Beckham | Netflix

EVERYONE HAS AT LEAST one sports show on their weekly streaming roster nowadays. Whether it’s a light-hearted comedy like Ted Lasso, or an insight into the struggles of everyday people like Last Chance U, sports shows have worked their way onto our screens and into our hearts. There’s something about capturing the thrill of victory, alongside the raw emotions of athletes, that makes these spectacles so irresistibly captivating, and there are more on the way.

David Beckham is the latest high-profile athlete to receive the docuseries treatment. Becks will get personal in a new four-part series, speaking candidly on the highs and lows that come with more than three decades in the spotlight. If being the best player at some of the world’s biggest football clubs elevates your fame, marrying a Spice Girl will send it into the stratosphere, but as Beckham is set to reveal, the limelight comes with its share of negatives.

For better or for worse, Beckham has always attracted media attention. He went from starboy to badboy after his infamous red card at the 1998 World Cup, and the man who was once the poster child of English football became the victim of torrents of public hate. The series will explore Beckham’s mental health in such trying times, while also offering a closer look at the attention attracted by his relationship with Victoria Beckham.

Posh Spice herself appears in the series’ trailer, recounting the struggle of keeping her relationship with the footballer off the front pages of tabloids. “My manager kept saying, ‘Try and keep it under wraps’,” Victoria explains in the trailer. “So we would meet in car parks—and that’s not as seedy as it sounds.”

Beckham will premiere on Netflix on October 4th, watch the trailer below.

Why do we love sports shows?

Beckham’s story is not one that hasn’t been told before, nor is it a particularly groundbreaking narrative. In a world bursting at the seams with rags-to-riches journeys and controversial athletes, Beckham’s story is obviously intriguing, but it’s also a dime a dozen. We often already know everything there is to know about the subjects of popular sports shows before we even watch them. So where does their appeal come from?

For those with encyclopaedic sports knowledge and an obsession with the athletic world, revisiting the memorable moments and stories of yesteryear will always appeal, and sports shows know this. These shows capitalise on nostalgia. It’s incredibly effective and the pool from which compelling sports stories can be drawn from is endless. Sport has delivered some of the most iconic cultural moments in recent history, which not only symbolise on-field success, but also capture the zeitgeist of the time. Just think of the Matildas’ recent fairytale run—which we’re certain will be retold in dramatic fashion soon enough—and you’ll understand the allure of sports shows. They don’t only remind us of what happened on the field, but also of how we felt at the time.

It’s no surprise that people who love sports also love sports shows. But these shows also attract a sizeable athletically averse audience who would typically prefer watching paint dry over settling down for a few hours to watch a game they’re not remotely invested in­­­­. So, how do sports shows extend their appeal to a broader audience?

Sports are inherently dramatic, and drama is the key ingredient of any successful show. Men often belittle women for their obsession with celebrities, while simultaneously idolising their favourite athletes and keeping up with all the minute details of their personal lives, including but not limited to their diets, workouts, cars, clothes and, of course, dating habits.

Professional athletes are hardly any different than the Kardashians. They’re always on our screens, and whether we like it or not, they provide the necessary talking points for dinner table discussion. Sports already feature celebrities and drama, sports shows just package them differently. That’s how they consistently reel in an audience that couldn’t care less about regular sports.

What are the best sports shows?

While you’re waiting for Beckham to premiere, here’s the best sports shows and where to watch them.

The Last Dance

Available on: Netflix

As arguably the best basketball player of all time, on arguably the best team of all time, Michael Jordan merits a starring role in one of the best sports shows of all time. This 10-part documentary series retells Jordan’s legendary career and the electrifying conclusion of the Chicago Bulls’ dynasty with never-before-seen footage of their 1997-98 championship winning season.

The Last Dance | Netflix

Formula 1: Drive to Survive

Available on: Netflix

Business is booming in Formula One racing and Netflix’s Drive to Survive is a big reason why. Drive to Survive largely shuns the nitty gritty technical aspects of F1, which are less interesting to those of us that don’t know the first thing about cars, in favour of showcasing high-stakes drama and personal storylines. F1 viewership has increased by almost 50 per cent globally since the series’ premiere, and drivers have essentially become reality TV stars, unlocking a new level of fame, attracting new legions of fans, and justifying salaries that make us wish we realised that driving was a legitimate career path sooner.

Break Point

Available on: Netflix

Any series that offers a behind the scenes look at the personal storylines fuelling the worlds most popular sports are now labelled as *insert sports name*’s version of Drive to Survive. Break Point received that exact reception and similar to its F1 counterpart, goes in depth with a cast of talented athletes—this time in tennis. Its highlights include Nick Kyrgios opening up on his struggle with mental health.

Welcome to Wrexham

Available on: Disney+

We’ve already noted that athletes have become celebrities in our modern world, and that sports shows capitalise on that, but Welcome to Wrexham didn’t need to turn the stars of Welsh football club AFC Wrexham into celebrities while following the team’s promotion to the English Football League system, as they already had A-list owners, Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney, on hand. Season two of Welcome to Wrexham began airing just last week.

Ted Lasso

Available on: Apple TV+

Perhaps the most successful of any sports show to date, Ted Lasso has proven that sports stories can not only be captivating and inspiring, they can also be funny. Ted Lasso follows an American football coach who is recruited to take charge of failing English football team AFC Richmond, despite having no previous experience coaching the sport. Lasso’s exploits, which are as chaotic as they are saccharine, promptly ensue, as Richmond rises to the apex of English football due, in part, to their American coach’s unrivalled alacrity.

Ted Lasso | Apple TV+

Last Chance U

Available on: Netflix

The flashy side of sports makes for great TV, but the human stories of everyday struggles in the lower levels of sport are just as compelling, and the stakes may be even higher. Last Chance U focuses on the trials, tribulations and aspirations of young community college athletes who have the required skillset and determination to carve out a successful pro sports career, but experience off-field adversity.

Friday Night Lights

Available on: Binge

Friday Night Lights was the quintessential sports show before sports shows became a trend. The series is an adaptation of the 2004 film of the same name, centring on a fictional American football-obsessed town in Texas. Friday Night Lights focuses on a high school football team but goes far beyond sports, instead depicting the issues plaguing rural American communities.

Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty

Available on: Binge

After two seasons, it was announced earlier this week that Winning Time would not shoot for three. Originally touted as a celebration of the Los Angeles Lakers’ dominant dynasty in the 1980s, the series instead ended rather awkwardly by highlighting the prowess of their rivals, the Boston Celtics. Despite an ending that would be more appropriate for a series call ‘Losing Time’, Winning Time remains one of the greatest insights into basketball culture in the ’80s, a pivotal era in the NBA’s history.

Winning Time | HBO


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