The road takes a lot of twists and turns over 20 NFL seasons, but none of them has pointed Pat Summerall and his legendary announcing cadence to Baltimore during that time.
That is, until Sunday, when Summerall and John Madden, the NFL's top television tandem, make their way to Charm City for the first time since they were paired together during the 1981 season, to do the Ravens-Dallas Cowboys game (Channel 45, 4:15 p.m.).
"We've never done a game in Cleveland. After Sunday, that's the only one left," said Summerall, forgetting that the pair hadn't been to Tennessee either. "If you're around for a while, you can go from city to city, and if you're lucky, you'll end up going everywhere."
A number of factors have conspired over the years to keep Summerall and Madden out of Baltimore, chief among them the absence of football here for 12 years after the Colts pulled up stakes in 1984. Also, in their association with first CBS, then Fox, the pair has done NFC games, only traveling AFC cities when an NFC team is visiting.
Of course, the other big reason is that, as NASCAR racer Darrell Waltrip said earlier this week, when Summerall and Madden do a game, it's a big one, and neither the Colts before their departure, nor the Ravens since their 1996 arrival have been in anything resembling a big interconference game.
One could argue that Sunday's game, pitting a 4-6 Cowboys team against a Ravens squad that still has its doubters across the country, isn't a clash of the titans, Tennessee or otherwise. Nonetheless, 83 percent of the country will see Sunday's contest.
Once upon a time, Baltimore played a pretty significant part in the life of Summerall, who was a kicker for the New York Giants. The Colts defeated the Giants in 1958 and 1959 for the NFL title, with the first game going into the annals as one of the greatest ever played, a 23-17 overtime thriller.
Later, when Summerall began his broadcasting career, he used to do a number of games from Memorial Stadium.
"Colts fans were, shall we say, the most enthusiastic you could find," Summerall said the other day from his home in Dallas. "In the heyday of the Colts, those fans were so loyal and dedicated. If you didn't like the Colts, you might as well not have existed."
Next season will be Summerall's 50th in the NFL, counting his playing and broadcasting career, and it goes without saying that he's looking forward to the milestone.
That statement might not have been true a year ago, when he was suffering from the lingering effects of a knee ailment left over from his playing days. Summerall said the pain and immobility made calling games a chore for the first time, and some critics openly questioned if he had lost a step.
After last season, Summerall, 70, said he had the knee, which had been operated on 10 times, removed. In its place went a 12-pound titanium replacement that has brought the joy back to football for Summerall.
"I feel like I did 20 years ago," said Summerall. "It seems like I'm looking forward to meeting with coaches and players and doing the games more. It's more fun than it has been for a long, long time."
Welcome, Pat and John. Don't stay away so long next time, huh?
Out of bounds
For all we know, Westwood One Radio's Steve Goldstein may be a nice man who loves his family, is good to his pets and is revered by all who know him.
But Sunday night, Goldstein, co-anchor of the network's NFL wrap-up show, crossed a line of taste that should at the least get him reprimanded and possibly should get him fired.
In recounting the Ravens' win over Tennessee, Goldstein quipped: "Ray Lewis and the Ravens' defense were having such a good time that they thought they were at a Super Bowl party," a clear reference to Lewis' arrest in January on double-murder charges.
And to prove that he was an equal-opportunity offender, Goldstein got in a shot at the Cowboys, making a reference to the infamous White House, where some members of the team have previously engaged in a few shenanigans.
Those were cheap, gratuitous lines that ought to get Goldstein in trouble. Instead, he'll probably get rewarded for being witty. What a shame.
Defending their flank
It hasn't taken long for the whisper campaign to begin about the potential havoc that Fox could wreak when it begins carrying NASCAR races next winter.
Network officials, who announced the hiring of veteran race announcer Mike Joy this week, are already trying to put things in perspective, reminding all about the cries that were raised when Fox got into football, hockey and baseball.
"I'm quite happy to have the rumors out there, because you know what? That means they're going to watch us in droves," said Fox Sports chairman David Hill. "They'll watch racing in numbers like they've never watched before, because they think we're going to screw it up. You know what? We're not."
Joy will join Waltrip, the veteran racer, and crew chief Larry McReynolds in the booth, with announcements on pit reporters to come.
Meanwhile, ESPN, which has been at the NASCAR scene since 1980, will wrap up its coverage Sunday with the NAPA 500, its 262nd and final race, airing at 12:40 p.m.
Around the dial
The annual "Battle of Baltimore" college basketball tournament begins tomorrow on Channel 2, with Loyola and Morgan State going at it in the opener at 7 p.m. and Towson and UMBC in the nightcap, right after the first game. The winners meet in the title game at 7 p.m. Monday, also on Channel 2.
An unfortunate casualty of the station's hoops coverage is the Florida-Florida State football game, which will be pre-empted here, but can be seen on Washington's Channel 7 and on Comcast's CN8 channel.
And finally, just when you thought golf would go away for the year, a couple of made-for-TV events rear their ugly heads, with the Shark Shootout airing on CBS (Channel 13) tomorrow and Sunday, followed by the PGA Grand Slam of Golf Tuesday and at 8 p.m. Wednesday on TNT.