Sports documentaries and documentary series like Last Chance U use myths such as the American dream and redemption story to create more compelling films.
Last Chance U used five themes throughout its six-episode season that break down the two myths mentioned above, and it showed that these stories are similar, despite not being about pro or four-year university athletes.
The study was conducted by Edward Frederick, a University of Louisville associate professor of sports administration; Marion Hambrick, associate professor of sports administration in the Department of Health and Sport Sciences; assistant professor Megan Shreffler; and Wilkes University’s assistant professor Sam Schmidt conducted the study
Each researcher watched all six episodes and then, to lighten the viewing load, each individual was given two episodes to code qualitatively. The researchers met to discuss each episode and the findings.
The researchers came up with five themes that supported the presence of the two larger myths mentioned in the introduction. Of the five themes, two of them fell under the myth redemption story and the other three under the American dream.
Second chances and religion in football are both themes that tell the redemption story focusing on the possibility or even actual failures that then lead to much larger success.
Escape, athlete-student, and football as a family all follow the path of the American dream theme. This form of your everyday individual’s hero’s journey is often shared through sports documentaries as hard work beats all. The three all play into the idea of balancing materialistic and moralistic ideals and goals in order to actually achieve success.
To read more: doi:10.1353/jsm.2019.0006.
Frederick, E.L., Hambrick, M.E., Schmidt, S., & Shreffler, M. (2019). Queue the Drama: Netflix’s Last Chance U and the Portrayal of Myths in Sports Documentaries. Journal of Sports Media 14(1), 113-136.