HBO takes penetrating look back at sports during tumultuous '60s

Lost in all the tumult and turmoil that affected the American body politic in the 1960s was the upheaval that turned the sports culture on its ear, as virtually everything that touched the society at large, from protests to drug use and everything in between, invaded the athletic realm.

The volatility of the era is painstakingly captured in yet another wonderful HBO documentary, "Fields of Fire: Sports in the '60s," which premieres tonight at 10, with repeats Thursday and Saturday.


Narrated by Richie Havens, a musical legend of the era, "Fields of Fire" closely examines the impact of the Vietnam War on pTC sports, the struggles of women to find their place in athletics, the explosion of television, and baseball's reserve clause, as well as a tribute to Joe Namath.

The hourlong program devotes the bulk of its time to an exploration of the growing influence of African-American athletes, keying on Muhammad Ali.


The show ends with a look at the protests of sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos, who bowed their heads and raised black gloved fists on the Olympic medal stand in Mexico City in 1968. Their act drew the scorn of much of the nation, including then-columnist Brent Musburger, who said the men "looked like black-skinned storm troopers," proving that Musburger didn't just get stupid recently.

"Fields of Fire" is true must-see viewing for sports fans of any age.

More Browns bashing

The criticism of Cleveland Browns owner Art Modell has, if anything, gotten worse over the past week. Musburger, for instance, referred to the team as the "Benedict Arnolds" while reading a promo for last night's game over the weekend, and Terry Bradshaw wore an orange armband during "Fox NFL Sunday."

Perhaps the most stinging rebuke has come from ESPN's Keith Olbermann in his Prodigy column, in which he tears after Modell, whom he said "merely stopped pretending he wouldn't do whatever was necessary to separate us from [money]."

Olbermann also was sharply critical of the city of Baltimore, saying that while the move of the Colts in 1984 was "the equivalent of psychological rape," the happiness of Baltimoreans over the Browns' relocation was "the equivalent of a rape victim raping someone else."

"Congratulations," Olbermann wrote. "You got a team back. Not your team, mind you, but what the hell! Franchises are mercenaries. Fans can be mercenaries, too. And by having put your desire to pay through the nose for football ahead of the ethics you so wanted Bob Irsay to abide by in 1984, you have earned the privilege of being ripped off again."

Olbermann's general theme, indeed, bears some consideration, but his rape analogy is tasteless and offensive, particularly to any woman who has been so violated. The movement of a sports franchise, though significant, is incredibly trivial compared to that vile act. Olbermann should apologize as soon as possible.


Legendary moves

WWLG (1360 AM) has added Spiro Morekas and Mark Mussina to the late-night sports talk lineup, as co-hosts with Stan "The Fan" Charles in the 10 p.m.-1 a.m. slot.

Mussina, whose brother Mike is just who you think he is, has filled in and been co-host of the "Sports Forum" show, and Morekas, the voice of Towson State sports as well as co-host of "SportsNight," will work as a team.

Anchors really aweigh

CBS announced yesterday that it has purchased the rights to the Notre Dame-Navy football game next November from Dublin, Ireland. The network also will carry the Army-Navy football game, as well as Southeastern and Big East conference regular-season contests next year, in addition to two of this season's three Bowl Alliance games.