THE SEOUL GAMES : WRONG NUMBER : NBC's Jones Looks Too Late to Notice No-Sock Look in Race Miscall, a Sorry Feat Indeed

Times Staff Writer

NBC announcer Charlie Jones said he was shaken by his miscall of the 800-meter race during Sunday night's Olympic coverage, but knew he had to pull himself together to call the next race.

"It bothered me all night long," Jones said from Seoul Monday. "You prepare your whole life for the Olympics and then you make a mistake like that."

Jones identified Nixon Kiprotich of Kenya as the winner of the 800, when actually it was another Kenyan, Paul Ereng. Kiprotich finished eighth.

Jones said statistician and spotter Walter Murphy was the first to notice the mistake, not anyone in the production truck. "Walter pointed to the monitor during the first replay and said, 'Look, no black socks.' That's when I knew I had miscalled the race," Jones said.

"We had decided that the key to identifying the two Kenyan runners would be that one of them, Kiprotich, wears black socks. So when I saw that the winner was not wearing any socks, I knew what I had done."

Kiprotich, the taller of the two, wore No. 656. Ereng wore No. 651.

Actually, Jones' partner, Frank Shorter, was the first to misidentify Ereng as he passed Said Aouita and Joaquim Cruz late in the stretch. Shorter told the Associated Press: "There's no reason to get them confused."

Said Jones on the live call: "Kiprotich takes the lead, and Aouita won't catch him. Nixon Kiprotich! Joaquim Cruz came in second."

Then at the end of the first replay, Jones exclaimed: "We have blown this call. Gentlemen, we were wrong."

After Jones identified the actual winner, Shorter said: "Oh my God!"

Shorter added, "Paul Ereng passed Kiprotich in the middle of the last turn and we were looking so hard, we missed it."

Shorter said later what he meant was that he was concentrating so much on other runners that he didn't see Ereng pass Kiprotich.

"Coming off the last turn, Kiprotich was falling back," Shorter said. "(Peter) Elliott was making a move with Aouita, and I also had my eye on the Brazilians, (Jose) Barbosa and Cruz.

"The next time I looked up, I saw Kiprotich moving on the inside. Except it wasn't Kiprotich. It was Ereng."

Jones apologized to Ereng on the air: "Paul Ereng has the gold . . . as we just wrote our names in the record book of blunders. A belated congratulations to Paul Ereng. And Paul, a personal apology. I'm sorry we did this to you. You'll see it when you look at the tape."

Shorter watched the race as it took place on the track, while Jones' eyes glanced back and forth from the track to his TV monitor.

"That wasn't the reason I blew it, though," Jones said. "That's the way I always do a race."

Jones said when Ereng passed Kiprotich on the final turn: "I simply missed it. I have no excuse."

So how did Jones feel the next day? "The sun comes up and you go back to work," he said.

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