Tuesday, October 26, 1999

NBC reporter thought he'd get admission


The Cincinnati Enquirer

        To me, Jim Gray's sin was arrogance.

        Gray and NBC assumed after 10 years of denials that Pete Rose was going to have some sort of revelation on his walk from the stage to the foul line and confess that he bet on baseball.

        Gray completely misjudged Rose. He also almost completely ruined one of baseball's finest hours.

        “Pete ruined his own evening,” Gray said Monday.

        Arrogance, pure arrogance.

        When Rose came off the field after the ceremony honoring him and the other members of the baseball's All-Century team, the thought here is NBC had a plan.

        It started with Gray's question.

        “Pete let me ask you now,” Gray started the interview, “it seems as though there is an opening, the American public is very forgiving, are you willing to show contrition, admit that you bet on baseball and make some sort of apology?”

        That was suppose to prompt Rose to look right in the camera and say, “Yes. I bet on baseball. I am sorry. I'd like another chance.”

        NBC was then hoping to get an interview with Commissioner Bud Selig.

        “Commissioner, Pete Rose has admitted he bet on baseball. And he says he's sorry,” Gray would have said.

        “Really?” Selig would say. “OK, then he's eligible.”

        There you have it. NBC and Jim Gray put an end to one of baseball's longest and most troubling dilemmas in two minutes of reporting.

        Arrogance, pure arrogance.

        It didn't work out that way at all. Rose kept with his standard, “That's my story, and I'm sticking to it” answers. Which, of course, is not surprising at all.

        Didn't Gray and NBC see any of the other 99 interviews on the anniversary of Rose's banishment where he said the same thing he's been saying for the last 10 years?

        Did they really think he was going to change his story because someone shoved a microphone with a peacock on it in his face?

        Gray knows Rose fairly well. Gray did the Philadelphia Phillies pregame show when Rose was a player in Philly. Gray figures he's interviewed Rose 50 or 60 times.

        Still, knowing Rose as he does, he expected Rose to come clean.

        “Was it realistic to expect?” Gray said Monday. “Much more realistic than at any other time.”

        Gray thought being on the field and hearing the cheers would soften Rose's stance.

        Gray did not soften his stance Monday.

        “I don't apologize,” he said. “I stand by it, and I think it was absolutely a proper line of questioning.”

        Cris Collinsworth, who worked with Gray at NBC, has been in Gray's spot before. Collinsworth said he made a similar mistake two weeks ago.

        “I did the same thing with Dan Marino,” said Collinsworth, who now works at Fox. “The Dolphins had just beaten the Colts in a great game. Rath er than saying, "What a game' and congratulating him. I went right into a question about his relationship with Jimmy Johnson.

        Collinsworth said a little tact goes along way.

        “There's nothing wrong with a tough question,” he said. “But you have to acknowledge the moment. I thought that was the mistake (Gray) made.”

        Said Gray: “It wasn't the time for me to ask Pete what he felt being in company of Johnny Bench or Ted Williams. It was appropriate to be talking about his opportunity to be back on the field participating in baseball events.”

        But Gray didn't even do that.

        “All I can say is we deal with limited time,” Gray said.

        Gray has a reputation for asking the tough questions. His Mike Tyson interview after Tyson bit Evander Holyfield's ear was a clinic on how a sideline reporter should work.

        The difference between that and Sunday was Tyson's crime occurred about 15 minutes before the interview. Rose's took place 10 years ago. Gray was the first to get Tyson. He was about the 9,000th to get Rose.

        “I tried very hard to be very fair to Pete last night, and I think I was very fair,” Gray said. “The fact that he doesn't like it doesn't mean it wasn't fair.”

        Sounds a little arrogant, doesn't it?

        John Fay covers TV/radio for The Enquirer. He can be reached at 768-8445


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