Picks and Pans Review: Play by Play: a History of Sports Television

UPDATED 12/02/1991 at 01:00 AM EST Originally published 12/02/1991 at 01:00 AM EST

HBO (Tues., Dec. 3, 10 P.M. ET)


Curt Gowdy, Jim Lampley, Bob Costas, Pat Summerall, Brent Musburger and Jim McKay cohost this clip-crammed look at the "perfect marriage" between sports and TV, from the stationary camera used by NBC for a college baseball game in 1939 through this year's newest innovation, the helmet-cam used on the WLAF football games.

True to its title, the documentary is about television and sports, and so devotes as much attention to broadcasters as ball carriers. Big moments are well represented: the 1967 Packers-Cowboys "Ice Bowl"; the 1975 match race between Ruffian and Foolish Pleasure; gymnast Olga Korbut at the Munich Olympics in 1972; the U.S. hockey victory at the 1980 Olympics. Personally I could have lived without two super-slo-mo replays of the Lawrence Taylor sack that sickeningly snapped Joe Theisrnann's leg, ending his playing career.

Sports fans will argue heatedly about what has been left out—they take everything so personally. But this program, which concludes the following Tuesday at the same time, tackles an impossibly large subject with satisfying thoroughness.

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