23 February 2006 | colparker
Is it great, or am I biased?
I grew up in the SF Bay Area and actually lived in Oakland from '77 to '80 (proudly sporting my #22 Cliff Branch jersey while attending Wildwood Elementary School), so there was no way I wasn't going to devour this HBO Sports documentary.
But even if you're not a member of the Raider Nation or couldn't care less about the A's today - hell, even if you don't really like sports - this is a great show about a fascinating city during an equally fascinating time. The sociological exploration of two very different cities, staring each other down from either side of the San Francisco Bay, is just as interesting as the wonderful sports footage. And it's even more interesting when they put both cities, their different demographics, and all their different personalities, within the context of the times...touching on the 60's, civil rights, black power, Hell's Angels, and everything else that made the SF Bay Area such a cultural supernova in those days.
As for the sport stuff, the interviews with the former A's players are especially riveting, as you really get the sense that, even now, 30+ years later, these guys (Sal Bando, Rollie Fingers, Vida Blue, Reggie Jackson, and all the rest) are still profoundly hurt by the way they were treated and then discarded by absentee owner and all-around a-hole, Charlie O. Even Reggie, Mr. October, who obviously had a hell of a career post-Oakland, said, "If it hadn't been for free agency, we'd have kept on winning. We'd have won every year until we retired." If you're a baseball fan, a statement like that just kind of floors you...especially when you have to wonder if, damn, he might be right.
On the Raiders side, the lead-up to the "Immaculate Reception" at the end of the '72 season is so well done, that your heart breaks all over again. Listening to the players and fans talk (including Tom Hanks, who is once again cool in my book, not just because he agreed to be interviewed for this film, but because of what a genuine fan he clearly was, and is) is, as they compare it, like listening to people talk about where they were when Kennedy was assassinated. The Raiders were robbed...and it still hurts. Luckily, there was redemption to be had in '76, and the story of that season essentially closes out the film on a high note.
Anyhow, bottom line, if you're a fan of documentaries you'll absolutely enjoy Rebels of Oakland. If you'r'e a sports fan or a former/current Bay Area resident, you'll absolutely savor it...and then you'll watch it again. And again.