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HBO's 'The Crash Reel' is a smash

Sports documentaries don't get much better than "The Crash Reel," premiering on HBO at 9 p.m. Monday. (Do record it if you feel you really must watch the Home Run Derby at that hour instead.)

Director Lucy Walker provides an extraordinarily intimate look at the life, career and family of snowboarder Kevin Pearce, who with the 2010 Winter Olympics approaching was competing on par with the sport's reigning superstar, Shaun White.

Then, on New Year's Eve 2009, Pearce fell awkwardly while riding a slope in Park City, Utah, and landed on his head. (The film premiered earlier this year at the Sundance Film Festival, near where the accident happened.)

Months of grueling rehabiliation followed, supported by Pearce's close-knit family from Vermont, including a brother with Down Syndrome who emerges as perhaps the most eloquent spokesman among his relatives and friends.

Pearce eventually is confronted with whether to continue his passion or give in to the realities of his new limitations.

The film does not sugarcoat the elephant in the room of modern action/extreme sports: Should society - and the competitors' friends and relatives - allow this sort of thing to go on?

Walker's documentary and Pearce's story makes it difficult not to wonder.

New York Sports