Cleaning out the DVR: Disgraced (dir by Pat Kondelis)

(Lisa is currently in the process of cleaning out her DVR!  She’s got over 170 movies recorded and she’s hoping to have them all watched by the new year!  Wish her luck!  She recorded the 2017 documentary, Disgraced, off of Showtime on July 10th.)

To be honest, Disgraced is not the type of documentary that I would usually watch.

After all, it’s a documentary about basketball and a college athletics program, two things about which I have next to no interest.  I will admit that, like everyone in Dallas, I watched the Marvericks when they were playing for the NBA championship but, even then, I spent most of the games with my hands over my ears.  Seriously, all those squeaky shoes!  I just couldn’t take it.

However, with all that in mind, there was no way that I was going to miss Disgraced.  As soon as I found out what the documentary was specifically about, I set the DVR to record it.  Disgraced is about more than just basketball.  It tells the story of Patrick Dennehy, a Baylor basketball player who, in 2003, vanished.  I can still remember when Dennehy disappeared.  It was big news down here in Texas and, for a few days, it was all anyone was talking about.  Even back then, I was fascinated by missing person cases and I wondered if Dennehy had been kidnapped, developed amnesia, or perhaps voluntarily gone into hiding.  Who knows?  Maybe he didn’t want to be a big basketball star.

I can also remember the day when it was announced that Dennehy’s teammate and friend, Carlton Dotson, had confessed to shooting and killing Dennehy.  At the time, it was reported that Dotson had said that he heard a voice telling him to kill Patrick.  That was pretty scary stuff and everyone was shocked.  In retrospect, I think a lot of the surprise had to do with the fact that Dotson killed his own teammate.  We’re big on team sports down here in Texas.  For many, being a teammate is almost as sacred a relationship as being someone’s cousin.

Topping it all off, of course, was the fact that this all happened at Baylor University.  Baylor may be the world’s biggest Baptist University but it’s also a Texas institution.  Down here, we all know the Baylor stereotype.  Baylor students are both religious and wild.  For those who like to think of Baylor as being full of hypocrites, the murder of Patrick Dennehy was viewed as vindication.  For me, as a high school student, the murder made me wonder if all colleges were as messed up as Baylor apparently was.

(When I was a later a student at the University of North Texas, I ran into some Baylor students who were visiting a friend.  They were drunk off their asses and begged me and my BFF to come back to their place with them.  “You can trust us,” one of them said, “we’re good Baptist boys from Baylor…”  I informed them that I was a “bad Catholic girl from Dallas,” which just seemed to make them like me more.  Fortunately, I not only had another party to go to but I also had a BFF who had no fear about telling drunk dudes to fuck off.)

What I did not know, at the time, is that the investigation into Dennehy’s death also led to the discovery that the Baylor basketball program was apparently violating all sorts of regulations when it came to recruiting players.  Baylor’s respected coach, Dave Bliss, lost his job as a result of the violations that were discovered and, in the opinion of many, his attempts to cover up all of his actions actually impeded the police investigation into Dennehy’s disappearance.

All of this is detailed in Disgraced, though I have to admit that the details of Dave Bliss’s downfall were of far less interest to me than the details of what led to Carlton Dotson murdering Patrick Dennehy.  Featuring extensive interviews with the people who were there — including an occasionally contrite Dave Bliss — Disgraced traces the steps that eventually led to Dennehy’s murder.  It was fascinating and rather distressing to hear about the days leading up to Dennehy and Dotson going off together to shoot guns.  Dotson’s motives remains as unknowable in the documentary as they are in real life but Patrick Dennehy comes across as being a good guy who deserved better than to be reduced to a sordid headline.  For fans of true crime, Disgraced is a must see and I imagine basketball lovers will get something out of it too.

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