Have You Watched “Winning Time” or “Hustle”? (My Thoughts)

While Megan was in isolation for COVID recently (she’s doing well now, and I tried to take good care of her), we separately watched two very different shows: She rewatched all of Downton Abbey, and I watched Winning Time.

Winning Time is an HBO series that may look like a documentary at first glance due to the way it’s filmed. But it’s actually a scripted, 10-episode show about the 1979-1980 Los Angeles Lakers team (Magic Johnson’s rookie year).

I was absolutely hooked on this show for multiple reasons. The acting and direction are superb, it’s both heartfelt and funny, and the ongoing series of calamities plays out like a work of fiction…yet the show is around 95% true.

I think the most interesting and informative aspects of the show were about the business of running/owning a professional sports team. I assumed that a team like the Lakers would be swimming in cash, but they were struggling to break even, and that was with considerably lower salaries than modern athletes. Perhaps things have changed with sponsorships, TV deals, merchandise, and advertising.

It also illuminated how a team might not actually want a first-round bye in any sport, because they lose out on those ticket sales. I wonder if sports leagues have found a way to financially compensate teams for such a loss.

Coincidentally, I also watched the movie Hustle tonight, which is kind of a Rocky-like movie (it’s even set in Philly), but with basketball. It was a really nice heartwarming film, and the basketball itself was quite entertaining–quite a few NBA stars make appearances. While it plays a bit more “Hollywood” than Winning Time’s peek behind the curtain into the business of basketball, I’d still recommend it.

Have you watched either of these shows or any great sports-themed scripted shows/movies recently?

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