Road to D.C. is paved with Ch. 2's frustrated NBA 'friends'


If you're a fan of the National Basketball Association in Baltimore, you had no friend you could turn to yesterday.

At 3 p.m., when most of the rest of the civilized American sports viewing public was hunkering down to watch Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan, the two greatest basketball players on the planet, if not of all time, do battle for the world championship, folks in Baltimore were getting John Schneider and Marie Osmond.

Nothing against Johnny and Marie and the Children's Miracle Network Telethon, which was Channel 2's program of choice over the NBA Finals, but I did what any self-respecting hoopaholic would do: I went to Washington to watch the game.

You see, everyone has a passion in life, and, much to the chagrin of family and a few friends who just don't understand, NBA basketball is mine.

From training camp in October to All-Star Weekend in February and the stretch run through April, it is sheer pleasure to watch David Robinson, Kevin Johnson and, of course, Magic and Michael, go at it.

But the NBA playoffs are a completely different animal, contrary to what some on these pages would have you believe.

Simply put, they are the best six weeks in sports, with all the drama, thrills and action of a Robert B. Parker novel, with a sprinkling of comedy thrown in for good measure.

This is in marked contrast to, say, the just-completed hockey playoffs, which are NBA Lite: all of the length of the basketball season, with a third of the interest.

(Quick riddle: What do Miss Universe and the current Stanley Cup champion have in common? Outside of their hometowns, nobody will be able to name either this time next year.)

In other words, the NBA playoffs have all the makings of great television. So, why have our "friends" at Channel 2, the NBC affiliate, assumed, in that way that caring friends do, that the basketball that is fantastic for everyone else is bad for Baltimoreans?

Yesterday wasn't the first time that the old Chevy has headed down Interstate 95 in search of playoff basketball because Channel 2 had other telecast plans.

There was those Sundays in April, when the deciding game of the Detroit-Atlanta series and the fourth game of the Golden State-Los Angeles series were bumped for Orioles games.

Now, don't get me wrong, I enjoy Orioles games as much as the next guy, and I happen to like watching baseball on the tube.

But if I'm running my television station, I think I would find some open dates in September when the baseball pennant races take some additional significance and televise those games, rather than bumping playoff contests or delaying them, as Channel 2 did last Thursday night.

The Chevy was on the road then, too, so as not to miss the sixth, and ultimately deciding, game of the Lakers-Portland series, of which folks in Baltimore saw all of about the last minute.

As for yesterday's game, it is hard to fault Channel 2 for showing a 21-hour telethon, particularly for a cause as worthy as helping children receive medical care.

But, at my television station, perhaps we leave the telethon at 3 p.m., frequently running the phone number for contributions across the bottom of the screen during the game and doing live cut-ins at the beginning of each quarter and at halftime, so that everybody is happy.

Of course, for those of us who live in Baltimore City and County, the two largest subdivisions in the metro area, and have cable, this wouldn't have been a problem if the good folks at United Cable and Comcast offered their subscribers what systems in Anne Arundel, Howard and Prince George's offer to theirs.

Namely, those folks get the chance to see programs on both the Baltimore and Washington network affiliates, so that when one isn't carrying network programming, they can still catch it on the other station.

After all, isn't that what cable's all about: providing programming choices to viewers?

Let's hope that this time next year, our friends at Channel 2 will be friendlier. Otherwise, the road will again be my middle name.

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