Overview: This second edition of HBO Sports STATE OF PLAY tells the story of college football player Eric LeGrand of Avenel, NJ (No. 52 at Rutgers) and mountain biker Steve Shope of Newfields, NH, who both competed at a high level, but suddenly, became paralyzed on the field. This moving film follows both men and their families as they struggle to accept new physical limitations, painting a raw and inspiring portrait of endurance and love. Berg hosts a panel discussion that includes Eric LeGrand, his mother, Karen, Steve Shope and his wife, Julie.
STATE OF PLAY: BROKEN is executive produced by Peter Berg and Sarah Aubrey; co-executive producers, Matthew Goldberg and Christopher G. Cowen; producers, Gabe Spitzer and Brandon Carroll; co-producer, Stephen Strout; field producer, Sandrine Orabona; director of photography, Sean McElwee; edited by Stephen Strout.
Expectations: That is a short and sweet overview exactly posted as HBO gave it to us. In a way I am not to put out by that scant information. It gives me enough to go on and sparks interest to hear the stories from these selected athletes. Both men have sustained horrible injuries I gather labeling them as ‘broken.’ The documentary portion may dwell just on the accidents and then the roundtable will, via their examples, discuss how the athletes deal with now longer competing and just concentrating on healing and/or managing their condition. Sounds like grounds for a good segment. Here is a preview that sets it all up perfectly.
Gut Reaction: This writer thought last week’s edition “Happiness” was not a solid hour. This edition fares better, but the series still hasn’t hit the depth of reporting or the heated examination that we saw in “Trophy Kids” last year. We do get personal and inspiring stories from Steve & Eric. They serve a good example of how paralyzed people live their lives. As Eric’s mother Karen states in the roundtable, and I paraphrase – It isn’t surviving the accident that makes you inspirational it is what you have done afterwards. Of course, no one dwells on getting hurt in sports, at least seriously injured. Karen had another kernel of insight with a line that states – If you worry about getting injured you are more likely to become so. Some great quotes came out of the discussion portion and some good day-in-the-live moments in the documentary.
This documentary, I felt, could have geared the focus more on sports and those you get seriously damaged by the games they play. The Shope piece was good because it could have led to a discussion of extreme sports, like mountain biking, and how the risks of catastrophic injury is present in sports as risky as those. The documentary THE CRASH REEL comes to mind; it proved an unexpected favorite in exploring that topic. And, of course, football has really been under scrutiny for its safety. That isn’t what happens here. Instead of that exploration we get a look at the life of paralyzed patients. These two could have been in this condition because of car accidents and the
play of the documentary could have almost been the same. Host Peter Berg only asked one question near the end of the show about how the competitive drive these two men have as athletes has helped them to recover.
In Conclusion: A solid documentary but still not playing up the sports angle that it could. A good edition for Thanksgiving week though, as these two men are thankful for the supportive family, friends and professionals they have around them. Though they have been broken by the sport they love, both of them have adapted and moved on becoming role models for the similarly afflicted. Good for them!
Other HBO playdates: 11.28 at 4:45pm; 12.29 at 3:30pm; 12.30 at 7:30am, and 12.01 at 2:30pm and on HBOGo.
Next Week: On Tuesday, December 02, the next installment debuts. It is STATE OF PLAY: Culture Shock. It will feature a look at the NFL’s efforts to make the sport safer.