Athletes discuss failure in Losers | Screen | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Athletes discuss failure in Losers

Athletes discuss failure in Losers

Michael Bentt was a boxer who didn't like getting punched. Nor did he seem to enjoy being the one doing the punching. He didn't particularly like boxing in general, but was forced into it by a relentlessly overbearing and abusive father. And somewhat predictably, that toxic mix of anger and need for his father's approval made Bentt into a very good boxer. He became a minor star before a brutal TKO in 1994 forced him to retire. 

Bentt's story kicks off the first episode of Netflix's new documentary series Losers, about the lives of athletes who suffered humiliating, strange, and well-documented losses. Subjects include a bottom rung soccer club, a curling team, and a dog sled race. Patched together from archival footage, interviews, and animated re-enactments, the show takes an empathetic, if somewhat flat, look at the way we process defeat. 

In episode one, a boxing trainer discusses the tragedy that befalls athletes when they pass their prime and, like Bentt, have dedicated every waking moment to one set of skills while ignoring all others. But Bentt's story is far more uplifting than many of his peers'. After the injury sidelined his career, he found his way into the film industry and began working as a technical advisor, trainer, and actor (he played Sonny Liston in Ali). Listening to Bentt discuss it now, it seems like the job he was born to do, harnessing his love for the arts and re-discovering his passion for his first career.

Each episode looks at the concept of losing from different angles, which is both interesting and a little frustrating in its lack of cohesion. But overall the vibe is pleasant and entertaining, telling lesser-known stories of likable people making peace with failure.