TV Review: 30 for 30’s “I’m Just Here for the Riot” Dramatically Extends Well Beyond the World of Sports

ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentaries so often beautifully retell some of the most memorable sports stories of all time. However, sometimes those stories extend far beyond the court, field or, in this case ice.

On June 15, 2011, the Canucks’ Game 7 Stanley Cup Finals loss to the Boston Bruins sparks a massive riot in downtown Vancouver. Police cars are overturned and burned, windows are shattered, stores are looted, and waves of young people are caught up in the mayhem. I’m Just Here For The Riot chronicles the aftermath of an event captured on hundreds of cell phone cameras; the rioters are outed, shamed, and see their lives altered forever. From the mob mentality in the streets to similar vengeance in the online hunting of those responsible, it is a dark moment in the city’s history – one that raises deeper questions about fandom, violence, and the shocking power of an angry crowd.

As is typically the case for a 30 for 30 documentary, I’m Just Here For The Riot is brilliantly dramatic. It obviously has a very serious story to tell and it does so with a sense of weight that extends far beyond sports. From the moment the hockey game ends, the vibe of the entire doc shifts and things begin to snowball. The documentary features interviews with plenty of people who were present for the riots: both those who took part and those who stood in defiance of the people trashing their own city.

Eventually, the story gets even bigger than just the physical riots that took place in Vancouver. The doc dives into the topic of mob mentality and the power of social media and the internet in general and how they can create a very different kind of riot. It is referred to at one point as “the world’s first smartphone riot,” which sends us down a very different path from the one started by a hockey game. The ensuing public shaming almost flips the script to cast these exposed rioters in a sympathetic light. Whether or not that takes effect is up to the audience, but the doc does a great job of showing all perspectives.

There is a bit of an emotional component. Whether or not you can sympathize with the people involved in the riots, they do have the chance to tell their stories and how that one night altered their lives forever. They get the opportunity to share their regret and guilt, which certainly carries some emotional weight.

Of course, there is a great deal of entertainment value to the doc as well. A riot can be difficult to watch, but it’s also difficult to look away. Seeing what happened that night was fascinating but so is seeing the backlash that fell upon the people involved. It’s incredibly interesting to watch the fallout, especially after being given the context of very similar riots occurring in 1994, in the same city, for the same reason. Without the seemingly infinite cell phone footage and use of social media to identify those involved, the repercussions were not the same for those involved in those initial riots.

Overall, I’m Just Here for the Riot is not the 30 for 30 to watch if you’re looking for an incredible and uplifting sports story. It is however, a fascinating look at mob mentality and the uses of smartphones and social media for both good and bad. It carries some emotional weight and is at times very entertaining. It’s certainly worth a watch if you’re not specifically looking for something within the realm of sports.

30 for 30’s I’m Just Here for the Riot is now streaming on ESPN+.

Mike Mack
Mack is the Editorial Director for Marvel and ESPN content and he has covered comic cons, theme park events, video game showcases and other fun events. He is a fan of theme parks, sports, movies, Marvel Comics and is a self-proclaimed "nerd."