I was driving home the other night when I was hit with a realization. (Fortunately, there was little damage to the car, and the realization and I decided not to tell our insurance companies.)
I never thought it would happen, but I'd become a Stan "The Fan" fan.
Stan Charles? That guy who shot from the hip more than Clint Eastwood? He speculated on anything and everything, whatever the supporting evidence or lack thereof. No, this wasn't what I wanted in a talk show.
Or so I had thought.
Now, I realize Charles' baseball talk show on WCAO (600 AM) weeknights at 10:30 often is a passionate two hours of radio.
Charles is not your standard-issue host. He hasn't picked up much polish after nearly a decade on the air. He takes stabs at being fair, but it's not really a priority. He has a fair storehouse of baseball knowledge, but certainly doesn't approach the encyclopedic memory banks that Phil Wood brought to the microphone.
Charles' strength is indicated in his nickname. He is a fan. An Orioles fan. He is as much an Orioles fan as anyone who calls his show. Charles seems to take each Orioles loss personally. Their every shortcoming is an affront.
If the team is losing, then something must be done. Put Juan Bell in the lineup. Trade Craig Worthington. Bring up David Segui. Send Brady Anderson to a shrink. Fire Frank Robinson?
Let the Orioles become contenders, and Charles' show is deflated. Did you listen in 1989? Yawn. Who wants to hear a happy Charles contemplating an Orioles postseason? Give me a fired-up Stan "The Fan," excoriating the front office, trading players, making out yet another "set" lineup.
You don't get much of that on the other sports talk alternative. Jeff Rimer of WBAL (1090 AM) is competent enough and fills his show with guests who offer varying points of view, but Rimer doesn't project much passion. As for Rimer's frequent fill-in, Rex Barney, he is a very nice man.
For a long time, I resisted as colleagues -- yes, fans, some of the same people you love to rip on the air -- touted Charles' show. It wasn't until Wood finally was left without a radio home that I succumbed.
And I'll keep tuning in. Unless the Orioles get back in the race.
Are you upset about Channel 2's pre-emptions of NBA playoff games for the Orioles? If so, the station isn't hearing from very many of you. Emily Barr, WMAR programming director, estimates the number of calls protesting Channel 2's decision to be fewer than 25. And there have been fewer than five letters, she said.
If the NBA Finals begin Sunday, another pre-emption looms, but callers will have to find a target other than the Orioles. That day, Channel 2 is part of the Miracle Network telethon, a commitment it made before the NBA schedule was decided. Cheer up, though. No other conflicts appear to block Channel 2's carrying the rest of the finals.
It's 96 degrees outside, so what better time to consider the Winter Olympics? Specifically, how James Brown fits into CBS' coverage of the Albertville Games in 1992.
Brown recently was named host of CBS' daytime coverage, which, because of the six-hour difference between France and the Eastern time zone, makes him one of the few hosts who will have to deal with live events. Brown, who has become quite a well-rounded sportscaster, said he's up to the challenge.
"I guess it's kind of like what I did for five years as sports anchor at the CBS D.C. affiliate," Brown said, referring to dealing with several sports and results -- and some breaking events -- in a limited amount of time.
Being on in early afternoon, Brown said, he may be getting more displaced soap opera fans than winter sports followers.
"I think you're getting the peripheral fans," he said, "maybe a few die-hards who can sneak away [to watch].
"You have to bring people up to speed. You have to hook them for what will come later."
Brown's host role serves to point out how he has escaped the basketball pigeonhole that might have become his permanent home.
"No matter what I had done in the past, folks had me typecast because of my entree with the NBA and NCAA," he said, "even though I did a lot of other events.
"I think folks will see me in a different light. That was my goal from the day I signed on [with CBS], to diversify into all different sports."
NBC announced yesterday that Dick Enberg and Bill Walsh will work the network's Notre Dame football telecasts this fall, though they will remain NBC's No. 1 NFL announcers. Enberg and Walsh will skip NFL Sundays on the six weekends they are calling Notre Dame games. That six-week window should clear the way for NBC's other announcing teams to get prime games, which could be good news for viewers, especially if you are not as enamored of Walsh as his employers are. It could be even better news if Todd Christensen -- whose natural flair for broadcasting got limited national exposure last year -- shows up on our screens more often. On the other hand, this could mean more of Bob Trumpy's bluster.
* NOTES: Home Box Office has a boxing doubleheader tomorrow at 10 p.m. -- Meldrick Taylor-Luis Garcia and Terry Norris-Donald Curry. . . . "ABC's Wide World of Sports" will show the March 18 Mike Tyson-Donovan "Razor" Ruddock fight tomorrow at 4:30 (channels 13, 7), replacing the previously scheduled Ironman Triathlon. . . . Katarina Witt, two-time Olympic figure skating gold-medal winner, will be an expert commentator for CBS Sports at the 1992 Winter Games. Witt will team with Verne Lundquist and Scott Hamilton. . . . You've probably been too wrapped up in the World League of American Football playoff race to notice, but the Arena Football League season is beginning this weekend. Former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Tony Hill will be the analyst on Prime Network's coverage, some of which shows up on Home Team Sports, though let's hope HTS doesn't pre-empt pro beach volleyball.