With the unbearable heat of August blazing down, sports fans have a pretty limited array of spectating options. You can watch roid-raging misshapen hulks smack a white ball around, or you can watch an array of people in varying levels of fitness smack an even smaller white ball around. If you’re not into baseball or golf, you’re pretty much S.o.L. If, like me, you don’t have hours and hours to watch a baseball game or round of golf, you’ve got these options for more condensed viewing.
[ad#longpost]First up, The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg, from director Aviva Kempner, tells the story of the Detroit Lions’ legendary “Hammerin’ Hank,” one of the premier power hitters of his generation and the first major league Jewish all-star. This docu is shot in a familiarly breathless, NFL Films sort of way, which, really, is about all one should expect from a sports documentary. The interviewees — which include Greenberg himself, Walter Matthau, Greenberg’s family, and his rabbis, among others — share their memories of both Hank’s accomplishments and the era in which his rise to fame occurred. Their recollections are by turns amusing and revelatory, particularly when discussing the sense of ethnic pride that the Jewish community felt as Greenberg continued to ascend into the same pantheon as players like Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. All in all, it’s a great film for fans of the game, particularly those who are a bit nostalgic for the days before all the players looked like they’d been inflated with bicycle pumps.
Switching gears to “a good walk spoiled,” Golfweek has assembled a centennial retrospective in Golf: The Game That Defined a Century. The documentary covers the evolution of golf between 1900 and 1999, from the advances (and availability) of equipment to the cultural shift away from golf as purely a wealthy white man’s game. It’s a solid effort, well-researched and full of nice archival footage, though I think perhaps it overplays the whole “social equality” angle, as golf is still struggling with these issues in a major way. The extras are forgettable, alas, encompassing only some highlights from the 50s and 60s, an interview with Gary Player, and the “Walk Thru to Par” featurette. I think it would’ve been better off with a “20 greatest golf shots of the 20th century” or something like that.
No discussion of golf at this point is complete without acknowledging the elephant in the room, Tiger Woods. Barely into his 30s, he’s almost universally regarded as the greatest player to ever walk the links. Buena Vista has published a 3-disc set entitled Tiger: The Authorized DVD Collection, covering Tiger’s early life, amateur career, his professional accomplishments to date, and his work off the course. Featuring candid interviews with Tiger and his colleagues and family, it’s an uncharacteristically frank and unguarded glimpse into the making and inner workings of this phenomenal athlete. The discs are packed with bonus content, and while some of it is of dubious value (a gallery of Tiger’s American Express ads? Really?), things like the highlights of his amateur career and a run-down of his most fantastic and improbable shots are excellent additions for fans of the player or the game.