TV Review – ESPN’s “Shark” Details the Heartbreaking Masters Collapse of Greg Norman

The world of sports is filled with so many memorable stories of incredible triumphs. Unfortunately for some, it’s also filled with stories of epic collapses and heartbreak. The story of legendary golfer Greg Norman’s performance at the 1996 Masters falls into the latter category.

ESPN’s newest 30 for 30 documentary, Shark, tells the tale of this unprecedented loss and does so in a way that only the 30 for 30 series can. You don’t have to be a fan or even know the first thing about golf to enjoy this documentary. Shark is as much about humanity and compassion as it is about golf.

And the first reason this documentary is able to be so successful is the willingness of Greg Norman. For someone whose legacy is really all about losing in an unforgettable way, the man they call “Shark” very easily could have told ESPN to leave him alone (in probably much nastier words). Instead, he was completely willing to walk us through just what was going through his mind on that fateful day and even head back out to Augusta National and relive that painful experience.

In fact, Norman even manages to crack jokes and have fun with this. He looks back at his infamous collapse with a sense of calm resolve and even goes as far as to say that winning wouldn’t have changed his life at all. A man who was completely polarizing in his time as a professional athlete and has his fair share of haters, puts himself in a position in this documentary where viewers can’t help but love him.

Then of course, there’s that patented 30 for 30 storytelling. With stories as famous as this one, it can become hard to get invested because you likely already know the outcome. So, rather than trying build suspense in that way, the filmmakers embrace that and instead focus on the emotional component of the story.

Right from the beginning they let you know that Norman is known for his epic collapse and you know exactly how this story is going to play out. And yet, once the ‘96 Masters begin, you’re captivated by it. You can’t help but root for Norman as you watch bogey after bogey and hope that somehow he’ll pull out of this nosedive and win, despite the fact that you already know the outcome. It’s like watching a trainwreck. Your stomach turns as you watch each missed putt, but you can’t look away.

That’s because the doc spends so much time letting you into Norman’s head. In the present day, he talks about what his experience was like as we watch highlights of him winning tournaments, arguing with fans and even suffering other heartbreaking losses. In that time, you can go from never having watched golf in your life, to being a big Greg Norman fan.

Overall, Shark is another hole-in-one for 30 for 30 (I couldn’t resist). It comes as no surprise, as the documentary series rarely misses, but with the focus of this story being almost entirely within the realm of the sport in which it focuses and not venturing off into other matters, it’s nice to see that type of story can still be successful.

Shark will air on ESPN on April 19th at 8 PM and will be made available on ESPN+ immediately after its premiere.

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