ESPN’s 30 for 30 film series covers sports at its greatest as well as sports at its most controversial, but some of the best documentaries in the history of 30 for 30 deal with big losses and possible champions or legends that came up just short of their potential.
Franchises such as the Cubs (“Catching Hell”), the Bills (“Four Falls of Buffalo”) and the Magic (“This Magic Moment”) have been given that treatment, as well as individuals such as Marcus Dupree (“The Best That Never Was”). In its latest edition, 30 for 30 takes on the lost (or loss) legacy of an entire town — the city by Lake Erie, the Land known as Cleve.
Cleveland hasn’t won a major professional sports championship since 1964, when in his last season in the NFL the legendary Jim Brown led the Browns to one of the last NFL championships not decided in a Super Bowl. Over 50 years later all types of mistakes and misgivings have happened by the lake, but in between the building of spiritual scar tissue the proud city and its fans have seen big time stars such as Earnest Byner, Mark Price, Albert Belle, Jim Thome and of course The King, LeBron James perform with honor and even come close to that elusive next championship that the city can hold high.
As a long-time writer and multi-media journalist for the Cleveland Plain-Dealer, Branson Wright has an expert’s knowledge on his city’s legacy of believe in the face of defeat and he brought that background — along with a refined sense of storytelling ability — with him in his role as an associate producer in the film. Wright speaks on the film here with weareregalradio.com Editorial Director Kyle Means.
1. The aim of Believeland is to cover 50 years of losing sports in Cleveland…is there any way the average viewer is gonna watch this without feeling completely depressed?
Branson Wright: It’s not exactly the coverage of all of the losing. Believeland goes through the many disappointments that has prevent Cleveland from winning a championship since 1964, but it’s also about the passion of the fans here that’s second to none. Despite the championship drought, Cleveland sports fans remain loyal and optimistic that things are going to change. And it’s that hope that Cleveland fans hold onto.
2. What’s one thing the greater sporting world can learn from the continual loyalty sports fans in Cleveland offer to their teams? A lot of people may not have lasted through such a dry spell…
Wright: You said it — loyalty. Loyalty is what separates Cleveland fans from the average fan. It’s easy to jump ship or off the bandwagon when your team losses but true fans stick with their team in losing or winning times.
3. What would you say is the singular moment which represents the past 50 years in Cleveland sports? The Drive, The Shot, Renteria’s hit in 97, LeBron walking away from the Cavs in 2010?
Wright: There’s not really one singular moment and that’s why this story about Cleveland sports is so unique. Those moments collectively help tell the story about disappointment but it also helps tell the story about Cleveland fans and how they’ve endured so much over the years.
4. What’s it like to have a producer credit on an ESPN 30 for 30 film?
Wright: Having a producer credit is a dream come true. Producing and directing films has become a goal. I produced and directed a film last year that finished first at the Greater Cleveland Urban Film Festival. I hope the producer credit for Believeland is the first of many to come.
5. Of course, the timing of this film could turn out to be very prescient — the Cavs are 8-0 in the postseason and eight wins away from the city’s long awaited next title. How much belief is it gonna take for Bron and co. to finally bring it home?
Wright: There will never be a shortage of belief for a championship when it comes to Cleveland fans. How much of that belief will fuel the Cavaliers remains to be seen. One day the drought will end and this city will celebrate like no other.
Follow We Are Regal Radio on Twitter @regalradio1 and on Facebook under We Are Regal Radio; Follow Kyle Means on Twitter @Wrk_Wrt and Branson Wright @BransonWright