Umpire's arbitrary use of replay might open unruly can of worms


June 03, 1999|By MILTON KENT

To replay or not to replay.

In the wake of National League umpire Frank Pulli's decision Monday to check a television camera for conclusive proof on a call, the dormant debate over whether baseball should use instant replay got fired up.

Based on what happened Monday and for the integrity of the game, Fox announcer Joe Buck, who was calling the St. Louis-Florida game for a Midwest audience, is foursquare against replay.

"The second that that happened, the game came to a screeching halt and was sloppily played the rest of the way," Buck said. "I certainly don't want to come off as a purist, but any variation of instant replay is unappealing to me."

Ditto Buck's partner, analyst Tim McCarver.

"Can you imagine every ball and strike argued or going to replay?" McCarver said. "I can't imagine the consequence on the flow of the game. My vote is no."

Ed Goren, Fox's executive producer, who presumably would be called upon to help implement such a system as with football, is also against replay for baseball.

"From a production standpoint, our games would be running into prime time, if we started with replay," Goren said. "In this situation, the baseball establishment is on the right side of the law."

However, Keith Olbermann, the new host of Fox's Saturday baseball pre-game show, gives a "very, very, very" qualified yes to replay under limited circumstances on matters such as fan interference.

Olbermann points out that replay in that situation might have reversed a certain call in the 1996 American League Championship Series that allowed the Yankees to keep a late-game Derek Jeter home run. Perhaps you remember it?

Where Olbermann has a problem is with the way Pulli, a 28-year umpiring veteran, applied an obscure rule to allow himself to go to replay on a disputed Cliff Floyd home run call.

"It's a bad precedent to say, `I have a rule here that gives me permission to decide whatever issue I choose, which includes whether NATO can send ground troops to Kosovo,' " Olbermann said.

Picture perfect

ABC's telecast of next January's Super Bowl will look spectacular, provided you have the right equipment.

That's because the network and Panasonic will team up to broadcast the game in high-definition television on signals that will only be received on HDTV sets.

In addition, ABC, which has been airing selected entertainment shows in high definition, will broadcast the entire "Monday Night Football" schedule and its wild-card playoff game in HDTV.

Here's hoping all the on-air folks shave nice and tight before each broadcast, because if they don't, you'll be able to see it up close and personal.

Missing the action

It's entirely possible that with Monday being a big beach holiday and all, a lot of viewers didn't catch the thrilling end of the San Antonio-Portland NBA playoff game getting home from the sand, sun and fun.

But those who did miss the game's conclusion, where Sean Elliott of the Spurs hit a three-pointer after tightroping the sideline to stay in bounds with 9 seconds to go can be comforted by the notion that NBC sideline reporter Ahmad Rashad also missed the end of the game.

How else can you explain Rashad's shocking failure to ask Elliott anything about the shot and the play? Rashad, the reporter on the network's No. 1 broadcast team, asked the slender forward about San Antonio's comeback from an 18-point deficit and what the win meant for the rest of the series, both legitimate questions.

But, in roughly 90 seconds or more of air time, Rashad amazingly never queried Elliott about his game-winning shot.

And there was plenty to ask. Not only did Elliott have to do a balancing act not to go out of bounds and give the Trail Blazers the ball back with a two-point lead, but the wonderful pictures from the NBC truck showed that Elliott's heels were over the sideline as he took the shot.

Fans, no doubt, including analyst Doug Collins, were wondering why Elliott had taken the shot so early in the possession, leaving Portland with plenty of time to get their own game-winner. But, left to rely on Rashad, they are still wondering.

We've had problems historically with Rashad's glad-handling of Michael Jordan, but this is worse. If Rashad is unable to do one of the very basic things that reporters are trained to do, namely ask a pertinent question about things they've observed, he is useless in that role. With the NBA championship series approaching, someone at NBC should see if TNT's Craig Sager is available to work.

Week's ratings

The ratings for the top 10 most-watched sporting events on broadcast television in Baltimore during the past week (R-Rating; S-Share):

Event, Day, Ch., R/S

"NBA Showtime", Mon., 11, 6, .6/14

Knicks-Pacers, Sun., 11, 5, .5/13

Blazers-Spurs, Mon., 11 5, .5/11

Blazers-Spurs, Sat., 11, 4, .5/12

Orioles-A's, Fri., 54 ,4, .2/10

Orioles-A's, Sat., 54, 4, .2/9

"NBA Showtime", Sun., 11, 4, .0/13

"NBA Showtime", Sat., 11, 3, .4/10

French Open Sun., 11,2., 9/9

Kemper Open Sun., 13 2, .9/9

Pub Date: 6/03/99

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