STUDIO: Warner Bros.
MSRP: $24.98
RUNNING TIME: 108 min.
• Bonus Interviews
• Music Videos
• Image Gallery

The Pitch

“The perfect sports film for people in the region south of New Hampshire, east of New York and north of Rhode Island!”

The Humans

Former local sports heroes Ray Bourque (Bruins), Doug Flutie (Boston College Eagles, New England Patriots), M.L. Carr (Celtics), Steve Nelson (Patriots), Jerry Remy (Red Sox), Tommy Heinsohn (Celtics); Red Sox General Manager Theo Epstein; Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino; Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck; sports journalists Peter Gammons and Mike Barnicle; actor/Boston sports fan Mike O’Malley.

"Lord, let some of that Bird magic rub off on me."

The Nutshell

Boston, Massachusetts has a rich and varied history in sports, rivaled only (and quite heatedly) by New York City as the country’s ultimate sports town. Boston fans love their sports figures like family members (that they love). One reason for that level of devotion (beyond the usual “us vs. them” mentality that pervades most regional sports collectives) is that Boston teams and sporting events have nurtured so many legendary competitors, men and women who not only racked up awards and won championships for their teams, but also raised the level of play in their respective sports. Think of Roger Clemens and his two 20-strikeout games, Ted Williams’ .406 batting average in 1941, Larry Bird scoring a Celtics team-record 60 points six days after Kevin McHale broke the record with 53 points, Bobby Orr’s “flying goal” for the Bruins in the 1970 Stanley Cup finals, or Doug Flutie’s game-winning Hail Mary pass for Boston College in the 1984 Orange Bowl. These dedicated players, and many others, inspired generations of Beantown fans. A Boston athlete can claim a spot high on the “greatest-of” lists of nearly every major sport.

City of Champions: The Best of Boston Sports showcases some of the most electrifying moments in the history of organized competition. The film contains dozens of game clips and archival interviews with the players and coaches who made it all happen. Several montages are backed by the music of Pearl Jam, AC/DC, Aerosmith, The Isley Brothers and many other performers. Some of the New England area’s most devoted fans (most of which are players, team execs and journalists who witnessed a lot of the important moments in person) discuss what it means to be a fan, and how the good times (the Red Sox finally winning another World Series in 2004 after 86 years of a fabled “curse”) and bad times (Bill Buckner’s missed groundball that may have cost the Bo-Sox the World Series in 1986) together can help to form an emotional connection with teams and players.

Raise your hand if you’re Garciaparra.

The Package

With the popularity of smoky, incredibly loud sports bars, a lot of people probably miss out on the chance to listen to a sports program in Dolby Digital surround sound. This film will not blow you away with its audio presentation, but the power of these legendary film clips is heightened by giving you the auditory sensation of being in the stadium or arena when the magic is happening. The video quality is slightly less exciting but still without any distracting flaws. There are a lot of video clips in the main feature, so the ultra quick editing doesn’t allow much time to worry about encoding problems.

Two of the three special features are actually quite special. There are a few extra interview clips with the film’s participants that contain some fairly interesting stories. Journalist Mike Barnicle shares his memories of growing up in and around Fenway Park and how he once approached Ted Williams at his hotel for an autograph. Williams gave him a ride to the ballpark in his Cadillac as a bribe to keep young Mike from revealing his address to other kids. Tommy Heinsohn talks about Bill Russell’s habit of vomiting from nerves before every basketball game. These kinds of details add a facet of human drama to the world of sports. I find that stuff to be more interesting than the actual games sometimes. The photo gallery contains lots of pictures from moments in the film with a short explanation of the event and date involved. It’s one of the more useful galleries I’ve seen on a DVD, and it’s a nice supplement for people who like to keep track of the “who, what and when” of sports trivia. The third feature, and the most unnecessary one, is a 16-minute compilation of the scenes from the film that are accompanied by music tracks. I really don’t care for repeated material on a DVD, and there is really no reason for these segments to be combined like this.

After losing a bout, Tommy Hearns often needed to be consoled by the ref.

The Lowdown

Growing up in a heartland state, I never had the opportunity to develop a bond with sports teams the way people in major cities do. I imagine when admission prices were accessible to the working class that people in metropolitan areas instinctively moved from football season to baseball season to hockey season and so on for purely cultural reasons. It’s possible to develop an intense connection to a team by watching it on TV, but I think the connection must be stronger when there are several teams right in your community, maybe even close enough to your neighborhood for you to hear the roar of cheering fans coming from the stadium. From an early age, I was a big Boston Celtics fan. I developed my relationship to that team by watching a few championship games on TV and cheering against my cousin’s favorite team, the Lakers. I can only imagine what it was like for young Boston kids to walk around the Boston Garden and build an allegiance with the team because it seemed like the natural thing to do. It also seems natural to develop a kinship with all of the local teams at the same time. The teams almost become fellow citizens in a given community.

City of Champions is a decent compilation of film clips for sports-loving Bostonians and other supporters of Boston sports in general. The film is probably useless to rival sports fans, except those who can appreciate the legendary individuals who make up the teams they have learned to hate. I was not very happy with the editing of the film overall. I think it would have been better to break down each section by sport, and the bumper clips that separate each chapter needed to be organized in a more logical way. A few of them are just plain confusing without any context. Some of the musical selections are wholly uninspiring as well. Pearl Jam’s “Man of the Hour” is the best song in the film, but there is no excuse for another shameless deployment of Train’s “Drops of Jupiter” or Creed’s “Higher”. Even with some obvious flaws, the film adequately supports the notion that fans of Boston sports have plenty of historical reasons to love their teams. However, the entire city needs to buy Bill Buckner a nice gift. That guy has taken enough punishment.

7.0 out of 10

Mrs. Petrie held up the sign just as her daughter leapt from the balance beam.