Radio silence: Tonight, Charles says goodbye to the night shift

Media Watch

March 18, 1997|By Milton Kent

To all the late-night sports talk fans in town, Stan "The Fan" Charles says he's sorry and hopes you'll understand.

Charles, the city's best sports talker, has decided to pull up stakes from WCBM (680 AM), effective tonight, though his "Baltimore Sports Exchange" will continue through Saturday in its 10 p.m. time slot with guest hosts.

In the end, Charles, 45, who has been on the air in some fashion for the past 15 years, decided that the night-owl shift just wasn't for him anymore, especially given the high demands of his show, which included his selling the commercial time within the program.

"What's been the toughest part for me is the extending of my day," said Charles. "From the time I get up until 1 a.m., I'm basically working on my show, whether it's sales, servicing clients, reading the papers, prepping and other things. It's nonstop from 9: 30 until my head hits the pillow."

Charles, who was with WCBM for 14 months in this stint, after a short time at WWLG (1360 AM), would not discuss his future destination, though the local drumbeat has him turning up at WJFK (1300 AM) with its beefed-up sports lineup.

He said he understands that his moves could leave him vulnerable to a charge of being fickle or unable to stay in one place for any length of time.

"All I can say is I'm in Baltimore and I'm staying here. I'm not moving around just to do it. My talents are desired here, and it always seems like I'm looking for a fit that's bigger and better for me," said Charles.

Whatever the reason, Charles' departure will leave a void for people who like to talk sports near the midnight hour.

"This [his leaving] is bittersweet because I enjoyed that time. I think I provided a special service," said Charles. "I've always tried to give people everything I've had. I just don't have anything to give anymore at that time slot."

The votes are in

After a few years of downturns, CBS' NCAA tournament coverage, through the first weekend, got a bounce in the ratings, nationally and locally.

The network reports that its tournament package averaged a 5.6 rating and 13 share in the 36 biggest Nielsen markets, a 6 percent rise from this time last year and a 10 percent boost from 1995. Saturday's and Sunday's ratings were the best the network has received in three years.

Locally, Channel 13's Chris Mecchi, the station's ratings researcher, reports that this year's local tournament ratings were up significantly for Thursday and for Sunday, while holding about even for Friday and Saturday.

Thursday's Maryland-College of Charleston game drew the biggest audience of the weekend, a 14.9/22, losing its time slot only to fresh episodes of NBC's potent lineup.

Coppin State's magical run, meanwhile, did wonders for Channel 13, as the Eagles' Friday game with South Carolina did a 5.5/14. Sunday's Coppin State-Texas game did an 11.5/22, as all three Sunday games won their time slots.

As for the content, CBS' work, from an announcer and production standpoint, was about as good as it has been since the network swallowed the tournament whole a few years ago.

You could pick nits with the decisions to switch from game to game, but except for keeping local viewers away from a critical five-minute stretch of Thursday's Maryland game to show North Carolina coach Dean Smith tying Adolph Rupp's record for most victories, most of the choices were sound.

We'll restate our opposition to starting games after 10 p.m. in a local venue. That's not good for kids, fans, players or viewers, and it's hard to believe that brackets can't be jiggered to cut that down. It may not be easy, but it can be done.

Also, CBS is going to have to get with the program and put the clock and the score on the screen at all times, if for no other reason than for all the patrons who watch the games at their favorite watering hole and have to wait to see who's leading and how much time is left.

From this vantage point, the best pair of game announcers last weekend was Gary Thorne and Dan Bonner, who worked in Salt Lake City. Bonner's praises have been sung here before, but Thorne, who has a tendency to shriek during hockey telecasts, was reserved and measured, particularly at the end of Saturday's St. Joseph's-Boston College thriller, at which he set the scene and added the appropriate drama without going overboard.

Alas, neither will return for the next round. The network has handed the West Regional to Sean McDonough and Bill Raftery and the Midwest to Tim Ryan and Al McGuire, who were disappointing in Memphis. Sunday's East Regional will be handled by Gus Johnson and Quinn Buckner, with the lead team of Jim Nantz and Billy Packer working the Southeast.

Pub Date: 3/18/97

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