Sports Documentary

30 for 30: Believeland

Distributed by: ESPN Films

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


            A little over a year ago, I was bored and found a documentary style= on ESPN about a football style= player whose hard life as a kid didn't stop him from going after his dreams.  I thought the documentary was well-done, showing the perspective of the player himself, co-players, coaches and even family members, including the father who had abused him as a child.  I was amazed and I often check out films in the ESPN 30 for 30 style= series.  This time around, I learned all about Believeland style=.

            Sports fans in Cleveland, Ohio style= have experienced terrific highs and astounding lows, but are always invested in their teams.  The area hosts three major franchises - the Cleveland Indians style= baseball style= team, the Cleveland Browns style= football team and the Cleveland Cavaliers style= basketball style= team - and yet it took them fifty years to bring home a championship trophy style=Believeland is an in depth look at the city whose fans believed and the franchises who got them almost there, only to suffer devastating defeats.

            It all begins with a look at the rise and fall of industry style= in the city and its ultimate default in the 1970s.  This economic rise and fall had a direct impact on the city's teams, but it is also the reason for such ferocious devotion amongst its sports fans - the idea of hope for their team in the midst of such a hopeless situation.  So the pain of these dramatic losses is palpable.  As Arsenio Hall style= points out, Cleveland is probably the only city where you can look up a vague term like The Drive or The Fumble and come up with one of their sports teams.  But the documentary doesn't just show the fans' reactions to these moments, it also discusses them with the sportswriters of the times and the teammates themselves. 

            As a fan of both the New York Mets style= and the Oakland Raiders style=, I can feel the pain of many of these fans of Cleveland teams.  I'm a diehard fan and have faced so many lean years and almost made its.  I totally get it.  That's why I cringed in sympathy as my Raiders beat the Cleveland Browns in the 1981 AFC playoff game style= by two points thanks to The Red Right 88 style= passing play that was intercepted in the end zone style= in the final moments of the game.  Then there was The Drive style= of 98 yards in the final minutes of the 1986 AFC playoff game style= style= that put John Elway style= and his Denver Broncos style= ahead of the Browns by three points to win the game.  And The Fumble style= by running back Earnest Byner style= at the one yard line that cost the Browns the 1987 AFC Championship style= against the Broncos.  That one was particularly devastating.  Byner, discussing the moment began tearing up as if the game was just played yesterday.  Who couldn't feel for this man?  Of course, The Move style= was even more devastating, as Art Modell style= decided to move the Browns to Baltimore style= in 1995.  The Browns returned in 1999, but it just wasn't the same.

            And of course, it wasn't all just football that supplied the devastating moments for the Cleveland sports fan.  There was The Shot made by Chicago Bulls style= Michael Jordan style= to win the 1989 Eastern Conference Game style=.  There was the collapse of the Cleveland Indians in Game 7 of the 1997 World Series style=.  And let's not forget The Decision in 2010 that saw LeBron James style= leaving the Cavaliers and moving to the Miami Heat style=.  Fans reacted rather harshly, burning their LeBron jerseys style= and vowing to hate him forever. 

            The version of Believeland I watched had an added piece - the return of LeBron James.  All is now forgiven - if not because he returned to his home team, then because of the NBA Championship win in 2016 style= he helped bring them, finally ending the fifty year drought of championship wins in Cleveland by any sport and bringing hope for the future.

            I was mesmerized by 30 for 30: Believeland and its in depth look at Cleveland's half century playoff drought, not just because it the documentary was so well done, but because I am a sports fan...of teams who have experienced pretty devastating droughts themselves.  Any sports fan would enjoy watching these 30 for 30 documentaries, but I think Believeland is rather special and definitely deserves to be watched.


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