A review of the important points in last night's 30 for 30, "The Best That Never Was," the story of Mississippi running back Marcus Dupree, as done by the objects found in the documentary.
Marcus Dupree's Hair. There's a kind of metaphor in just watching Dupree's hair over the course of the documentary. During his recruiting he 's got a simple baby afro, the haircut of a country kid in 1980 who by 1982 has upgraded to the more expensive gheri curl, a style requiring more maintenance, more pampering, and certainly more attention and cash than previously required. For his comeback there's the MC Hammer hair tower, and then the finale, where an aged dupree just has the standard tight fade of an everyday dude. It's a story unto itself.
Barry Switzer's Chair. The chair is ridiculously oversized, so much so Switzer looks like a marionette sitting in it, like someone who used to be much larger plopping down in it for the first time. Switzer isn't exactly a villain, but you forget until you watch the documentary how dominant Switzer was in his theater of operations, and how bizarre his mix of honesty and recruiting skullduggery could be. In the end, the older, smaller Switzer is one of the few completely honest and straightforward interviews you get in the documentary, especially in his own estimation of his bungling of Marcus' handling.
The Neckroll. Like a lot of football padding, it really does nothing, but is instead a cosmetic nod in the direction of safety. The neckroll is both evocative of an era of tear-away jerseys and white cleats, but also of a standard of safety even more lax than that of the current game. When Dupree suffers a concussion against Texas there's not even a trainer on the field, just the Longhorns returning him to his own huddle after he shambles over to theirs.
The Photograph. There's an image in the documentary of Marcus Dupree announcing that he's headed to Oklahoma, and the look in his eye is a familiar one: it's the look of trepidation and false bravado on the face of half of all blue-chip recruits on signing day when they look up and see cameras and strangers all around them. The terrifying thing about the documentary is how little has changed in college recruiting and athletics. The documentary was wrapped and set to air long before the Cam Newton scandal broke, but the timing is eerie. If they want a sequel, it's being written by life right in front of all of our eyes.