biggest thrill is when a young person tells me thanks for not quitting," she said.
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