ESPN Films’ new 30 for 30 short “Tose,” debuting today on ESPN.com, is about the greatest sports owner most people have never heard of.
Leonard Tose was the owner of the Philadelphia Eagles from 1969 until 1985 when he was forced to sell the team. His legacy is a remarkable mix of a lavish lifestyle and spectacular philanthropy. He was also a beloved figure by Eagles players and coaches of that era.
Acclaimed producer/director Mike Tollin, whose credits include the 30 for 30 “Small Potatoes: Who Killed the USFL?” and many other sports projects, is a Philadelphia native who for years wanted to make a film about Tose. Tollin nearly had given up until NFL Live host Trey Wingo called him out of the blue a year ago, suggesting the idea for a 30 for 30. Wingo discusses Tose with Front Row and how he became a producer on the project.
How did this 30 for 30 short come about?
Leonard Tose has always fascinated me as a person: A multi-millionaire who had it all. He created the Ronald McDonald House to help one of his player’s daughters and died penniless in an apartment in Philadelphia paid for by Dick Vermeil and [ESPN NFL analyst] Ron Jaworski. He was such a human character: incredibly charitable and incredibly flawed at the same time. I just have wanted to see this Leonard Tose film made on some level for so long. It’s one of the great stories in sports that no one really knows about.
Did you ever meet Leonard Tose?
No, I never did but always admired him. The Eagles as we know them now for the past 20 years or so were not those Eagles back in the 1960s and 1970s. They were perennial losers. Leonard wanted to bring Philly a winner, and the great scene late in the 70s between him and Ron Jaworski hugging after a win that gave them a winning record for the first time in a long time signified what he wanted to do. Plus, Leonard had STYLE. He’d fly a helicopter into practice, drop $100 dollar bills as tips.
ESPN’s Ron Jaworski is part of the film. How much did you work with him on this?
I talked to Jaws about sitting down with the filmmakers and he couldn’t wait. In a different time, Leonard Tose would’ve been the talk of social media. A new generation needs to know his story in all its glory and sadness.
Have you produced or been involved in any other films?
This is my first foray into what I hope will be many.