I consider myself a big supporter of women’s sports. For the last several years I have been coaching two girls basketball teams, using my time to build better players, but more importantly teaching kids to be confident, find their inner strength, and to aim higher than ever before. First hand, I have seen how sports can change mindsets and trajectories, creating leaders, building confidence, while also developing teamwork skills. So, when I learned about HBO’s new sports docuseries Angel City, I was instantly intrigued by what it had to offer. To be completely transparent, I was also a bit embarrassed as I realized just how little I knew about professional women’s soccer in the US.
Sure, everyone knows of the 1999 Women’s World Cup championship team. The title game remains one of my all-time favorite sports moments in sports history – it is simply amazing. Interest in the sport ebbs and flows with the major events the World Cups, Olympics and such. Still, not enough people know that these amazing athletes are hard at work year round, every year – not just during the major events. Angel City opened my eyes to the much bigger world of women’s soccer, some of which is being played right in my backyard. Increased awareness of the US women’s soccer is just one of the many goals for this ambitious and inspiring docuseries.
The docuseries, directed by director Arlene Nelson, takes us to the very first days of the Angel City Football Club. During 2019, in the wake of the #TimesUp movement, three women from different backgrounds decided it was time to bring a professional team to Los Angeles and while doing so, help the sport gain the attention it so rightly deserves. Actor and activist, Natalie Portman, Hollywood executive Julie Uhrman, and venture capitalist Kara Nortman put their minds, knowledge, and hearts together to challenge the norms in a one-of-a-kind story of determination.
It is an underdog story led by three ass-kicking women who will not take no for an answer – the ultimate tale of teamwork. After ‘hundreds’ of ill-fated investment meetings leading to even more excuses, they bypassed the naysayers to find a way to bring the vision to the field. Their energy and strategic planning earns them the respect and financial support of venture capitalist Alexis Ohanian who is all in on bringing a professional women’s team to Los Angeles. Joining the cause was his wife, who just happened to know a little bit about sports, Serena Williams. This opens the floodgates of investing from a wide range of famous names from actresses like Uzo Aduba, Jessica Chastain, America Ferrera to over a dozen women’s soccer players, like Abby Wambach, Mia Hamm, Julie Foundy and many more. Los Angeles had its first professional women’s soccer team, one that also was majority owned by women.
While not everyone will get the same kick out of business aspects of changing the face of sports as we know it, the excitement and energy of the game itself is universal. The story of the early efforts by Portman and company is just the tip of the iceberg of what this ambitious series has to offer. Nelson somehow captures a much bigger slice of the Angel City FC story – so much so, I think she may have taken the full pie. The doc takes us on the field, into the locker rooms, on the sidelines, into behind the scenes meetings, confidential zoom calls, into the stands and side by side with the fans. In doing so the documentary feels, in the best of ways, like a college course on all things women’s soccer, extending into a business and marketing, women’s rights, the game itself, team management.
As a coach and father of two daughters who happen to play and love sports, the moments where the series really connected come as we begin following the women who make up the teams, coaches and staff as they deal with the on-field challenges that any team, especially a brand new one, has to face. In addition to the origin story, Angel City uses the blood sweat and tears to paint a detailed picture that captures the strength and passion of what goes into this game. Tracking the team’s progress in the standings with occasional overlay, it is easy to quickly become invested in this odds-defying team.
The in-game footage is as raw and gripping as it comes, only multiplied as we are given exclusive access to much of it from a variety of perspectives. We are fully immersed in Angel City. There are in-the-moment interviews with players, fly-on-the-wall inclusion in coaching/team building decision making discussions, team huddles and plenty of other moments that combine to create a tapestry of everything that Angel City means on so many different levels.
The celebrity involvement is one of the most unique and the most LA-fitting aspects of the live Angel City experience – you never know who will be in attendance cheering them on. While I am sure nothing captures the excitement of actually attending a game, the lighter moments have us hanging with stars/investors like the team’s “official soccer moms” Jennifer Garner and Glennon Doyle, as they show up in the locker room and sitting side by side with fans showing their support. It’s fun to watch on screen and surely even more so for the fans who we get to meet during the series. Hearing first hand accounts of just how much this team means to the fans, the community, and all those inspired by the actions on and off the field proves they are doing a whole lot right here.
Angel City is very easy to get wrapped up in. The personal stories behind the players journeys, devastating injuries, and of course the excitement of the games themselves. Trust me, if you do not get the chills (at the very least), from the explosion of joy and achievement when Angel City scores their first-ever goal, then you better make an appointment with a heart doctor.
After seeing Angel City, not only did it motivate me to locate my local team, the NJ/NY Gotham FC, I’ve also made plans to join my daughters to attend our first (but not last) professional women’s soccer game. We watched Angel City together in what turned out to be an eye-opening and exciting must-see tale that is sure to inspire as you cheer for these amazing women. The documentary has already made an impression on them, two aspiring soon-to-be-soccer players.
My hope is that this docuseries has the same effect on a much grander scale with the American public, changing mindsets and trajectories, because the sport, the players, and the millions of aspiring future women’s soccer players deserve it. Angel City is the kind of true story that give wings to hopes and dreams, helping them take flight.
All three episodes of Angel City are now streaming on HBO Max.
[…] TV Review: ‘Angel City’ Soars, An Inspiring Must Watch Docuseries […]