I was thinking about sports and "deep memory". Why could I remember more about the electrifying NCAA basketball final of 1983 (will someone hug Jimmy V. for God's sake?) than the birth of my second child (hard to forget the birth of the first!)? What baby boomer born in Buffalo, New York (as I was), could ever EVER forget where they were, who they were with, or how they felt when "wide right" tatted itself indelibly upon our fragile rust belt psyches? My friend, John Hoyt, has a funny story about being in a room full of psychiatrists who realized with glee they had a lifetime's worth of work ahead of them as Scott Norwood's field goal attempt sailed feebly... wide right. In forty years, as he serves out his life sentence for serial and egregious recruiting violations, John Calipari will fail to remember his inmate or PIN numbers- but will endlessly replay Frank the Tank Kaminsky's spin moves in the paint and feel the searing sting of perfection lost like a steer branded hotly on the ass. Why?
With this question in mind I screen tested three different sports stories to see if they had legs. "Wide right" was a natural. "The Play That Saved Baseball in Seattle" was another (think of Junior Griffey beaming under a pig pile of teammates after scoring the run that ousted the Yankees from the playoffs on Edgar's clutch double). The last was an after thought and an exercise in memory of a different sort. Years ago I was at a cocktail party with a group of parents from the school my kid's attended. I overhead a man named Michael Anderson talking about The Play- how he'd been one of the band members who stormed the field in the famous ending of the rivalry game between Stanford and Cal in 1982. I meant to talk to him about it that night but time and too much vino intervened. Ten years later I thought about The Play as being a likely candidate for a film about deep memory and sports. I called his wife Lisa to ask her if I recalled the facts correctly and she confirmed Michael was in the band- adding the she attended Stanford at the time and was also at the game.
Over two days I filmed interviews with people who would likely have "deep memories" about the the three iconic sports moments mentioned above. None of the interviewees had any idea what there were being interviewed for until I asked them to open a laptop, push a quicktime icon and watch a replay of the sporting event in question. It was fun! Predictably, the most visceral reactions came from my Buffalonian friends as they watched the replay of "wide right". They recalled the moment vividly, squirming with pain and humor. The Mariners baseball highlight fizzled for the most part. But Michael Anderson's interview about The Play convinced me to make a film. He gave a wonderful, extremely detailed, version of what went down that fateful day in 1982- but it was what he said at the end of the interview that nailed me. "You gotta call this guy... funniest guy in the world!". "Did you hear about the prank?". "Oh and this Guy! He's funnier than the other guy...". There was something urgent about the way he described The Play...
And I was off.
Here's the screen test I did for "Wide Right": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nZzuoFWUhjU
And here is the original interview I did with Michael Anderson for The Play: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oOhRu-vp6II