For someone who does not watch any sports, I sure do love sports documentaries. Amazon Prime’s new film, Reggie, about the incredibly talented, controversial Right Fielder is a wonderful example of a sports documentary done well.
A Career, Summed Up
Reggie Jackson began his career in 1967 after being drafted by the Kansas City Athletics (later the Oakland Athletics) the year prior. Despite having a mild slump in 1970, it was clear early on that Jackson was a force to be reckoned with. He quickly proved his worth by maintaining a high batting percentage, as well as slugging many homeruns. The Oakland Athletics won the World Series for three seasons in a row, between 1972-1974. An incredibly rare feat in the sport.
During this time, Jackson stirred up controversy with his facial hair. Before the 1972 season, he grew a mustache that he then refused to shave off prior to the season beginning. At the time, baseball players were expected to be well groomed so many in the league, including his own teammates, were frustrated by his decision and tried to convince him to get rid of it.
Over the years, Jackson went from the A’s to the Orioles to the Yankees to the Angels and back to the A’s again. He became known as Mr. October due to his tendency to show up in the postseason, regardless of team, and his ability to perform well under pressure. Controversy continued to follow him wherever he went. Getting into public feuds with teammates and coaches alike, Jackson was a lightning rod for drama. But aren’t all of our great sports stars?
Contextualizing a Life
What Reggie does well is giving context to who Jackson was as a player and why he was so prominent in the league. He wasn’t just a good player, he wasn’t just a hot head. He was both. And he was the best at both. It is that sort of balance that makes him a fascinating subject for a documentary. He was remarkable at what he did and he made sure that people knew that. And if they doubted him? He would not hesitate to remind them.
The documentary does an excellent job of using archive footage to contextualize the topics. We see Jackson’s signature moments play out as they are being discussed. The fights with coaches, the outbursts in the dugouts, the homeruns that seem to go for miles. Seeing the footage is so much more effective than hearing about it.
The wonderful thing about Reggie is that we get to hear about it also. Not from a rotating door of talking heads. But from the man himself. Reggie is told from a first person perspective, with Jackson narrating the story. He is, of course, only one perspective which leads to a bit of questioning the validity of some of his opinions. But what matters here is the age. Looking back on his life, his career with a sort of vulnerability and self-awareness makes Reggie a poignant look back on life, as one nears the end. I was surprised at how touched I was by some of his observations.
Overall, Reggie is well worth the watch. Even if you are not a baseball lover, there is something to gain from the film. Jackson has his head straight, has years of perspective, and he looks back at his ups and his downs through clear eyes. It is rare that a legend gets to tell their own story. What a pleasure it was to view this one.