DAVID BIANCULLI

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The Astonishing True Tale of the 'Pin Kings'
August 23, 2016  | By David Hinckley  | 1 comment
 

Pin Kings, the story of two high school wrestling buddies that premieres Monday (Aug. 22) at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN2, is one of those documentaries you wouldn’t believe if it hadn’t actually happened. It would sound too Hollywood.

Some 40 years ago, Kevin Pedersen and Alex DeCubas were the anchors on the state championship wrestling team at Palmetto High School in Miami. Each was a state champion himself.

Twenty years later, Pedersen (top right) was a Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) officer, trying to stop or at least slow the river of drugs running from South America to South Florida.

DeCubas (top left) was one of the guys working that river, finding ways to slip tens of millions of dollars worth of cocaine into the amazingly lucrative U.S. market.

There were signs all along that these were the directions in which they might be headed. Pedersen was the small kid who wrestled in the lowest weight class. He was more smart than he was strong. He relied on brains and logic.

He went from Palmetto to West Point.

DeCubas always had pure brute strength. He knew his sport, but mostly he was simply more powerful than almost anyone he wrestled. He went to the University of Georgia, where he sometimes seemed to major in partying.

Pedersen’s path to the DEA was not simple. First he married a woman, his high school sweetheart, who was addicted to drugs. When the marriage ended, predictably in a disaster, he foundered before he decided the DEA was a way he could fight back.

DeCubas was reckless but reasonably law-abiding until his father killed himself. Distraught, DeCubas decided to take the fastest route to enjoying each moment to the max, which he still seems to defend in Pin Kings as a rational response.

The documentary then sort of fast-forwards through the years when their career paths took predictable turns. Pedersen became a decorated agent, DeCubas became a prison inmate.

It finishes on the other side, after Pedersen retires and returns to coach school wrestling. He and DeCubas, who were odd-couple friends back in high school, reunite.

Viewers who find the story interesting, or perhaps in some ways inspiring, also don’t have to stop at the end of the hour, thanks to ESPN’s aggressive use of modern multi-platform presentation.

The ESPN website, www.espn.com, has a long story with considerably more detail, colorfully written by Brett Forrest. It’s also available as a podcast.

The additional detail makes it a richer story, with a tone noticeably different from the straightforward approach of the documentary.

In any case, it’s another story that starts with sports, but quickly gets more nuanced. If you’re looking for a shot of something a little more raw after the polish of the Olympics, Pin Kings could be it.

 
 
 
 
 
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1 Comments
 
 
Alice Parkinson
I just watched PinKings this afternoon on ABC. It was a stunning
Story. I was a cocaine addict. I have been sober for 33-1/2 years.
It was a very dangerous life as a wife mother - the perfect homemaker.
Transporting thousand of dollars in drugs up and down the state. Same as
I had done as a teenager transporting Kilos of Grass disquised as pregnant.
When I got sober I would reflect on how lucky
I was. I went on to become a counselor specific to teen addicts
Mostly inpatient psychiatric hospitals. I have friends I can't associate
With and reunions I don't attend. Thanks Aluce
Sep 25, 2016   |  Reply
 
 
 
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