KEN BURNS'S rich and unblinking documentary,
The Tenth Inning
, which aired on PBS in September, makes it clear how deeply baseball's steroid era has stained the game. But the film also reminds us that the years from 1992 to 2009 defined our national pastime as much as any other period has—changing the way we evaluate not only sports, but also ourselves as fans. The film's core story is about how the most hallowed record in all sports fell to possibly the most polarizing figure ever to play the game, Barry Bonds. Burns strips away Bonds's exterior, shows how jealousy and ego fueled the late chapters of his career and makes the case that, in the end, Bonds's pursuit of baseball immortality left fans feeling a mix of anger and apathy.
AN NFL SEASON marked by the issue of concussions was kicked off in rambunctious style by a show called
. The HBO reality series followed the Jets for five weeks in training camp and, thanks largely to always-candid coach Rex Ryan, became a must-see for football fans, earning the highest ratings in the franchise's six-year history. All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis's contract dispute provided a key story line, but Ryan's profanity-laced rants in locker rooms and meetings (immortalized on YouTube) turned Hard Knocks into one of the most compelling, and oddly endearing, shows of 2010.