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Chad Finn | Sports Media

Why did ESPN cut bloody sock game from 2004 Red Sox film?

Curt Schilling pitched Game 6 of the 2004 ALCS after having surgery to repair a tendon in his ankle.
Curt Schilling pitched Game 6 of the 2004 ALCS after having surgery to repair a tendon in his ankle.Winslow Townson/Associated Press/File/Associated Press

Given the curious, even dubious, manner in which ESPN has covered the Patriots and Deflategate, it’s understandable that New England sports fans are wary of the network’s motives. As the saying goes, you’re not paranoid if they really are after you, right?

On Sunday, Boston found a reason for its suspicions to rise again. In the evening, ESPN2 re-aired the “30 for 30” film “Four Days in October,’’ which chronicles the Red Sox’ comeback from a three-games-to-none deficit against the Yankees in the 2004 American League Championship Series.

There were enough highlights, of course, in the Red Sox’ four consecutive victories to fill two “30 for 30” films. But in ESPN2’s re-airing, it did not go unnoticed that one of the signature moments from the franchise-altering series was absent: the bloody sock game.

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It was a glaring absence for sure. Curt Schilling’s performance in Game 6 — delivered with a surgically repaired tendon in his ankle that caused bleeding through the stitches and his sock — is iconic. But considering that Schilling was fired by ESPN as a baseball analyst April 20 after sharing what the network considered “unacceptable” material on social media, his absence from the documentary naturally drew suspicion to ESPN’s intentions.

After a request for an explanation, ESPN’s public relations department sent out a brief statement:

“When a live event runs long, it’s standard procedure to shorten a taped program that follows. In this case, we needed to edit out one of the film’s four segments to account for the extra length of the softball game.”

The explanation is plausible, though most Boston fans and Schilling’s supporters aren’t going to buy it from ESPN at this point. The show ran four segments; the first two, the beginning and end, could not be cut for obvious reasons.

It’s standard procedure for re-airing programs to be cut or condensed — sometimes arbitrarily — when live programming runs long. While cutting Schilling and Game 6 is bewildering from a storytelling standpoint, the segment did run 12 minutes, the exact length that needed to be chopped.

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It was a glaring omission, but one that probably — probably — came from practicality rather than any pettiness or desire to undermine a recently fired employee.

Schilling had a clever response to all the hubbub on his Twitter feed:


Chad Finn can be reached at finn@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter@GlobeChadFinn.