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ESPN is getting into the true crime genre with a multiplatform initiative that could be a model for future storytelling at the sports network. Pin Kings follows the story of high school wrestling teammates whose paths diverge wildly — one becomes a drug trafficker and the other a DEA agent.
The network already has debuted the first two episodes of a podcast, which will be released daily and culminate in a one-hour primetime special Aug. 22 on ESPN2. The multimedia initiative is presented under the SC Featured umbrella and the TV version of Pin Kings also will get a preview on the Aug. 21 editions of SportsCenter.
The linchpin of the project is an in-depth print story set to run in the Aug. 26 NFL preview issue of ESPN The Magazine. Brett Forrest has been working on the story for more than a year along with ESPN producer Jon Fish; the duo host the podcast.
Pin Kings chronicles the journeys of Alex DeCubas and Kevin Pedersen, co-captains of their high school wrestling team in Miami, whose lives took totally opposite turns. DeCubas became the biggest trafficker of Colombian cocaine on the East Coast and was infamous for designing and building an amphibious submarine in the jungles of Colombia in order to smuggle cocaine to America. He was apprehended and sentenced to 30 years in jail, but was released from federal prison in Miami in 2012.
Multiplatform storytelling is not new to ESPN. But Pin Kings, said Victor Vitarelli, senior coordinating producer, ESPN Features Unit, “takes it to a new level.”
He added that the network has already identified other stories that could be right for the same type of exploitation. Certainly longform true crime has been a hot genre since the Serial podcast, HBO’s The Jinx and the Netflix documentary Making a Murderer. And ESPN’s epic O.J Simpson documentary raised the bar for longform nonfiction storytelling. But, said Vitarelli, “ESPN would not be telling this story if there were not a very significant sports angle to it. These were All-American wrestlers who turned to the lessons they learned on the mat throughout their separate journeys.”
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