A study of the Netflix-produced sports documentary “Last Chance U” reveals the prevalence of religion in the first season of the documentary, which looks at East Mississippi Community College football program.
The documentary’s six episodes also show how college football is bringing the players and communities together and benefits of football in their personal and social lives, according to the study, titled “Queue the Drama.”
The study was conducted by three researchers from the University of Louisville and one from Wilkes University. The research team was led by the University of Louisville Associate Professor Evan L. Frederick.
The study investigated the content of all six episodes, including visuals and dialogue, and found that the documentary had five critical themes.
The most dominant theme was the effect of religion on different aspects of EMCC. For example, a locker room wall has previous championship rings with the words “Lord of the Rings,” and coaches motivate the players by reciting Bible verses.
The other four themes—a second chance, escape, athlete-student, and football as a family—were as prevalent as a religion throughout the documentary, the study found.
The second chance explains how the players were seeking another chance “to get to a better place.” The escape theme looks at football as a form of escape from the realities of Scooba, Mississippi, home of EMCC.
“You go [to EMCC] to get out. That’s your purpose. You don’t go to stay. You don’t go to have a good time. You go to leave,” one player said.
The athlete-student theme examines the emphasis on sports above academics.
To read more: DOI: https://doi.org/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.