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Original Issue

Under Review The Curse of Affleck--Soap Lathers NFL

--Pity Ben Affleck, for he bears a weighty burden: He is a Red Sox
fan. And, as he tells us as the narrator of The Curse of the
Bambino, a one-hour documentary to air on Sept. 16 on HBO, this
is no easy way for him to live. Calling them "the Boston Red Sox,
my team," he speaks of the "ungodly losses" and "monumental
failures" that cause "suffering and lament." Affleck's
self-important narration hampers an otherwise likable fan's-eye
view of Boston's 85-year title drought and the nearly-that-old
theory that the drought can be blamed on the sale of Babe Ruth to
the Yankees in 1920. Relying on interviews with Sox historians,
Boston reporters and regular Joes, Bambino traces the near misses
(including a montage of fans saying where they were during the
1986 Bucknergate World Series), the crackpot theorists (the group
that's trying to dredge up Ruth's old piano from a Boston-area
pond to end the curse) and the masochistic lives of Red Sox fans.
The show's main drawback (Affleck aside) is its failure to
extensively interview players or management apart from Yankees
Sox-slayer Bucky Dent. The film cries out for a word from Red Sox
G.M. Theo Epstein or Yankees owner George Steinbrenner.

--The NFL is not happy with ESPN's Playmakers, the
drug-and-scandal-themed football soap opera that debuted on Aug.
26. An NFL rep says the league has had "frank conversations with
ESPN" about the show (in which a character recently had a
catheter inserted into his penis so that he could pass a drug
test), and commissioner Paul Tagliabue said it is "rather a
gross mischaracterization of our sport." But with a solid 2.2
rating average (1.9 million homes), Playmakers isn't about to
budge. "This is a drama, not a documentary," says ESPN spokesman
Josh Krulewitz. "We know our viewers understand the
distinction." --C.B.