One of the reasons director Gotham Chopra’s 2018 Facebook Watch series on Tom Brady was so compelling was the juxtaposition of documenting a person who has been unfathomably famous for nearly two decades yet had become more private though his fame never waned.
The access in “Tom vs Time” was extraordinary, and Chopra delivered as authentic as we could dare expect look at the Patriots quarterback on and off the field. The only gripe? It had an unsatisfying (around here, anyway) plot twist at the end when the Patriots lost to the Eagles in Super Bowl LII. Kind of tough to blame the director — Belmont Hill grad and legit Boston sports fan — for that.
“In an unscripted environment, there are certain things that at least you can plan around,’’ said Chopra. “Unfortunately, for us Patriots fans, the ending of that Super Bowl was not one of them. I’d say the last Super Bowl was much more satisfying, definitely.”
Chopra has a new six-part series out on Facebook now featuring a rare athlete of similar magnitude to Brady. And the final scenes of this one could turn out any number of ways as well.
Facebook, Religion of Sports (a production company founded by Chopra, Brady, and Michael Strahan), and the production company Unanimous Media have teamed up to deliver a six-episode docuseries, “Stephen vs The Game”, which chronicles Golden State Warriors superstar Stephen Curry’s journey throughout the 2018-19 season. The second episode of the series dropped Thursday night on Facebook Watch.
Curry, one of the founders of Unanimous Media, is currently trying to win his fourth championship with the Warriors. But their pursuit just had its degree of difficulty escalate Wednesday night when another superstar, Kevin Durant, suffered a calf injury that should keep him out at least for the rest of the series.
“I kind of joke about that, because one of the things about Steph is that he’s about as conflict-free as it gets,’’ said Chopra. “When you’re telling a story, you’re always on the lookout for what the conflict might be. But he doesn’t really have any. His family is great, his teammates love him, he’s kind to the fans, has a great reputation around the league. Maybe the conflict comes in the unforeseen roadblocks that get in the way of his quest.”
Chopra recognizes similarities between the Patriots and Warriors beyond their dominance of their respective sports. While gregarious Warriors coach Steve Kerr and Patriots boss Bill Belichick have opposite outward personalities, Chopra said their similar knack for managing egos and getting the most out of diversely talented players is remarkable.
“They do have some similar DNA, especially that ability when the playoffs come to really focus and wrap themselves in the bubble and shut out the noise,’’ he said.
Brady and Curry share the same rarefied superstardom and do have some attributes and back story in common. Both were underdogs — Curry the undersized, boyish guard who began authoring his legend at Davidson College after big-deal Duke University showed only cursory interest, Brady the skinny sixth-round pick out of Michigan. Both became sports Goliaths in part because they never forgot what it felt like to be underestimated and overlooked.
“They’re very different, as a lot of these guys are, just in terms of personality and background,’’ said Chopra. “But there are definitely similarities that have contributed to the incredible success they have had — they’re detail-oriented, passionate about what they do, they are disciplined in terms of training, preparation and focus, almost maniacal, that sort of stuff that not all great athletes maintain.
“They turn doubt into fuel. They’ve both become institutions, but that gives them extra motivation. They don’t want to give up the mountaintop. Steve Kerr in one of the episodes talks about how maintaining greatness is way harder than achieving greatness because when you’re at the top everyone is coming at you, or teammates start fighting to share credit, or money becomes an issue. Managing all of that is harder than being the outsider or underdog trying to get that first chip.”
The Warriors have had their share of drama this season. Durant and Draymond Green feuded publicly for a time. Durant’s pending free agency — and to a lesser degree, Klay Thompson’s — have cast a tall shadow over the season. While the Warriors play on, they are aware that the encores don’t last forever.
“Steph talks a little about that, about realizing how precious this is,’’ said Chopra. “They’ve been on this ride, like the Patriots have, for a certain amount of years, and you’ve got to have the awareness to value it while it’s happening because it doesn’t last forever. It just won’t. It’s a question of when it ends.”
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