Chuck Ecker's participation in a charity basketball game against a group of Baltimore television all-stars Saturday night might have beena kind of sports horoscope, offering clues about his next four yearsas county executive.
It came across, instead, as a political retrospective.
As with his November victory over incumbent M. Elizabeth Bobo, Ecker was again forced into overtime. And Everyone but Ecker thought hewouldn't have a chance.
At age 62, he was a good 15 years older than anyone else on the court. The jersey he was wearing looked like an old tank-top undershirt from the 40s.
When television personality Andy Barth introduced former Washington Bullet Phil Chenier as a member of the county's team, Ecker stood and took the bow.
He played man-to-man defense so tightly that when the game turned from defense to offense, he was still playing defense. Typical. In the campaign,he didn't take to the offense then until after the primary election.
Like county Democrats and Republicans, players for both teams looked alike with everyone, except the man Ecker was guarding, wearing white jerseys.
Occasionally a white-jerseyed defender would try to trick a white-shirted offensive player into turning the ball over. Mostly, players did it on their own. The number of fumbles in the campaign are too numerous to mention.
In keeping with his "Aw shucks" image, no one fussed over Ecker or even fed him the ball to make him astar. In fact, when he was wide open for a shot early in the game, Chenier either didn't see him or assumed he was on the other team, intercepting a pass intended for him.
Although Ecker missed three layups and an 8-foot jumper that rolled in and out of the basket -- "I just couldn't control the ball; I need sandpaper on my hands" -- he still kept the ball alive a couple of times with tips off rebounds.
Ecker's team winning, 59-58, in overtime could just as likely be a portent of the future as a sign of the past. If so, little was learned about what Ecker will do with Bobo holdovers Buddy Roogow, Paul Johnson, and Manus O'Donnell.
Citizen service director O'Donnell, who organized the contest to benefit the county food bank and fuel fund, played a steady but unspectacular floor game. He was at his best at halftime passing out miniature basketballs and Bullets T-shirts as doorprizes.
O'Donnell announced that with Channel 2's help, the game raised $1,100. Also, 76 county residents served by the department of social services will be guests of Bullet star Bernard King at a future Bullets game.
Deputy county solicitor Paul Johnson initially looked like a keeper. His active zone defense and rainbow free throws pushed the county to a 16-13 lead in the second quarter. But he put thecounty in jeopardy in the third quarter when he intentionally fouleda Channel 2 player.
Rather than file a personal injury suit -- the county is facing a $19 million budget shortfall -- the Channel 2 player opted for free-throws and the media stars went up by four, 46-42, with five minutes left. .
County administrator Roogow, who got off to a shaky start with an errant pass in the first minute of the game, came back in the second half to make a deft foul of a Channel 2 player who had a breakaway that threatened to break the game open.
The real star was county employee Brian Rawlings, the game's high scorer. He didn't miss a shot all night. With the county down, 58-57, with 1 minute, 30 seconds left in overtime, Rawlings returned to the game, stole the ball and swished a 15-footer to make the score 59-58 with 20 seconds left. He then blocked a shot that the county recovered.
After the county missed a free throw, Channel 2 intercepted a pass and called time out with only six seconds remaining. Ecker cast an angry glare at the officials' table. He rubbed his head.
A layup over the outstretched hands of Phil Chenier spun around the rim and came out and the county won, 59-58, in overtime -- just like Ecker predicted.
In keeping with his "Aw shucks" image, no one fussed over (County Executive Charles I.) Ecker or even fed him the ball to make him a star.