Thursday, April 9, 2015

I Hate Christian Laettner

     I've got a little mini basketball hoop in my apartment that hangs just high enough to dunk on and it's been getting a lot of use lately with the culmination of the March Madness tournament. As a kid, growing up playing basketball, I knew two things about college basketball. I hated Duke and I hated Christian Laettner. 

     The guy, center of a new ESPN 30for30 titiled I Hate Christian Laettner, is downright detestable. He stepped on Aminu Timberlake! He was a pretty boy and an asshole.

     Which makes him the perfect feature for a documentary. He's candid, attractive, quick and attention grabbing. Everyone loves a villain and he had a Lex Luthor vibe.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Just look at that smug prick. He's an ideal documentary subject. He's the all-time tournament leader in points, went to four consecutive final fours, and won back to back national championships. He has possibly the greatest shot in Men's College Basketball history. 

     Director and writer, Rory Karpf, does an excellent job breaking the doc down into five distinct reasons we hate the guy: Privilege, White, Bully, Greatness, and Looks. This is all intercut with former opponents and teammates, who will attest that Christian Laettner was an asshole. He constantly picked on teammate Bobby Hurley and gave coach Mike Kryzewski a hard time.

Karpf pulls a neat trick during the interviews to make old Laettner stand out and seemed more villainous. In all the other interviews the camera is stationed at least 45 degrees away from the subject who is looking across the plain of the camera. However, Karpf stations Laetnner dead center and has him look directly into the lens. 

   The doc succeeds because an older Christain Laettner has mellowed out. He has a wife and kids and teaches kid camps. He's changed. But not that much. Unlike most vilanious docs Laettner doesn't apologize. He's true to who he is and we as an audience can respond to that. There's a sense of catharsis without an unbelievable transition. I Hate Christian Laettner does what any doc sets out to do; tell a story honestly and compellingly. 

    He's still an asshole but, hate might be a strong word.

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