ALCS horror puts replay in Olbermann's lineup

MEDIA WATCH

October 19, 1999|By Milton Kent

Looking for a bona fide shocker to start the day? Here's one: Keith Olbermann is in favor of some sort of video replay system to get the calls right in baseball.

This isn't blabber coming from some hack on a talk show, but a serious idea from a noted baseball historian and a guy who fancies himself as a purist of the game.

But, after bearing witness to two horrendous umpiring calls in the first four games of the American League Championship Series, Olbermann, who is host of Fox's playoff coverage, thinks it's time to give the umpires a hand.

That is, provided they ask for it. Olbermann said yesterday that replay should only be used in the postseason to start, and only if the umpires ask for it.

"Under certain lab conditions, [replays] might not be a bad thing," Olbermann said. "You want to encourage them [umpires] and we need to encourage them to work together and get calls right. We need to say, `If you huddle up after a play or if you want to see some replay, we won't think less of you as umpires.' "

Olbermann's comments come in the wake of the free-for-all that erupted toward the end of Sunday's Game 4, when second base umpire Tim Tschida blew a call on a supposed tag play near the bag in the Boston Red Sox's eighth.

Oddly enough, Olbermann says the immediate contrition shown by Tschida and by his colleague, Rick Reed, who botched a call late in Game 1, have helped, in some way, to repair their image, so badly tattered by this summer's battle with Major League Baseball.

"In my mind, they have rebuilt, or have begun to rebuild, the perception of themselves, just by admitting that they missed those plays. I mean, when was the last time you heard an umpire say he missed a call?" Olbermann said.

After another controversial play in the bottom of the ninth, Red Sox fans pelted the field with debris, forcing the umpires to clear the field until order was restored.

Olbermann, who had been stationed in the third base dugout, was ordered onto the field by producer Michael Weisman to report on the matter at hand, but a Fenway Park security chief had him moved to a spot two seats from where New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner was sitting.

"They pulled me back into news, just as I thought I had gotten out," said Olbermann, referring to his previous stint as MSNBC anchor.

Olbermann says the media bear some responsibility for the culture of entitlement that exists in the American sports world that allows fans to feel that the purchase of a ticket gives them carte blanche to behave as they please.

"It's more so talk radio than newspapers and television that has brought this on, but our hands aren't clean either," said Olbermann. "We [television] hype it up, we show the bare-chested guys screaming and the beer ads don't help.

"And if you look at any local newspaper in the towns when these series and games are played, you see big headlines with `We' in them, which adds to it. It's an individual's responsibility, to be sure, but we sort of add to this."

Quick clicks

There really is no better local warm-up for NFL games than Gary Stein's one-hour NFL preview show on WJFK (1300 AM) each Sunday at 10 a.m. The show is well-produced, and Stein moves the proceedings along nicely.

Getting Marcus Allen out of the studio and into a field interviewer role for "The NFL Today" was a master stroke. Allen is much better relating to players in person than he was talking to a camera in the sterile New York studio.

When will Channel 13 do the right thing and bring Chris Ely back to the weekend anchor slot?

So, with six weeks in the books, we've finally had a chance to hear a representative collection of CBS and Fox's NFL announcing crews, and the verdict, from these ears, is that CBS commentators are better, top to bottom, but that is a lot like being the cleanest pig in the trough.

How come James Lofton, who was so good at NFL analysis with CNN and NBC, isn't in some network booth now?

ESPN's coverage of Thursday's Ravens-Kansas City game will air both there and locally on Channel 2, which will produce a pre-game show at 8 p.m. And Chris Berman, who was host of ABC's pre-game show from the ESPN Zone, will return to preside over the Thursday proceedings, along with Tom Jackson. Let's all be on our best behavior, huh?

The whole picture

Did you want to see the construct of the bottom of the 15th inning of Sunday's New York Mets-Atlanta Braves playoff game, rather than seeing the tying and tie-breaking scores on "SportsCenter" that night? How about seeing that ninth-inning play in Boston that touched off the brouhaha?

Viewers have Major League Baseball to thank for that, since ESPN and all the other sports news shows continue to be shackled by time limits on the length of highlight packages.

Though ESPN officials and baseball reached a truce earlier this summer on the length of highlights for an entire show, the lords of the game continue to keep "SportsCenter" and programs like it on a short, two-minute per game leash.

As a result, producers decide that there isn't enough time to show, for instance, Shawon Dunston's brilliant at-bat leading off the Mets' 15th, and you, the viewer, take the loss.

Pub Date: 10/19/99

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