He would rather fight than swishValvano's new goal is...

RADIO-TV

November 20, 1992|By RAY FRAGER

He would rather fight than swish

Valvano's new goal is defeating cancer

There was Jim Valvano, the up-and-coming coach, ascending the college basketball ladder from Johns Hopkins to North Carolina State, filling notebooks at each rung with wisecracks. There was Jim Valvano, the underdog champion, dancing across the court when N.C. State upset Houston. There was Jim Valvano, the disgraced coach, a fall guy for the ills of yet another big-time basketball program. And there was Jim Valvano, television personality, a surprisingly good analyst, the thinking-man's Dick Vitale.

Now, there's one more -- Jim Valvano, cancer patient.

There are no second acts in American lives, the saying goes. Valvano has surpassed that number. But if you're inclined to view Valvano's story as a comedy turned tragedy, don't expect him to go along.

These days, he quotes scripture, Kipling, Schweitzer. And every day is a miracle.

"When my eyes open each morning and my feet touch the floor, I thank God," Valvano said in a news conference Wednesday, his first since he was diagnosed with cancer five months ago.

As treatment for his cancer, a type that can start in an organ or in glands and spread throughout the body, he undergoes chemotherapy about every six weeks at Duke University Hospital. "They've been winning a lot lately," he said. "Maybe they can pick up another W."

And, unfortunately for Valvano, his condition is still very much a maybe. He's not in remission.

got a long way to go before we can talk about that wonderful word," he said. "It's nowhere near that. It's active cancer."

At his initial diagnosis, Valvano said, he was told that he might have a year to live if he didn't respond to treatment. One of the ways he has dealt with his condition is to set short-term goals.

He'll meet one goal tonight, when he works a 9:30 NationaInvitation Tournament game on ESPN.

"It wasn't until about [two weeks ago] that I called [ESPN] and said, 'I'm ready to telestrate my butt off.'

"I guarantee you, it may not mean that much to many people, but when I stand up Friday at Florida State, there might be a lot of tears in my family."

Valvano said: "I feel pretty strong," but he has dropped 3pounds -- "I'm one of the quickest announcers around" -- and will adjust his schedule for more rest. In addition to cutting out speaking engagements, he will miss assignments while undergoing treatment.

"John Saunders [ESPN studio host] can say, 'Let's go to Jimmy V. over at room 1412 at Duke hospital'? I don't think we'll do that."

Valvano said he has been changed by his experience.

"If you thought I was emotional before . . . I may cry at a great three-point shot.

"I don't think you're going to find many people who enjoy antreasure moments like I do. I value my friends, my children, my wife, my family more than ever."

And he won't confuse athletic battles past with his realife-and-death struggle.

TC "There's absolutely no correlation between beating Houston for the national championship and defeating cancer," Valvano said. "It puts into perspective the relative unimportance of any sporting endeavor. What's helping me cope and get through this time is . . . my academic background. I have to approach this battle with my mind, not my body."

He wants to do as many games as possible for ESPN and ABC. He wants to do ESPN's "Championship Week" studio show with Vitale. He wants to help remind the public that cancer, not just AIDS, needs research money.

Most of all, he wants, quoting Kipling, to "fill every minute with 60 seconds of distance run."

Tonight, despite the pain in his lower back and knees and the lingering effects of chemotherapy, Valvano will keep trying to go the distance. Here's hoping the finish line is still a long way off.

Yesterday's Sun credited Channel 2 with reporting the Morgan State football revolt. That it did, but so did Channel 45 and Channel 11. With its late newscast an hour before everyone else's, Channel 45 officially broke the story.

Radio daze

WBAL Radio apparently has a list of finalists for the Orioles announcer's job vacated by Joe Angel. The guess here is that the list contains about six names. Only one has leaked out -- Don Chevrier, formerly with the Toronto Blue Jays.

Talked out

Everyone's favorite sports program, "The Washington Post Sports Talk," will air on Home Team Sports for the last time on Dec. 28. Rumor has it that creative differences arose between host George Solomon and the producers. Solomon wanted more opulent production numbers, but HTS wouldn't spring for the showgirls' ostrich feathers. . . . WBAL Radio was right on top of baseball's expansion draft Tuesday. Sports talker Jeff Rimer provided updates, even making a guest appearance with afternoon talk show host Ron "Eve of Destruction" Smith.

No Choo Choo Coleman

ESPN's baseball draft production was first-rate. The announcers kept pace with the action -- such as it was -- and the network had oodles of graphics and clips. And if it seemed that ESPN was extraordinarily quick, a spokesman acknowledged the broadcasters found out who'd been picked seconds before the names were announced.

Things my boss wants to know

Will Ozzy Osbourne be one of the announcers on the Gatorade Ironman Triathlon tomorrow (channels 2, 4, 4 p.m.)? . . . Will Roy Scheider be featured on the Franklin Funds Shark Shoot-Out today (ESPN, 4 p.m.)? . . . Is it true that Joe Jacoby refuses to appear on HTS' "Hooters Redskins Huddle" because the producers want him to wear a tight T-shirt and short-shorts?

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