Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Instant Gratification Theater: Greatest Sports Legends on Amazon Prime

One of the biggest joys I had during my latest brief stint on Amazon Prime (I'd get the annual option, but I'm not a JOINER, man...Uh, and I'm cheap) was the assortment of Greatest Sports Legends episodes available on Prime Video. It's billed as a "season" because, well, because Amazon's video section is confusing as ever, but it's really just a batch of old shows.

But what a batch! GSL was a syndicated half-hour program that aired from 1972 to 1993 (according to IMDB, though I think it was available even longer in reruns) with a variety of hosts interviewing a variety of legends, with a smattering of highlights supplementing the chats. Amazon's selection is all over the place, but you get to see George Plimpton, Reggie Jackson, Tom Seaver, and more.

The interviews were often taped at country clubs and resorts, helping create a relaxed, amiable episode. You don't expect to see Willie Stargell interrogate Terry Bradshaw like Mike Wallace, anyway, and nor do you really want to see that. It's mostly a way to see a different side of an athlete (the footage of Joe Frazier singing "Proud Mary" on stage in his episode justified an entire month's Prime fee) and an excuse to look at some vintage footage.

One of the more unique episodes is the Bob Uecker profile, which is a mockumentary of sorts before the term was even a thing. The tongue-in-cheek presentation of Ueck as an actual legend is a riot and a must-see installment. It's funny in its own right and also a nice change of pace.

Some other episodes break format as well, like the profiles of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, which are more like mini-documentaries. Considering the subjects had died many years before, the lack of interview is understandable.

Any sports history nut will love these, but the collection is buried among all the other odd stuff on Prime, so I want to highlight it here. The fashions and the ambience alone make this a great time capsule. My only complaint: There should be more! They did hundreds of things, and I want to see the others.

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