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"Bye Bye Barry" Review

I frequently joke that I grew up in a city without a pro football team: Detroit. I also joke that the reason the terminally woeful Detroit Lions haven't won a championship since 1957 (predating the Super Bowl) and only ONE playoff game since then is because team owner William Clay Ford ran over an old Gypsy woman and thus the team was cursed for eternity.

Legions of great players have wasted their careers in Detroit; Heisman winners trapped here because the Lions have always had high draft picks thanks to their losing records. Occasionally some escape for greener pastures like Matthew Stafford who was traded to the L.A. Rams and won the Super Bowl the following year, but most play their pro careers here like Hall of Fame receiver Calvin "Megatron" Johnson and the greatest running back ever, Barry Sanders, whose sudden retirement is explained somewhat by Bye Bye Barry, a documentary on Amazon Prime.

With interviews from teammates, family members, and celebrity fans like Eminem, Jeff Daniels, and Tim Allen, as well as Sanders himself, we're given an overview of his career from his surprise Heisman Trophy win to being drafted third overall in 1989 to his shock retirement on the eve of training camp in 1999. While this was always treated as some great mystery - Was he looking to get traded? Did he just get tired of losing? - the ultimate revelation (mostly the latter along with concerns about a debilitating injury) is both anti-climatic and a quarter-century later, irrelevant.

I'm not a big sportball fan (being in a city of mostly losing teams does that), so there were a few factoids about Sanders that I picked up from Bye Bye Barry. He is a modest man who wasn't motivated by fame or acclaim; he bypassed the opportunity to set the rushing record his rookie year by pulling himself from the game with five yards to go. Unlike the other Sanders drafted his same year, Deion, his quiet let-the-playing-do-the-talking demeanor earned respect from teammates and fans. A class act whose own sons reflect the example his strict father inculcated in Barry and his siblings.

Bye Bye Barry could've probably been trimmed down to an even hour like an ESPN special, but if you're a fan of the sportball and the greatest player stuck on the worst team, you'll probably get more from it.

Score: 6/10. Catch it on Amazon Prime.


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