Tying up some loose ends on a Thursday ... • First, the big news: ESPN will announce today that it's picking up "The Contender." Obviously, I couldn't be more delighted about this -- not just that the show lives for another season, but that the ESPN connection could potentially lead to my watching "Rocky 4" with Sly Stallone and keeping a running diary. Good times all around. If you missed my two columns about "The Contender" from the spring, here are the links: Review | Season finale • I made two significant screwups in the Al Michaels section of yesterday's mailbag, in the section where I wrote about how he had announced "the greatest sporting event of all time (the 1980 Olympic Hockey game); the greatest gambling moment of all time (the Music City Miracle, when Wycheck lateraled to Dyson to beat the Bills); and the most incredible sports moment of all time (when the first-ever Bay Area World Series was postponed for a week by a devastating earthquake that happened moments before Game 3 in San Fran, the odds of which had to be 10 billion to 1 if you added up all the different variables). I always thought that was amazing. If Michaels had just found a way to announce Hagler-Hearns, the Artest Melee and the Shawn Michaels-Bret Hart 'Screw Job' match in Montreal, he would have gone down as the Forrest Gump of announcers." Steve L. from Hornell, N.Y., points out ... "I want you to read something right here ... read this. As a diehard Bills fan and the Throwback being the most frustrating moment of my sports life, the Titans/Bills playoff game was definitely called by the ESPN guys, not Al Michaels. I clearly remember Steve Christie kicking the field goal to put the Bills up 16-15 and Maguire saying "Doesn't Wade Phillips look like a genius now?" regarding the decision to start Rob Johnson. Yes, he actually said that about The Immortal Wade Lombardi. You think that wasn't an omen? You think that wasn't the kiss of death? Poorly coached teams make poorly coached decisions. The ESPN announcers, not Al Michaels, will always be a vivid part of that memory the rest of my life." Dave from Burke, Va., adds ... "Al passed up on that Music City Miracle game to broadcast the Miami vs. Jacksonville game (where Marino was down like 63-0 before he realized the game actually started). I'm not trying to just point out a mistake, because I hate when people do that, but I remember a NY radio sports talk show having Boomer Esiason (Michaels' partner for that short 16 month or so stretch) making fun of him because he missed out on one of the great playoff moments of all time, and Boomer admitted that he wanted to do that game, but Michaels wanted to broadcast the Miami game instead because it was probably Marino's last playoff game and the call was up to Al (he really blew that one)." Yes, I screwed up. But here's the crazy thing -- somehow I forgot this, and mainly because ESPN Classic never, ever, ever shows this fight, but guess who did the call for Hagler-Hearns? That's right, Al Michaels! I totally blanked on that one. Another Al classic I forgot: As Yonkers reader Charlie Zegers reminds us, Michaels was also on the phone with Peter Jennings during the O.J. Bronco Chase when the Howard Stern listener called in the prank call, "I see O.J. O.J. look very upset ... " then followed that up with "Bababooey!" As Charlie points out, "I can still hear it like it was yesterday. "Peter, that was a totally farcical call." That's gotta count for something." And if you really want to pad his résumé, he called that crazy Jets-Dolphins game where the Jets came back from down, like, 28 points in the fourth quarter on Monday night (probably a top-five gambling moment), and he called Dave Henderson's famous home run against the California Angels (which had to be one of the five most memorable home run calls of the past 30 years). Plus, he called Derek Fisher's crazy shot against the Lakers last year (not one of Michaels' finest calls, but still). • Detroit reader Steve Rooney reports that Peyton Manning has been working on the Peyton Manning "I can't believe Bill Belichick owns me this much" Face even during intrasquad scrimmages. Here's the link. • Some terrible news from Boston reader Janet Chen about the used bookstore on Newbury Street (the one I mentioned in Tuesday's Cowbell): "The Victor Hugo bookstore you cite in this week's book club column is no longer there. It's now a trendy clothing store. As one who purchased my copy of "The Hidden Game of Baseball," there, I was sad to see it go. Just wanted to keep you up to date on the happenings in the old 'hood." Translation: Nobody reads anymore. Although a few readers passed along a Web site for used and out-of-print books -- abebooks.com -- that apparently gets the job done. Still, not the same as browsing a used bookstore while some hairy guy with bad breath sits behind the counter and stares you down until you purchase something. • During the Sox game Wednesday night, Kapler hit a home run over the Monster that landed on the little counter in front of the people sitting in the first row, bounced up against the protective wall, then ricocheted back onto the field. Everyone sitting in the Monster started cheering because it was obviously a home run, but the umpires steadfastly continued to insist it was a double. First of all, how can they screw up that call from 150 feet away? How do the second-base and third-base umpires not see the ball ricochet upward? Second of all, how is it possible that it's 2005 and we still don't use instant replay to determine home runs in baseball? Wouldn't it take, like, 35 seconds for the home plate ump to waddle over to a TV monitor, see the replay and make a call? Who's against this? Seriously, who? I feel like the outcome of a playoff series has to be screwed up before they finally fix this rule. Had to get that off my chest. New column coming tomorrow.