Biz of Baseball's Maury Brown called it "the biggest gaff[e] of the night." The Detroit Free Press listed it first on its tally of All-Star broadcast "lowlights." The Albany Times-Union's Pete Dougherty used the headline "Fox blows coverage of Obama's first pitch." Jim Buzinski of OutSports.com accurately described the collective WTF that millions of us felt last night while watching a pointless baseball exhibition:

Leave it to Fox Sports to screw up what should be the easiest shot in baseball: The ceremonial first pitch. But that's just what the bozos did at tonight's All-Star Game in St. Louis, when we saw President Obama, clad in a Chicago White Sox jacket, throw the first pitch.

Except, we never saw the whole pitch, just Obama's windup and delivery. We never saw who caught it (Albert Pujols was IDed about two minutes later) and we never saw it actually go over the plate. A graduate student director could have gotten that shot (hint: use the camera behind home plate, or a camera behind Obama). And there was no replay as they went into commercial. So we have no idea whether Obama did a good job or would make the blooper reel.

I had the obvious immediate reaction–CONSPIRACY–and though that was a joke, one that only conservative media obsessive Tim Graham seemed to flirt with ("Murdoch Goes Gentle on Obama's First Pitch"), watching the wide-screen video replay this morning is making me stroke my chin and wonder about birth certificates.

Why? Because even though we already knew that they used just one camera in a location where they had dozens of the things (including the traditional centerfield view, which you can see in this famous President Bush strike at Yankee Stadium just after 9/11), and even though we already knew that that the lone gunman hand-held camera missed the money shot of whether the pitch crossed the plate, what I didn't fully grok until watching the footage below was that the cameraman jerked his lens away from home plate just as the ball was approaching, then jerked it back after the deal was done.

See for yourself; it's at the 0:44 mark. Note that the full width of the shot–showing catcher Albert Pujols–was only available to viewers on HD; the rest of us never did see the ball's destination.

So until I hear an explanation from the execrable Fox Sports, and/or until some intrepid citizen video reporter dares to ask the hard questions and upload the results on YouTube, I am going to assume, even more so than usual, that Donald Sutherland was right all along.

UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds is going there: "My guess is that the White House media shop negotiated that camera angle."