Review: What Carter Lost

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It’s a story you’ve more than likely heard by now if you’re a fan of Texas high school football – the story of the 1988 Dallas Carter Cowboys.

If you’re unaware, I won’t ruin the whole thing for you here. It’s a long, complex tale that has a bunch of legal jargon in it that I’ll inevitably butcher. However, I can tell you this, if you’re looking for the Dallas Carter story done right after the underwhelming Carter High, the documentary that’s set to air delivers.

For starters, it goes into the conditions that gave rise to a school like Dallas Carter, and presents both sides of the debate surrounding the grades of Gary Edwards masterfully. There is no apologia here, it presents the facts, surrounded by the emotion of the time.

The most interesting part of the documentary based in the action of the gridiron was the portraying of factors that presented very real obstacles for Carter in the playoffs. The ’88 Dallas Carter team was one of the most dominant of all time before everything that surrounded that team began to surface, and it reflected on the field. There are those that would use that as a knock on them, to say that they weren’t as good as other teams, but how in the world do you adequately prepare yourself for a game that you were told you weren’t going to play that morning? How do you focus when at any second it could all be stripped away from you?

And eventually, it was all stripped away from Carter. The documentary spends more time in the armed robbery section of the story than in any other. The final scenes are some of the most powerful in any 30 for 30, and show exactly how lives were being rebuilt after it all came crashing down.

It’s the raw emotion that sets this apart from any other portrayal of Dallas Carter, the tears that spring to the eyes of those being interviewed when they recall those events that they just can’t escape. Perhaps the most powerful image of rage comes from one of the final scenes in the film, when they weave the portrayal of Carter in the Friday Night Lights film adaptation into a broader conversation about how many young men were unnecessarily slandered by the actions of a few.

Those who don’t normally watch documentaries won’t be burdened with the tediousness that can sometimes seep in, this one is a clean hour and fifteen minutes, and ends right where it should, with no stone left unturned.

My knock on the 30 for 30 series in general is the concept of the “Bad Boys of Blank” template that hit for awhile. You had the Raiders in Straight Outta L.A., the first of many attempts to weave the story of N.W.A. The Detroit Pistons were featured in, well, Bad Boys. You obviously have the most famous 30 for 30, The U, parts I and II. None of these were bad, per say, it was simply a narrative that can get overdone and worked into a template at times, like the story of the football or basketball star who came from nothing, or the luxurious life of the playful, young hearted megastar. What Carter Lost could have easily gone there, at least for some portions of the documentary, and I’m thankful it didn’t, because as it shows, it’s not a realistic portrayal.

It’s a documentary that’ll leave you simultaneously satisfied with the way the story is presented and wondering how it ever got to that level. In an age of Texas high school football where 70 million dollar stadiums are being built, it’s a question that everyone should at least ponder.


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3 years ago

How about a day and time of airing?

3 years ago
Reply to  Dan

Never mind. Saw it in the pic

3 years ago

Must see TV. It is fair and tells the true story,

Harry Wellman
Harry Wellman
3 years ago

Reminds me of ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ the best and worst of the high school football scene.

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