We got Gretzky, but it could have been Riggo

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I got a surprise this morning when I finally listened to Bill Simmons “30 for 30” Podcast about the first documentary in the series, “Kings Ransom,” which focuses on the trade of Wayne Gretzky to the Los Angeles Kings.

The director, Peter Berg, got to pick his topic (as all of the directors in the series did). And it turns out his first choice for a documentary was former Washington Redskins running back John Riggins.

“I was thinking about doing something about John Riggins, he was one of my heroes,” Berg told Simmons on the “30 for 30” podcast. “And I kind of was busy, and I couldn’t figure it out, I wasn’t focused on it. And then Steve Michaels, the producer, a very accomplished producer, son of the great Al Michaels, called me and said he had talked to Wayne about doing something about the trade, and that Wayne had mentioned me as a director, and that suddenly made perfect sense to me. I liked the idea a lot, and it felt like a containable, focused story that I could sink my teeth into.”

Berg is perhaps best known for writing and directing the “Friday Night Lights” movie and television show (he also directed “Hancock”). He has a recurring character on the TV show (which I don’t watch, so forgive me if I’m sketchy on some of the details) named Tim Riggins, who plays fullback and has issues with boozing and womanizing. If you’re familiar with the hall of fame fullback’s career, some of that may ring a bell.

Simmons and Berg didn’t delve into his Riggins inspiration, unfortunately; it can be assumed that Berg latched on to the player when Riggins was with the New York Jets from 1971 to 1975, as Berg would have been growing up in New York at the same time. By the time Riggins peaked with the Redskins, Berg would have been in his late teens.

As for the documentary series, Redskins fans probably are disappointed they didn’t get their Riggo Show, but the Gretzky documentary is worth your viewing time if you haven’t seen it yet. (It’s showing again tonight at 7 p.m. on ESPN2)

Local sports fans will be interested in the documentary that comes out this week, directed by Barry Levinson, on the Baltimore Colts’ move to Indianapolis. “The Band that Wouldn’t Die” premiers on tuesday on ESPN and ESPN2.

A few more links of interest for you:

- The complete 30-for-30 schedule

- ESPN’s 30-for-30 Podcast page

- Tim Lemke’s story previewing the 30 for 30 series from our own pages last week

And who knows … there are a few open spots on the “30-for-30” calendar, documentaries that either haven’t been filmed or announced. Maybe we’ll get that Riggo doc after all? Here’s hoping.

- John Taylor


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