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Lack of vision

The NFL on radio leaves something to be desired

Posted: Monday October 4, 2004 1:36PM; Updated: Monday October 4, 2004 2:52PM
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On any given Sunday, you will find me on my couch, wearing a groove into the left side of the cushion. The NFL is here, and my favorite team, the Atlanta Falcons, are undefeated and, more importantly, winning games even when Michael Vick isn't breaking defender's ankles.

My Sunday schedule has become so regimented that Sgt. Carter would be proud.

11:10 a.m. -- Wake up.

11:30 a.m. -- Take my dog, Starbury, to the park. Buy New York Post and Daily News along the way. Read them at the park while dog cowers in my lap, afraid of the bigger dogs.

12:30 p.m. -- Starbucks, grande coffee frappucino. Get New York Times on the way home, because it's too heavy to lug all the way to the park and back.

12:45 p.m. -- Home. Find slice of bread that's not moldy and make toast to go with scrambled eggs.

1:00 p.m. -- Kickoff.

Here's where it gets tricky. Am I ready for some football? Yes! Is football ready for me? No!

I could care less about the Giants or the Jets, unless they're playing the Falcons. But alas, I'm not allowed to watch the Falcons play. And I know, it's all my fault. What am I thinking? How in the world can I support a team that's not in the city where I live? If I want to watch the Falcons and not live in Atlanta, I either need to get satellite TV or to go to a sports bar. But because I don't have a clear view of the southwestern sky, I can't have a satellite dish. (I'm sure that's not a big problem in New York City, the biggest market in the States. No tall buildings blocking views here or anything.) And because I generally spend a chunk of my Sundays writing this column, hanging out for four hours in a sports bar probably wouldn't be conducive to anything. I can get soccer games live from Manchester, England, on pay-per-view. But an NFL game in Charlotte, N.C., on pay-per-view? Out of the question!

This year, however, I made what is perhaps my greatest acquisition since I got a complete set of Nike Slingshot irons: a Sirius satellite radio. At $10 a month, it's cheaper than having a satellite dish installed. In the set-up instructions I got along with the radio, it was also noted that I needed a particular view. As it turns out, it didn't matter. I set up the little antennae facing vaguely south, and the signal came in fine.

The thing is, listening to Michael Vick play on the radio is similar to singing about math, or dancing about architecture. The single greatest thing about Vick is his ability to perform superhuman feats, to do the un-doable. I like the Falcons announcing crew -- Wes Durham, with former Falcons David Archer and Chuck Smith -- but they aren't exactly wordsmiths in the booth. Instead of describing things as they happen, Durham sticks to the particulars and gives out yards, downs, formations. Then after the play, the guys break it down. Besides, if Durham tried to describe literally every move Vick makes as it happens, he might swallow his tongue.

But they have plenty of exuberance. Yesterday, for instance, when Kevin Mathis returned a Jake Delhomme interception 35 yards for a TD, Smith forgot he wasn't on the field and started screaming, "Show your love, ATL, we here! Whooo!" Smith's candor works well for him and us fans, like when he noted of the Panthers' offensive coordinator, "Dan Henning is blowing this game." Even though I'm from the South, I somehow avoided obtaining a Southern accent, so I feel a little homesick whenever I hear Durham's slight Southern twang. And that alone might be worth the price of subscription.

I've found that following football on the radio is more difficult than I thought. My generation grew up in the cable era, so we never had to rely on radio as our sole connection to our team. I had no Jack Brickhouse, no Ernie Harwell.

With radio, there's no omnipresent scoreboard in the corner, no instant replays, no reverse angles. I remedy this as best I can by using my laptop and checking the various stats, but there is no replacement for live TV. And it takes some degree of concentration, too. My mind drifts, and the game becomes secondary to other stuff, like a few weeks ago when I found myself dreaming up a plan for a new CBS sitcom starring Mike Sherman, Al Harris and Mike McKenzie, to be called My Two Dreads.

When you're driving in a car, the radio is perfect companion, a droning tone to occupy the subconscious. Sitting on your couch, surrounded by distractions, with other NFL games on the tube, it's just OK. But it's the best I can do for now. Until DirecTV loosens -- or loses -- its NFL death-grip, I'm totally Sirius.

Quote Of The Week

"It's not easy to deal with senility." -- Verne Lundquist, during the Georgia/LSU game on Saturday, after he used the word "diagnosed" during a replay, only to pause and wonder aloud about the etymology of the word.

Game Of The Week

Striker of the Week is simple, but addictive. And check out the attention to detail. Ruud's mullet? It's there. Robbie Keane? About two feet tall. Great stuff.

Corporate Softball Team Of The Week

Want to take a second here to congratulate the Harris Publications softball team, on which I play third base. We finished our regular season undefeated and won our division, thanks in large part to the leadership from Harris CFO and shortstop Warren Sherman. And let me tell you, scoring the winning run against Fox News felt pretty great. Now they'll probably post some story about me like this.

Numerology Of The Week

I can't do long division or balance my checkbook, but I got every question right on this the first time I played it. I find it mildly disturbing that I knew both Jacque Vaughn's and Kyle Korver's numbers.

Political Event Of The Week

The state of Illinois needs your help. It's had Jordan, Payton, Ernie Banks ... but now the state needs a frog. Click here to check out Lt. Governor Pat Quinn's site and vote for the official state amphibian and reptile. That Eastern Tiger Salamander is gangsta.

Action Figures Of The Week

It's about time: Mormon action figures! Personally, I'm not buying until they introduce the Dale Murphy model.

That Web site got me curious, so I started surfing around and came across this. Who knew Superfly Snuka was Mormon? Or my man Bill Barty? This could yield an entire subset of these figures.

Supersize This Of The Week

Need another reason not to eat potato chips? How about the guy who found a deep-fried insect in with his crisps?

Yeah, I don't think it'll stop me either. If I really want to live dangerously, I'll have some onion rings from White Castle.

Adventure Vacation Of The Week

So they have too many baby seals in Norway, and the seals are depleting the fish and running the fishermen out of business. How do you curb the baby seal population? Give guns to the tourists and let 'em have at it! The annual quota to be killed is 2,000, and Norway's really underachieving, only killing about 600 each year.

The Week Ahead

WNBA Finals (Friday) -- Forget about the baseball playoffs -- they're all on steroids, anyway. Game 1 of the WNBA Finals is Friday night, with the Connecticut Casinos taking on either the Sonics or the Kings. Or something like that. They came to play, you know.

The Baseball Playoffs (starting Tuesday afternoon) -- Other than the Braves and Astros, what I'm really concerned about is which show Fox is going to over-promote this postseason. The O.C. already is doing pretty well, so I'm betting on North Shore or The Rebel Billionaire.

The Dirty Birds -- Brian Scott is causing more fumbles than Tiki Barber and Ahman Green combined. Over the next month, the Dirty Birds are home against Detroit and San Diego, and then play at Kansas City and Denver. And then they get ridiculous rookie CB DeAngelo Hall back from injury. Could they really start 8-0?

Lang Whitaker is the online editor at SLAM magazine and writes daily at SLAMonline.com.