Remember that ESPN is a sports broadcast network, or is it
Connor Schell, VP of ESPN Films “30 for 30″ July 24, 2013
(Source: Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images North America)
By Valerie Milano
Tuesday Night ESPN kicked off their series 30 for 30
. The series takes on larger than life personalities that may or may not be household names in the world of sport. Tuesday’s premiere was Hawaiian: The Legend of Eddie Aikau
. The story is told by friends, family members and fellow watermen. No narrators, just the people who were there.
The early going of this episode is far from edge-your-seat television viewing. However, Hawaiian: The Legend of Eddie Aikau is still a story worth telling.
Hawaiian: The Legend of Eddie Aikau
, is not just about the man’s life as a big wave surfer, lifeguard and hero. It’s about Hawaii itself. The backdrop of Eddie’s story revolves around America’s final stab at colonialism. The show does a good job providing context to Eddie’s struggles as a sportsman by tying them into the cultural scorched earth campaign of Hawaii’s new inhabitants. Before statehood, Native Hawaiians had a rich culture tied to nature and the sea. The incoming hoard of tourists were interested in luxury hotels and hula girls. However, others came for different reasons. A contingent of American and Australian surfers discovered big waves on the northern shore of OAHU that were among the largest on earth. Ironically, the inventers of wave riding found themselves on the losing end of a turf war for prime surfing locations. Moreover, the native watermen were excluded from high profile surfing events that were gaining in popularity.
Eddie not only broke into the boy’s club of the big wave circuit. He also lobbied for the state to allow him to become lifeguard at Waimea Bay, Hawaii’s most dangerous big wave mecca. So violent and untamed were the waves at Waimea that no lifeguard had ever been assigned there. Eddie furthered his legend as a fearless first responder for those big board surfers in distress. Sometimes he would rescue the same surfer twice in a day.
Ninety minutes requires a lot of content. As compelling as Eddie’s deeds were, I came away from the episode learning a lot about the legend but very little about the man himself. And, did 30 for 30
really think I we wouldn’t notice the repeat of selected film clips throughout the show. It happened a lot. It would seem that 30 for 30
made the mistake of trying to stretch sixty minutes of content into a ninety minute bag.
The climactic act of courage that sealed Eddie’s legend occurred in 1978. Eddie became a crew member on “The Hokule’a”, a double hulled sailing vessel. Sponsored by The Polynesian Voyaging Society, the idea was to retrace an ancient 2,500 mile route from Hawaii to Tahiti. When one of the hulls developed a leak and capsized 12 miles off the coast of Molokai. Eddie made the decision to paddle off on his wave board and go for help. The crew was found not to long after his departure and Eddie was never seen again. The largest search and rescue mission in the history of the state was mounted to find their homegrown hero. The search was only called off when Eddie’s father decided there was no more hope.
We have to remember that ESPN is a sports broadcast network. It’s too much to expect Michael Moore caliber documentaries every week. Never the less, Hawaiian: The Legend of Eddie Aikau,
is a story that deserves to be told. I just wish I could say the story (as told by 30 for 30
) was as compelling as it was deserving.
Hollywood Today and others spoke to the VP of ESPN films, Conner Schell. No questions or comments were made pertaining to Hawaiian: The Legend of Eddie Aikau.
However, he did speak to the mission of the show 30 for 30
and his hopes for the show going forward, CONNOR SCHELL: “Right. I think going forward we hope to strike and continue to strike a balance of telling stories that first and foremost are interesting and compelling to our audience, but certainly not shying away from telling stories about women. We clearly made a commitment to that in the series we have on the air right now called “Nine for IX,” which was a collaboration with our division espnW, and was meant to put a stake in the ground of a leadership position in storytelling about women in sports. And I’m extremely proud of the content of that series. I think the films are exceptionally well made. The film we aired last night, “No Limits,” directed by a woman named Alison Ellwood, is a story that knocks you off your feet, and I think going forward we hope to keep telling stories about women in the “30 for 30″ series.”