Picks and Pans Review: The Official 1989

updated 12/18/1989 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/18/1989 AT 01:00 AM EST

U.S. OPEN VIDEO

Producer-writer Sherman Eagan, perhaps with an eye for his American market and the fact that both the men's and women's champions of this year's U.S. Open tennis tournament were Europeans, spends a lot of time on the peripherals.

There's much discussion of the strong upcoming young American players, including a bent-out-of-shape old quote: The players are called "the young Americans who showed the world that the rumored death of American tennis is, as Mark Twain said, greatly exaggerated."

There's reverent celebration of aging but still boyishly boorish American star Jimmy Connors. Veteran player Bob Hewitt even says admiringly, "If the youngsters could mold their play or attitude on Jimmy Connors, they could do a lot worse." Who this side of Genghis Khan do you have in mind, Bob?

A mercifully brief segment called "Up stairs, Downstairs at the U.S. Open," purporting to offer a behind-the-scenes look, even patches in a bit showing how to sneak into the tournament for nothing by walking in through the service entrance.

More surprising is the unimaginative video coverage of the action. There's no replay, for instance, of a crucial line call in a match between defending men's champ Mats Wilander and young Pete Sampras.

The acrobatic athleticism of the men's champion, Boris Becker, makes up for some of the chauvinist byplay, as do Tim Ryan's restrained narration and Chris Evert's calm discussion of how angry she is with herself after losing in what she said would be her final U.S. Open appearance. (CBS/Fox, $19.98)

THE OFFICIAL 1989 WORLD SERIES VIDEO

Produced by ABC Sports using footage from its live coverage, this hour-long tape gracefully incorporates reporting on the earthquake that hit San Francisco as Game 3 was about to begin. There is no question of priorities; the earthquake is treated as a terrible disaster, not an interruption of a sports event.

Indeed, scenes of the Candlestick Park crowd singing "San Francisco" at the start of Game 3 when the Series resumed almost two weeks after the quake are stirring in themselves and a reminder of how sports can benefit a community. (That sequence is followed by a ground-rules discussion in which the umpires announce that if any earthquake tremors occur in mid-play, the ball would stay in play.)

The baseball itself is cut and dried. After brief scenes from the league championship series (Cub and Blue Jay fans should fast forward), the Oakland Athletics' dominance of the San Francisco Giants manifests itself, and the issue never seems in doubt, despite scriptwriter Jeff Scott's attempt to hype the tension.

Scott also is prone to tossing out the linguistic equivalent of hanging curves: desperate, pointless puns and wordplay. After Willie Mays is shown throwing out the first ball of Game 4, for instance, his script reads, "Willie's presence did inspire some to say, 'Hey, we've still got a shot at this.' "

The narrator, play-by-play man Al Michaels, downplays Scott's jokes, and in discussing the quake is sobering without casting a pall on the rest of the tape. Watching it turns into an effective lesson about perspective, on baseball in particular and life in general. (CBS/Fox, $19.98)

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