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Rich Chvotkin Helps Fans Get Drunk

But first, I need to revisit my area hoops poll from yesterday. First of all, sorry for putting Navy one spot ahead of American. That was probably silly. I rescind that ranking.

Second of all, I only got two volunteers to be voters in my local poll! Two! And one of them was WaPo staffer Eric Prisbell, who really ought to be writing stories instead of reading my blog! I mean, all these GW fans clamoring for respect, and none of them will step up and send me a ranking of 11 teams once a week? This guy Alec e-mails the entire Washington Post newsroom after every GW story, and now I don't hear from him? No CAAZoners? No G'town fans? No GW-obsessed Terps. So I'll ask again: Who wants to help?. The rules will be these: every Division I men's team in Virginia, D.C., Maryland and West Virginia will be eligible. Voters will rank their top 11 teams every Sunday night, and the results will be published on Monday. Every weekly voter will receive some sort of swag item or media guide of your choice as thanks. If I don't get more responses, I'll start hitting up college newspaper writers and random bloggers. Don't make me do that.

Anyhow, the item. Like Wizard Andray Blatche, I went to the Georgetown game last night. Camille Powell was writing a game story. Mike Wise was writing a Thompson Bros. column and doing a video diary (see above, although only if you care as much about Mike Wise's life as Mike Wise does). So that left me on the Chvotkin beat, Rich Chvotkin being the voice of the Hoyas, who was doing his 1,000th game last night.

I grabbed Rich before the game. He talked about seeing the Thompson Bros. grow up, and how much he loved the Hoyas, and how much he loved his job. I asked him if he was nervous about the big day, whether this game would feel any different.

"Honestly, it's just another game," he said. "Just another game. That's pretty much it."

"No it's not," his wife Lynn later told me. "He's lying through his teeth. First of all, he's been a little restless, a bit more energetic. He helped clean the house. That's, like, totally out of character."

We've profiled Chvotkin before, but that didn't stop me from making the rounds with the fam, which I think earned me a dinner invite. Son Lorin, who roamed the VC taking photos last night, told me how the siblings call each other during games to try to predict when their father will "blow the lid off," how his father is miserable after losses and happy after wins, how he still wears his disintegrating 1984 championship t-shirt around the house, how he roams the house reciting the names of upcoming opposing players, how he would probably do the games for free if it came to that.

"I was talking to my brother about this the other day; you could offer him $1 million to broadcast games for another school and he would turn it down," Lorin said. "If he had to walk 10 miles to every game for them to win a national championship, he would do it."

Younger son and stat boy Evan--who convinced his dad last spring to take out a media guide and count how many games he had broadcast--told me about his dad's MySpace page, and about how he had offered to type up his dad's pre-game notes, but that his dad refused and instead stuck with the two sheets off a yellow legal-pad, crammed with wholly illegible scribbles.

"It's like a chicken dancing on paper," Lynn said. "I don't know how he got past penmanship."

"It's taken me about 15 years, but you learn to decipher it the way you read hieroglyphics; you're able to parse out context," Evan said. "You're able to recognize numbers, symbols. To be honest with you, I'm not sure if he can really read it."

"I can decipher that very clearly," Rich disagreed, although in truth he memorizes most of the info, so it hardly matters.

More importantly, they provided me with the rules for the Rich Chvotkin Drinking Game, an offshoot of the always-popular Brent Musburger Drinking Game.

"In other words, if I say "Vesper Half," one drink, if I say "Muscle Tussle," two drinks, if my son yells in my ear, three drinks," Rich explained.

Rich carries the rules around in a manila folder. He's showed it to his friends in the industry: Verne Lundquist, Dick Vitale. He's very proud. So is his wife.

"I love it," she said. "I'm not a big proponent of drinking, but it really was very clever. And he really was very flattered, he really was."

For more info, some other fans instructed me to wander up into section 118, and the first fan I approached was Steve Medlock, who happens to be the game's creator. He, too, was very proud. Some msgboard types had been discussing the possibilities for such a game, and he merely codified their work. There are 32 possible cues to drink, which is a lot. Every "Oh My!" is one drink. Every "Hoyas Win!" is one drink (up to 15). Every time Rich "gets confused in general" is one drink.

"It's kind of punishing," Steve admitted. "The game kind of ends abruptly at some point. I don't think the game has ever gone its full length, for obvious reasons."

(Others agreed. As college freshmen, Hoya fans Andrew Marshall and Anna Selling have, of course, never so much as sniffed alcohol, but they've heard about the Rich Chvotkin Drinking Game.

"I heard people do get obliterated playing it," Andrew said. "Let's say they were passed out for two days."

"Smashed, that's a good word," Anna said.)

(Steve would like to put in a word for drinking in moderation, driving safely, always having a designated driver and mixing some water into the Chvotkin game.)

Point is, Steve said he wanted to honor Rich and his trademark calls: the snowbird, the hooker in the lane, the hoop and the harm, the eyeball to eyeball. In fact, a new rule this season dictates that after each "eyeball to eyeball" call, players must stare at each other until one player blinks, at which point that player must also drink. Anyhow, Steve loves Rich's radio call, and he's happy to have left his own legacy on campus.

"I think it really reflects well on myself and my family," he said.

And while plenty of fans had nice things to say about Rich, I'll let John Athridge (class of '95) speak for the group. John met Rich in a Minneapolis bar after the Florida game in last year's tournament. He had never seen him before.

"He talks the same exact way in person," John said. "That's not a stage voice; that's it. He can recite stats and figures in that same exact voice, except he throws in a few swear words when he's been drinking. It was kind of surreal to hear it....He doesn't sound like anybody else. And now, when announcers are so polished, it's kind of nice to hear someone who isn't."

"There's no point in calling a game if you don't have your own idiosyncrasies," Steve agreed. "It's what adds flavor to the game."

(As an aside, Ball State's Morry Mannies, who was in town yesterday, has Rich crushed, in terms of longevity. He's been going for 51 years, doing football and basketball and high school games. Been through 85 color analysts. Done about 5,500 games. Schedules all his surgeries for the offseason so he won't miss a game: a gall bladder, a hernia, two back operations. His wife passed away several years ago, and the broadcasts helped carry him through the grieving; "this has become more important to me than it's ever been," he said.

And he laughed when I asked about Rich; "he's a youngster," Morry said. "But he's got a national championship, which I don't have."

Morry has his own trademark. For 51 years, he's ended every game with a sign-off like this: "From the Verizon Center in Washington D.C., the final score is 69-54. This is Morry Mannies, saying good night, and good sports."

"Unless it's the afternoon," Morry pointed out. "Then I say 'good afternoon, and good sports.'" But he gave me a sample sign-off. Sorta gave me the chills.)

Anyhow, Rich was honored at halftime yesterday. When he found out, he was worried about how the station would fill the segment when he was gone. His wife said she was choked up during halftime. Friends crowded around before and after the game and gave their congrats and made fun of his age. Rich admitted he was moved, but said he never mentioned the ceremony during his broadcast. Said it didn't fit in. And aside from that ceremony, he said nothing was different last night, that no special postgame celebration was planned.

"Just normal," he said. "Pretty much the status quo: get in the car and drive home. And as I drive home down 6th Street to Constitution, I look on the left and see the Capital, drive down Constitution, look to the right and see the White House. And I'll say, 'How can you beat this?'"

By Dan Steinberg  |  November 28, 2006; 4:02 PM ET
Categories:  College Basketball  
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