Perhaps the one positive that Washington Bullets players can take with them as the season nears a merciful end is that they haven't had a long association with the black cloud that hovers over the franchise: eight losing seasons, five of them with 50 or more losses.
But that's the players. What happens to poor Charlie Slowes, the team's radio voice? For nine years -- of which only the first two included ever-so-brief playoff visits -- Slowes has had a nightly front-row seat for bad basketball, which surprisingly hasn't dampened his enthusiasm for the game.
"Certainly, if the team wins, it's much better for everybody, including me, but it doesn't affect the way I prepare for a game. I do the exact same things I do when the team's winning as when they're losing," said Slowes.
Of course, it has been so long since the Bullets were winners that it might be hard for Slowes to remember the victory routine, but the 1983 Fordham graduate has handled everything -- the losing, the constant travel, the fast pace of NBA play-by-play -- in stride.
"Doing something else for me would have to be something similar, because I love doing play-by-play. I love doing the games. If I didn't do the Bullets, I'd be doing play-by-play somewhere else," said Slowes. "That's the only change I'd think about. Who'd want to work for a living? I don't want to get a real job. Don't ever feel sorry for me."
In the past two seasons, Slowes, who works alone on the radio, has had his play-by-play simulcasted on the team's road TV broadcasts, which include analyst David DuPree, the NBA beat writer for USA Today.
It's a distinct challenge to make the visual and aural audiences happy at the same time, but it seems to be working for Slowes.
"People seemed to have adjusted, and some people didn't even know. They thought I was doing a more descriptive play-by-play, because TV has gone so much the other way in the last 10 years, to where the play-by-play guy doesn't say anything," said Slowes. "Some people say, 'I like it because when you do the TV, I can still get up and go to the bathroom or go make a sandwich while the game's going on and not miss anything.' "
Considering the Bullets' play this season, those might be the best ways to watch the games.
O's HTS schedule unveiled
Home Team Sports yesterday announced its 77-game Orioles exhibition and regular-season schedule, which opens Thursday at 1 p.m. with an exhibition game against the Texas Rangers from Port Charlotte, Fla.
The Bethesda-based regional cable channel also will televise one of the Orioles' scheduled exhibition games from Camden Yards, the April 22 contest against the Colorado Rockies. HTS' first regular-season game will take place from Minnesota on April 30 at 2 p.m., as the Orioles meet the Twins.
Barring rainouts or other phenomena, HTS will carry the Sept. 6 game against the California Angels at which Cal Ripken is expected to break Lou Gehrig's record for consecutive games played.
Rip and Roy
In one of the first of what promises to be a myriad of interviews surrounding "The Streak," Ripken will sit down with Roy Firestone in tonight's "Up Close" special at 7:30 on ESPN.
Firestone, a former batboy for the Orioles when they trained in Miami, chats up our hometown shortstop on a variety of topics, including the just-concluded strike, Ripken's approach to the game and, of course, his view on that little matter of catching and surpassing Gehrig's mark.
"My biggest fear is, or I'm afraid, that 'it' [the streak] will become an obsession or it will become more important than what my normal focus is, and that I'll have to work harder to maintain my focus, to not let it interfere, to not let it distract, to push it away. Just push 'it' away," said Ripken.