In Search of Greatness
Director: Gabe Polsky
Creativity & Sports Doc LLC / Madman
If it’s easy to – these days – just figure that the elite sportspeople of the world are built in a lab, destined for greatness because of the work that goes into them, then it’s a fine time to check out this documentary feature. In Search of Greatness is an engaging film that doesn’t outstay its welcome (77 minutes) and talks us through the genius and creativity of elite sports stars.
We’re introduced to – and reminded of – the extreme talents of Wayne Gretzky (ice hockey), Pelé (soccer) and Jerry Rice (NFL). Through revealing talking-head interviews, and Gretsky is the best here I think, we are reminded that there’s no sacrifice for hard work.
Parallels are made to the entertainment world and Rice storming the field or Pelé leaving defenders dumbfounded is juxtaposed with footage of Jimi Hendrix playing the Star Spangled Banner at Woodstock; of David Bowie reinventing soul for the umpteenth time and Lennon and McCartney finished the sentences of each other to make some of the world’s greatest songs.
It’s nice to see the comparisons laid out like this.
There are other sports stars profiled too – Serena Williams, John McEnroe and Michael Jordan appear. Williams’ story is important for the younger sibling aspect; for battling to be better. McEnroe’s rage is explored as an elite athlete in pursuit of perfection – his anger was an influence on third-umpire decisions and camera replays; the logic? I’m better at this game than nearly anyone – who are you to say the ball is out? Let’s see that again!
What stays with me from this film in particular, apart from the testimonies of Gretzky and Rice that they were nothing special when they started, that they weren’t the fastest, biggest or best, was when Wayne Gretzky said that his creativity was his genius. That’s it right there. In any endeavour. I thought of Larry Bird right away. You could think of Jonty Rhodes or dozens of others – but this illuminating sports documentary does a great job in explaining (in showcasing) the very best of the truly wondrous talents – and their very human story of perspiration, dedication, commitment to craft in the pursuit of excellence. This is the world of pre-fame – or at least pre-celebrity – sports superstars.
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