Several months ago Apple TV+ released Greatness Code. These bite-size 5 minute episodes dived into the psyche of top athletes but didn’t do a whole lot else to elaborate on that. Despite some great visuals and important life lessons, the show ultimately faded into obscurity.
Never one to miss a trick, Netflix’s latest effort usurps Apple TV+’s documentary with a much more polished and driven look at the world of sports. Instead of athletes, the spotlight turns to top coaches for various sports. With 5 episodes clocking in at around 30 minutes a pop, The Playbook captures the mindset of 5 managers on their quest for success.
From Doc River’s amazing comeback in the NBA to Jose Mourinho’s “special” seasons at Porto, Chelsea and Inter Milan, The Playbook paints an intimate portrait of what drives these men and women while celebrating their success.
Much like Greatness Code though, The Playbook doesn’t diversify quite enough with 2 episodes dedicated to basketball and 2 focusing on football (soccer). Despite this extra screen-time for the sports, Netflix still fails to grab some of the best coaches.
Alex Ferguson and Phil Jackson for example would have been great to hear from. Their mind-sets during their respective times at successful clubs would have made for some great TV.
That’s not to say the content here is bad though. A lot of the coaches talk openly about their past (except Jose of course, who refuses to do so). These talking head segments with coaches dive into their drives, fears and ambitions. From here, the episodes are broken up into various chapters simply listed as each coach’s rules to live by.
What’s particularly inspiring here though is just how relatable these rules are and how they can apply to everyday life. Learning from mistakes, knowing when to break or play by the rules and even chasing what scares you are important life lessons to live by.
Even if you’re just here for the personalities, there’s enough of a history lesson to understand exactly why they’re so successful at the peak of their careers.
It’s worth noting too that there are some choice edits throughout and a couple of the segments do omit important details. Jose Mourinho talks intimately about his career highlights but conveniently misses out his time at Manchester United.
Likewise, Patrick Mouratoglou brushes off Serena Williams’ outburst on court where she shouted at an umpire and broke her racket. He dismisses this as a simple lapse in concentration while simultaneously mentioning how disrespectful she was to him early on in her career.
It’s an amusingly ironic segment and one I would have liked actually handled a little better. I wish they would have openly admitted her wrongdoing rather than brushing over it so quickly.
By comparison, Alex Ferguson talks openly about the criticism he received for jumping to Eric Cantona’s side. The pressure he was under for standing by Cantona’s side after he kicked a crowd member must have been unbearable but great coaches know when to stand up and when to sit down.
Despite that though, the segments do well to keep things interesting and there’s a consistent effort to add as much archival footage from key matches as possible.
With 5 episodes to get through and lots of invaluable life lessons along the way, The Playbook is well worth checking out. Whether you’ve watched Greatness Code or not, The Playbook is a far better proposition and definitely a solid choice.
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Verdict - 7.5/10