Dubai diaries: Why sports docs like Schumacher are essential

Are they perfect entertainment?


David Light

Published: Sun 26 Sep 2021, 12:09 PM

It’s likely not the most radical thesis put forward on these pages, but crikey there’s no better documentary than a sports story. Okay, an intimate acquaintance with some brushed-under-the-carpet political conspiracy may not be forthcoming as with the excellent Netflix show Bobby Kennedy For President, nor will you grasp the inner workings of modern capitalism demonstrated in the BBC’s The Mayfair Set, yet I am willing to bet you’ve shed more than a tear or two at an athlete’s journey often without any prior knowledge of the pursuit being discussed. Regardless if you couldn’t give two hoots about tennis, care not a jot for jogging or are ambivalent about aqua aerobics, there’s probably a film out there recording a key protagonist’s ups and downs ready to draw you in with its tales. Such is the universal appeal and often typical good vs. bad nature of the filmmaking, they are perfect entertainment fodder.

The latest epic to hit screens is a peek behind the curtain of one of Formula One’s most successful drivers. Simply titled Schumacher, the Netflix production provides a few revelations notably surrounding Michael’s surprisingly humble beginnings and the enduringly touching relationship he and wife Corinna share. However, in spite of being an informative watch and worth a couple of hours of your time, as a result of the titular subject’s fame, that all important ‘wow’ moment never appears. Marveling about the man’s career, seeing SkyDive Dubai mentioned more than once and the regard in which Schumacher is still held by his family and colleagues are great touch points, but it never pull the rug from under you.

Actually the more fruitful viewing experience is the lesser-known Untold series also on the streaming giant. A new episode each week delves into the more obscure, predominantly modern sporting experiences which haven’t seen much light. Perhaps the best example is the most extraordinary ice hockey team you’ve never heard of. Called Crime and Penalties, the programme takes us back to 2004 where alleged New York mob associate James Galante buys a local United Hockey League franchise for his ice mad 17-year-old son. Rumoured to be the inspiration for Tony Soprano, Galante’s garbage collection business provided the squad’s name: the Danbury Trashers. His young heir and the Trashers’ new CEO, who believe it or not is called A.J., took that teenage enthusiasm for the game and his other passion – WWE wrestling – to create a group of violent entertainers with the sole aim of creating headlines. The shocking element: it worked. Initially ruffling feathers, the Trashers became pantomime villains, equally loved and loathed. Reports of irregular off-the-rink payments by the owner and bizarre tactics provide a backdrop to their trophy-winning season. It is a sports doc you are going to want to catch.

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