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THE INSIDE TRACK | The Hot Corner

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.

September 22, 1998|LARRY STEWART

What: "NFL Films Presents"

Where: ESPN2 and ESPN

When: Tuesdays at 5 p.m. on ESPN2

This weekly series, produced by NFL Films, is one of the best sports shows on television, maybe the best. In previous years, however, it was syndicated and stations that carried it, such as Channel 11 in Los Angeles, buried it in the early morning hours, amid the infomercials.

The show this season is on ESPN2 and ESPN, with a number of showings each week. Its debut is usually Tuesday at 5 p.m. on ESPN2, then it is repeated at 9 p.m. Tuesdays and 7 a.m. Saturdays on ESPN2, and 10:15 p.m. Sundays and 1 p.m. Mondays on ESPN.

The segments on this week's edition, titled "Survivors," are typical of what you will find on the show. One is on Green Bay Packer safety LeRoy Butler, with Steve Sabol, NFL Films president, doing the interview.

Butler was born so pigeon-toed that doctors had to break the bones in his feet three times, hoping to straighten them.

Butler struggled to walk and spent most of his time in a wheelchair, wearing leg braces. Until one day when he was 8 . . .

Sabol: "Do you remember the first time you had your braces removed?"

Butler: "Actually it was by accident. My sister was coming down the stairs and I was in my wheelchair and she knocked it over and broke my braces. I ended up standing up--and that was the first time I said a curse word--and my mom said, 'You're standing up!' "

Sabol: "That's like that scene in 'Forrest Gump.' Did you ever see that?"

Butler: "It brought a tear to my eye and to my mom's eye too."

This feature will bring a tear to your eye too.

Another excellent feature is on Texas A&M linebacker Dat Nguyen (pronounced Win). Nguyen's story was well chronicled by The Times' Jim Hodges last year, and is beautifully told visually here. Nguyen's family escaped the bombing of its Vietnamese village by the Viet Cong in 1975 and came to the United States.

Another segment is about Mario "Motts" Tonelli, 82. He went from the playing fields as a rookie running back with the Chicago Bears to fighting as a soldier in the Pacific during World War II and became one of 70,000 prisoners of war on the Bataan Death March.

These are the kinds of stories we get each week on "NFL Films Presents."

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