King's Ransom is the very first 30 for 30 ever shown on TV, which means, of course, that I missed it when it was first broadcast. An early adopter, I'm not. The story behind King's Ransom is the contract talks between Wayne Gretzsky and the Edmonton Oilers, and the trade that resulted when those talks broke down that sent Gretzsky to the Los Angeles Kings.
And this is a story that is really fascinating. Trades like this just don't happen. Not only was Gretzsky the best hockey player in the NHL at that time, he was arguably the best athlete in his sport ever, he had just led his team to a championship, and he was traded in the prime of his career. There was one comparable trade to this in history, ever, and that was the infamous Babe Ruth trade from the Red Sox to the Yankees, and that was in such a wildly different sports labor market that it's barely comparable. This is like Jordan getting traded to the Spurs after leading the Bulls to two straight titles, or Peyton Manning getting traded to the Giants just after his Super Bowl victory.
The story has taken on more relevance as fans have begun to understand sports contracts and the labor market. Fewer and fewer fans hold grudges when players end up leaving their teams for more money elsewhere. Now, unlike in 1988, fans seem to understand that athletes deserve to get paid to the level that the market allows them to be paid. The protests of the Edmonton fans, where they hang the owner in effigy, and crucify him in the media, seem truly misplaced and villainous in today's more enlightened sports media.
The film itself tells such a strong story that it's certainly worth watching. It provides ample time to reflect on just how different our sports culture is now.