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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.

July 28, 1998|LARRY STEWART

What: "Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel"

Where: HBO

When: Tonight at 10.

This latest edition of HBO's award-winning show is a bit of a disappointment. For once, "Real Sports" is not real good. Not bad, just not real good.

The lead story is about Pete Rose and Shoeless Joe Jackson being banned from baseball's Hall of Fame. We really don't need another story on Rose and this just gives him another chance to deny that he ever bet on baseball. HBO catches Rose lying when he says there are no tape recordings of phone conversations indicating he bet on baseball. HBO plays just such a tape. But catching Rose in a lie is akin to catching Dennis Rodman in drag. It's just not newsworthy.

The program also provides another forum for Rose to perpetuate his celebrity status. Interviewer Frank Deford acknowledges that if Rose had confessed, been reinstated and inducted into the Hall of Fame, he probably wouldn't be interviewing him.

"In a way, you're more famous because of what baseball has done to you," Deford says. "I not talking to Al Kaline or Tom Seaver."

Says Rose, "What baseball has created with me--and they probably would be . . . if they realized they did this--they have made me a celebrity, not just a retired baseball player."

The second story is about former boxer Tony Ayala Jr., who brutally attacked and raped a 30-year-old neighbor in West Paterson, N.J., on Jan. 1, 1983, and was sentenced to 15-30 years in prison. HBO cameras were there May 21, when he was denied parole. He remains in prison until at least next summer. Although Ayala seems repentant, Andrew Consovoy, chairman of the New Jersey state parole board, says, "This was a violent, as nasty, as evil a crime as you're going to see. Our point of view is that there is not enough change."

Says Ayala, "Time will expose who is wrong. And I'll tell you this: If Mr. Consovoy is right, I'll blow my . . . brains out."

There is also a story about steroid use by East German athletes in the 1970s and '80s, which is hardly news, and another about thoroughbred racehorses being slaughtered after their racing days are over. A problem with this segment is the gratuitous gruesomeness.

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