It’s interesting that on the same day ESPN announces it will no longer produce made-for-TV movies or miniseries, we also hear that Reggie Jackson is still mad as hell over his portrayal in “The Bronx Is Burning.” That’s the eight-part ESPN miniseries that was released in 2007, based on Jonathan Mahler’s best-selling book.
Not saying that the two things are related, but Jackson says he’s considering a lawsuit against the WWL over the way they depicted him in the movie, which featured Daniel Sunjata in the role of the tempestuous Mr. October. It all came up when Jackson appeared on “The Jorge Sedano Show” on 790 The Ticket in Miami on Thursday. Reggie was asked what he thought of the movie, and he responded by appearing to have an seizure on the air.
Not quite that dramatic, actually, but close. Excerpts:
SEDANO: Reggie let me ask you this: When watching “The Bronx Is Burning,” and I know that you did interviews and so forth on it when it came out, how accurate of a portrayal was it?
JACKSON: Oh God. (Coughs). It was the most embarrassing portrayal I’ve ever had in my life. I was humiliated. Um, sickening. I can’t think of any more (pause) I can’t, I can’t respond. I was sick to my stomach.”
SEDANO: “Really? you were that upset by it? They interviewed you during …”
JACKSON: “They did not. “
SEDANO: “They didn’t?”
JACKSON: “They cut and pasted all interviews from the past. They never asked me a question, they never, uh, collaborated with me, they never asked me to participate, um, it was one of the most embarrassing things that I’ve ever experienced in my life.”
Jackson went on to say that he was most upset about the way ESPN depicted the infamous dugout altercation with manager Billy Martin, and of a supposed conversation Martin had with Yankees catcher Thurmon Munson, in which Martin supposedly said that Jackson’s father had abandoned the family when he was a child.
“That’s not close to being accurate,” Jackson said of the Martin quote. “For one thing, my parents divorced when I was six. And there were six kids, not five like ESPN said. My father took three, and my mother took three. It’s just false.”
“I left it alone, I didn’t want to keep talking about it, I thought, for the last year and a half I seriously thought of suing ESPN for it. I never even got an apology from them.”
Mahler’s book attempts to capture the tumultuous political, economic and sports mood of 1977 New York, when taxes were so high that some landlords burned down their own buildings in order to collect the insurance. He used the Yankees as a centerpiece, a team that has few rivals to this day in terms of the drama they created on and off the field.
In fact, one would think it would be hard to make up anything weirder than what actually happened that season. But Jackson says that ESPN has succeeded.