The wild world of pro sports includes a many-splendored potpouri of tractor pulls, monster truck rallies, midget tossin’, wrasslin’, etc. In short, a lot of flashy visuals with not a lot of substance to fall back on. Also, of course, there are more “legitimate” pastimes like baseball, football, hockey and that spittoon-friendly wonder: NASCAR racing.
But let’s not forget the vast American empire that is professional basketball. It generates mega-millions every year, and has a fanbase that follows its star players with a devotion that more than borders on the absurd. “Sandy ‘Spin’ Slade: Beyond Basketball” is not exactly about basketball. But it’s about a young woman who’s carved a real niche for herself in the rough and tumble world of big time B-ball and done it on her own terms.
The film’s subject, Sandy Slade, has taken her ability to spin basketballs and turned it into a job. A pretty amazing feat, by itself. More interesting though, is the instant likability that Slade projects the moment she starts talking. Before a packed school auditorium of rapt youngsters she relates the story of her first gig–working at an NBA game, and the crippling bout of nerves she suffered. Slade draws her audience right in and gets them on her side. On top of her skills at working a room, the main thing she projects is ego-less sincerity.
Slade is captured preparing for shows before packed arenas. And the viewer gets a neat perspective on the enormity of putting oneself on the line in front of throngs of sports fans who sometimes number over twenty-thousand at the bigger venues.
As Slade says “It’s difficult to explain what I do.” In addition to spinning the basketballs, she also does some rather miraculous dribbling and even some juggling. Her billing as “one of the World’s greatest ball handlers” seems rather lofty, but the film provides the proof that she is indeed worthy of that title.
If “…Beyond Basketball” was solely about her tricks with basketballs it wouldn’t really be all that impressive. It’s the message of going after your dreams–that is implicit in the things she says to the youngsters–that seems novel. It’s not that is hasn’t been done before. This is just one of the few instances you’ll see of it where the message doesn’t seem to be self-serving.
The film could’ve been a corny infommercial for a fringe performer who doesn’t really have anything but a clever routine that dazzles grade schoolers and the elderly. And there’s a moment in the film where the filmmaker is soliciting rave responses to Slade’s show that seem as contrived as a Coke/Pepsi taste test. But that minor lapse aside, “Sandy ‘Spin’ Slade: Beyond Basketball” is a lot more than an advertisement for an athlete, it’s a highly entertaining peek behind the curtains at what makes a unique talent tick.