The Last Dance was just the opening act.
The nine-episode series, Man in the Arena, will be produced by Gotham Chopra’s Religion of Sports and Brady’s new 199 Productions. It will offer Brady’s “first-hand accounts of pivotal moments in his career, including all nine of his Super Bowl appearances with the New England Patriots.” The docuseries is due to be televised in 2021.
But it’s not really a documentary in the classic sense, in the same way that The Last Dance wasn’t a documentary in the classic sense. Michael Jordan had control over the content of The Last Dance, and Brady surely will have control over Man in the Arena. (He should start exercising that control by coming up with a better name for it, frankly.)
While sports fans would rather have a naturally slanted slice of Brady’s life than nothing at all, we seem to accept the inherent conflict of interest that comes from the subject of a documentary producing the documentary.
It’s the kind of stuff we’d laugh about if a third-world dictator were doing it. But since the biggest sports heroes in America basically have the same clout, why should they even consider commissioning a truly fair and balanced look at their lives, with the good highlighted and the bad not conveniently downplayed or couched in the least damaging way possible or perhaps even hidden from view entirely?
Fortunately, American sports fans are smart enough to view projects like this skeptically, forcing Jordan and Brady to inject some fairness into the final product. Still, it would be great to see a genuinely independent documentary that delves deep into the lives and minds and legacies of men like Jordan, Brady, Peyton Manning, Tiger Woods, and other great athletes of the last 50 years.