NFL Films revealing doc about Detroit legend Barry Sanders, "Bye Bye Barry", debuts on Prime Video November 21
Bye Bye Barry, the definitive, firsthand account of Barry Sanders’ remarkable life story, will premiere November 21 exclusively on Prime Video.
Bye Bye Barry is the long-awaited, feature-length documentary that reveals the unprecedented journey of NFL legend Barry Sanders. One of the giants of the sport, Sanders displayed a style and flair that has never been replicated. His record-breaking career at both Oklahoma State—where he won the Heisman Trophy in 1988—and with the Detroit Lions created a standard that will be celebrated forever. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2003 and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2004. His pro career lasted 10 years, and during that span he earned Rookie of the Year honors, was named the league’s Most Valuable Player in 1997, was a four-time rushing champion. Sanders was a six-time first team All-Pro selection, and was named to 10 Pro Bowls.
Barry Sanders revolutionized the sport while playing on a team that was often overmatched. By the end of his rookie year in Detroit, anyone who saw his elusive style recognized this was a groundbreaking performer. Ten years into his Hall-of-Fame career, it was only a matter of time before he broke Walter Payton’s record for most career rushing yards. But in his prime, at the peak of his game, Sanders did the unthinkable. At age 31, in the summer of 1999, he walked away from the game, never to return. Few retirements have ever been so shocking. And none done with more intrigue.
NFL Films' 13-time Emmy Award winner Ken Rodgers, executive producer of Bye Bye Barry, joins SportsJam with Doug Doyle to talk about the making of the film and its timeliness heading into Detroit's Thanksgiving Day battle with the Green Bay Packers.
"Barry Sanders is fascinating. He represents every we say we want in our athletes, everything we say we want our children to act like, but it's not what we actually cheer for. Here was a guy who was quiet, loved to be a team player, didn't chase personal glory, and walked away when he thought it was right rather than chasing titles and glory. He played because he loved the game. That's what we teach our kids in America. It turns out when someone was like that, we don't understand them. We've never understood Barry Sanders because of that. This film is a real look and an attempt to understand that personality and why he did what he did. It really turns a mirror back on us as a society and asks us why was this not good enough? Why were people so upset he walked away?"
Instead of holding a massive press conference at the Lions’ facility, or conducting a one-on-one interview, Sanders faxed the announcement to his hometown paper in Wichita, Kansas and took a solitary trip. He caught a flight to England, leaving the world to guess why he left.
Rodgers says that's why NFL Films joined the 55-year old Barry Sanders and his four sons on a trip back to England to explore his career and revisit his upbringing.
"It was really to us the hook of why we want to revisit this period. Barry Sanders was always a mystery, but maybe the most mysterious thing he ever did was how he retired. He went to the airport. He got on a plane and he went by himself to London, England and walked around for two weeks without contact anyone. It just struck us as something that would blow the internet up today. They "Where is Barry" memes would be unbelievable. In this film, he revisits with his four sons, to talk about what he was doing there and what his mindset was and why he walked away. We felt like bringing him back to that moment would be a great way to get into the film and make Barry more reflective on why he did that and said bye bye to football.
In addition to interviews with Sanders and his family members, Bye Bye Barry also features interviews with Eminem, Jeff Daniels, Tim Allen, Emmitt Smith, Calvin Johnson, Herman Moore, Rodney Peete, Chris Spielman, Kevin Glover, Jalen Rose, Jemele Hill, Dan Patrick, and Bill Belichick.
Rodgers said they share a common view of Hall of Fame running back.
"One word, wow! They just were wowed by Barry Sanders."
Barry Sanders always had a unusual relationship with his late father William. William Sanders would constantly tell his son he wasn't as good as the late NFL great Jim Brown. Rodgers says Bye Bye Barry goes much deeper into that relationship.
"The doc at its heart is a father-son story. This one is so unique that the star athlete isn't really the star of the family. William Sanders, in many ways, is the star of this film. Every time he's on screen, you're drawn to him. You are fascinated by him. The point of view he has on his son is so unique. There is pride there. There is love there and yet there is a belief in himself as a father that supersedes everything. He always proclaimed the second best running back of all-time behind Jim Brown, even though he just ran as a Pop Warner and high school football player. The belief he had in himself and his son just jumps off the screen."
As a senior executive at NFL Films, Rodgers has been the lead creative producer behind HBO’s Hard Knocks, the first and most successful sports follow-doc series in television history. He's also responsible for many award-winning 30-for-30 ESPN specials.
What's Rodgers secret to success?
"The teamwork at NFL Films has always been incredible. Steve Sabol taught us that. I like being a coach. I like putting the right people in the right position and working with a diverse group of young people who are bringing energy. I feel like a coach rather than a quarterback these days. My secret goes back to my high school days in Woodbury, New Jersey. I was sort of the dumbest kid of the smart AP College course kids. So I really didn't fit in with them but I was friendly with all of them. I was the least athletic of all the jocks while I was on the wrestling team. I always wondered why the two groups didn't get together because I loved both of them. In my career, I tried to please both of those groups. I try to make films that speak to sports fans, but there's also a humanitarian lens I look at films through and try to answer questions about who were are as a society."
Rodgers learning a lot about film making at Rutgers University and then got his MBA at the University of Southern California.
Presented by Prime Video Sports, Bye Bye Barry is an NFL Films production. Bye Bye Barry is also executive produced by Patrick Kelleher, Ross Ketover, and Brian Rolapp of NFL Films. Bye Bye Barry is co-directed by Paul Monusky, Micaela Powers, and Angela Torma.
You can SEE the entire SportsJam with Doug Doyle interview with Ken Rodgers here.