Johnny on the spot

"I don't want to be a homer," Holliday says. "I don't think anyone has ever questioned any game that I've done, that I've been unduly unfair to Maryland or the other team. I call it the way I see it. If the other team has a kid that's got 45 points, he's doing something right. You gotta give him credit. If you don't do that, I think you lose any kind of credibility with the audience."

"Aw, I think everyone knows he's biased, just by the enthusiasm in his voice," says Friedgen with a chuckle.

Gerry Sandusky, sports director at WBAL-TV and Holliday's partner on Maryland football broadcasts for four years until 1996, says Holliday has increasingly learned to rely on his color analyst for any pointed criticism of the Terps.

Sandusky recalled a game the two were working during the dreary tenure of head coach Mark Duffner, when Maryland was getting its brains beaten out every weekend and a controversy arose about the lack of production from the Terps' offense.

"Johnny said: `I can't rip this guy for not replacing his offensive coordinator,'" Sandusky recalls. "I said: `Yeah, but I can."

One thing that's endured over all these years is the irreverence Holliday can bring to a broadcast, the sense that, OK, maybe this is a big game - Maryland vs. Duke in basketball, say, or the Terps against Florida State in football. But it's not the invasion of Iraq.

"One thing that's very evident to anyone who listens to him is that he wants to have fun," says Knoche.

Sandusky and Holliday had an on-air routine going years ago where each man would accuse the other of bizarre fashion sense.

"John," Sandusky would say, "I'd never imagine a man your age could pull off a green Spandex thong. But you've done it."

"Yeah," Holliday would reply, "but as good as I look, it's not nearly as snappy as you look in that blue velour tank top."

The great Howard Cosell tormented Holliday similarly when the two worked at ABC Radio years ago.

Holliday would be preparing his report when Cosell, in his trademark nasally, melodramatic voice, would demand, apropos of nothing: "Does Mary Clare know you're the father of Sally Quinn's child?"

"What's that, Howard?" Holliday would answer, engrossed in his work.

"YOU'RE THE FATHER OF SALLY QUINN'S CHILD!" Cosell would roar. "DOES YOUR WIFE KNOW YOU'VE BEEN MESSING AROUND WITH SALLY QUINN?"

"Um, I don't think she knows," Holliday would deadpan.

Without another word, Cosell would finish his work and leave the room.

But when he saw Holliday the next day, he'd start right in: "You and Sally Quinn, still a twosome?"

Often, Holliday is at his funniest - and best - as a sportscaster during lopsided games.

"Blowouts are much harder to do," says Brett Bessell, who has worked as Holliday's statistician for 19 years. " 'Cause you have to keep the crowd, and that's tough."

Such a blowout occurs on a recent night at Comcast Center, where Maryland is beating undermanned UMBC like a rented mule. A few minutes into the second half, the score is 63-32 Terps, and Holliday and Knoche are free-wheeling their way through the broadcast.

Holliday is still giving all the play-by-play basics - the score, who took the shot, who got the rebound, etc. But the rest of the time, he and Knoche are discussing, among other things, the '60s rock band Country Joe and the Fish, referee Duke Edsall's haircut, and whether a particular UMBC player, who blows kisses to the Maryland fans after hitting a jumper while his team is getting whacked, has completely lost touch with reality.

A thunderous dunk by Jamar Smith interrupts the stream-of-consciousness musing: Nice pass to Smith ... and he jams it home! That's what the fans are looking for!

But the fans are already heading to the exits. With five minutes left, Williams empties his bench and what follows is "garbage time," as the scrubs from both teams ugly it up.

Still, when the final buzzer sounds, Johnny Holliday is smiling.

Maybe it's a meaningless game against an outgunned team on a frozen winter night.

But it's Maryland basketball and he has the best seat in the house and they keep paying him, too.

After all these years, that's still not hard to take.

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