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Reality Adds Spice to Raider Telecast

October 21, 1994|LARRY STEWART

The spat between Raider quarterback Jeff Hostetler and his coach, Art Shell, last Sunday in Miami was unfortunate and disappointing. It was also bizarre in that the combatants had to be aware of NBC's presence.

But they carried on as if it didn't matter, providing millions of viewers with a stunning mini-drama.

"I've never seen anything like it," NBC commentator Bob Trumpy said from his home in Cincinnati, echoing the sentiments of many who witnessed it.

There have been player-coach tiffs caught on camera before. You may remember the one between Reggie Jackson and Billy Martin, or last season's battle between Scottie Pippen and Phil Jackson.

And, earlier this season, Fox's cameras caught Steve Young voicing his displeasure with Coach George Seifert when he was yanked in the third quarter of the San Francisco 49ers' 40-8 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

But never before has a player-coach spat gone on as long as Hostetler-Shell. And NBC was there to cover this soap opera as it unfolded.

Viewers couldn't hear what was being said, but some of the words weren't fit for national television, anyway.

"We got one close-up of Shell but we couldn't use it," said game producer John Faratzis. "It was too obvious what he was saying."

Faratzis said his crew had been aware of a possible volatile situation.

"I had read in the clippings the team sent us that Tim Brown had displayed his displeasure during the San Diego game when a running play was called on fourth and three from the six just before halftime," Faratzis said. "Making matters worse, the Raiders ran from a passing formation, with three wideouts."

Harvey Williams was stopped after a two-yard gain.

Faratzis said that during a production meeting with Shell the day before the game, the coach had complained that Hostetler was holding the ball too long and also relying on Brown too much.

On game day, things came to a head late in the second quarter. In the huddle, Hostetler changed two running plays to passes. And after a series of mistakes and two dropped passes by James Jett, Hostetler, who was drilled by Dolphin linebacker Bryan Cox, was fuming when he came to the sideline.

"We had a camera on him," Faratzis said. "What (director) John Gonzalez and I saw in the (production) truck was Shell say something to Hostetler when he got to the sideline. Hoss may have said something back and then went to get a drink of water. But he came back to have more words with Shell. That's when things got heated.

"At one point we saw Hostetler saying, 'I don't need this.' "

NBC dispatched sideline reporter Hannah Storm to get what she could. She reported after halftime that Hostetler had said he and Shell had not spoken in the locker room and that he didn't know if he was starting the second half or not.

Hostetler started and played superbly despite the circumstances, but the Raiders lost their halftime lead and the game.

"I think this is just the tip of the iceberg," Faratzis said. "I think Shell's outburst stems from the heat he's feeling from Al Davis.

"This is an offense that has no imagination. They make it easy for a defense to shut it down."


NBC's one flaw was Trumpy's jumping to the wrong conclusion.

Trumpy said the dispute between Hostetler and Shell stemmed from an earlier argument, caught on camera but not put out over the air, between Hostetler and offensive lineman Bruce Wilkerson.

Trumpy assumed incorrectly that that argument had led to the later one.

"I still think the two may have been connected," Trumpy said this week.

But there's been no indication that they were, even though Wilkerson was demoted on Wednesday.


Almost as bizarre as Hostetler vs. Shell is Tom Watson vs. Gary McCord. It was learned recently that Watson sent a letter to McCord's CBS boss, golf producer Frank Chirkinian, after last April's Masters, with a copy going to Masters chairman Jackson Stephens.

Watson didn't like some of McCord's comments, and in the letter to Chirkinian said, "Get rid of him, now."

McCord later was taken off future Masters at the request of Masters officials.

Efforts to reach Watson through his Kansas City management company were not successful, but McCord was contacted at his new home in the Phoenix area.

"I knew about the letter two days after the Masters," McCord said. "We had gone from the Masters to Hilton Head (S.C., the site of the HCI Heritage), and on Tuesday I was emceeing a 10-player shootout (a charity event). I saw Tom working on his chipping at a practice green, and we had a pleasant conversation.

"A few minutes later, I see Frank and he calls me into the (production) truck and closes the door and shows me the letter. I couldn't believe it.

"It's OK if someone doesn't like my work and OK if he voices an opinion, but what got me was Tom tried to get me fired.

"And Tom, out on the practice green, didn't even have the decency to say, 'Hey, I didn't like some of your comments on the Masters telecast and I even sent a letter to your boss.' I could have dealt with that."

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