Art Donovan is standing before me in the considerable flesh, wearing the usual deadpan look on that basset-hound face. "Now you write a good article," he says in his Bronx yawp. And he shakes a meaty fist, the same one that once clubbed its way past a generation of National Football League offensive linemen on Donovan's way to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Well, OK, Artie, even though I know you were just kidding (you were, weren't you?), here we go:
The occasion of our meeting was a taping of "Braase, Donovan and Fans," a production of local sportscaster Tom Davis, who also serves as host. As the title indicates, Donovan is joined on the show by former Baltimore Colts teammate and fellow defensive lineman Ordell Braase. As the title doesn't indicate, there aren't any fans present at the Channel 45 studio, unless you count Davis and production personnel.
But that hardly matters. The point of the show -- if the show has a point -- is to roll the tape and let Artie be Artie. Davis introduces topics relating to the National Football League, some of which even get discussed. Davis usually is too busy breaking up -- does he have one of the goofiest laughs on television or what? -- to serve as a straight man all the time. That task falls to Braase.
If you went looking for a Donovan foil, it would be hard to do better than Braase. Braase dresses immaculately, generally choosing dark blazers or suits that set off his wavy, perfectly combed silver hair. Donovan, on the other hand, probably could tuck in one of his shirts over his massive belly, but it certainly isn't a priority to him, and his white hair is still mowed in the crew cut of his playing days.
Braase, though not at all humorless, attempts to give thoughtful responses to Davis' questions. Part of Donovan's charm -- as the likes of David Letterman have discovered -- is the wonderfully visceral level at which he conducts conversation.
Anyway, Donovan is often intentionally or unintentionally amusing, and digression is a matter of course. On a recent show, a discussion of a New York Giants-Washington Redskins game quickly moved into a recollection of the Colts' kicking situation in 1957. Hey, what's a segue?
On another show, the topic was quarterbacks -- the modern versions of which are favorite Donovan targets -- and Fran Tarkenton's name came up. Or, to be more accurate, came down. "He's a rat," Donovan said, apparently feeling no need to elaborate. But, Artie, he was reminded, Tarkenton was a terrific quarterback. "If you're going to be a rat," Donovan said, "be the best rat you can."
Now, there are words to live by.
Even though the half-hour show never really goes anywhere, it is at least as diverting as whatever else may be on at one of the many times "Braase, Donovan and Fans" is broadcast. Home Team Sports carries the show at 4 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. on Fridays. Channel 34 on the Baltimore County cable system shows it at 9 p.m. Fridays, as does Channel 6 on Howard County cable. Channel 45 telecasts the program Saturdays at 3:30 p.m. and Sundays at noon. (The Saturday showing will move to 11:30 a.m. on Nov. 24.)
So, there's your article, Artie. And I didn't even spoil your story about helping a teammate throw up.
Stan "The Fan" Charles and Paul Baker will return with their "Hoops" basketball talk show on WCAO (600 AM), starting Nov. 26. Though staying on Monday nights, the two-hour program is moving to 10 p.m.; last season, it ran 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Charles and Baker say they plan to concentrate more on college basketball this season, trimming the high school segment of the show to a half-hour from one hour.
Perhaps fans will desert the second half of ESPN's Monday night basketball doubleheaders to listen to "Hoops." If the show can provide an interesting mix of local college coaches and national figures -- as it sometimes did last season -- then maybe it will be worth tuning in WCAO and hitting the mute button on the television remote.
ESPN has announced its Sunday night baseball schedule for 1991, and the Baltimore Orioles are to make one appearance -- June 9 at home against the Toronto Blue Jays. Also, the Orioles-New York Yankees exhibition game April 4 is ESPN's last scheduled telecast from spring training, and the Orioles and Yankees are the primary game for the opener of a July 4 tripleheader. . . . ESPN returns to Sunday night football this weekend with the San Francisco 49ers-Dallas Cowboys at 8. Mike Patrick calls play-by-play, and analyst Joe Theismann may be persuaded to say a word or two sometime during the broadcast. . . . Washington Bullets rookie A.J. English will be featured on "NBA Inside Stuff" tomorrow at 10:30 a.m. on Channel 2.