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A reason to hit the remote

Chris Freud
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OK, I got cranky about sports television recently.

But let’s face it, you’ve got to do something when the sun goes down, and you can’t play golf. (Insert the joke of your choosing here.) Despite my recent ranting, there is some good stuff on the box. Here are a few selections:

‘America’s Game’



I’m not a big fan of the NFL Network trying to turn the entire year into football season with nonstop draft coverage as well as incessant reporting from minicamps. But “America’s Game” is definitely a reason to hit the channel if you have it on your dish or cable package.

“America’s Game” started as a countdown of what the network thought were the top-20 Super Bowl winners of all time, leading up to The Mother of all Games XLI. (The 1998 Broncos made the list at No. 11.) After the first season, the NFL Network has broadcast the 20 other Super Bowl champions ” the piece on the Indianapolis Colts is not out yet.



The 45-minute documentaries go well beyond the traditional NFL Films Super Bowl highlights, rehashing the entire season with fresh interviews with assorted players and coaches of the respective teams. The shows have locker room footage and other stories that even the most hard-core football fans probably haven’t heard before about their favorite teams.

While I’m partial to five red-and-gold tinted episodes ” the 1981 49ers piece shows The Catch over and over, and I can never get enough of that ” all the episodes, which air on Monday nights, are engrossing. Two days ago, the network aired the 1997 and 1998 Broncos back-to-back, and doubtless all local Donkeys fans will love them.

One strange thing, though, occurs during the 1998 show. There is no mention of the John Elway-Mike Shanahan-Dan Reeves connection when it gets to the Falcons’ Super Bowl. The series hasn’t shied away from controversy ” the Niners’ last three Super Bowls all include vignettes of Joe Montana vs. Steve Young, but this omission is strange, given the animosity among the three.



Nevertheless, look out for this series. If you don’t get the NFL Network, iTunes has them for $1.99 per pop, or $29.99 for each set of 20.

‘The Bronx is Burning’

You’re right to be skittish about any ESPN series after Brian Dennehey as Bobby Knight and the wretched Dale Earnhardt movie. “The Bronx is Burning” is a fun watch.

John Turturro does an adequate job of being the ever-tortured Billy Martin ” Martin was a character of his own straight out of casting. Oliver Platt is very good at being obnoxious, making him perfect as George Steinbrenner, while Daniel Sunjata carries off Reggie Jackson’s arrogance well.

The intertwining of the Yankees with the city’s Summer of Sam is interesting, but a little hokey. But this mini-series is a good reminder of what the real “Bronx Zoo” was like. A-Rod, Jeter and company have it easy.

Huh?

OK, ESPN still does deserve a firm spanking. A few weekends ago, ESPN2 was showing a rock, paper, scissors competition. You can imagine the laughter we enjoyed here in the newsroom.

What was really amusing was that there was a color commentator providing insight as to the strategy of whether to throw rock, paper or scissors, instant replays ” just in case you didn’t see the guy indicating rock ” and a play-by play guy screaming about a “dramatic” comeback in a match.

There are times when you can have a debate about whether something on ESPN like cheerleading, is a sport. Rock, paper, scissors is something you do in the third grade to settle a dispute, not put on TV. If rock, paper, scissors doesn’t work, then you have a fight between two kids. That is called boxing, and should be on ESPN.

Da Bums

“The Brooklyn Dodgers: Ghosts of Flatbush” premiered recently on HBO and it certainly rises above its subject matter. (Yes, my hatred of the Dodgers extends through time and place.)

Telling the rise of the Brooklynites from the integration of Jackie Robinson in 1947, subsequent heartbreak (God bless Bobby Thomson), long-sought triumph in 1955 to moving to Los Angeles, the two-hour piece has great footage and interviews. Larry King drones about his love of Brooklyn, but Louis Gossett Jr. provides a fresh perspective.

One of the best aspects of the documentary ” besides The Shot Heard ‘Round the World and the Giants winning the 1954 World Series ” is that Robert Moses, a planning commissioner in New York at the time, gets his fair share of the blame for the Dodgers leaving. Walter O’Malley is justly vilified for his greed in ripping the Dodgers from Brooklyn ” the team was still making money at Ebbets Field, while the Giants were in the red at the Polo Grounds ” but fair is fair.

While also a fun trip back to the capital of baseball, the film leaves an unanswered question. If the Dodgers stayed, who would have moved West? The Giants were moving, but to Minnesota, until O’Malley persuaded Horace Stoneham to go to the coast with him. “Ghosts of Flatbush” says that Los Angeles was actively courting the Washington Senators before getting the Dodgers.

Interesting. Imagine the National League with the equivalent of the Los Angeles Twins ” the old Senators eventually relocated to Minneapolis ” the Minnesota Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers. Hmm.

I hope HBO’s next sports production is “The Ghosts of Coogan’s Bluff.”

The Open

Happy British Open week. The Open returns to Carnoustie, ABC has already run the first of what should be many retrospectives on the hapless Jean Van de Velde blowing a three-shot lead in 1999. (I blame the caddy. He should have given his guy a 7-iron and said “Just hit this and only this. Putt with the 7-iron, if you have to.”)

Any major means it’s time to switch the Golf Channel. The Golf Channel is always good ” naturally ” but rises to spectacular when it’s major time. The network’s postgame show, which is shown on a loop all evening is the way to catch up on The Open, especially because of the time difference.

So go play golf and then go home and watch The Golf Channel.

Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 748-2934 or cfreud@vaildaily.com.


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