Some of my favorite shows to watch on TV are sports documentary type stories. Many are told by talented storytellers that are able to cut through the common sports themes and uncover at their core lie the most intriguing human-interest stories. One series that does this best is ESPN’s E:60. E:60 is a weekly investigative newsmagazine show, think 20/20 for sports.
Last week my family and I watched the story of Taylor Bradford, a walk on football player at the University of Memphis. We weren’t very far into the program and the story seemed very familiar to me. The story is a tragic one. Taylor was shot on campus in his car. After being shot, he drove a short distance and crashed his car into a tree on campus.
The car is a key part of the story and the real reason it seemed so familiar to me. Taylor and his father, Jim Bradford shared two passions, football and their car a 1979 Lincoln Continental. The father and son cared for the car together as Taylor grew up and it became his car when he started driving.
The E:60 program shows Jim Bradford, a grieving father clinging to the memory of his son through this heavily damaged car. Most days the wrecked Lincoln sat undercover at the family’s home only to be uncovered when Jim would look to connect with his son by washing and detailing the un-drivable vehicle.
As I watched those scenes of a grief stricken father washing a wrecked car I knew I had seen this story before. And I had, the crime was featured on another show, A & E’s true crime series – The First 48. They also devoted a portion of their program to the cars ability to maintain a connection between a father and son.
Jim Harris is a car builder from Howard’s Grove, WI. He saw The First 48 story too and felt an immediate connection to Mr. Bradford. Jim Harris called the Bradford’s and asked if he could come pick up the car and restore it for the family, as a gift. The process took over a year at his shop but the finished product was a showroom quality restored 1979 Lincoln Continental. The E:60 story shows the pay off through delivery of the car back to the Bradford’s and the closure they were able to receive from a stranger’s grand gesture.
I’m not writing this to simply recap two shows telling the same story. I guess there are multiple reasons this story resonated with me so deeply. One is as somewhat of a storyteller myself, in a past TV producer life, a good story should be told and retold, it can be ever evolving. The other is cars mean different things to different people and can reach across what would seem like clear differences to show a commonality between very different groups of people. Because of these shows and their coverage of this story there is now a large group of viewers that will think differently of the efforts one may put in to their car or the trade and skill needed to perform the act of kindness given by Mr. Harris to Mr. Bradford.
The power of television is impressive. I’ve always been a believer but this story just proves how wide spread television programming can reach.