30 for 30: Season 2, Episode 15

Youngstown Boys (14 Dec. 2013)

TV Episode  |  Documentary, Biography, Sport
7.9
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Ratings: 7.9/10 from 205 users  
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Youngstown Boys is a feature documentary exploring class and power dynamics in college sports through the parallel, interconnected journeys of Maurice Clarett and Jim Tressel. These two ... See full summary »

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Youngstown Boys is a feature documentary exploring class and power dynamics in college sports through the parallel, interconnected journeys of Maurice Clarett and Jim Tressel. These two stars emerged from opposite sides of the tracks in Youngstown, Ohio. They joined together for a magic season at Ohio State University in 2002 and a national championship. Shortly thereafter, Clarett was banished from college football and began a downward spiral that ended with a prison term. Tressel continued at Ohio State for another eight years before his career there also ended in scandal. Now, both Youngstown Boys are attempting to reinvent themselves and resurrect their lives. Written by Anonymous

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14 December 2013 (USA)  »

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Jim Tressel is currently the president of youngstown state university. The same university he won 4 national championships coaching the football program. See more »

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"When you have no father figure, you're not going to be successful"
6 January 2015 | by (Bradenton, Florida) – See all my reviews

The quote in the summary is from NFL legend Jim Brown and he said this in regard to the subject of this documentary, Maurice Clarett. Clarett was an amazingly talented student athlete but one who ultimately became directionless and self-sabotaging. I would sure love to see a film specifically focused on the difference between athletes with fathers and without fathers in their lives--though this isn't exactly the focus of "Boys from Youngstown"--and perhaps it should have been.

The film begins with Clarett in high school in Youngstown--and he's considered one of the top college prospects in the country. Impressed with coach Tressel* from Ohio State, Maurice opts to play for the Buckeyes. His first season is magical. While Freshmen usually don't start at OSU (and most other colleges), Coach Tressel broke with tradition and started Clarett. By the end of the season, Clarett had gained well over a thousand yards and was instrumental in his team winning the national championship.

At this point in his life, Clarett was on top of the world and things seemed like they were only going to get better. And then, an NCAA investigation and soured relations with the OSU Athletic Director led to disaster. Soon, the program determined that he had broken some NCAA rules** and were suspending him from the team. So, Clarett couldn't play or practice and he began publicly talking about wanting to go pro. This is another problem, however, as the NFL won't allow student athletes to drop out of college to go pro without sitting out several years. Oddly, the NBA does not have such a rule. I say oddly because wear and tear on football players is horrible. I could certainly understand a college player wanting to leave to play pro ball since many never make it to the pros due to injuries during their four years playing college ball. Such a problem seems less likely for basketball players. Regardless, with college coaches making millions a year and players getting nothing, it was a great topic and would be a WONDERFUL topic for a future "30 for 30" film. Unfortunately, this focus of "Youngstown Boys" was clouded greatly by Clarett's subsequent behavior.

Following Clarett unsuccessfully suing the NFL to enter the draft, the guy began to behave and think erratically. I think Jim Brown's quote really sums it all up. Without a strong sense of masculinity and responsibility, over the next several years Clarett's life became a self-imposed nightmare. Instead of keeping in shape with the goal of eventually making it in the NFL, he let himself go. Heavy drinking, drugs and his living the thug life soon took their toll. His attempt to make it in the NFL fell flat because he was out of shape and unfocused. And soon, serious criminal behaviors ended him in prison. Now he was yet another young man with great potential who ended up losing it all.

Fortunately, the film did NOT end this way exactly--and I sure hope what you see at the end is the new beginning for Clarett that it seems to indicate. You see Clarett after his release from prison and his attempts to straighten up his life and live responsibly and honorably. Inspiring but very, very sad.

So what did I think about the film? Well, even though it's over 90 minutes long, I really think the documentary should have either been much longer OR been used to make several films. Too many HUGE topics are given too little time--and I mentioned two of them (athletes without fathers and the NFL rules concerning college athletes). Still, it is a very, very good film and one that would really, really benefit from a follow-up in a few years to see where Clarett is then.

*At times, the film seemed to be focused on two folks from Youngstown, Tressel and Clarett (especially at the beginning and end of the film). But during the bulk of the film, Tressel was barely mentioned. Odd to say the least.

**What, exactly, the rules violations are is very confusing to me. According to the documentary, they were very, very minor and OSU basically threw him under the bus. However, according to some web sources, they were far more serious. What is the real case? I have no idea.


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