Let's look ahead at the Washington Bullets season, which begins tonight against the Indiana Pacers, and, in doing so, take poetic license (you have to be at least 16 in most states and pass an iambic parking test). For play-by-play announcers Charlie Slowes and Mel Proctor, maybe the words of T. S. Eliot would be appropriate:
"Let us go then, you and I,
"When the evening is spread out against the sky
"Like a patient etherized upon a table. . . ."
Yes, the Bullets season is spread out before us, but some of their best players are recent patients who must spend time on the trainer's table. And then there is John Williams, whose actions can seem positively etherized.
But there sit Slowes and Proctor, microphones in place, facing the prospect of broadcasting another underwhelming season.
What's an announcer to do?
"It's obviously a lot more fun when you're with a winning team," said Proctor, television voice of the Bullets on Channel 20 (carrying the opener tonight at 7:30) and Home Team Sports (telecasting tomorrow night's home opener against the Boston Celtics at 7:30). "I've had a lot of people tell me that anybody can broadcast a winning team, but it takes a true professional to broadcast a losing team."
Slowes, the club's radio voice on flagship WTOP (1500 AM), spoke of a new, 17-station network for Bullets games this season -- including the return of 24 games on WBAL (1090 AM) -- then added, "Now, all we need is for the team to follow suit."
Even with the Bullets coming off three seasons out of the playoffs and prospects not looking bright for 1991-92, the announcers say that won't color their approaches.
"Wins and losses never lie," Slowes said. "I go out and do the job the same way. The minute you go on the air, you don't think about it."
Bullets road games on Channel 20 might have an improved look this season. Graphics, which had been put together back home even when the club was away, will be produced on-site. And a producer will be on the road as well, Proctor said, allowing camera shots to be selected, rather than settling for whatever comes across.
It's still low-tech on the radio end, though, as Slowes, in his sixth season, continues to work without a partner.
"There are some nights I would love to have somebody there to give me a break," Slowes said. "You have to have the right person. I think you have more personality when you interact with someone."
Proctor, in his 12th season with the Bullets, has personality to spare -- just ask some of those officials he's roasted over the years -- and he also has a capable partner, Phil Chenier. The two are entering their eighth season together.
But Proctor also has seen his share of losses, having joined the Bullets the season after their last championship and starting with the Baltimore Orioles on HTS in 1984, after the club's last title season.
"I must have the worst timing in the world," Proctor said.
Maybe it sounds bleak, but, if the announcers are frustrated, their work doesn't betray it. Proctor, one of sportscasting's great excitable boys, wears his excitement on his sleeve, and Slowes sounds a good bit like Marv Albert -- the highest praise for a basketball announcer.
L And -- who knows? -- maybe the season won't turn out so bad.
"Everyone is so pessimistic," Slowes said, "if they do anything, it will be a surprise."
The first Bullets game on WBAL is tomorrow night. . . . TNT's NBA telecasts begin tonight with a doubleheader: Philadelphia 76ers-Chicago Bulls at 8, followed by Phoenix Suns-Seattle SuperSonics. . . . A co-producer for Prime Network's "NBA Action," carried by HTS, is Richard Kopilnick, a McDonogh School graduate from Baltimore County.
I'm usually a sucker for those highlights packages that CBS runs after a championship game. The slow-motion emotion, backed by 1,001 strings, can be quite moving. CBS' post-World Series effort, however, served only to get me moving away from the television.
For having followed such a dramatic Series, the package captured nothing except for precious air time. Where was the elation, the dejection, the effort, the athleticism?
What I'll remember about the highlights was hearing Jack Buck's "ou . . . safe" call on the winning run in Game 4 fixed for the replay, with the miscall removed.
Cal Ripken Jr. will appear on "Late Night with David Letterman" on Tuesday. . . . Jon Miller will announce Maryland's opening basketball game, Nov. 23, vs. St. Mary's, because Terps voice Johnny Holliday will have a Maryland football game the same day. . . . HTS has its first deal to carry Atlantic Coast Conference men's basketball. The five-game package begins Nov. 27, with North Carolina-Houston. . . . Several athletes appear in the video for Hammer's "Too Legit to Quit," including Jose Canseco, David Robinson and Chris Mullin.
The boss dug into the Halloween candy a little early, and, riding a sugar high, seemed so happy that I thought I'd lay a little idea on him. "Hey, Boss," I said, bouncing into his chambers, avoiding the phalanx of secretaries and security personnel who guard his office, "what do you say that we skip your little feature this week?" The smile left his face, and he started to summon his guard Mongo, who picked up a cattle prod and eyed me the way Sylvester looks at Tweety. "A little Halloween humor, Boss. That's all," I said. "Have another Mounds bar." So, here we go again:
Things My Boss Wants to Know: Is Elijah Tillery going to star with Jean Claude Van Damme in a remake of "Kickboxer"? . . . Has Tim McCarver stopped talking yet? . . . You know the best thing about having Joe Theismann back on ESPN's NFL games? (No, Boss, neither do I.).