You don’t have to be a fan of American Football to enjoy All or Nothing: A Season With The Arizona Cardinals. In fact, it’s probably more enjoyable following the ‘Cards’ through their 2014/2015 season if you’re not a gridiron obsessive. But that doesn’t mean it’s not hugely enjoyable for anyone who enjoys sport stories of any kind.
The best audience for the series would be new or lapsed American Football fans. And the Amazon documentary could well be the perfect conversion tool for dedicated fans to convert their spouse, partner or family.
It has all the essentials. An underdog team which has hasn’t won the Superbowl in 118 years, but did reach the playoffs in 2008/2009. A coach in Bruce Arians who has been around for many years and isn’t afraid to still take risks. A team comprising of talented young rookies, journeymen veterans making surprisingly successful returns to the game. And a quarterback who may be among the best to have never made if through the playoffs.
Apparently NFL films collected more than 1,000 hours of footage for the All or Nothing project. Condensed into a first season of just eight hours, it’s dramatic, exciting and well-polished. The narration is handled by Don Draper himself, Jon Hamm, emphasising the investment in the series.
But summarising a whole season of NFL football into 8 hours does mean that All or Nothing can be criticised for lacking a little depth. Particularly when it comes to the games themselves. We get to see the important moments, but All or Nothing assumes you probably have some understanding of what a Blitz or Hail Mary might entail – and if not, you need to pick up that knowledge yourself.
Where it excels is in pumping up the excitement around the matches. And in showing enough of the business, mechanics and characters in the Arizona Cardinals to make you want to find out more. As an occasional NFL watcher who peaked when Channel 4 first broadcast NFL shows in the 1980s, I found myself bingewatching the series and then considering to stay up through the night to watch a Cardinals game which was being streamed live via Twitter.
And the Cardinals are the perfect team to have kickstarted All or Nothing (although a second series has been confirmed, there’s no news on which team is being followed).
There’s the trio of leaders for the business, with president Michael Bidwill, General Manager Steve Keim, and coach Bruce Arians. In 2012, Arians moved from being a career offensive co-ordinator to becoming head coach at the Indianapolis Colts due to the longterm illness of friend and boss Chuck Pagano. And after successful season and the Coach of the Year award, when Pagano was well again, Arians stepped down.
And an American football team is a pretty big squad by sporting standards. Between offense, defense and special teams, there’s a large cast. And that’s before you include the co-ordinators, trainers, other staff, players’ families and fans.
As with any NFL team, the quarterback will always stand out. In this case it’s Carson Palmer. A supposedly washed up veteran who never quite made it to the Superbowl, Palmer has been rejuvenated in the desert. And another experienced player, Larry Fitzgerald, has had an even more impressive career without ever being in a team that reached the ultimate reward in American Football.
Then there are the veterans who are drafted in during the season to cover gaps, and end up giving their all. For instance, Red Bryant, who receives a phone call in Texas, jumps on a plane, and is playing for the first team within a week. Or the tight defensive unit including Tyrann Mathieu and Patrick Peterson. Even when the Cardinals struggle to draft the player they have picked out in advance, they end up getting someone who the series can follow from rookie to immediate sensation.
Ultimately, the series works due to Bruce Arians, who provides plenty of memorable lines as well as steering the team through success and failure.
Even though he knows and is realistic about the fact some of his team won’t be around by the end of the season, he can’t help becoming close to various members of his roster. And by the same token, he’s visibly shaken by the news of friends and former colleagues losing their jobs at other teams when the regular season ends. That doesn’t interrupt a flow of memorable, profane and generally inspiring quotes.
So if you fancy chilling out on a weekend and immersing yourself in a sports documentary series that can supply some inspiration alongside the happiness and sadness of a typical season in any discipline, it’s well worth checking out All or Nothing, available via Amazon Prime.