ESPN is a strange hydra of a media company. On one hand, they allow themselves to be played like a violin by LeBron James with his ridiculous "The Decision" infomercial -- and, apparently, with a salacious Vegas article about King James this week, too. But on the other, they're producing first-rate documentaries in their "30 for 30" series, incisive profiles of everything from the connection between drug culture and soccer in Colombia to the confluence of sporting events that happened the day of O.J. Simpson's Bronco chase. And with the exception of one ridiculous profile of the guys who invented fantasy baseball, the docs have been uniformly excellent.
So far, though, there hasn't been anything approaching a motorsports angle in any of the "30 for 30" docs. Which is unfortunate; NASCAR and IndyCar have given American sports some phenomenal stories, both well-known and under the radar.
However, that's about to change. On October 19, ESPN will air "Tim Richmond: To The Limit," a profile of hard-partying gone-too-soon driver Tim Richmond. Here's the details:
Natural. Rock star. Outsider. In the 1980s, race car driver Tim Richmond lived his life the way he raced cars - wide open. Born into a wealthy family, Richmond was the antithesis of the Southern, blue-collar racers who dominated NASCAR. He also was a flamboyant showman who basked in the attention of the media and fans - especially the attention of female admirers. Nevertheless, it was Richmond's on-track performances that ended up drawing comparisons to racing legends. And in 1986, when he won seven NASCAR races and finished third in the Winston Cup series points race, some believed he was on the verge of stardom. But soon his freewheeling lifestyle caught up to him. He unexpectedly withdrew from the NASCAR racing circuit, reportedly suffering from double pneumonia. In reality, the diagnosis was much more dire: He had AIDS. Richmond returned to the track in 1987, but he was gone from the sport by the next year as his health deteriorated. He spent his final days as a recluse, dying on August 13, 1989, at the age of 34. Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Rory Karpf will examine the life and tragic death of one of NASCAR's shooting stars.
In good news for NASCAR fans, Karpf is a sympathetic ear -- he's done "Together: The Hendrick Motorsports Story," "NASCAR: The Ride of their Lives" and "Dale," all of which were respectful to their source material. Looking forward to this -- Richmond is exactly the kind of guy who shouldn't be forgotten, for any number of reasons -- and we'll obviously report on it more as the date draws nearer.