ESPN has an impressive lineup tonight starting with an hour-long E:60 (7 p.m. ET) featuring “Paradise: From the Ashes,” the story of a California high school football team who lost nearly everything in the 2018 wildfires.
Paradise High School, located 170 miles north of San Francisco, has built a reputation for a successful football program under Coach Rick Prinz. In 20 years, PHS has 166 wins, 10 league championships and six section titles. But in November 2018, the wildfires destroyed nearly everything in the town.
One of the few things that remained was the team’s football field.
“My first meeting with the Paradise team was in a food court in Chico, Calif., about five weeks after the fire [December 2018]. We met there because it was pretty much the only space the team had to gather in at that point. Coach Prinz and a handful of his rising seniors were there,” producer Russell Dinallo said.“The school was holding classes in a conference room next to the Dick’s Sporting Goods. It became apparent in that moment that the displacement that everyone was facing was going to be a big part of the story.”
E:60 followed the team for the next 10 months to chronicle its journey and tonight, reporter Tom Rinaldi tells their story.
In addition to “From the Ashes,” E:60 will share the story of the first-ever live event on ESPN that aired 40 years ago. Initially a piece about a softball game between the Milwaukee Schlitz and the Kentucky Bourbons, the story quickly turned into an investigation to find the missing tape of the original broadcast. Reporter Jeremy Schaap and producers Simon Baumgart and John Minton interviewed nearly 50 people to find out what happened.
Amongst those 50 were some of the “ESPN ‘79ers,” who discuss what happened on that day.
“We talked with many of ESPN’s first employees for this piece and all explained how chaotic that first day was behind the scenes,” Baumgart said. “A lot of them had to learn TV on the fly, there was a skunk on set and the ‘exclusive’ sponsor [Anheuser Busch] was in the control room when they discovered their competitor [Schlitz] was also getting airtime. Out in Milwaukee, it seemed chaotic, too. The announcers of the softball game, Joe Boyle and John Blanchard, got everybody’s names wrong for about three straight innings. But all in all, they got through the first day and kept going until what we have today.”
E:60 leads into even more great stories including The American Game at 8 p.m., which debuts a weekly series that examines the phenomenon that has become “College Football Saturday.”
And at 9 p.m., ESPN will premiere the next documentary in the award-winning 30 for 30 series with “Rodman: For Better or Worse,” the unfettered and definitive look at the life and career of Dennis Rodman.