It’s been a year filled with confusion, fear, and grief. Now we have a confusing documentary filled with fear and grief, reliving a nightmare we’re still experiencing. The Day Sports Stood Still (HBO Max) is misnamed (sports stood still on two days last year) and tries telling too many stories.
The title suggests we’ll get an in-depth look into the days leading up to when the NBA stopped its season, essentially waking up the country that the Covid crisis needed to be taken seriously. The first part of the documentary touches on that, but doesn’t give us any new insights as to how things went down. There’s no look at Rudy Gobert’s actions, he’s the guy who famously mocked coronavirus by touching all the microphones at a press conference, then became the NBA’s Patient Zero.
We then meet stars from other sports, including Mookie Betts of the LA Dodgers and golf great Michelle Wie talking about their experiences from last March. But most of the first hand testimonials are what we heard at the time or during specials marking the first anniversary a coupe weeks ago.
Level the Playing Field
Of course, a world already turned on its side was turned completely upside down during the summer. Protests over the police killings of Black people sparked demonstrations across the country and athletes used their positions to raise awareness. The second day sports stood still was when players, first in the NBA then in other leagues, refused to play after the shooting of Jacob Blake.
This was all culminating as sports were trying to figure out a way to come back. The NBA, WNBA, and NHL went into highly effective bubbles. Baseball was on the verge of striking out before figuring it out and the NFL just plowed ahead. But there’s no deep look inside the struggle of moving after months of standing still. Of course it would be malpractice not include how social justice issues helped give athletes a new, louder voice.
They were at the center of the movement. The problem is we don’t see how they got there. There’s no look inside the bubbles from activist or personal standpoints. We’ve heard that players struggled with the isolation from their families and to doing little besides practice, playing, and chilling around Disney. We don’t get any look inside the struggles of hockey players.
We hear a lot from NBA star Chris Paul, which makes sense when you scan the credits and see he’s and executive producer on the show. We also hear a lot from NBA commissioner Adam Silver, but he tells us little we didn’t know before. While, yes, the NBA was the first to shut down and led the return to sports and the social justice movements, this doc is way too NBA-centric. We need to hear more from athletes in other sports. They could have colored in the contours and added desperately needed perspectives.
Let’s Get Personal
The Day Sports Stood Still is at its best when athletes are sharing personal stories. Pro athletes working out at home using stuff from around the house make you laugh. Chris Paul is great when we see him reuniting with his kids after testing negative. Karl-Anthony Towns talking about his mother’s fight with Covid and her passing touches all of us, because at this point we’ve all lost someone or know someone who has. Covid doesn’t know celebrity.
We needed more of these stories, including personal stories of how police shootings personally affected the athletes.
The Critic’s Cocktail Recommendation
Instead, it’s all over the place telling a little bit of a lot of stories, and often not telling us anything new. I’m having Svedka strawberry guava. It’s been a staple for a year and counting.