It's late at night, and Jon Miller is on the radio from the West Coast. You're stiff, sore and increasingly frustrated while trying to piece together some furniture using instructions written in Swedish. But then Miller goes into his Vin Scully, and you can laugh again.
Does Miller get a little more off-the-wall when he broadcasts Baltimore Orioles games from the Pacific time zone? Not only did he go into his Scully earlier this week, but he Scullied something about Moliere and Paris and what did they know about sliders during the 17th century in France?
As entertaining as such digressions are, Miller is to be excused if he runs out of material. With his ESPN assignments, Miller already has been through a couple of two-hour rain delays and Sunday's 16-inning monument to bad baseball between the New York Yankees and Seattle Mariners.
"These games are turning into epics whether they are or not," Miller said.
"The other night [Sunday in Seattle], I thought it ended up being fun, because it was kind of just inept execution. Most of the fans go home, and it becomes an intimate thing. . . . The second eight innings are better than the first eight, that's my motto."
So, did Miller and ESPN partner Joe Morgan use up their "B" material or, given the nature of the game, slide all the way down the alphabet?
"The thing about a game like that is you can't prepare for it," Miller said. "It's totally off-the-cuff. It's like the clubs; they've used up all their players."
In their second season together, Miller and Morgan have become an entertaining announcing team, and it is damning with faint praise to saythey are merely ESPN's best.
"I feel we picked up where we left off [last season]," Miller said. "We feel real comfortable with each other. Last year, we wondered, 'Am I overstepping my bounds?' "
Miller said Morgan at first was reluctant to engage him in the personal repartee common in the booth.
"Joe was a hard-nosed player and a no-nonsense businessman, but he's also a very polite man," he said. "Now, he feels he can toss anything at me."
Miller is breaking in another new partner this year, Ken Levine on WBAL (1090 AM).
"He's feeling his way. I think he's right where he should be at this point," Miller said. "He's careful not to come on too strong."
Miller said Levine is laying off some of the background material.
"He's staying away from forcing himself on the fans, forcing his knowledge of the team, his knowledge of the game," he said. "I think he feels some of the fans might resent it if he starts reminiscing. 'Wait,you're telling me? I lived that season.'
"He's a little bit on trial with the fans. Joe Angel [Miller's formepartner, now with the New York Yankees] was well-liked and did a good job."
And how is the trial going? To these ears, Levine is an adequate play-by-play man who has a way with a quip, as one might expect of someone who has written episodes of "M*A*S*H" and "Cheers." By now, listeners should be getting past his adenoidal tones -- don't forget, empty barrels make the deepest noise -- and judging him by what he says. Maybe he'll even get around to Moliere by season's end.
... Phil Wood fans, be happy that your favorite former radio talk show host has a new job. Unfortunately, though, that job isn't being back on radio discussing sports.
Wood has become a consulting editor for the Rand McNally Official Baseball Atlas, to be published in March.
"Last fall, I was approached about writing something, and then when I became available [after he lost his show on WYST-AM to a format change], they asked if I'd be interested in doing more," Wood said.
If someone wants to put him back on the air, though, he'd still find the time.
"Conceivably, I could do radio if something came up," said Wood, who also is the official scorer for Sunday Orioles home games, "but nothing has come up."
For those of you scoring at home, ESPN's set college basketball lineup next season will go this way: Mondays: Big East, Big Eight, Big West (followed by Big Sleep?); Tuesday: Big Ten, Southeastern Conference; Wednesdays: Big East, Atlantic Coast Conference. . . . Speaking of sports that are out of season, a comparison of National Football League games on TBS and ESPN reveals that TBS has the better schedule. Why? TBS doesn't have the Pro Bowl.