Tribeca Breakdown: "Big Shot"

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In 1996, a previously unknown Dallas business mogul by the name of John Spano bought the New York Islanders for a franchise-saving $165 million. The future looked bright for the once-legendary team. Then Spano took his seat in the front office. "Entourage" star Kevin Connolly takes us behind the scenes of the biggest fraud in hockey history, as Spano’s wealth is revealed to be a lie and his rise to power a brilliantly concocted scheme.
3.5

“Big Shot” may not be much of a movie for you if you already know the story but you still have to admit that this is one of the most jaw-dropping pieces of sports history ever committed. Kevin Connolly, venturing into directing a feature-length documentary for the first time after directing several episodes for the TV shows he starred in including “Entourage”, sets his sights on Dallas Tycoon John Spano, who might be one of the (almost) luckiest guys who ever lived.

Connolly approached this as both a New York Islanders fan, having grown up on Long Island and they being the only team to have LI roots, as well as an objective documentarian. If you’re too young to remember, this is a solid sports history lesson about one of the most storied dynastys of the late 70’s and early 80’s, thanks to ownership of John Pickett and the goal-scoring of Mike Bossey.

Not so in the later part of the 80’s though, as attendance, Nassau Collieseum, and Pickett’s interest all started to decline. The introduction of the “Gang of Four” owners (two of which were later charged with stealing 553 million dollars from charities to buy horses in 2009) and the new Islanders logo did nothing to save the sinking ship, in fact the logo just made it more of an embarrassment.

The team needed a shot in the arm and that’s where Spano came in, a humble, likable Texas Tycoon who had friends like former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach in his corner. I’ll say nothing more except prepare for some shocks if you don’t know what happened. It’s an amazing story of how one man managed to BS his way through banks, lawyers, owners, and almost any other vetting process around and after a while the fun of watching this movie is seeing how far he could really go before the floor fell out from under him.

The film features interviews from former Islanders head coach Mike Milbury (one of the few who didn’t seem to like Spano from the start), NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, and Spano himself, among others, and is by far one of the more entertaining documentaries I’ve ever seen.