The professional side of amateurism
A documentary with a definite agenda (and an outstanding narrator in Sam Rockwell) the film seems to set out to explain why the NCAA is an awful, hypocritical and often evil organization that takes in billions of dollars each year, giving back, in the form of scholarships (and room and board,) a fraction to the workforce it couldn't exist without. While the organization (and the schools, administrators and coaches that make it up) make serious money in an industry that usually looks the other way as they break the rules, in favor of institutional reviews, they put limitations on the players and then punish them, often arbitrarily. Though it's pointed out that if a young man wants to be a pro athlete in basketball or football, they have no real chance to do so without an indenture servitude in the NCAA, all the while, the NCAA claims its actions are in the best interest of the game and the student-athletes.
It's hard to believe that line when you hear from athletes like NFLer Arian Foster, former college football player Devin Ramsay and paralyzed ex-player Kent Waldrep, all of whom were failed by the NCAA in some way or another. It just gets even harder when the words of NCAA leaders and school administrators serve to only abuse them further, as they use a simple turn of phrase to deny responsibility to the humans they use to make money. When experts like Frank DeFord, Bob Costas, Jay Bilas, and Taylor Branch lay out the case against the NCAA's control over so-called student-athletes, it basically becomes gospel. If you come away from this film feeling good about the NCAA, you probably weren't paying attention.
Though the movie is very economical in making its argument and does so effectively, utilizing a mix of interviews, archival footage and quality animation, it is a bit limited in its scope (largely on purpose, as somewhat stated in the beginning of the film.) There is no real discussion about women's sports and Title IX, the existence of which is often paid for by revenue sports like men's basketball and football, nor is the wider world of college sports, particularly the olympic sports, approached in any depth, though the film does a fine job of comparing the ideal of amateurism in college and in the Olympics. These omissions don't take away from the message, as the key focus is the rights of players in the NCAA's two biggest moneymakers, but there was the opportunity to make for a more well-rounded exploration of college sports.
The film is presented with a Dolby Digital 5.1 track, but it's a surprisingly empty track, with audio only heard in the front side speakers. That audio is clean and center-balanced, with no issues with distortion and good separation between the dialogue and music, but it's really just a 2.0 track. That's all it really needed though.
The Bottom Line