As whistle blows timeout, he takes a shot at chores

May 08, 1999|By ROB KASPER

UNLIKE THE Seven Dwarfs -- Doc, Happy, Sneezy, Sleepy, Dopey, Grumpy, Bashful -- I do not believe in whistling while I work around the house. But I do believe in listening to radio broadcasts of sporting events as I putter.

Late Sunday afternoon, for instance, I attempted to simultaneously wash a car and listen to a broadcast of the San Antonio Spurs-Utah Jazz professional basketball game. It was tricky.

It was not as easy as washing a car while listening to a baseball game. I had performed that task earlier in the afternoon, washing the other of our two cars as I listened to the Orioles beat the Twins.

Washing a car while listening to baseball was easier because the Orioles' games are broadcast on a powerful local radio station, WBAL-AM (1090). The signal was so strong that even my cheap portable transistor radio picked it up. As I hosed down the car, I set this radio on a nearby brick wall and followed the game.

Listening to basketball while I washed was more work. The broadcast was coming from a Washington station, WTEM-AM (980), and my little transistor couldn't tune it in. (Some days a local station, WJFK-AM [1300], carries professional basketball games. But sometimes it doesn't. Last Sunday was one of the "doesn't" days.) I discovered, however, that my car radio, aided by its stronger antenna, could pull the game in.

This discovery was both good and bad. The good part was that I had a radio broadcast to keep me company. The bad part was I could only hear the game if I kept the the car windows down, or the doors open.

This meant I had to make a few adjustments in my car-washing routine. I washed the car a section at a time, in between timeouts of the basketball game.

Whenever there was a "break in the action," I put up the car windows, slammed the doors and started working. I would wash like a demon until I heard the muffled radio voice of Jack Ramsey, one of the announcers, pick up intensity. Then I knew the game had resumed and something important was happening. So I quickly hosed off one section of the car, then popped a door open to hear the latest game developments.

As I jumped in and out of the car I felt that if more people in the Baltimore area were like me, if they were hooked on radio broadcasts of pro basketball, washing the car would be easier. I figured that if there was a big audience out there for National Basketball Association games, some local radio station would see the chance to make a big profit, and would eagerly book the broadcasts on a regular basis. Then I could listen to the games on my transistor radio as I wash the car.

I don't think that change is likely to happen. In my circle there are about 12 guys who regularly spend part of their Monday mornings talking about the NBA games played on Sunday. Of that group of hoop heads, there are only two of us -- myself and my pal Nate -- who scan the radio, dial hunting for pro games. The rest watch the games on TV.

I suppose there are reasons that folks don't want to listen to broadcasts of professional basketball games. I can't think of any good ones. I suspect the lack of interest in radio broadcasts is linked to the larger question of the market appeal, or lack of it, for NBA games.

I have heard the usual arguments against being a fan of professional basketball -- that the players are thuggish and overpaid. The arguments didn't carry much weight with me. It seems to me that if you follow that logic, you wouldn't listen to or watch any professional sporting event. What kind of life would that be?

As for me, I love the argot used by the radio broadcasters. The game moves so fast and the announcers have to relay so much information -- who has the ball, the spot on the court, and what happens -- they develop a verbal shorthand to describe the action.

The radio call of play -- "Elie, in between the circles, feeds Duncan left of the lane, Duncan squares, shoots over Ostertag, rebound Jazz" -- can be lively language. It can also be almost incoherent to someone who isn't an avid basketball fan.

Basketball on the radio is an acquired taste. That is probably another reason it doesn't have a mass following -- and another reason I often can't find a broadcast on my transistor radio.

Now that the weather is turning mild and the NBA playoffs have begun, I have compiled a list of outdoor chores to complete.

Today, for instance, some playoff games are being played. That means I might end up washing the cars, in between timeouts, all afternoon.

Pub Date: 5/08/99

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