Remember all the way back in 2004, when the Red Sox were down 3-0 to the Yankees in the ALCS, and rallied to win the series in dramatic fashion?
Let me answer for you: Yes, of course you remember, unless you were living under a rock at the time and the rock fell on your head and you slipped into a coma and you’re just now coming into consciousness in time to check out the latest 30 For 30 documentary, Four Days In October. If you’re the coma person—and a Red Sox fan—maybe you should carve out time after visiting hours are over to marvel at the most dramatic series in recent sporting history. Otherwise, the film is recommended only to those who want to relive the magic in a tight, 50-minute package.
Even more than Barbara Kopple’s disappointing Yankees hagiography (The House Of Steinbrenner) from two weeks ago, Four Days In October strikes me as a violation of the 30 For 30 mission statement. The story’s familiarity isn’t necessarily the problem; what is a problem is that the documentary fails to tell that story in a fresh or enlightening way. Contrast that with heavily reported stories from the past like the O.J. Simpson car chase, which director Brett Morgen fed into an innovative collage on sports and media culture (June 17, 1994), or Michael Jordan leaving basketball for minor league baseball, which Ron Shelton’s flawed Jordan Rides The Bus turned into a challenge of conventional wisdom about the legend’s alleged failures as a ballplayer. These were new takes on old stories, and that’s what has set 30 For 30 apart from the beginning. Four Days In October feels every bit the “Major League Baseball Production” credited in the titles, and it’s the first time the series has felt no different than the slick snoozers that usually pass for broadcast sports docs.
Generously, we may have to chalk it up as one for the homer. Bill Simmons, the most prominent producer and booster for the series, is a well-known Red Sox fanatic, and Four Days In October has him standing around a bar set trading lines with comedian Lenny Clarke. Meanwhile, the film barrels through the highlights of the series, starting with Game Four and finishing with the unlikely Game Seven blowout in Yankee Stadium that helped bring an end to the 86-year “Curse of the Bambino” that had come to define generations of tormented Red Sox fans. All your favorites are there: The 14-inning marathon Game Five, ended by David Ortiz heroics; Curt Schilling and his bloody sock (“like a scene from The Natural,” says Tim McCarver, nauseatingly); A-Rod infamously slapping the ball out of Bronson Arroyo’s glove on a play at a first; and so on.
Around the highlight reel comes the pre- and post-game chatter from excited fans and players, and soundbites from clueless sports-talk gasbags making predictions that would turn out to be wrong. There are also plenty of new interviews with former Red Sox heroes and locker-room footage of the Sox being their loose, fun, clowning selves. (Said chief lovable dope Kevin Millar at the time: “If there’s a group of idiots who can do it, it’s us.”) It’s all assembled pretty well, and the Red Sox faithful will doubtless be happy to relive the most exquisite time of their sporting lives. But there’s not a single revelation in Four Days In October for even casual fans of the game. It’s history we know—and recent history at that—regurgitated for the umpteenth time. Who needs it?
• Forgot about Terry Francona’s baffling decision to send Pedro Martinez out in the middle of that Game Seven blowout, which had the effect of igniting demoralized Yankee fans. It’s funny that even now, Pedro doesn’t even know what that was all about.
• And speaking of managerial blunders, the decision not to test Schilling’s mobility by bunting definitely seems odd.
• Okay, seeing A-Rod whine after getting called out for the slap is still a moment to cherish.