Today's "State of the Arts" column features a short piece I wrote about "The Legend of Jimmy the Greek," a documentary directed by Charlotte-based filmmaker Fritz Mitchell, which premieres at the FlynnSpace this Tuesday along with "Muhammad and Larry" by legendary documentary filmmaker Albert Maysles — see 7D film critic Rick Kisonak's review here. The films were made as part of ESPN's ongoing "30 for 30" project, a series of 30 films by 30 directors covering under-reported or forgotten sports stories from the past three decades. And they are really, really good.
As anyone who follows my ramblings over on SolidState is likely aware, in addition to being 7D's "music guy," I'm also a "sports guy." So I've been following "30 for 30" almost religiously since it debuted on ESPN three weeks ago. (I should note I'm also a huge fan of the series' architect, the Sports Guy, Bill Simmons.) But what has impressed me most about "30 for 30" thus far — Mitchell's film very much included — is how accessible these stories are, even for the most casual sports fan.
For example, my girlfriend — whom SolidState readers know as Plus One — is a reluctant sports fan. She tries (hard) to take an interest, almost solely because I enjoy it so much. But "30 for 30" has been a different experience altogether. If anything, the series has resonated more with her than it has me.
She choked up as hockey legend Wayne Gretzky bade his tearful farewell to Edmonton during "Kings' Ransom." She cheered when football returned to Baltimore and redeemed the passion of — of all things — an amateur marching band in "The Band That Wouldn't Die." And she fumed at Donald Trump's manipulative arrogance in "Who Killed the USFL?" ("Wow," she remarked as the credits rolled. "So he's always been a d-bag, huh?" Yup.) These are not just great sports stories. They are great stories, period.
Unfortunately, a 400-word column bit is hardly enough space to do the Greek's story justice — let alone the story behind making the film. So what follows is the transcript of an interview I conducted recently with Mitchell about the project, which I hope sheds a little more light on the man, the myth and the legend that was gambling icon Jimmy the Greek.