ESPN’s docuseries on Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls teams of the 1990s has captivated a thirsty sports world for four weeks.
“The Last Dance” director Jason Hehir reaches deep crevices of intel with his 10-part project, which concludes this week. Unseen footage and fresh interviews offer new perspective on Jordan, and a better understanding of what made him tick.
Now, imagine: A tell-all story about one, just one, Oklahoma football season.
ESPN has featured the Sooners before, with the 1982-1983 teams receiving exposure in the Marcus Dupree epic “The Best that Never Was” documentary. It is still considered one of the network’s best pieces in its “30 for 30” Volume I.
Would OU ever allow a camera crew in the locker room now? “Hard Knocks” has presented the latest platform for inside looks at football teams.
“We've been approached for a lot of them, as you can imagine. A lot,” Riley said last October. “I get there's an exposure part and there's a good thing for fans. We get quite a bit of exposure as it is, so I don't know ... it's just never really been the right fit for us.
“We've got a great in-house video department that does so much, and I do value the privacy for our coaches, players, all that. This program is such in the public eye that it's nice sometimes to get behind these walls and not have cameras around all the time. That's been a little bit more our thinking on it, here as of late, anyways.”
Jordan himself wondered if the documentary would negatively change people’s view of him. His sometimes over-the-top intensity with teammates, as well as a persistent gambling habit, remind everyone that nobody’s perfect.
But they are enthralled with the Jordan documentary all the same. “The Last Dance” achieved 13.9 million viewers for Episode 2 alone, and there has been a rekindling of appreciation for what Jordan did.
We took to Twitter asking what season of Sooner football fans be most interested in watching a documentary about.
Here’s a look at some of the suggestions, plus others:
• 1959-60: The year Bud Wilkinson’s 28-game true road win streak came to an end. Some players still believe today that the mafia had been behind a systematic poisoning of select Sooners the night before playing at Northwestern, when they attended a nightclub for a team function.
That’s gripping stuff, although the Sooners only went 7-3 that season. Any piece about the 1954-56 seasons, with Wilkinson working his magic, would be fascinating too.
• 1988-89: The final season of the Barry Switzer era. Criminal incidents by players, and a lack of oversight by Switzer, created a storm that spelled out the coach’s resignation in 1989.
Any of Switzer’s 16 seasons would make for great tell-all content. His wit is made for television.
But fans would be particularly interested in his final 12 months as OU’s coach.
• 1995-96: Howard Schnellenberger swept in and out of town. His tenure lasted one year and two days, after he’d predicted a book would be written about his time with the Sooners.
There were rumors Schnellenberger drank too much. Cut from old-school cloth, his style flirted with danger. In 2018, David Boren told The Oklahoman that 15 players were once sent to the emergency room after a Schnellenberger practice.
That’s what’s on the record. What’s behind the curtain?
• 1999-2000: Bob Stoops’ national title season signaled the restart for OU football in a new millennium
Josh Heupel wasn’t the chattiest quarterback, but fans would love an inside look at the make-up of that team.
Bonus: Stoops’ late-’90s style would shine on the TV screen.
• 2003-04: An all-time team, a dominant regular season, a cataclysmic ending.
It wouldn’t be a happy tale, but perhaps would give clarity to OU fans about what happened — how a team with Jason White, Tommie Harris, Teddy Lehman, Antonio Perkins, Mark Clayton and Jammal Brown somehow failed to finish the job.
• 2017-18: The final season of always-entertaining Baker Mayfield. That should cover it.
• 2018-19: Kyler Murray was committed to Major League Baseball before the season. And that wasn’t supposed to change: He was, after all, a Scott Boras client and No. 9 draft pick of the Oakland Athletics.
But then Murray won the Heisman Trophy and became the No. 1 NFL Draft pick. Along the way, Riley had to dismiss Mike Stoops, brother of the man who’d made him into OU’s head coach.
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