It’s hard to look another sports fan in the eyes before any type of game now and tell them that the national anthem isn’t on their mind. From high school games to the pros, teams are now fully making demonstrations with everything from kneeling to laying on their backs with their hands up; what originally started off with what some called a plea for attention by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has turned into a full, nationwide trend over the past month.
As with any trend, there’s a story behind it, and HBO’s Real Sports is out to find it in the 234th episode of the award-winning series. Late last week, HBO sent out a memo to the media outlining the three major segments that will be shown on Tuesday’s episode, two of which are hosted by Bryant Gumbel.
“The Anthem. In a tradition at nearly all American sporting events, spectators, athletes and game personnel stand at attention, remove their hats and place their hands on their heart while ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ plays. So when San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick staged a silent protest last month against what he called injustice and the oppression of people of color – first sitting and then kneeling during the anthem – it became front-page news. Host Bryant Gumbel covers the story from a unique angle by exploring the roots of the country’s dedication to the national anthem, a song seemingly reserved for fields of play, and showing how the tradition is not without its own questionable motivations.”
“Balls and Strikes. In 2008, Major League Baseball embraced the innovative technology Pitch FX, which determines whether a pitch was called correctly, and is available to everyone watching on a television, computer or handheld device. Pitch FX has subsequently been used to evaluate umpires’ performance and enhance MLB telecasts, but a steadily growing chorus of criticism about umpiring mistakes has led many to believe it should be applied on the field during the game. Joined by Yale professor and mathematician Toby Moskowitz, REAL SPORTS correspondent Jon Frankel explores how often umpires blow close calls. The eye-opening results may change the way fans watch America’s favorite pastime.”
“Magic Man. Now in his 14th NFL season, Philadelphia Eagles All-Pro long snapper Jon Dorenbos has been a steady special teams player in a league known for constant personnel turnover. Despite his success on the field, however, Dorenbos’ love of magic has been the defining force in his life, offering the salvation that helped him through the darkest moments of his childhood. During a seemingly picture-perfect upbringing in the suburbs of Seattle, his father beat his mother to death in a fit of rage. Attempting to cheer up Dorenbos, a friend introduced the reeling adolescent to the art of magic and he was instantly hooked.”
“Host Bryant Gumbel, who originally told this extraordinary story in 2014, reconnects with Dorenbos to witness his mastery of trickery and illusion once again and takes a behind-the-scenes look at his thrilling run to the finals on the recent season of ‘America’s Got Talent.'”
Talk about getting three quality stories in one episode. Featured in the PitchFX segment will be current MLB Network analyst and former Arizona Diamondback legend Eric Brynes, who makes the case for a computer to call balls and strikes when talking to Jon Frankel.
“Jon, they have it on the TV. We see the boxes. Why do millions of people at home sitting there watching on TV get to know whether it’s a ball or a strike? Yet the poor dude behind home plate is the one left in the dark. That’s bulls**t… They used to not hit with batting helmets. They used to not let Latin or African Americans play baseball. They used to travel on trains. The world’s evolving. It happens.”
Math and stat fans will definitely enjoy the PitchFX segment, which contains some of the following interesting numbers.
- While Major League Baseball claims that its umpires get nearly 97% of the calls right. Professor Moskowitz found that since 2013 the umpires are actually only about 88% accurate. That’s one out of eight calls that’s wrong.
- Moskowitz also found that umpires pile up more than 30,000 mistakes a year.
- Pitches that are 0n the border of the strike zone are missed 31.7% of the time. That’s nearly a third of the time umpires blow those calls.
- If the strike zone has three inches added to it, the error rate goes from 31.7% down to 25.9%.
That’s a segment you absolutely need to watch as a baseball fan. As for the Dorenbos segment, veteran watchers of Real Sports will be glad to see Dorenbos be profiled again after the tear-jerking interview he had two years ago. A clip from the original profile of Dorenbos in August, 2014, can be seen below.
Dorenbos, for those who missed this season of America’s Got Talent, finished third for the season. Luckily for Dorenbos and the Eagles, however, they’re currently in first place of the NFC East with a 3-0 record. In what was expected to be a rebuilding year under rookie head coach Doug Pederson, the Eagles are just one of five undefeated teams along with the New England Patriots, Baltimore Ravens, Denver Broncos, and Minnesota Vikings.
Other HBO playdates include Sept. 29 (8:35 a.m., 11:00 p.m.), and Oct. 1 (1:00 p.m.), 5 (4:45 p.m.), 9 (8:00 a.m.), 12 (12:20 p.m., 10:30 p.m.), 17 (2:50 a.m.) and 20 (5:00 a.m.), while HBO2 playdates are currently scheduled for Sept. 30 (11:00 a.m., 8:00 p.m.) and Oct. 4 (11:05 p.m.), 5 (1:30 a.m.), 8 (11:25 a.m.), 14 (5:00 p.m.), 15 (12:25 p.m.) and 20 (2:40 p.m.).
The show is also available on HBO NOW, HBO GO, HBO On Demand, and affiliate portals.
[Featured Image by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images]