Forty years after the USA Men’s Olympic Basketball team declined their silver medals after controversially losing the gold to the Soviet Union, the 12 team members gathered together to ultimately either accept or refuse the medals for a game the players believe they never lost.
Their discussion of the controversial game is the subject of the next installment of ESPN Films’ 30 for 30 Shorts series, Silver Reunion, which debuts today on Grantland.com.
Front Row got a chance to talk to five-time Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Rory Karpf in advance of his film’s debut.
What drew you to direct a short on this subject?
When we heard the 1972 players were getting together to have a reunion for the first time in 40 years, we knew there was a chance to document something historic: to get all these guys in a room together to discuss what happened, and also for them to make a definitive decision as a team on whether to accept the silver medal.
You’ve directed full-length docs for ESPN Films (Tim Richmond: To the Limit and Miracle 3). How do those compare to making a short film?
The principles are pretty much the same, mainly just trying to tell a good story.
What was it like having the entire team reunite for this for first time since the 1972 Olympics?
I was just so happy we were able to get them all together. They were coming in from all over the country, so it was a bit nerve-racking before they showed up because you never know if something might happen with flights, weather, etc. But thankfully it all worked out. Once we started filming, there was a great camaraderie with the guys. There were a few moments that got a little tense and emotional and luckily we were able to document them. Our film also marks the first time the players took a definitive vote on if they would accept the silver medal.
Were you surprised by the outcome or any of the things they said?
Yes, for sure. Mainly that some wounds never heal.
Do you have a favorite 30 for 30?
Anything by Jonathan Hock, he’s a master at the craft of storytelling.