Tag Archives: Wayne Gretzky

ESPN gets one right: A review of Kings Ransom

August 9, 1988 is the day my heart was broken for the first time. As a kid growing up in Canada, I lived and breathed hockey for 10 months a year. Wayne Gretzky was my idol. When he was traded from Edmonton to Los Angeles, it felt like a personal betrayal. It would not be an understatement to say that I hated Peter Pocklington, really hated him, for what he did to me.

Peter Berg’s Kings Ransom, part of ESPN’s new documentary series 30 for 30, goes into great detail about what was called, in Canada, at least, the Trade of the Century. In interviews with everyone who took part – Pocklington, Glen Sather, Bruce McNall, and, of course, Wayne Gretzky – Berg goes through the beginning, the consummation, and the aftermath.

Wayne Gretzky traded on August 9, 1988

Wayne Gretzky traded on August 9, 1988

I really liked how Berg dug into the trade’s mechanics. How Jerry Buss planted the seed in Pocklington’s mind as early as 1985; how Bruce McNall picked up on it; how Sather was adamantly opposed to the deal; how both Pocklington and Gretzky reconciled themselves to the deal. It was like they both had to convince themselves over and over that it was happening. After August 9, the film really caught the hysteria that followed the trade. How Canadians lashed out at Pocklington, who deserved it, and Janet Gretzky, who didn’t deserve it. The media overreaction was, in retrospect, asinine. Eventually, even some fans in Edmonton turned on Gretzky.

There seems to be a small touch of revisionist history in that Gretzky portrays himself as at ease with the deal. I think he’s more at ease with it now than he was two decades ago. Perhaps the most honest moment is when Gretzky admits that he accepted the trade, in part, out of spite. Pocklington’s stance has softened, realizing that he, in all likelihood, made a mistake. With that said, Berg’s documentary was excellent.

As an aside, this idea – 30 for 30 – is a great idea. Too often ESPN shows useless programs – too many World Series of Pokers, off-season NFL Lives, or schlock like E:60 – but this has potential. I wish the documentary had lasted 2 hours but I can live with what was an entertaining, informative 1 hour. Keep it up, ESPN, and you might just win me back.

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Messi: an appreciation

Lionel Messi was the best thing about Barcelona this afternoon (it was afternoon in my part of the world). Every time he touched the ball, he put the Man Utd defender to the sword. The only thing that prevented him from scoring a goal was the fact that the central defenders were there to protect the wing defender. Well, that and Edwin van der Sar is 6’5″ tall. Thank you, Mr. and Mrs. van der Sar, for having such a tall son. I, for one, am deeply grateful for your genes.

But that’s not the point. The point is to appreciate the sheer artistry of Leo Messi. He moves so effortlessly with the ball, as if it’s attached to his feet with a string. His passes reflect that, too. Everything from long crosses to elegant little flick-ons are exquisite. This is, clearly, a reflection of his intelligence. The best example I can think of off the top of my head comes not from soccer, but from hockey. It’s Wayne Gretzky, who had a way about him to see what was happening and, more importantly, what was going to happen. Messi possesses that same gift.

Before I go on, check this out. No, seriously. I’ll wait.

Okay, done? Good. Wasn’t that breathtaking? The sickest part? He doesn’t turn 21 until June. The second most sickest part? He rises to the occasion in big games. Today, he was one of two players who showed up, like, really showed up, for Barcelona (the other was Zambrotta, who put the clamps down on CRonaldo for most of the match). Messi was thriving. This is a good sign for Barcelona. And it most assuredly puts the kibosh on that stupid transfer idea of Ibrahimovic for Messi, straight up.

He has the skills to be one of the greats of the game already. Playing five more years at his current level will assure him of all-time great status. But he’ll play more than that because he’s improving every year. I’m not one for hyperbole but I think Messi has lived up to his hype and will continue to live up to his hype. I look forward to watching him for years to come.

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Filed under Champions League, Lionel Messi