Although well beyond the original timeline of its 30th anniversary, ESPN continues to pound out 30 for 30 documentaries, the latest debuting Tuesday night. The topic: The Spirits of St. Louis, a short-lived franchise that epitomized all that was zany, good and bad about the ABA.

It was reminiscent of another 30 for 30 from the first volume about the defunct USFL. Both were not unlike scenes that I watched play out during my days in Fargo – the deaths of the Fargo-Moorhead Beez, a loosely professional basketball team in the International Basketball Association; and the Fargo Freeze, an ill-fated indoor football squad.

The Beez, in particular, had a soft spot in my heart. That was my first real beat and it was the stereotypical minor-league hoops franchise: Colorful characters, troubled talents, shoestring budgets, part of an unstable league, sketchy attendance in good times and bad.

And that is what I took away from the St. Louis doc: We seem to be big on romanticizing defunct sports teams and leagues, but only after the fact, and for reasons that are hard to explain.

I mean, do we like failure?

Think about it: Those clubs were doing wacky stuff in the present at one point rather than in the past yet we chose not to attend, at least not often enough to allow things to continue. But then the franchise folds, a few years pass and we think it’s the greatest little story ever told?

That’s kind of messed up, no?

Of course, if we did provide ample support it would alter the story dramatically. Then the team doesn’t go out of business; it just keeps chugging along as a kind of sideshow – it becomes the St. Paul Saints, I guess. There’s nothing wrong with that, and the Saints get media shine every so often. It’s just that they’re not made to be legendary along the lines of the Spirit.

In music and in sport, it seems that only the good die young.


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