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DID YOU READ

Review: “The Two Escobars,” the drug kingpin and the soccer team.

Review: “The Two Escobars,” the drug kingpin and the soccer team. (photo)

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Reviewed at the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival.

In 1998, Associated Press reporter Steve Wilstein noticed a bottle in Mark McGwire’s locker. It was filled with androstenedione, an over-the-counter muscle enhancer that boosted the body’s production of testosterone. In short, andro is a steroid, banned at that time by pro football, the NCAA, and the Olympics, though not Major League Baseball. McGwire was in the midst of a season in which he would hit more home runs than any other player in history and the interest in his chase was fueling a resurgence in the game. When Wilstein wrote about McGwire and andro, the press didn’t rush to investigate McGwire’s drug use; they chastised Wilstein for making it public. In other words, what McGwire was doing on the field was so good for baseball that nobody wanted to know what McGwire was doing off of it to make it possible. Give the public big enough results, they’ll turn a blind eye to everything else.

For further proof, consider the story portrayed in the devastating documentary “The Two Escobars” from directors Jeff and Michael Zimbalist. Colombians were so excited to field their first truly great soccer team, led by captain Andrés Escobar, that they didn’t care that the team was backed by brutal drug kingpin Pablo Escobar. Though Pablo’s backing fueled Colombia’s meteoric rise to the top of the class of international soccer, it also sparked the team’s precipitous and fatal decline.

04282010_twoescobars5.jpgIt all came down to money. Just as small market baseball teams lose their best players to teams like the Yankees or the Red Sox who can afford to sign expensive free agents, Colombia had never been able to afford the salaries necessary to keep their best players from leaving for more lucrative work in Europe. Pablo Escobar changed that by using his near limitless resources to fund an all-star team. His motivation was three-fold: he was a genuine soccer fan; his generosity to his players and their community helped buy him enough good publicity to keep his critics and the government at bay, and, most importantly, soccer provided a very convenient way to launder money by falsifying attendance records or player salaries. Soon other Colombian dealers got into the act, sparking a period that one talking head in the film calls the era of “narco-soccer.”

“The Two Escobars” is part of ESPN’s ongoing documentary series “30 for 30,” which celebrates the network’s 30 years on the air with a slate of 30 documentaries. Though each film covers a different topic, some themes have popped up repeatedly throughout the series; many, for instance, focus on the symbiotic relationship between a sports team and its community. “The Band That Wouldn’t Die” by Barry Levinson examined how Baltimore struggled to maintain its identity after the football team it had invested so much of itself in before the Colts abandoned them for Indianapolis; “Kings Ransom” explored how Wayne Gretzky’s departure for the Los Angeles Kings affected Edmonton, who lived and died by Gretzky’s former team, the Oilers. The Zimbalists paint a similarly sad portrait of a very troubled country. Sick of its association with the drug trade, Colombians desperately hoped the team they sent to the 1994 World Cup, populated by many of Pablo Escobar’s players (including Andrés), could help to rehabilitate their national image. Instead, the team’s poor play and the violent reaction it set off back in Colombia that included kidnappings, death threats, and eventually murder, only wound up reinforcing it.

04282010_escobar6.jpgThe Zimbalists cut back and forth between the lives of Pablo and Andrés, a technique that yields more coincidences than comparisons. Other than one very costly mistake in Colombia’s final World Cup match in 1994, Andrés does not play a significant role in any of the national team’s games, and as the directors focus more and more on Pablo Escobar and his increasingly absurd battles with the law, the film’s balance begins to tip more and more heavily in his favor. Linked through soccer and a shared last name, the two were otherwise very different individuals. The churchgoing Andrés was known as “The Gentleman of the Field,” and used his status as a soccer star to try to curb violence in Colombia. The remorseless Pablo, referred to by the former president of Colombia as “the bin Laden of those times” bought Colombians’ love by paying for health clinics and houses for the homeless while ordering the assassinations of anyone who dared to speak out against him.

But even if the connections between the two men aren’t as strong as the movie would like, there’s no denying that their fates are intertwined, or that their stories serve as an effective clothesline upon which the filmmakers hang a chilling cautionary tale about what can happen when success becomes a drug. As with any addiction, once you’re hooked, the only thing that matters is maintaining the high at any cost.

“The Two Escobars” will air on ESPN on June 22nd.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.

via GIPHY

Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…

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IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.

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IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).

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IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.

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IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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