As if sports weren't inherently dramatic enough, the language we use when discussing them is often bloody with consequence. Teams facing elimination from the playoffs are said to be in "do or die" situations. NFL games that are tied after four quarters go into "sudden death" overtime. And fans who allow their happiness be dictated by the success of their favorite team are said to be "diehards." It's all overstatement, provided that no one has made a bet they can't afford to lose, but it's harmless. (Working in the NFL when the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, I was puzzled by the insistence of some writers that it was now inappropriate to refer to a team's draft-day strategy room as the "war room." Were these people similarly uncomfortable with the football terms "blitz" and "gunner"? And, in our post-9/11 climate, where was the objection to the baseball terms "sacrifice fly" and "suicide squeeze"? But I digress.) Poetic enhancement is a sports tradition. Still, every now and then something comes along and reminds us of just how foolish these inflated terms really are, and of just how dramatic sports can be on their own. Into the Wind is that kind of reality check.
The first must-see entry in ESPN Films' "30 for 30" documentary series since The Two Escobars debuted in June, Into the Windtells the story of Terry Fox, who in 1980 set out to do the unthinkable: run all the way across his native Canada at a rate of approximately 26 miles (one marathon) each day. A formidable task in its own right, Fox's expedition was made all the more challenging because he was without the better part of his right leg, which had been amputated six inches above the knee three years earlier, after Fox had been diagnosed with bone cancer. Fox's goal wasn't just to cover the distance but to raise money for cancer research and to raise the spirits of cancer patients at the same time. He called his run the "Marathon of Hope," and in doing so he not only grossly undersold the length of his journey but also the emotions it would stir in those who witnessed it. Directed by NBA guard (and fellow Canadian) Steve Nash and Ezra Holland, Into the Wind gracefully combines modern interviews, archival footage and narrated excerpts from Fox's journal to bring to life the heroic quest of a 21-year-old man who in the true spirit of sports wanted to test himself, and who in the true spirit of life wanted to do before he died.
To read the rest of the review at The Cooler, click here.