John Spano, reclusive subject of new 30 for 30 doc ‘Big Shot,’ explains why he participated in film

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ESPN Anchors Takes on “Big Shot”

“You don’t have to be a hockey fan to appreciate the ‘you know whats’ of John Spano as he almost pulled off the biggest heist in pro sports history. Fabulous story told and directed by lifelong NY Islanders fan [actor] Kevin Connolly where we learned in the case of Spano, ‘If you say it, it must be true.'” – Linda Cohn, “SC” anchor. For more from Cohn and Connolly on “Big Shot,” download the latest “Listen Closely” podcast

“The NHL just couldn’t catch a break in those days, no matter how hard they tried to be like their big brothers the NFL, MLB and NBA. This was a real punch in the mouth for a league used to taking shots in the jaw, a real embarrassment especially when you consider it was a team in the NY media market, some 30 miles from NHL headquarters, and a franchise that enjoyed one of the sport’s richest histories. I can’t imagine the NFL falling for the old banana in the tailpipe trick. The cherry on top is that it is directed and narrated by “E” from “Entourage” fame (don’t call him E, he hates that), the real Kevin Connolly who is a real-life, die-hard NY Islanders fan still to this day. He must’ve choked on some of the words. But you don’t have to be a hockey fan to be amazed by what took place behind the scenes of a major sports organization. After watching “Big Shot,” you’ll be amazed that this happened in real life.” – Steve Levy, “SC” anchor[/box]

In 1996, the once-dominant New York Islanders were in serious trouble. Poor performance and management issues were driving away their once loyal fan base. Then along came a Dallas businessman named John Spano, who agreed to buy the NHL team for $165 million dollars.

Things began to turn around for the Islanders, but the apparent improvements were all smoke and mirrors. “Big Shot” the new 30 for 30 film premiering tonight (ESPN, 8 p.m. ET), features the first interview Spano has ever given about the Islanders’ deal. It tells an unforgettable tale of a dream that became a lie – and how a scam of such epic proportions initially went undetected.

Front Row spoke recently with Spano regarding this thoughts about the film:

Understandably, this isn’t your favorite topic to talk about it but you agreed to participate in the film. Why?
Yes, it wasn’t a period I was proud of and, of course, I would prefer that it wasn’t a story anyone wanted to tell. However, once I knew the film was going to be made, I wanted to put a face to it and make sure that people understood what really happened.

The director, Kevin Connolly, is a huge Islanders fan. Did that help you to decide to be in the film?
Yes, after meeting Kevin and talking to him, I trusted that he would do as he said and portray the story fairly. The Islanders meant a lot to Kevin growing up and still do. Now that I’ve seen the film, I believe that Kevin tried to live up to what he said he would do. It was also the fact that ESPN Films was doing the documentary and it would be a 30 for 30. I understand the professionalism and attention to detail that comes with that, so it helped make me more comfortable.

Do you feel like this film airing will help you to put everything behind you finally?
Yes, in a way. I have already moved on from it in many ways and am enjoying my life in Ohio, where I now live. But since I had never really spoken about that time in my life before this film, there was definitely a sense of relief at getting the whole story out.

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