Baltimore's winter is surely one for the dogs

February 17, 2003|By LAURA VECSEY

SOMEWHERE IN A SNOWDRIFT OFF NORTH CHARLES STREET - In her letter to Santa, my 4-year-old daughter asked for a sled. I told her Santa probably wouldn't bring one, because it doesn't snow that much in Baltimore.

That's what people told me last September when I moved here from rainy Seattle. Winters in Charm City are mild. A few errant flakes. Don't worry.

Ha!

This morning's column was supposed to come from College Park, but no one was getting to College Park, unless you were driving something off the John Deere lot.

This column was supposed to be about the Terps' showdown against Wake Forest. The game was postponed until today - if weather permits and if Gary Williams can dig out that festive Santa hat, which should lend the proper touch to a game that, if the Terps win, will again confuse things in the wondrously competitive ACC.

(Note to Tahj Holden and Ryan Randle: Take it to the hole, strong, just like you did in that win over Duke that opened up the Terps' offense. It seems like it's the Terps' offense that caused that two-game skid against Virginia and Georgia Tech and the near-clunker against Florida State. Too many transition buckets for the Cavaliers, Yellow Jackets and Seminoles rendered the Terps defense defenseless.)

But instead of ACC hoops, we bring you different kinds of scores today:

Frederick: 12-24. Inches.

Baltimore: 16-32. Inches.

BWI Airport: 0 (with wind chill) and fouled out (closed.)

It occurred to me during yesterday's nor'easter, as Channel 13/WJZ's nonstop storm coverage pre-empted Tiger Woods mauling Phil Mickelson and Torrey Pines, that Baltimore was indeed the perfect place ...

For the Iditarod.

That's right. A dog sled race.

In case you missed the news last week out of Maryland's sister state (Alaska), this year's ceremonial Iditarod start will take place in Anchorage as planned March 1.

However, due to - get this, Baltimoreans - a lack of snow and warm weather in Wasilla and Willow, the Iditarod's restart on March 3 will be moved 300 miles over the Alaska Range and beyond the muddy, flooded Tatina River to Fairbanks.

Is it as painful for you as it is for me that this gracious, southern state that is host to the first major city below the Mason-Dixon line has MORE snow right now than Alaska?

It would be if you were booked this morning on Southwest's 7:50 nonstop flight to Fort Lauderdale so that you could be in Orioles camp in time for the team's first full workout tomorrow morning, as I, your faithful sports correspondent, had been booked.

Instead, on the eve of the Orioles' first official full-squad workout, we're forced to get our "spring" training baseball fix from Orioles public relations man, Bill Stetka.

Yesterday, the veteran team spokesman was heard, via telephone, on WJZ talking about THE NICE WEATHER down there off the balmy Atlantic Coast. Video clips simultaneously showed O's manager Mike Hargrove wearing sunglasses and one of those Day-Glo orange practice jerseys - short sleeves.

Guess Grover forgot his down parka and Gore-Tex snow pants, like we've all been wearing. Raise your hand if yesterday you rummaged in the attic in storage boxes marked:

Here Rests Gear For Outdoor Use In Case It Ever Snows Again.

Is now a good time to remind you that the Orioles' training facility is the Grapefruit League stadium situated closest to the equator?

Forget the sunscreen, baby. Today's most important household items in Gov. Robert Ehrlich's state of emergency are:

1.The sparkplugs in your snow blower.

2. Gaiters.

(For all of us non-mountain climbers, gaiters are nylon garments that keep snow out of your boots and off your ankles, although Gary Williams could certainly try to wear one on his sweaty head if he thinks it will help against the Demon Deacons. )

Escaping brutal northeast winter weather is exactly why they invented spring training. It is the single-most reason why spring training is 900 weeks long. It's so we can all head south and laugh at our friends and relatives who are spending these February mornings digging the family sedan out of 19-foot snowdrifts.

Which brings us back to sporting events more suitable for Baltimore today than baseball:

The Iditarod.

Apparently, Iditarod race officials felt confident that this new course 300 miles on the other side of the Alaska Range will be sufficiently snow-covered and frozen. The National Weather Service is finally predicting some snow for Fairbanks, although Dundalk has Fairbanks beat by about 18 inches.

Which leads today's sporting suggestion:

Let's bring the world-famous dog sled race to Charm City.

Yesterday, as I eagerly awaited WJZ's broadcast of Tiger and Lefty duking it out in the storybook ending at the Buick Invitational that was never to be seen, the intrepid news anchors reported that Baltimore was already $400,000 in the red for snow removal this winter.

And that was before 36 inches were dropped onto the streets of the city.

Now is the time for Baltimore to save the Iditarod and, perhaps, reap some tourism and sponsorship dollars for being host to the world's greatest dog sled race.

The mushers could line up at the Inner Harbor, take a few turns around the Washington Monument and Druid Hill Park, then north up Charles Street toward my house. This new, snowbound Baltimorean could sure use a ride to Fort Lauderdale.

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