Basketball is the best sport devised by man.
And that counts curling, too.
What a game. Just look at the Bullets. They have a 7-foot-7 Romanian with chickenpox. What other sport can give you that?
We won't see Gheorghe Muresan on the Bullets' opening telecast (7:30 tonight, Channel 20) -- maybe he'll be waiting for that Mayflower van to arrive with his supply of Aveeno bath. But we will see new Bullets Calbert Cheaney and Kevin Duckworth and a new Channel 20 announcing team -- play-by-play man Charlie Slowes and analyst David DuPree.
The call by Slowes, the eight-year radio voice of the Bullets, and DuPree, who covers the NBA for USA Today, will be simulcast on the team's radio network, which includes WXZL (103.1 FM) in Baltimore.
On Home Team Sports, Mel Proctor and Phil Chenier begin their 10th season together.
Proctor sounds guardedly optimistic about the Bullets.
"I think they're going to be a little better," said Proctor, in his 14th season as play-by-play announcer. "It's hard to say how much.
"They've had some good draft picks the past two years [Cheaney and Tom Gugliotta], and that's what you've got to do -- build with young players."
Proctor said fans should keep their eyes on guard Rex Chapman,who reported to camp in great shape.
"He's been kicking butt," Proctor said. "Hopefully, it's a breakthrough year for him."
If you listen to TNT analyst Hubie Brown, though, he'll tell you that, before any teams can break through, they must be wary of extended road trips early in the season.
"Coaches fear going out on a long road trip in November," Brown said in a news conference this week, "because the bad teams don't know they're bad yet."
(As opposed to later on, when -- as Michael Jackson might say -- they're bad, they're bad, they know it.)
Since Michael Jordan's retirement, much talk has centered on who will become the NBA's big draw. Brown recalled how Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Julius Erving proved their value on the road.
"They were able to carry things because their teams won," Brown said. "Let's see which teams draw when they go on the road. Let's see which superstars sell out the arena."
And the NBA can continue to prosper minus Jordan, said TNT announcer Bob Neal, whose network carries a doubleheader tonight (Bulls-Hornets at 8, followed by Suns-Lakers).
"One thing I've learned over the years," Neal said, "is that, even with the retirement of a Michael Jordan, the league goes on."
Good thing, too. Or else TNT would have to find two more movies to put on tonight at 8 and 10:30.
He's back, back, back
Thus spake Zarathustra: Chris Berman will be staying with ESPN through 2001.
Berman, ESPN's best-known announcer, has signed a new contract that will take him into the next century, the network announced this week.
"This is a decision based on love and loyalty that goes both ways," Berman said in a news release.
"It's hard to imagine ESPN without Chris Berman," ESPN president Steve Bornstein said.
"I love you. You love me. We're a happy family," Barney the purple and green dinosaur said.
Berman offered a list of sports stories he might be reporting when this contract runs out nine years from now, including one of local interest:
"The last of the old ballparks, venerable Oriole Park at Camden Yards, will finally be torn down to make room for a new stadium: The Ballpark in Baltimore."
Not his Bud
Call it an action. Call it a symbol. Call it a movement. Call it irresponsible, call it unreliable. . . . Just don't call it a boycott.
In response to the NFL's apparent most favored nation status for St. Louis' football bid over that of our fair city, sports radio talkatollah Stan "The Fan" Charles today will announce his idea to let the NFL and St. Louis know what Baltimore thinks of our treatment.
The idea: "No Bombers, No Bud."
L OK, so it's not "Hell, no, we won't go." But it's something.
Charles, in making the announcement at 3 p.m. at the Midtown Yacht Club, will suggest that Baltimoreans might want to look beyond Anheuser-Busch products when selecting their beer.
"There seems to be a lot of sentiment in town that the expansion derby wasn't played on a level field and the Anheuser-Busch Co. was a large part of the reason," said Charles, whose talk show airs on WCBM (680 AM). "We're not going to take this lying down.
"I just want to be careful not to use the word boycott."
All right, let's call it Fred.
"The culprit in this seems to be [Patriots owner] James Busch Orthwein, who almost turned this into a one-team expansion," Charles said. "People are ticked off at Anheuser-Busch, and we can show them by the power of our purchases that there are consequences to their action."
Hence, the Fred.
Charles said this Fred does not involve Baltimore's two potential ownership groups -- "They want nothing to do with this" -- and he is not anticipating that bar owners will stop ordering Anheuser-Busch products.
"[We will] just try to persuade people to drink something else," Charles said.
Proud to be your Fred.
Not Terp time
So you wanted to see tomorrow's Florida State-Maryland football game. (What's the matter, you couldn't find "Rescue 911" or one of those car-crunching, monster-truck shows on ESPN?) It's not on Baltimore TV, though.
Washington's Channel 7 is joining the telecast one hour late, at 1 p.m., but the Terps' one live appearance on a Baltimore station this season won't come until next week, on Channel 13, against N.C. State.
No one in town opted for the full Atlantic Coast Conference football package from Jefferson-Pilot Sports.
"We could not come to an agreement with any of the five stations," said Roger Roebuck, director of syndication for J-P Sports. "They each had their own reasons."
In recent seasons, channels 13 and 45 have had ACC football. This year, Channel 13 is fitting four ACC games around ABC's college football schedule. If someone had carried J-P's entire ACC package this year, the Terps would have been seen live in Baltimore four times.
D.C.'s Channel 7 is airing 10 of the 12 ACC games this season
NBC airs the Breeders' Cup tomorrow (1:30-6 p.m., channels 2, 4), but ratings for the horse racing event still don't approach those for the Triple Crown races. A look at this year's Triple Crown ratings and those for the Breeders' Cup in recent years:
Kentucky Derby .. .. .. .. .. 8.5
Preakness .. .. .. .. .. .. ..5.3
Belmont .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 4.8
Breeders' Cup '92 .. .. .. .. 3.0
Breeders' Cup '91 .. .. .. .. 3.0
Breeders' Cup '90 .. .. .. .. 2.7