Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Top Five Sports TV Shows- #5

It's the Case and Point list of the Top Five Sports TV Shows.  To check out the past entry, introduction and honorable mention, click here.  To see who ranks fifth in our list, click below to read more!

*My huge TV knowledge revolves around pretty much anything from 1990, which even then is limited until about 1995 for the full spectrum of shows.  Oh, and for this case ignoring reality shows like Hard Knocks and HBO's 24/7.

5. Playmakers (2003)
It was ESPN's first forays into an original TV series.  ESPN Original Entertainment, which would later bring us movies like 3: The Dale Earnhardt Story, Codebreakers, The Bronx is Burning, and the 30 for 30 series, brought us the trials and issues of professional football players in the fictional professional football league known simply as "The League".

Playmakers was the very definition of a male soap opera.  It followed aging star linebacker Eric Olcyzk (Jason Matthew Smith), up and coming running back Demetrius Harris (Omar Gooding), banged up and determined quarterback Derek McConnell (Christopher Wiehl) and a rotating cast of secondary characters as they dealt with the rigors of the football regular season.

All of the true life cliches and actual problems were present in the series: drug abuse (QB McConnell relies on pain killers), steroid usage (RB Harris uses to get over an injury and finds a way to pass a surprise urine test), the "baby momma" (LB Olcyzk has a child out of wedlock), and players being cut and released with little warning (an under performing place kicker is there one week and gone the next) it went through the rigors of what the average player deals with over their career.

What made Playmakers interesting was not just the fact that the things the players went through were real or the fact that the scripts and actors were all believable but the channel it was located on.  If this had been on a network like Spike TV is might have been met with less attention.  The fact that ESPN, the owner of a contract with the NFL, aired the show made it more interesting and somewhat controversial.  The NFL is rumored to be the reason the show only lasted one season, with popular thought being that the NFL applied heavy pressure to pull the show after seeing the portrayal of football players.

It was a bold leap for ESPN to go out on their own and potentially alienate the biggest name in professional sports in America.  No harm came from their effort to portray the feelings and emotions of one of their cash cows in it's sad truth.  Perhaps the NFL felt the issue of a gay team mate, weight struggles and their toll on the body, and the psychological issues of devastating hits hit too close to home but they shut the door.

It's a shame that Playmakers wasn't able to persist to this day.  Their take on things like the effects of concussions from helmet-to-helmet hits and how the various players inside of the fictional Cougar locker room and the division it may have caused would have been facsinating.  Instead we'll just have to wonder what would have been.
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