Gordon Riese is the instant replay official who did not overturn what he now recognizes was a bad call in Saturday's football game between Oklahoma and Oregon. His decision helped Oregon win the game, which provoked some brain-damaged grotesques who'd apparently bet on Oklahmoa to threaten Mr. Riese, his wife, and his children with death.
"I can't sleep, I can't eat, and my blood pressure is skyrocketing," said Riese on Monday, at which time police were investigating the threats and keeping an eye on his house. Mr. Riese hasn't decided whether he will return to officiating in the PAC-10 conference. Perhaps he wants to see if anyone actually shoots at him before making that decision.
Meanwhile in New Jersey, there has surfaced a box of baseballs bearing in block letters the message "I'm sorry I bet on baseball." They have been signed by Pete Rose.
You will perhaps not be surprised to learn that these baseballs are now for sale.
Warren Greene, who is Pete Rose's business agent, says Pete Rose "made zero dollars" for signing the baseballs.
That seems unlikely, doesn't it?
In fact, it's about as likely as Bill Gates making zero dollars for selling computer software.
Signing baseballs is what Pete Rose does, except when he is signing photographs, bobblehead dolls, cocktail napkins, and bats with which he didn't really get his first major league hit. He does this anywhere anybody will pay him to do it, which is how he makes more than zero dollars. Just ask the internal revenue service.
Our games can be a lot of fun. They can be an exciting diversion from our daily ration of stories about crime, stupidity, greed, and witless excess. At their best they remind us of the rewards of practice and the joy of an effort that unites us. They give us fleeting images of excellence achieved in a world characterized much more often than not by the complacent acceptance of mediocrity.
In a week featuring the story of a football official's receipt of death threats and the re-emergence of Pete Rose, it's important to remember what sports offers us on better days.
This program aired on September 22, 2006. The audio for this program is not available.