Skip to main content

30 for 30: Broke

Posted in

Back in 2009, Sports Illustrated published an article entitled "How (and Why) Athletes Go Broke."  Director Bily Corben decided this was a good idea for a follow-up documentary, and this entry in the 30 for 30 series is his work.

Broke is one of the 30 for 30 series that I heard a lot about through channels other than the normal ESPN publicity machine.  By and large, it deserves it.  There's a lot of polish on this documentary, and it's a great example of the style of documentary that doesn't use a narrator, but relies on text and interviewees to provide all of the backbone for the film.

The interviews are very strong.  Not only are there big name athletes like Bernie Kosar, Andre Rison, and Curt Schilling, but there's also a very wide spread of other figures beyond athletes, including financial advisors.  The movie makes some great points, like how this is not something that's unique to athletes, but that it's a reflection of youth and a common story for people who come into money very suddenly.  Possibly the strongest part of the movie is that it doesn't adhere to the "Dumb jocks can't manage their money" sterotype, with all of its racial and social class undertones.  It also makes a few suggestions for how to address the problem, such as intervention by the leagues, players' associations, and NCAA, as well as increased presence of financial advisors in high-profile sports.

There's one place where this documentary falters, and that is its gender politics, which are pretty bad.  The one woman interview is a strip club owner, and there are no women athlete interviews.  Women are portrayed as gold-digging strippers, money-hungry mothers, wives-to-be with intentions to divorce and take all your money, and most repulsively, even women looking to get pregnant from athletes so that they can collect on hild support.  All of those are problematic, but the last is particularly abhorrent.  This goes back to the idea of woman as Jezebel, looking to undertake the enormous difficulty of giving birth to and raising a child just to collect a check.  Ignoring the fact that child support is notoriously difficult to collect, it's just not reasonable to assume that somebody would undertake that level of difficulty just to collect a rather middling check. 

If you can get past that, this is really an exceptional documentary.

star star star star star star star star no star no star