Although sports programming had been limited on HBO over the past few years, with “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” and HBO Boxing being the most popular offerings, “State of Play” is looking to add to the recent string of success for the cable network. With this groundbreaking new documentary series executive producers Peter Berg and Sarah Aubrey look to create another franchise that will be indicative of the cable network’s reputation for high-quality programming with genuine insight. The first in the four part documentary series entitled “Happiness” was screened at HBO Headquarters in New York City last week with Peter Berg moderating, and fellow executive producer Sarah Aubrey, former New York Jets WR Wayne Chrebet and his wife Amy in attendance. In this episode, the explore the mental, social and emotional angst suffered by individuals who find themselves removed from the team dynamic many players enjoyed their entire lives; they also discussed the physiological effects on the human anatomy as well.
After the screening, Peter Berg presided over a panel discussion that featured commentary from the Chrebets as well as fellow producer Andrea Nevins.
“For me, I’ve been dealing with concussions my whole life,” said Wayne in explaining his post retirement depression and malaise. “That was what it was. But my last one I was unconscious for a while. So basically when I came out of it I was home already. When I woke up I asked Amy ‘What happened and she said ‘You’re done. You’re retired.’ I never went back to the complex. It ended so abruptly. I just stayed in the house and wasn’t a part of anything. It took some time to find myself again. A good support group is what you need. Like Michael said, you gotta have the right people around you.”
“I was looking to go to 10 a.m. matinee movies and she was like ‘You gotta get a job. You have to get out of here’.”
“I said to him ‘If you ask me what’s for lunch one more time we’re going to get a divorce.’ He’d be like ‘What’re you doing? What time will you be back? Do you want to go to the movies?’ I’m like ‘No, I don’t want to go to the movies. I have to get the kids, do the laundry, and make dinner. You need to go somewhere and find something to do and get a life,” added Mrs. Chrebet.
In the first episode, State of Play the view is given several examples of former athletes and one-time military men who had to find a replacement for their desire to be a part of a functioning unit working toward a goal. One-time NFL great QB Bret Favre, WR Wayne Chrebet, former New York Giant turned television personality Michael Strahan, NFL commentator Howie Long and former New York Giant RB Tiki Barber each give their testimony on their mindset immediately following retirement, and tell their story of emotional rebirth.
“After a little bit, I gave myself a gut check. I’ve always been interested in the stock market, passed a series of tests and I’ve been working in the stock market for six years now and the best thing that I did was getting a beautiful pep talk from my wife,” Wayne told the audience.
In life, there are many instances of men working in a team dynamic that don’t fall in the sporting category. Additionally, the very same mental state once suffered by individuals who participated in this film can befall other professions as well. Producer Andrea Nevins described her personal impetus for getting involved in this project.
“My Dad, who is here today, was a surgeon all his life and when he retired I saw this massive change in him from being on call and waking up with something to do every day to that sort of state where there was nothing,” she explained. “He said he was very happy about that. But it made me think about what happens to all of us when we go through a big change. We go from something that’s identified us as a person to seemingly having no purpose. I tried to think ‘What was the biggest example of that in our culture?’ and that was these football players who have so much meaning in our society and before most of us have even really gotten started doing our career their career is over. What does it take to rediscover yourself? I had a dinner with Michael Strahan and he was explaining how a lot of friends of his really struggle and I went to him and asked him what he be my guide in this world and he graciously said yes.”
As was illustrated in this first episode, there is an end to every rainy day if we simply are patient enough to persevere. Mrs. Chrebet told those in attendance of about the moment she was advised by the wives of a few retired NFL greats what she could expect from her then recently retired husband at a charity event and how their counsel would prove to be almost prophetic.
“He did an appearance with a lot of retired players and many of these people retired before him,” said Mrs. Chrebet. “We were still in that first year or two and it was really hard. They said ‘It’s going to be about four years. Give it four years and he’s going to find what he’s going to do and he’s going to get better.’ And they were so right. It was almost four years to the day.”
“State of Play: Happiness” debuts on HBO tonight at 10 p.m. Eastern and Pacific. The "Happiness" episode of "State of Play" will air through November 23rd. New episodes will begin airing on December 2nd. Berg told those in attendance that he hopes the offering is successful enough to become a part of HBO’s regular broadcast schedule. If the first episode is any indicator that shouldn’t be a problem.