It was early September, just before James Brown was to begin his first year of doing play-by-play on NFL games for CBS Sports. At a cocktail reception in New York for the sponsors, each of CBS' broadcast teams was being introduced and asked to say a few words. It was almost time for Brown and partner Dan Jiggetts to address the group.

"I was thinking, 'What the heck am I going to talk about?' " Brown recalled recently. "They had Jack Buck and Will McDonough go up just before us, and McDonough's giving a wonderful speech, talking about how CBS is giving two old men the opportunity to do games and what a great experiment it is for CBS to have these {non ex-athletes} in the booth together doing games.

"Then it's time for me and Dan. Now, the audience sees us -- these two huge Negroes -- walking up to the front. And so, when we get up to the microphone, I put my arm around Dan and, in my best Bill Cosby, I say, 'Can you believe they actually had the nerve to say they're CBS' great experiment? {Pause for laughter.} We want to thank CBS for this opportunity to put two Jewish announcers together." {Pause for more laughter}.

The Brown-Jiggetts combo, indeed, holds a unique distinction -- the first all-black, all-Harvard network sports broadcasting team (Jiggetts was a freshman at Harvard when Brown was a senior). For Jiggetts, 33, this is his third year of being an NFL analyst for CBS. For Brown, 36, the situation is more unusual -- not only is he making a switch from analyst to play-by-play announcer, but he is also switching from his longtime basketball chores to football.

They're near the bottom of CBS' totem pole, so Brown and Jiggetts see a lot of losing teams and get limited exposure. That's no matter to Brown.

"Sure, I'm seeing some good football and some horrible football," said Brown, a DeMatha High graduate who still lives in the District as he continues to work locally for WUSA-TV-9. "But I remember when I got cut by the {NBA's} Atlanta Hawks in 1973 there was no way in the world I should have been released by them. I had more talent than a lot of guys there. But it was the culmination of not working as hard as I could for several years. And I decided I never would get that complacent again. I'm going to work as hard as possible to prepare for every game."

He's had that opportunity this autumn, and he recently shared some highlights of his first-year journey through the NFL: Week 1, Atlanta at Tampa Bay: "I was so excited, but I wasn't nervous. Everybody wanted to see if James Brown could make the transition from basketball to football; to that end, I read every newspaper clipping imaginable. I knew about the players' grandmothers, their childhoods, everything. My big concern became information overload . . . Surprisingly, the telecast went along well. When I listened to the tape {the next Tuesday}, I saw how there was so much room on a football telecast and realized I could've let the game breathe more." Week 4, St. Louis at Washington: (For the first replacement game, Brown was assigned to cover activities around RFK Stadium.) "They asked us not to wear anything to denote we're from CBS to avoid any trouble outside. Well, I put on what I thought was a stylish sports jacket. But to this day, I take grief for it -- folks around CBS say, 'What did you do, rip the cover off of an old couch?' I'm glad I'm back to the blue CBS blazer." Week 5, Detroit at Green Bay (replacement game): "Now, I've got 90 new names to remember. What a process. It was like Week 1 again . . . I go back to the locker room to talk to these players, none of whom I will know. But I walk into the locker room and 10 or 15 guys walk up to me and ask for my autograph. My NBA work is paying off again. I'm freaking out. But it was embarrassing; as black as I am, I'm turning red. I go, 'Hey, fellas, I really appreciate this, but let's talk football.' " Week 6, Minnesota at Tampa Bay (replacement game): "By this time, I was feeling very comfortable . . . Each time we had done a Tampa Bay game, they had won, so afterward, Tampa Bay owner Hugh Culverhouse says: 'You guys bring us good luck. I'm going to call {CBS Sports President} Neal Pilson and ask to have you every week.' " Week 7, Atlanta at Houston: "Houston was so starved for attention . . . I'll never forget an Oilers tight end, Jamie {Williams}, this big, strapping fellow -- 6-4, 250, and he's a comic book nut. And he says that the thing he thinks about out on the field is that he's Spider-Man and he wants to take their heads off." Week 8, Tampa Bay at Green Bay: "By this time, we're calling ourselves The Tampa Bay Network. When you are around the same team that much, you get more conversational with the coaches and they feel comfortable talking to you." The Buccaneers win again, running their record to 3-0 when Brown and Jiggetts do their games. Week 10, Tampa Bay at Minnesota: "At this point, both coaching staffs we knew well. Everyone's more open with us. And guys are calling me J.B. instead of James . . . {Vikings Coach} Jerry Burns is great; it just so happens that about every other word that comes out of his mouth is a curse word. This time, one of the guys kept a little chart of how many {curse words} he used in his talk with the media. Jerry outdid himself by about 30." The Vikings win, stopping the Brown-Jiggets Tampa Bay streak. Week 11, Green Bay at Kansas City: (This was Brown's first honest-to-goodness late-season dog game -- two teams going nowhere as the final weeks are winding down.) "That thought crossed my mind for about 30 seconds. Yes, the game was going to only 2 percent of the country and I'm doing weak teams. But I felt proud that I didn't let it affect my preparation." Week 12, St. Louis at Atlanta: (This time, Brown and Jiggetts dropped from being beamed to 2 percent of the nation to 1 percent.) "But we had a good game. And even if the game doesn't mean as much, I find you just rely on good old sports journalism -- probing and pricking between the lines for good stories."

Brown and Jiggetts are off this weekend. It appears they have passed their initial tests together. "{Raiders lineman} Howie Long teased me, 'Just remember, when you're calling the game, it's a touchdown, not a slam dunk.' " Brown has remembered.