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Sports Weekend | TV-RADIO LARRY STEWART

Collinsworth Stays Grounded

January 10, 2003|LARRY STEWART

Had Cris Collinsworth gone into hiding, that would have been even worse than the mistake he made at the end of Sunday's San Francisco 49er-New York Giant playoff game.

The Fox commentator did the opposite. All week, he willingly talked about the mistake, and he addressed it in the weekly column he writes for NFL.com.

So he didn't mind going through it all one more time on Thursday. He called from New York before taping this week's episode of HBO's "Inside the NFL."

"Doing live television is like life on a high wire," he said. "You're going to fall off a few times. And I fell off. It didn't kill me, but it came close."

In the final seconds of Sunday's game, Collinsworth said Giant holder Matt Allen should have spiked the ball after the bad snap on the ill-fated field-goal attempt on third down, thereby getting the Giants another chance.

Collinsworth, though, was wrong. The play involved a long snap, so had Allen spiked the ball, it would have been intentional grounding. And because that would have been a penalty on the offense, 10 seconds would have been run off the clock, ending the game.

Collinsworth's mistake wasn't the only one made in those chaotic moments at the end of the game. It seemed no one -- no official, coach or broadcaster -- was aware that Giant guard Rich Seubert had been an eligible receiver on the botched play.

Collinsworth, for his part, was willing to take some heat. "I'm pretty tough on the players and coaches when they make mistakes, so I don't expect to get a break," he said.

Collinsworth admitted he had not known that the holder cannot spike the ball, that only the quarterback, when he's under center, can do that. He said he had been the Cincinnati Bengals' backup holder as a rookie in 1981, long before the NFL had a "spike" rule.

"Back then, if you spiked the ball, it meant throwing it into the ground two or three feet in front of you," he said. "In this case, I shouldn't have used the word 'spike' because it is a definitive term in the NFL playbook. I should have said [Allen] should have thrown it away."

Where announcers get into trouble is when they are emphatic about something -- and they're wrong. If Collinsworth had said that he thought Allen could have spiked the ball or posed a rhetorical question, "Couldn't he have spiked the ball?" it would have gotten him off the hook.

But he said it with such authority, he had everyone convinced he was right, even Jimmy Johnson and the rest of the Fox studio crew. Writers covering the game also picked up on Collinsworth's point and reported it as fact in the next day's newspapers.

Did Collinsworth learn from his mistake?

"Absolutely," he said. "Since I had been a holder, I had a little knowledge about what to do when things go wrong.

"The greatest danger in the world is thinking you know everything. Having a little amount of knowledge about that play made me dangerous."

Ed Goren, Fox Sports president, said, "Cris' intent was brilliant. He made the point that the holder could have killed the clock. Unfortunately, he used the word 'spike.' "

Golf News

Football, basketball, baseball and hockey have long had regular pregame shows. Now golf has one too. "PGA Tour Sunday" makes its debut on USA Network on Sunday at 11 a.m. The hosts are Fran Charles and PGA Tour player John Cook. Gabrielle Reece and Dara Torres will contribute stories. Sergio Garcia will be featured on the first show. He was supposed to go surfing in Maui with Reece and Laird Hamilton but the waves were too big.

Vince Cellini, formerly of CNN/SI, has joined the Golf Channel as the host of "Golf Talk" and as a news anchor. Also, the Golf Channel will unveil a new studio Monday.... Peter Kessler, formerly of the Golf Channel, is now a contributing writer for Golf magazine.... CBS and Nickelodeon have teamed up on a half-hour special, "Fairway Heroes of the PGA Tour," which makes its debut Saturday on CBS at 11 a.m. The half-hour show features two 12-year-olds mingling with pros during a practice round at last year's Byron Nelson Classic.

Short Waves

John Kruk is leaving Fox Sports Net's "Best Damn Sports Show Period" next month to take a position in the Philadelphia Phillies' front office. The plan is to replace him with another former baseball player. Former baseball agent Dennis Gilbert suggested Jose Canseco.... Mary Carillo rejoins ESPN for its two weeks of Australian Open coverage, which begins Sunday night.

UCLA has not found much success on the basketball court this season but the school has found a winner in new radio commentator Don MacLean. He's knowledgeable, smooth and isn't reluctant to criticize.... This from a caller on the Bruin postgame show on KXTA (1150) Wednesday night: "Steve Lavin is turning McDonald's All-Americans into McDonald's employees."

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