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A consumer's guide to the best and worst of sports media and merchandise. Ground rules: If it can be read, played, heard, observed, worn, viewed, dialed or downloaded, it's in play here.

April 20, 1998|ARA NAJARIAN

What: "Replay: The History of the NFL on TV"

Where and When: Premieres today on ESPN at 5:30, on Classic Sports Network Saturday at 5 p.m. Also on ESPN2 Tuesday at noon and 5 p.m.

Anyone who is hooked on NFL Films--and most football fans are--is bound to enjoy "Replay."

Produced by NFL Films for Classic Sports Network, "Replay" tracks the beginnings of NFL football on TV in an interesting fashion that gives balanced attention to the many influences and developments in coverage.

For example, the influence of the AFL and legendary sports producer Roone Arledge shows not only how the different approach to showing the game could attract an audience, it also showed the NFL that a weekend without football on TV created a vacuum which could be filled by showing teams from other cities.

As is the case with most good stories, the people make this one compelling. "Replay" uses more 40 players, coaches, broadcasters, directors, executives and broadcasters to tell the history.

Spotlighted is the 1968 "Heidi" game, in which the Oakland Raiders came back to beat the New York Jets with two touchdowns in the last nine seconds but TV audiences missed it because NBC switched off the game to the movie "Heidi." NBC executives tried to fix the mistake, but they could not get through to New York because NBC's switchboard blew out from the high volume of people calling to complain.

Also revealed is that the shot of the game-winning play at the "Ice Bowl" game between the Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys in 1967 happened only because the end-zone camera was frozen in the direction of the middle of the field. Directors wanted to point the camera wide because they thought the play would go that way, but they had no choice.

That winning play brought to light the impact of replays, as Packer Jerry Kramer's block was played time and again to show the strategy and teamwork of the game--even on short yardage plays.

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