8 Movies and Shows for Sports Fans to Stream Over the Summer

Sports are awesome. Traveling and/or visiting with your family over the summer without a go-to list of streamable content isn’t. Luckily we live in 2017. Your flying back home to go away with the folks for a week and the greasy dude in the seat next to you in coach looks like he’s about to tell you his life story? No worries: just grab your iPad and a pair of headphones and head him off before he can start.

There is plenty of great stuff out there to watch, but here are eight pieces to start with. Chances are you may have already seen a few of these. If so, start with the ones you haven’t seen. And if you’ve seen them all, you probably don’t need help finding sports programming to watch…

8. Mantle

As just a biographical documentary, this HBO Sports film is well worth watching, especially if you don’t know a lot about Mickey Mantle. It’s true brilliance however is the way it transports the viewer back to the 1950s. Especially New York City of the 1950s. This is necessary to give the viewer an accurate context of how big Mickey Mantle actually was during that era. If you have a parent or grandparent who grew up during the 50s and you want to understand them better, take an hour to watch this…

Bonus: An excellent music score that fits the tone of the film perfectly.

7. At All Costs

This is a well done independent documentary (available on iTunes and Amazon) that pulls off a tough feat: it brings you inside the world of AAU basketball without making you want to take a shower afterwards. If you care at all about NBA or NCAA basketball, this behind-the-scenes look at the “amateur” basketball circuit is right up your alley…

Bonus: Because the top AAU teams are all sponsored by shoe companies, there is some nice sneaker porn featured throughout.

6. Prayer for a Perfect Season

Staying in the world of youth basketball, Prayer for a Perfect Season (currently available on HBO NOW) brings you inside a season with St. Patricks High School in New Jersey for their 2010-2011 campaign, when current Bobcats starter Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was a senior. Coach Kevin Boyle (currently at national power Monteverde, where he coached Ben Simmons, among others) emerges as the star of the documentary, providing the kids on his team with discipline, love, and everything in between…

Bonus: since Prayer for a Perfect Season ends up being more about life than basketball (a la Hoop Dreams), it is a good watch for the whole family.

5. The 1984 Draft

The only downside is that it can be hard to find online. It is occasionally available on YouTube or OnDemand on some cable packages. That being said, it is pure sports porn for NBA fans. For older fans it is a reminder of what many consider the greatest draft of all time, and for younger fans it is an introduction to that same draft. All-in-all, an extremely well-done documentary that does a great job of telling the stories behind the decisions on draft day…

Bonus: Steve Nash narrates.

4. Punched Out: The Death of Derek Boogaard

A documentary from the NY Times, Punched Out tells the heartbreaking story of former NHL enforcer Derek Boogaard, who died of an overdose in 2011. Tightly edited and lacking in unnecessary fluff, the story is informational, educational, entertaining, and emotionally wrenching. Even if you aren’t a hockey fan, you will be glad you watched it…

Bonus: The revealing interviews with Boogaard contemporary and fellow former NHL tough guy Todd Fedoruk.

3. Brothers in Exile

Also available on Netflix, this excellent entry in the 30 for 30 series is a must-watch for anyone with a pulse. Baseball fans (and especially Yankees fans) may enjoy it the most, but the story of the Hernandez brothers and the disparate paths they took from Cuba to the Major Leagues is universal in it’s appeal. The highlight of the film is the rare and revealing archive footage of the brothers and their contemporaries that is dispersed throughout…

Bonus: The footage of El Duque at home in Cuba watching his brother win a World Series for the Marlins in 1997 is priceless.

2. The People vs OJ Simpson: American Crime Story

Great source material, great writing, great acting, and a performance from John Travolta that is so over the top you can’t take your eyes off of him. Cuba Gooding Jr. as OJ Simpson is by far the weakest part of this otherwise-excellent series, but the other acting more than makes up for it. Cyrus B. Vance as Johnnie Cochran and Sarah Paulson as Marcia Clark both crush it like Barry Bonds in 2001, and David Schwimmer actually made the audience believe he was Robert Kardashian by the final episode…

Bonus: The hilarious (and winking) portrayal of the Kardashian sisters as young children.

1. OJ: Made in America

If you didn’t see this when it came out last June, it was probably because you A) Were scared away by the 8-hour running time, B) Were sick of hearing about OJ after the FX series, or C) Heard so much hype about the series that you got turned off by it before you even started watching. The passage of time should have diminished the effects of B and C, and as far as A goes, it is helpful to view the documentary as a five-part series that doesn’t have to be consumed all at once. You should look at it like a season of television: you eventually want to watch the whole thing, but each episode is good enough to stand on it’s own.

The bottom line: I haven’t met a single person who watched it and later regretted that they did. Plus, the second time I watched it was even better than the first. Quite simply, it is a masterpiece that deserves all the hype it got, and if you find yourself bored out of your mind over the holidays, just know that at any time you can escape said boredom by downloading the WatchESPN app and pressing play on Episode 1…

Bonus: Former OJ defense team member Carl E. Douglas provides such entertaining commentary throughout the series that by the time you are done watching you will wish he was part of every documentary, no matter the subject.

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