College basketball fanatics who live alone are invited to read on; those saddled with parents, children, spouses or roommates are advised to smuggle this column to someplace where they can read alone. Your life is about to change wonderfully, and the lives of your tunnel-visioned family and friends -- those unappreciative types who wouldn't know a power forward from a power mower -- are about to change for the worse.
If you haven't discovered it already, we are here to introduce you to WNVC-TV-56, Northern Virginia's independent public television station, the folks in Fairfax who dare to combine Shakespearean soliloquy with double dribbling.
Here is a station that begins its broadcast schedule every weekday with four hours of live coverage of Congress. Here is a station that broadcasts the Virginia legislature, the Montgomery County Council and Fairfax Board of Supervisors meetings. Here is a station whose nightly fare includes "Great Chefs of Chicago," "Spotlight on Sweden," "Arctic Window," "The Arabic Hour," "European Journal," "Japan Today" and "Italia News."
And here is a station that makes the boast that it aired more college basketball games in 1984-85 than any other commercial or public television station in the nation.
When a viewer can go from "More Magic Methods of Oil Painting" to Oregon State-Stanford basketball without switching channels, it's safe to say we have reached a broadcasting bliss of sorts -- producing the kind of feeling the makers of Reese's candy must have had when they discovered they could use peanut butter and chocolate together.
In the first 64 days of 1986, WNVC will have televised 76 college games, almost all live and unavailable elsewhere locally on free television. Its sister public television station, WNVT-TV-53, has a schedule of eight games involving predominantly black schools such as Virginia Union and Morehouse College, plus five taped Virginia Tech games.
Considering that area viewers can see several Big East and ACC telecasts each week, plus weekend offerings from CBS and NBC and (for cable subscribers) countless other games from ESPN and Home Team Sports, is there really a need for more college basketball on TV? Of course not.
But is there a desire on some folks' part for more college basketball on TV?
"We carry everything the other stations don't carry and don't want, and you can't believe the reaction we're still getting," said Mike Baker, the Channel 56 director of development. "Public TV stations are a great market for an amalgamation of games from across the nation. The way I see it, why do people have to pay for everything? These people deserve to have games for free, for crying out loud."
The games are free -- unless you succumb to guilt over your good fortune. At timeouts, you'll see Baker himself, working the living-room crowd for contributions. "College basketball is hard to underwrite," he said. "There's more money made on foreign programs with underwriting (from businesses). We have to go to the airwaves for funding on college basketball."
WNVC buys the rights to games from regional syndicators who handle the Metro, Big Ten, Pacific-10 and Southeastern conferences. The station's cost for this season's games will exceed the $110,000 it paid in 1984-85, according to Baker.
Channel 56 has developed two ideas to increase support. First, Baker wants to build a public-TV sports network, having stations nationwide share in the costs and fund-raising and increasing the pool of games available. And recently, WNVC sent ballots to thousands of Northern Virginia residents, asking them what teams they'd most like to see. (This concept, if ever adopted by network programmers, could revolutionize prime-time fare.) Because of the response, Baker said he would try to incorporate more Big Eight games in place of Pac-10 games.
For those of you who thought the UHF dial stopped at 26 or 45, Channel 56 offers a brave new world of bizarre broadcasting. Reception outside Northern Virginia varies -- from my downtown D.C. apartment, I have to put the TV inside the microwave oven and hold the antenna while pedaling on an exercise bike to get a decent picture -- but a few ghosts and vertical-hold problems are small prices to pay for an LSU-Vanderbilt game.
And coming in March, WNVC rewards us with unparalleled postseason treats. Forget the five to seven NCAA tournament games Channel 56 will give us. Circle the weekend of March 7-8, when WNVC will broadcast approximately 30 straight hours of action from the Big Eight, SEC, Metro and Western Athletic Conference tournaments.
It's such a landmark event that I may even go out and find a wife and children to share the joy with me.