Let's go to a secret hideaway somewhere near Frostbite Falls, Minn. A small man who sports a mustache and a black coat and black hat is talking to a tall, curvy woman with bright, red lips.
"Is all planned, Natasha. On Tuesday, we go to Baltimore and stage big sports coup. Fearless Leader will be so proud."
"Oh, Boris, dahling, Tuesday will be perfect. On daht day, Baltimore sportscasters be out of town. All in Chicago to cover big football story."
"Right. Daht when NF and L decide about team for city."
"Everyone be gone, Boris?"
"Channel 2 man Scott Garceau?"
"Channel 11 man Gerry Sandusky?"
"Channel 45 man Bruce Cunningham?"
"Channel 13 man John Buren?"
"Is not going."
"Boris, we not stage coup with Channel 13 man there. Is too dangerous."
"Why, Natasha? Will moose 'n' squirrel be dere?"
"No. He protected by Elvis impersonators around studio. We never get past sideburns."
So stay calm, Baltimore. All we have to worry about on Tuesday is whether we get an NFL team. It hardly would seem fair to have to fend off a diabolical scheme by cartoon Russian spies at the same time.
In any case, the local broadcast media will be standing by at the NFL meetings in Chicago to bring us word on expansion. The four television stations with news operations and two news/talk radio stations plan to break in as soon as the lords of the NFL hand down their decision.
"We're going to treat it like a blizzard: Whenever it happens, we go on the air," said Buren, who will be on the set here while news anchor Denise Koch and reporter Alex Demetrick report from Chicago.
Channels 2 and 11 also are double-teaming the meetings. Garceau will be accompanied by Jamie Costello, and Sandusky will be joined by Frank Graff.
WBAL Radio (1090 AM) is sending sports talker Jeff Rimer and reporter John Patti, and Stan "The Fan" Charles and Art Sinclair of WCBM (680 AM) also will be on hand. Rimer will broadcast his talk show from Chicago Monday and Tuesday nights, and Charles will do his from there Monday.
Everyone plans reports on Monday and Tuesday (or beyond, should NFL owners need more time to decide) during newscasts, and channels 2 and 11 also will have pre-meetings programs devoted to the NFL chase. In addition, 11 and 13 have scheduled specials on Tuesday night, by which time the decision presumably will have come down.
Garceau said his station is staying away from a Tuesday night special because "if we don't get a team, nobody wants to listen to an hour of excuses and alibis."
And it's just that kind of negative attitude that's going to cost us, Scott.
Channel 11 news director David Roberts, whose station is carrying three specials, including one tonight (so you can get excited over the weekend), said: "If we don't get one, then the story becomes the crime of why Baltimore didn't get the ball."
That's the spirit, Dave.
ESPN and CNN also will cover the Chicago meetings. CNN, represented by reporter Mark Morgan, plans to break in live with the NFL announcement.
ESPN apparently will wait until "SportsCenter" for a report. Andrea Kremer will tell viewers about the decision, and Fred Edelstein also will be in Chicago to tell everybody how he knew all along that these two cities would get picked.
News to him
On Channel 11's late newscast Wednesday, Sandusky seemingly reported as a breaking story that the NFL's plan for Tuesday's meetings is to have owners vote on expansion cities as a pair. That story came out of last week's owners meetings near Dallas and was reported in a news paper near you.
Meanwhile, there's this World Series going on. Call it "The Late Show with Sean McDonough and Tim McCarver."
You don't think that CBS is going to be glad to say goodbye to baseball? Through the first four games, ratings were down 12 percent from last year, at 16.7. (In Baltimore, the first four games averaged 17.6.) The rain-delayed Tuesday game was the second-lowest-rated night game in Series history at 15.2. In 1989, an earthquake-delayed game between the Giants and Athletics received a 14.7 rating.
(A rating measures the percentage of television households watching a program. But there's no measuring the depth of my affection for each and every one of you. And I mean that.)
The games are running so long that they're barely over in time for viewers to catch "Speed Racer" on MTV at 1 a.m. (Please note the cartoon theme of today's column.)
The shame of it is that CBS is doing a fine job. McDonough and McCarver apparently have gone off in the woods and beaten drums together, because they've bonded quite well as a team. Play-by-play man McDonough is talking more, and analyst McCarver is talking less. McDonough even has gotten comfortable enough to throw in a little Paul Harvey impression during Game 3.
And if the umpires would hear the announcers' comments that go with the overhead home plate shots, they'd realize that they aren't being second-guessed.
What's the score?
New weekend guy Paul Davis added some intrigue to his sports reports on Channel 11 last weekend. Would we get a final score or not?
On Saturday night, after the World Series, Davis still was reporting partial scores from afternoon college football. On Sunday night after the World Series, he showed tape of a Towson State women's soccer game, also played in the afternoon, and said: "It was 1-1 when we left, but let's hope they won." (It turns out they did. Whew.)
"It's a problem in the system," Channel 11 news director Roberts said. "He's still learning the system."
"I'm still trying to feel comfortable," said Davis, who just arrived at Channel 11 this month.
And not to nit-pick, but also on that late Sunday sportscast, Davis gave the wrong inning for the Phillies' five-run rally, didn't identify Natrone Means as the Charger scoring a touchdown on a highlight and wasted time on a busy sports day with a piece of tape on Dennis Rodman's blond hairdo (modeled after Wesley Snipes in "Demolition Man"?).
Oh, and before Davis' use of the exclamation "Yikes" that night, it probably hadn't been heard on television since the Beav told Wally he'd done something to make Dad really sore.
Vince Bagli, come back. All is forgiven.
How the NFL's decision on expansion will be covered by television and radio. Reports from Chicago begin Monday on newscasts (listings based on a Tuesday announcement):
Channel 2: Scott Garceau and Jamie Costello in Chicago. One special: "Bombers or Bust: The Final Decision," Monday, 8 p.m. Plans to break into programming when decision is made. Expanded newscast at 11 p.m. likely if Baltimore gets team.
Channel 11: Gerry Sandusky and Frank Graff in Chicago. Three specials: All called "Decision Day," tonight, 7:30; Tuesday, 11:30 p.m.; Wednesday, 7 p.m. Plans to break into programming.
Channel 13: Denise Koch and Alex Demetrick in Chicago. Plans to break into programming. One special: Tuesday, 8 p.m.
Channel 45: Bruce Cunningham in Chicago. Plans to break into programming.
CNN: Mark Morgan in Chicago. Plans to break into programming.
ESPN: Andrea Kremer and Fred Edelstein in Chicago. Probably will report during 7 p.m. "SportsCenter."
WBAL (1090 AM): Jeff Rimer and John Patti in Chicago. Plans to break into programming. "Sports Line" will emanate from Chicago on Monday and Tuesday.
WCBM (680 AM): Stan "The Fan" Charles and Art Sinclair in Chicago. Plans to break into programming. "Sports Exchange" will emanate from Chicago on Monday.