Close your eyes and listen.
You are courtside at a college basketball game. Tip-off is 15 minutes away and the unique sounds of a filling gymnasium overtake you: a trumpeter in the pep band blurts a high-pitched test note; rap music blares on the public-address system; players in pregame warmups bounce a dozen or so balls, making the place sound like a big corn popper. Fraternity guys frolic, assistant coaches gossip, alumni complain.
"Whatcha got there? Some kind of game?" a referee asks, pointing to four small boards on the press table below Eddie Timanus's fingers.
"That's how he keeps the stats," radio announcer Chuck Timanus says proudly before his 22-year-old son, the statistical wizard, can respond.
"All the stats, right here," says Eddie, smiling, tapping the tiny blue pegs on the board that will tell him the starting lineups.
Eddie Timanus is blind. A cancer called Retinoblastoma took one eye before he was 2. He lost the other eye a year later. Handicapped? Hardly. With the precision of the most astute hoops follower, Eddie handles the numbers for American University's radio broadcast on WINX-1600 in Rockville.
"It's a way I can be useful to a broadcast," Eddie said before a recent game. "I can't pick up the matchups, but I certainly can crunch the numbers."
Headphones allow him to hear the call by his father, the play-by-play announcer, and color analyst Jim Lutz. Carefully listening to every sequence, Eddie meticulously compiles the stats and feeds the information to his partners on a spotter microphone, which doesn't go over the air. Davenport's third foul. Gilgeous has hit three of his last four shots. Any fact or figure that will help the broadcast. Sometimes he'll break in on the air to give his thoughts.
"Obviously, I need a very accurate play-by-play announcer," Eddie said. "But I'm never more than a play behind. If he's right, I'm right."
The lineups and individual shooting for both teams go on a 16x16 grid usually used as an aid for teaching Braille. Any special categories, such as blocked shots and steals, also are here. Two small abacuses handle the team shooting and turnovers. Another abacus is for the running score.
When the game begins, Eddie's fingers go to work. In one stretch of the first half, Towson State, American's opponent on this night, misses three consecutive shots but grabs the rebound each time. Finally, the Tigers score.
With so much action, Eddie must move fast. He finds each shooter and shifts the pegs to mark the shot attempts. He also has to adjust the team rebounding and the team shooting and, finally, the score. Meanwhile, he must maintain his concentration as play -- and his dad's description -- continues.
Eddie has never had a major problem with his system, except maybe for the time a "5" bead on the score abacus slipped out of place. No sweat. He quickly added the individual totals on the big board and corrected the mistake.
"He wouldn't attempt it and I wouldn't let him do it if I didn't think he could do a good job," said Chuck, who lost sight in his right eye from the same disease when he was young. "He can do anything he puts his mind to. Nothing he does surprises me."
And he's accurate. When the official halftime statistics, compiled by four observers at the scorer's table, were distributed, Eddie's figures were within one or two. And who's to say the official numbers are right? "Turnovers. They miss a lot turnovers," Eddie said.
American sophomore Chris Rooney, averaging about seven points per game, is having a good first half. He hits one jumper, then another. Eddie breaks in when his dad pauses to catch his breath: "He's taken six shots so far. It's good to see Chris shooting more. He can hit the shot."
Eddie doesn't hesitate to describe how he sees something: American's three-point loss to Maryland three weeks ago was the "best I've seen them play this season" or "I saw James Madison a few weeks ago and I don't think they play to their potential."
His spirit is indomitable, whether he's explaining his intricate calculating system or analyzing the upcoming NCAA tournament. Before one road game, Lutz yelled from the floor to the announcers booth at the top of the grandstands, asking if Eddie made the trip. From behind a table, Eddie stood up and responded, "Of course I'm here. I drove!"
Sometimes he wonders what life would be like with his sight restored, "but if you let that dominate your thinking process it will dominate your life. You can't live like that. You might as well live in a cave. There's just too much to enjoy."
When he was 6, Eddie began traveling to football and basketball games with his father, then the announcer for Northern State College in Aberdeen, S.D. By the time he was 11, he was helping with the statistics and soon he started working as a color analyst on KKAA-AM. "I usually corrected him," Eddie said with a laugh, turning to his father.
The family has lived in Reston since 1981, when Chuck Timanus was named press secretary for Rep. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.). Later he worked for Rep. Dan Glickman (D-Kan.) and in 1986 he took a job with the Commission on the Bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution, a 6 1/2-year project that ends in December.
Eddie graduated from South Lakes High School in 1986 and from Wake Forest last May with an economics degree and a music minor (He's not a bad piano player, his dad says.) He represented the school in the College Bowl and worked for a year in Wake Forest's sports information office.
Eddie's been searching for full-time work in sports information or marketing, but nothing has opened for him yet.
This is Chuck's third season working for AU, having also contributed to Media General Cable in Fairfax County and channels 53 and 56 in Northern Virginia. Eddie started working AU games during Christmas vacation last year and this season he is at every home game and most away games. Eddie can't hear his dad's voice when he doesn't make a road trip -- the station's signal isn't strong enough.
"I have to adjust a little when we are doing television," Chuck said. "I probably have to give a little more detail because of Eddie, but in radio, no. I just treat him as one of my listeners who happens to be sitting next to me helping out."
Come December, Chuck will be out of regular work. He doesn't know yet what he'll do.
"I'd like to announce full time again," Chuck said. "Maybe Ed and I could go as a package deal, right Ed?"
Said Eddie: "That would be nice."
The game has ended and Chuck is wrapping up the show.
"What do you have for us, Ed?"
His fingers go to work. Eddie breaks down the numbers in a thorough, one-minute package. The Eagles shot 24 for 58, he says. The official stats say 24 for 61. Free throws? Nineteen for 25, including seven of eight in the second half.
Chuck returns: "Once again the final score: Towson State 84, American University 75. For Jim Lutz and Ed Timanus, I'm Chuck Timanus. Good night."