Thursday night, I asked filmmaker Billy Corben which of his ESPN "30 for 30" documentaries was his favorite: The U, or the world premiere sequel, The U Part 2 – the one that about 400 folks watched Thursday at The Colony Theater on Lincoln Road in Miami Beach.
I savored The U Part 2, my favorite, but that’s understandable, because those were the years I started covering University of Miami football – right there along with the introduction of Butch Davis as head coach in 1995.
So for me, this movie, produced by Alfred Spellman as well as Corben, was my easy choice.
Billy had a more diplomatic answer.
“Listen,’’ he said, after a hearty, laugh-tinged, “Oh!
"Movies are like children. You have your favorites, but you don’t tell anybody which one.’’
And as millions of college football fans and Hurricanes aficionadas anxiously await the first nationally televised showing of 30 for 30: The U Part II at 9 p.m. Saturday following the Heisman Trophy ceremony, Corben will keep tinkering with it until it’s time to air.
“We’re going back to the office and we’re going to finish it,’’ said Corben, who might break a world record for no sleep. “I mean there’s a bunch of things we’ve got to tweak. It’s the longest stretch I’ve had without the movie, which was on the plane ride [back from Bristol, Connecticut, home of ESPN]. We’ve been living with this for six months. It helps to get a little distance and objectivity to be able to say, ‘What can we do to tweak it?’ We’ve got a few things to do tonight.
“We’ve got like 36 hours, right? So, we’ve got plenty of time!’’
Continued Corben: “This is great. The turnout is unbelievable. [FIU Athletic Director] Pete Garcia is here, which is awesome. Go Fighting GEDs! Or whatever the hell that FIU team is!
“The chaos outside – and inside – has kind of like an Orange Bowl vibe to it. It kind of has an Orange Bowl smell to it, too, now that I think of it.”
The night was pure joy, from reconnecting with Butch Davis and Garcia, who came together and sat next to me, to seeing the guys I spent the glory years covering: Randy Phillips, Joaquin Gonzalez. Sherko Haji-Rasouli, Javon Nanton, Bryant McKinnie, Brett Romberg, Phillip Buchanan and dear, dear Donnie Soldinger and Phyllis (phenomenal, old-school coach and his wonderful wife – an amazing couple).
Former UM defensive line coach Greg Mark and his wife were there, and Uncle Luke (didn’t even see him), Canes classic Harry Rothwell and his son, Larry Milian and his son, former UM baseball star Javy Rodriguez, my colleagues Dan LeBatard and Papi, beat writers in crime Matt Porter and Christy Cabrera Chirinos and goodness knows how many others I missed.
I asked Butch Davis how he felt about being there.
“It feels great. I’m excited about it,’’ Davis said. “It has been a terrific project. I hope it’s as successful as the first one. The few days I got a chance to talk to Billy about it and actually do some of the interviews I had a chance to run into Najeh Davenport and a lot of those guys. And I kind of helped Billy a little, tiny bit with some of the guys he was having a hard time getting in touch with – Kellen Winslow, Jr., he was down living in Austin.”
I asked Butch, if given the opportunity, would he ever return to the Hurricanes to coach. He avoided that question (I think the answer, in my opinion, is yes). He did, however, gush about his time with the Canes.
“I want to coach again someplace,” he said. “I’d love to have an opportunity to coach. It will come out in the movie. The 11 years I spent coaching in Miami were probably the greatest, most instrumental years that happened in my life. I am so grateful that Jimmy Johnson brought me to Miami and gave me a chance to be an assistant coach here and come back and be a head coach.
“Almost everything that I was ever able to accomplish as a coach, its roots took place in Miami. I am grateful for having been here.’’
Now, for the movie, I just LOVED all of it. SO MANY MEMORIES!! I was at every one of those games – from Edgerrin James’ UCLA explosion to the Syracuse stinker in the Carrier Dome to the Washington whipping in the Orange Bowl to the Washington loss that preceded the 34-game winning streak to the Rose Bowl national championship to the Fiesta Bowl national… Oops. I mean, double-overtime loss.
And so on, and so on.
Donnie Soldinger was terrific in the movie (so much heart), Davis was an excellent narrator of sorts, and the players were compelling, funny, forthright, intriguing to watch and hear. Even Kellen Winslow ranting (Guess who asked him the question that got him going on his famous rant? Haha) struck a chord.
Al Blades’ wild hair made me laugh (and feel melancholy) and Santana Moss and little bro Sinorice are two of my favorites.
Watching Nevin Shapiro run out of the smoke-filled tunnel was pathetic, as was watching the Canes get that pass interference called on poor Glenn Sharpe.
Re things that are yellow and fly: Billy, the ending was terrific.
I would go into more specifics, but guess what people? I have University of Miami bowl practice numero uno at 9:30 a.m. Friday – and guess what time it is now?
So, I must try to sleep now for a very few hours. then head to cover The U: Part (fill in the blank) at Greentree Field.
Good night everyone.
And thank you again, Billy and Alfred.
It’s all about you – and the U.
SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN