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Bill Kwon

Sports Watch

By Bill Kwon

Tuesday, August 1, 2000

Showing ‘MNF’
games live is risky

YOU'VE heard of bootleg liquor. But bootleg football? Only in Hawaii.

While the rest of the nation watched "Monday Night Football" live yesterday, most of the fans here had to see the Pro Football Hall of Fame game between San Francisco and New England on tape delay.

With KITV putting its foot down, practically all of the bars and restaurants, which previously showed the MNF games live, stopped doing so to avoid legal action.

Mike Rosenberg, the station's president and general manager, had sent letters to all establishments with liquor licenses warning them that they were infringing on an NFL copyright if they showed the games satellite live. And the station wouldn't tolerate it.

Apparently, the threat --whether it can have any teeth or not -- has worked.

Two of Honolulu's most high-profiled sports bars -- Players and Murphy's Bar & Grill -- had a black Monday, and it had nothing to do with the dreary day because of Hurricane Daniel.

It might have been Miller Time on "MNF" -- that is, comedian Dennis Miller, who was making his debut -- but nobody was going around and saying, "This Bud's for you," at several bars I visited yesterday.

I did get to watch the first half of the preseason opener between the 49ers and Patriots satellite live at one of my favorite watering holes.

Which one? My lips are sealed. So sue me.

Hey, anything to see former UH Rainbow linebacker Jeff Ulbrich live and direct.

The few of us were huddled at the lone television set turned on to the game. The other TVs around the premises were on different stations, just in case someone from Goodenow Associates, hired by KITV to investigate violators, happened to stop by and check.

The thinking being that it's quicker and easier to change the channel on just one TV set than all of them.

It used to be that bar hostesses were only worried when a liquor commissioner dropped in unexpectedly.

Now, they're worried that someone might catch them showing a "MNF" game live.

Still, many customers will get an illicit thrill watching the game because it's now a no-no.

Next thing you know, some bars will be posting lookouts at the doors to be on alert for unfamiliar faces.

Or maybe they'll start showing "MNF" in the private karaoke rooms in the back of the bar.

But officer, there's no hanky-panky going on. We're just watching the "Monday Night Football" game live.

Boy, talk about feeling like Prohibition is back.

ACTUALLY, yesterday wasn't a good example of what it'll be like on Mondays the rest of the season.

For one thing, the hurricane alert was on everyone's mind. And the kickoff was at 1 p.m., hours earlier than the usual time because of the network's coverage of the Republican National Convention.

Besides, it was a meaningless preseason game. But it'll be interesting to see what happens once the NFL season begins in earnest.

"You won't see it here," said Don Murphy of Murphy's Bar & Grill. "But I'm sure a lot of small bars are going to still show it."

"It's unfortunate, but I don't blame KITV," added Gary Dickman of Players. He won't show it because "it's not worth it" to be a test case.

Rosenberg says violators will first be sent warning letters, even though the NFL has told the local ABC affiliate it would not legally pursue the matter.

Still, no one wants to be the first test case, should KITV initiate any legal action.

Bill Kwon has been writing
about sports for the Star-Bulletin since 1959.

E-mail to Sports Editor

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