Glenn Harris never flat-out says hello. More likely, he'll say "How you doing, big guy?" Or it'll be "What's happening, champ?" Or "Yeah" to phoners he dislikes, and "Top of the morning" to friends he wants to kid.
But basketball players who walk by and innocently offer a "Hi, Glenn," invariably get this:
"hold it, fans, it's (fill in the blank) dribbling up the right side. He fakes left! He goes right! He goes baseline and lays it up! It's GOOOOOD! It's in the bottom of the net, man! Whatta play! Whatta move!"
Liza Minelli insisted that life is a cabaret, but what did she know? To Glenn Harris, life is a play-by-play.
Although he never seriously played basketball, Harris has established himself as Mr. Public Address Announcer for college and high school games in the Washington area. For P.A. with pizzazz, this is the man.
It is 11 years since Harris quit pretending that the was cut out to be a guard at lorton reformatory. He insisted on playing basketball with the inmates before and after his shifts. "The brass didn't go for that all, man," Harris recalls.
Since then, Harris has held full-time jobs as a truck driver, a bricklayer, a maintenance man and (presently) and intramurals coordinator for Howard University. But his part-time job is always the same: introducing starting lineups, announcing cars whose lights were left on the firing up crowds with his breathless style.
Harris has done P.A. for Howard, George Washington University, tournament promoters and dozens of high schools. In the process, this beefy 31-year-old with the even beefier sense of humor has become almost as much a fixture at local games as the foul line.
Have a local basketball trivia question? Harris is unsurpassed. Have a player you want to meet? Stand outside a locker room sometime with Harris and the assembled throngs of reporters. Athletes will spot him and come over before they will greet any of the hairspray types from the Six O'Clock News.
Referees joke with Harris as they run past his courtisde seat during games. Ushers know him by name. And so many friends, acquaintances and hangers-on come by to say hello during a game that it is sometimes difficult for his neighbors to concentrate.
But Glenn Harris is a worker. He will go to more than 200 games this season, and at every one, he will be carrying a casette tape recorder-the better to practice his delivery in an idle moment.
In his briefcase, he never fails to have the latest copy of some pulp basketball magazine-the better to study statistics. And every year, it has paid off: he has been The Voice of Someone, either on the P.A. system at the gym or on the radio.
It was shaping up as a good 1978-79 season for Harris, probably his best year yet. He had gotten a job as a weekend sports announcer for Mutual Black Network-his first big radio break. In addition, he was nearly certain that he would be rehired for a second season as the P.A. man at GW home games.
But no. Two weeks into his network radio career, Harris was fired. "We felt he didn't have the proper polish and experience for a network, " said Tom Gatewood, MBN program director. "With local, you can just waltz your way through. Here, you've got to get the timing together. He couldn't."
And no at GW. "Wejust decided to try somebody else," said athletic director Bob Faris. "It was just the opinion of some people here that we needed a change."
Glenn Harris did get a job as color radio man for Howard basketball. But in terms of stature, that is hardly write-home-to-mother material.
So these December days, as the new season enthusiasm begins to gather, Glenn harris's puzzlement does, too. "I don't know, man," he says. "It's Twilight Zone, man. I just wish I knew the reason, man."
It couldn't be a lack of zip. As Harris puts it, "I ain't never Graveyard Joe, man." What that means is that he never uses one dull word if three flashy ones will do.
Shots don't just miss-they "carom off the iron." Passes are not fancy-they are "Philadelphia slick." Loafing players are "half-steppers." And basketball is never basketball. It's usually just "ball." With Harris there's no ambiguity.
Noris there a shortage of guffaws.
One recent night, he was walking to his press table seat at Capital Centre when the national anthem caught him in mid-grandstand. Harris threw both arms out to his sides, stopping pedestrian traffic like a rush-hour cop at 14th and F. "Partriotism, brothers!" he intoned. Three rows started giggling.
Ask Harris about his past, and he will tell you he "went to Anacostia High when there was still grass out in front of it." His name? "My mother dug Glenn Ford, man." His Source of creativity? "I can go from my high society bag to my alley bag. Quick. I know 'em both."
And his secret? "People think I'm a wild and raunchy guy, man, but all it is is that I just say what they want to say. It ain't no middle of the road with glenn, boy. You like him or you don't like him. Been that way ever since I was hippieing around, living on bananas."
That is not an immediate prospect again, thanks to his full-time intramurals joh. But Glenn Harris with out a mike in his mitt is far from a happy man.
"I can't believe I'm too much of a funkball to not make it in this business," he says. "I know I can do it." But unless something breaks or changes, this will be the first basketball season in more than a decade when no one else will know it. CAPTION: Picture, Sports announcer Glenn Harris, By Richard Darcey-The Washington Post