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The Inside Track

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October 06, 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. One exception: No products will be endorsed.

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What: "NFL Films Presents -- Attention to Detail."

Where: ESPN, today, 4 p.m.

It's not often the public is allowed to take a look inside the world of NFL officiating. This edition of "NFL Films Presents" provides that opportunity.

On Sept. 21, an NFL Films crew spent the day inside a special referees' NFL control room in New York and the result is a fascinating segment, the second of two on this half-hour show.

Mike Pereira, the NFL's head of officiating, is featured and shows refreshing candor and a surprising, self-effacing sense of humor.

Pereira explains the control room was created after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks to monitor every game for security purposes.

Pereira and his crew in the room evaluate controversies as they happen. On one play, Pereira is glad pass interference was not called. A voice is heard saying, "[Fox play-by-play announcer] Ron Pitts wanted pass interference." Says Pereira: "Ron Pitts is not wearing a striped shirt today."

Actually, the control room has helped improve the relationship between officials and the network. In the St. Louis-Seattle game, the Rams' Rich Coady fumbles an onside kick. The question is, was Coady down by contact because the back of his hand hit the ground first? It is ruled a fumble.

"Cris Collinsworth calls immediately and we tell him, 'The back of the hand is the same as the front of his hand and that's why he was not down by contact.' We're all laughing hysterically because that's what he is telling his television audience a second later."

Pereira is not pleased by everything he sees. There is a quick whistle in one game and an obvious fumble is ruled not a fumble. "I don't like the looks of this," Pereira says.

The show's first segment, which features New York Jet Coach Herman Edwards, is also a good one. Edwards, who talks about paying attention to details, is a little different in how he looks at life and how he expresses himself. In talking about living life to the fullest, he says, "A lot of people look down the road and miss the drive. We're here on a visa, and when the expiration date says it has expired, you're gone."

-- Larry Stewart

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