Your name is Bernie Smilovitz, 33-year-old sports anchor for WTTG-TV-5, host of "Sports Extra" and "Redskins Playbook," color analyst on the Big East's basketball network and sportscaster for WASH Radio. You were born and raised in the Washington area, and now you're a wealthy, healthy hometown success.
But one day, there's a knock at your door. Monty Hall is standing there, smiling insidiously, and the lovely Carol Merrill is behind him, pointing lovingly to three doors.
"Let's make a deal, Bernie." Behind Door No. 1: A chance to move to Chicago, the nation's third-largest television market, and work as sports anchor for NBC-owned WMAQ-TV with a salary offer unmatched by anyone else. Behind Door No. 2: A chance to play it safe and remain in Washington, near family and friends, at a substantial pay increase. Behind Door No. 3: A chance to work in Detroit.
"I'll take Door No. 3," you shout.
"As a going-away present," said WDVM-TV-9 sportscaster Glenn Brenner, "I got Bernie and his wife handguns."
"When they first called, I said to my wife, 'No way. No way am I going there,' " Smilovitz said. "But I went there."
Smilovitz, WTTG's weeknight sports anchor since November 1979, will work his last broadcast here Tuesday before moving to WDIV-TV in Detroit, a Post-Newsweek station with which he signed a three-year contract. At WDIV (an NBC affiliate), Smilovitz will be the sports anchor during the 5 p.m. and 11 p.m. newscasts and host 50 "Tigers '86" pregame shows with George Kell and Al Kaline.
By leaving Washington, Smilovitz is taking a calculated gamble. He probably could have stayed here for the next 25 years and earned a comfortable paycheck, instead he's chosen a journey that could produce failure just as easily as success.
"It's such a double-edged thing. I think it was a gutsy move," Smilovitz said. "It's the scariest thing I've ever had to do in my life. I'm leaving the womb of Washington. It absolutely breaks my heart to have to leave this city . . . .
"It was very agonizing. I wish I had a dollar for every legal sheet I tore up with pros and cons . . . . The No. 1 reason I'm going is the opportunity is so damn good -- the chance to go into a major market as sports anchor, and the chance to do baseball.
"It's a great sports town. From a pure sports angle, it's a terrific move."
Indeed, Detroit might be America's premier sports town, and the city does get a bum rap from folks who never have been there. But Smilovitz's move might strike some as odd. After all, he's leaving a place that boasts the most important bank in the most important city in the world and going to a place that boasts giving birth to Chevettes.
Still, Smilovitz felt the need to push his career toward bigger and better things. In terms of markets, Detroit is only slightly larger than Washington. But at WTTG, there was only one nightly newscast -- competing against the networks' prime-time programming -- and the three network affiliates here do at least twice as much nightly news as Channel 5.
"If you want to run with the big dogs, you've got to go potty in the tall grass," said Brenner by way of explaining Smilovitz's need to go elsewhere. "Nothing against Channel 5, but the other three stations in town have a more serious news commitment. It's tough for Bernie to cut the umbilical cord, sure . . . but it's not the end of the world. We're not sending him to East Berlin."
When Smilovitz started at WTTG, he was 27, remarkably young for someone breaking into a large market. He was, at times, awful. "You get the revolver out and start shooting the screen," Smilovitz said, talking about watching early tapes of himself. "That was my first television job. I could be very bad."
But now, he's good enough that Chicago and Detroit could come calling at the same time. Perhaps under a different set of circumstances, he might not have answered the call.
"I'm where I want to be. He's not where he wants to be with his career," said Brenner, who discussed the move with Smilovitz for several hours before he made a decision. "He thinks Detroit will help him get to where he wants to be -- in a competitive Monday-to-Friday job making big money."
"If something was open at one of the other stations here, then maybe I'd say, 'Do I have to go do this?' " Smilovitz said. "Chances are real good that I would like to do baseball in Washington. It's my dream to do baseball in Washington . . . . In three years, if we had a baseball team here and the right offer came along, well, I'd make my decision then."
In other words, the next time someone comes knocking at Bernie Smilovitz's door, don't be surprised if he cuts himself even a bigger deal to come back home.