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May 20, 2003|Larry Stewart

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

What: "Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel."

Where: HBO, tonight, 10.

The lead segment on this edition of "Real Sports" is a powerful one. HBO sent producer Jon Alpert to Baghdad to learn more about the brutal treatment endured by Iraqi athletes under the rule of Saddam Hussein and his son Uday, who was president of Iraq's Olympic committee.

There have been chilling accounts of the torture of athletes and coaches who suffered "embarrassing" defeats to foreign opponents.

Now, with the collapse of Hussein's regime, former athletes and coaches are revisiting their places of imprisonment.

One such man is Habib Jaafer, a midfielder on the Iraqi national soccer team for 17 years. He takes the HBO cameras to a former palace of Uday, where he details the punishment he and his teammates suffered. Jaafer says the athletes were whipped and made to jump into a vat of raw sewage.

Also appearing is Iraq's legendary soccer coach, Ammo Baba. Baba confirms the torture and harassment of Iraq's athletes and coaches. But he also sees a new day dawning. He says he plans to rebuild the nation's soccer program.

Iraq's former Olympic complex is now occupied by American military troops as a base of operations.

In another segment, Bob Costas makes his "Real Sports" debut, interviewing baseball Commissioner Bud Selig. Costas and Selig discuss such topics as revenue sharing, Pete Rose's ban and players' use of the supplement ephedrine.

The other segments include a feature on ESPN's "Pardon the Interruption" and a profile of Terry Bradshaw, who discusses his battles with depression.

"With physical problems we put on casts, we operate, we give shots," the former Pittsburgh Steeler quarterback says. "When I sit here and tell you with these cameras running that I'm a clinically depressed human being, it's hard. It's very hard."

-- Larry Stewart

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