Big Shot A Gripping Sports Scandal Story

Courtesy:  ESPN/ESPN Films

Courtesy: ESPN/ESPN Films

ESPN is set to release the next collection of films in its Peabody Award winning series, 30 for 30next month. As ESPN’s fans count down the days to the release of ESPN Films Volume II, the “Worldwide Leader In Sports” will debut another film likely to be included in the set Tuesday October 22nd in the form of Big Shot. The nearly ninety minute film is a must see for any hockey fan regardless of team allegiance. It follows the story of how one man conned the entire New York Islanders organization from top to bottom and its waning fan base. Throughout the course of the film, director Kevin Connolly presents to audiences how John Spano conned the sports world into believing he was a Texas billionaire.  It presents his rise to power as the head of a struggling NHL franchise that once boasted four NHL Championships, and his eventual downfall after being revealed as the fraud that he was. As with every one of the films in the 30 for 30 series, the very story itself is reason enough to watch this film. Just as much reason to watch it, those closest to the scandal share the story in their own words. This includes Spano himself. From former players to sports writers and others, the whole twisted tale is told in depth. And sealing the deal for this film is once again the inclusion of classic game footage and newspaper articles to help drive the story along and illustrate everything that happened throughout the ordeal. Together, they make yet another film that proves once more why ESP continues to earn the title of the “Worldwide Leader in Sports.”

The story behind Big Shot alone is reason enough to watch this film.  The story follows John Spano’s deception of so many people.  From the Islanders to the team’s fans to the NHL as a whole, Spano deceived so many people.  Through it all, he seemed to have no remorse at all for his actions.  This is the case even in one-on-one interviews between director Connolly and Spano for the film.  He didn’t try to make himself a victim.  But he seemed to have had no remorse at all for what he did.  Just as incredible is that he was able to fool so many people for so long, despite certain parties openly crying foul.  The sports world is no stranger to scandals.  But this is one of the rarest scandals ever to have hit the sports world.  The closest that any sports organization comes from the world of NASCAR.  Both times, they involved team owners facing criminal charges for fraud.  Keeping that in mind, Spano’s scandal is even more eye opening.  It is one that any sports fan should see.

The story of Big Shot is an eye opener.  It will keep any sports fan engaged throughout its near ninety-minute run time.  The story by itself wouldn’t be as interesting as it is though, without the interviews with those closest to the scandal.  Those interviewed for this film include former Islanders greats Clark Gillies, Bob Nystrom, and former coach Mike MIlbury.  Even Spano himself is interviewed, as noted previously.  The interviews with Milbury and Spano show that while the scandal has long past, there is obviously still some bad blood between them in regards to everything that happened.  Audiences should be warned that some language used in the interviews may not be suitable for all viewers.  Also interviewed throughout the film are professional sports journalists that covered the Islanders’ struggles and Spano’s impact on both the team and the league as a whole.  Their stories help to even better illustrate just how deep the scandal went and how it managed to go on for so long.  It’s one more positive to what is yet another success from ESPN and ESPN Films.

Both the interviews and the story of Big Shot make this film yet another gripping sports story.  There is still one remaining factor to be examined that makes this film as interesting as ESPN Films’ other stories in its 30 for 30 series.  That factor is the vintage newspaper articles and game footage used throughout the film.  Viewers get to see the Islanders’ heyday from the early 1980s thanks to the footage used in the film.  Also included are newspaper articles used to help illustrate Spano’s rise and eventual fall.  They are good visual aids for viewers.  They make the discussions raised by the interviewees clearer for viewers.  Together with the interviews in question, the game footage and the film’s story, it makes this piece another “win” for ESPN and ESPN Films.  It debuts tonight at 8pm ET on ESPN.  More information on this and other films in the 30 for 30 series is available online at and  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at

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