In cable-starved Washington, D.C., the college basketball junkie is seldom satisfied. Weekend overdoses are common, but getting a hoops fix on a weeknight can be an arduous task.
You might try a nearby bar that carries cable or find a friend who has it. You might climb a telephone pole and try to intercept a signal illegally. You might even pawn the wedding ring and purchase a satellite dish for the front yard, solving your viewing and lawn needs at once.
Or you could simply redirect your antenna toward Fairfax's WNVC-TV-56.
Channel 56 -- the nation's only independent public television station -- is an eclectic programmer, evidenced by its far-reaching schedule of nearly 100 college basketball games this season.
"We know people love it," said Mike Baker, Channel 56's director of development, "and it carries over dramatically into other programming for us. My guess is that the games are one of the most highly viewed things on the station."
In the first 68 days of 1985, WNVC will have televised 57 regular-season games, mostly from the Big Ten, Pacific-10, Southeastern and Metro conferences. WNVC will televise the SEC and Metro tournaments, plus part of the Western Athletic Conference tournament and the Atlantic 10 championship.
Last year, Channel 56 televised four NIT and five NCAA tournament games; Baker expects at least that many broadcasts this year. Virtually all of these games are live and unavailable for viewing elsewhere on local free TV.
Where else can you watch UCLA basketball nine times in January and February alone? (Then again, if you actually want to watch UCLA nine times, perhaps even WNVC cannot satisfy all your perverse needs.)
Now in its second year of basketball programming -- it debuted a college football package last fall -- WNVC buys the rights to the games from three syndicators: Katz, Lorimar Sports and TCS-Metro. The station's cost for this season's games is about $110,000, according to Baker. And therein lies his biggest problem.
As an independent though noncommercial station, Channel 56 receives no funding from PBS. It is dependent primarily on pledges and business sponsors. "But businesses don't want to underwrite sports on public TV because they don't get to run their commercial spots," Baker said.
Thus, there was Baker, in his best cash-poor pose, asking viewers during every timeout of Wednesday night's Illinois- Purdue game to pledge money. And there were folks out there -- the ones who can name both reserve power forwards on Brigham Young's team -- calling in nickels and dimes.
"I can't believe some of the places we get calls from," Baker said.
Channel 56's signal is strongest in Northern Virginia, but Baker said he is regularly contacted by viewers in the District, Maryland and West Virginia.
Aside from its regular political and entertainment programming, Channel 56 televises other hard-to-find sporting events, including college baseball and wrestling and Virginia state high school football and basketball playoffs. Last year, the station even carried United States-China volleyball and Fairfax County age-group football.
It's almost as good as having cable, and you don't have to tear up any streets.
On its Thursday night boxing series, ESPN has revived a controversial tactic: reporting the judges' scoring during the bout. Most boxing folk welcome "open scoring," as it is called, about as much as Don King likes tax audits.
The Nevada and Indiana boxing commissions allowed ESPN to experiment with open scoring in fights last month. The New Jersey commission refused.
In the Jan. 10 middleweight bout between Charles (Machine Gun) Campbell and Del Williams, ESPN reported the judges' scoring halfway through the fight. In the Jan. 17 lightweight bout between Chris Calvin and Efrain Nieves, ESPN reported the scoring several times, including just before the final round.
Boxing, seemingly, remains the only sport in which competitors do not know the score of the match until it's over. "That's because boxing started out at a very primitive level and stayed that way," said Ferdie Pacheco, NBC's boxing consultant and commentator.
"We use (the scoring) when we think it's helpful to the viewer. Normally, we'll use it at the halfway point and before the final round, unless there was a round that was very difficult to score," said ESPN's executive producer, Bill Fitts, who was with NBC in 1977 when that network made the most recent attempt at open scoring. "We plan to continue it for a while. Boxing commissions eventually will either tell us to stop or they'll start providing corners with the information."
The fact that corners can find out the actual scoring from broadcasts and adjust their fighters' strategy accordingly is only one of many complaints from boxing people.
Pacheco's words were typical of the boxing establishment.
"Open scoring doesn't work. It's against the benefit of the sport of boxing," he said. "It gives a different flavor to a fight. It deprives the audience of a great deal of boxing tension.
"It almost guarantees the scoring gets to the corner of the fighters, and that'll rob a lot of fights of great finishes. If (Thomas) Hearns knew he was ahead by three rounds in the Sugar Ray Leonard fight, he would've gotten defensive and Ray never would've knocked him out."
ABC Sports has signed to continue coverage of the U.S. Open, British Open and PGA Championship golf tournaments through the end of the decade.