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Of Peter, Curtis, "Those People" and good in the wake of tragedy

One thing I've learned in recent years here at America's Most Underrated Media Outlet: When Peter Huoppi, The Day's Director of Multimedia/Resident Genius approaches with an idea, I shut up and listen.

A decade ago, he tossed around the potential of livestreaming high school sports. My mind immediately enumerated 74 reasons why it wouldn't work. But not long after — Dec. 29, 2011 — the endeavor now known as GameDay was born. Kris Dunn and the Whalers lost to St. Joseph at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, our first livestreamed game.

GameDay has changed the way we watch sports around here. The kids love it. The coaches clamor for our presence. The grandparents watch religiously. Heck, we had one guy who drives a truck for a living watch a playoff game on his phone at a truck stop in Florida once. And the idea that you can watch the kids play at home on your television, or gather in a restaurant or bar with your friends to do so, still seems almost too good to be true.

And then it was a few years ago that Huoppi asked if I'd be interested in helping with a documentary. Curtis Goodwin and Frank Colmenares, who helped create the New London Talent Show, hatched the idea of telling its story, whose roots were planted in the murder of Matthew Chew in 2010.

I remembered that Huoppi is like the old "E.F. Hutton" commercial: "When E.F. Hutton talks; people listen."

You are about to see the finished product Thursday night at the Garde (7 p.m., be there) with "Those People," the story behind the story of how the talent show turned pain into healing.

Full disclosure: My efforts here were minimal. I wrote a few scripts and asked some interview questions. And still: I have never been prouder of being associated with anything else in 30 years here. I've never been prouder of The Day.

And let me just say that if three decades here permits me to speak through a historical lens: Nobody — nobody, nobody, nobody — else in the history of this place has done more for our approval rating than Huoppi. His video storytelling, production work, patience, GameDay efforts and now the brilliance of this documentary is truly the work of genius.

The hosannas here belong to Huoppi and Goodwin. I hate the word "collaboration" — it sounds like cliched education-speak — but I can't come up with anything better at the moment. What Huoppi and Goodwin have done here is illustrate how this country works best when we include everyone of all colors, religions, ancestries and orientations who learn with, play with, sing with and learn about each other.

Goodwin: "The vision for creating this film was to highlight a story that deserved worldwide attention. To go deeper, to mend the relationship with media. Far too often, stories and imagery depicting people of color fall short. I felt compelled to build that bridge ... to change the whole narrative of 'those people and 'bored thugs,' and I had to trust the media that was a part of the narrative, too. This film is about art and how it heals, and this partnership was another vital layer."

My favorite part of the story is how we arrived at the title: "Those People." We had trouble initially figuring out what to call this. Goodwin began talking to us about the fateful night in a room at the Garde, not long after Chew's murder. Dozens of city residents gathered to talk about how to find some good in the wake of tragedy.

A white woman began speaking to the assembled crowd, Goodwin remembered, and she used the term "those people," as a pejorative. Loosely translated, "those people," to her, included everyone who didn't look, sound or think as she did.

Goodwin stood up and identified himself as one of "those people."

And we had our first epiphany: What if we used "Those People" as the title? Now that it's finished, this documentary, as Goodwin says, shows that we are ALL "those people."

I hope you can find the time Thursday night to attend. Ten bucks at the door. Starts at 7. Doors open at 6. This is a timeless, national narrative told by local people. I can't wait for you to see it.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro



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