What’s on: PTI special on Notre Dame; season finale for Real Sports; Immaculate Reception at 40

To help you recover from the Jets-Titans, there is some good sporting viewing on the agenda, and it has nothing to do with games. Here’s the rundown.


ESPN begins its Notre Dame push with a special primetime Pardon The Interruption tonight.

A new PTImeline will document the past decade of Notre Dame Football.

The 30-minute Pardon the Interruption Special: Notre Dame Timeline will air at 7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN. The video will also be released online via Grantland.com.

Beginning with the decision to fire head coach Bob Davie in 2001 and culminating with this season’s number one ranking and berth in the BCS Championship Game, the new PTImeline will document various Fighting Irish coaching hires (George O’Leary, Ty Willingham, Charlie Weis and Brian Kelly), the controversial “Bush Push” in the 2005 USC game, and the Declan Sullivan tragedy in 2011.

PTImeline is the brainchild of longtime PTI executive producer Erik Rydholm and coordinating producer Matthew Kelliher.

“We’ve been knocking around the idea for years as a way to breathe new life into old content, but never had the people to pull it off,” Rydholm said.

Fortunately, a handful of former PTI employees and interns are part of the Dan LeBatard is Highly Questionable staff, which is also based at the ESPN offices in the Washington, D.C., bureau of ABC News. Rydholm had them pull and arrange clips during some of the non-show days for DLHQ.

Rydholm also credits Grantland’s David Jacoby for making the project a reality by editing rough cuts, preparing the videos for air and supplying graphics and other visual elements.

Rydholm said there is the possibility for more PTImelines down the road.


Real Sports closes its 18th season with its year-in-review show tonight at 10 p.m. ET.

Departing from the show’s regular format, host Bryant Gumbel leads correspondents Mary Carillo, Frank Deford, Jon Frankel, Bernard Goldberg, Armen Keteyian and Andrea Kremer in a spirited roundtable discussion of 2012, touching on everything from favorite stories of the year to the interviews and segments that had the greatest impact on them.

In 2012, REAL SPORTS traveled the world to meet inspiring and memorable people, among them: Jeb Corliss, who jumped off Table Mountain in South Africa in a wing suit and barely survived a crash at more than 120 miles per hour; Alex Zanardi, the former Formula 1 driver who lost his legs in an accident, but never looked back and is now winning races of another kind; and Mark Miller, one of the only Americans competing in the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy, the most dangerous motorcycle race in history, where more than 230 people have died over the years.

In an Olympic year, two stories spotlighted Olympians: U.S. hurdler Lolo Jones, who revealed that her efforts to remain a virgin were more difficult than training for the Games; and former Olympic gymnast Dominique Moceanu, who not long ago finally met her biggest fan – a sister she never knew she had.

REAL SPORTS also looked at big issues and controversies, covering: fan-on-fan violence, sometimes stemming from something as harmless as wearing the “wrong” jersey to a game; the widespread use of the painkiller Toradol in the NFL; and former NFL player Steve Gleason, who unwittingly found himself in the middle of the New Orleans Saints’ bountygate scandal, and today battles the devastating effects of ALS.


This year’s marks the 40th anniversary of “The Immaculate Reception.” I’ll have an interview with the producer tomorrow, but here’s a preview of the NFL Network documentary that runs Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET.


Fourth quarter, 22 seconds remaining, fourth and 10 from their own 40 yard line, trailing by one to the Oakland Raiders in the AFC Divisional Playoffs, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw took the snap. What transpired over the next 17 seconds has been described various ways – a myth, miracle, conspiracy, crime, and a detective story.

NFL Network’s Emmy nominated series A Football Life continues Wednesday, December 19 at 8:00 PM ET with the story of The Immaculate Reception.  On December 23, 1972 at 3:29 PM ET, Franco Harris crossed the goal line with what appeared to be 60-yard touchdown reception to give the Steelers a 12-7 lead. However, for the next 15 minutes, Referee Fred Swearingen and his five man crew debated over a play which history says no one saw.

The iconic play had one certainty:  Bradshaw had thrown a downfield pass intended for running back John “Frenchy” Fuqua. All aspects of what took place after Bradshaw released the ball and until Harris crossed the goal line will never be agreed upon. Was NFL Rule 7, Section 5, Article 2, Item 1 violated? Did Harris legally catch the ball? Adding to the intrigue and the historical debate is both what the footage shows and does not show. Also, two days after the game, Raiders head coach John Madden claimed his coaching film revealed his version of the truth. That footage has vanished.

The Immaculate Reception: A Football Life features new interviews with a total of 11 players from both teams who participated in game, including the two Steelers at the heart of the controversy, John “Frenchy” Fuqua and Franco Harris. Each of the Steeler and Raider players provide their perspective of what happened that day in Three Rivers Stadium. Their version of events has spawned four different conspiracy theories which are discussed in detail. Madden refused to be interviewed for the special because the play still draws so much emotion from him forty years later. Furthermore, NFL Films digitally remastered the film to show an additional image and former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, General Michael Hayden, analyzes the play.

–  “The Immaculate Reception became the Zapruder Film of sports.” – Stephen J. Dubner

– “I got up and started going ‘what happened?’ – Terry Bradshaw

–  “No one saw what took place.” – Rocky Bleier

–  “Once it was dubbed “The Immaculate Reception”, it took on a life of its own.” – Joe Gordon

–  “If you are cynic, like the damn Raiders, you will never accept it.” – John “Frenchy” Fuqua

–  “You can’t help but be mesmerized by that image; it is an image that made history.” – Andy Masich

–  “We don’t call it the Immaculate Reception; we call it the Immaculate Deception.” – George Atkinson

–  “That play bothered me then, it bothered now and it will bother me to the day I die.” – John Madden from a 1986 NFL Films interview

–  “It would be terrible for football lore if we knew everything that we should know about the play.” – Peter King





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