What is greatness and how does it happen? These are just two of the questions that documentary maker Gabe Polsky poses to three sports greats – Wayne Gretsky, Pele and Jerry Rice – try to answer “In Search of Greatness.”
Just what does make a great player? Polsky, besides the interviews with the three athletic icons, also uses old interviews and archival footage of other sports notables, including Boston’s own Red Auerbach , coach Bill Walsh, Mohamed Ali, tennis bad boy John McEnroe, the inventor of the Olympic gold winning Fosbury Flop and Michael Jordon to get their POV on the subject.
But, do they give an answer to the question? Well, sort of. Everyone has an opinion and Gabe Polsky gives them voice and their answers vary. The combination of rage and ability is one factor. You do “it” because you love to do it. “Non-conformity” is another reply. As is, “play the game in your head before you play the game,” “obsessive-compulsion,” the ability to balance stress and calmness and “the WOW! Factor,” that unique combination of athlete, artist, performer and entertainer. There are a bunch of answers to that not so simple question.
“The Search for Greatness” has a diverse audience appeal. Sports fans will enjoy the plethora of old sports action and analysis. And, documentary lovers will get something that educates, entertains and gives insight to the history of sports. Pele, Rice and Gretsky are good subjects and their answers about what makes greatness include one by Wayne Gretsky: “By the time I figured it out, I retired.” I give it a B.
I was expecting some type of Malcolm Gladwellesque revelations here, but with the exception of a couple of less common observations, like physical abnormalities deemed obstacles turning out to be advantages and the notion that skill cannot be forced by specialization and practice, most of what we hear here is really nothing new. C+
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