CHUCK & EDDIE
We all rely on USA Today writer Eddie Timanus' view of the game. But he's totally blind.
By Nelson Coffin
It's about 20 minutes before the opening faceoff of the Maryland-Navy game. The Byrd Stadium crowd, about to see another classic 6-5 contest, stocks up on pretzels and programs. But in the Tyser Tower press box the Chuck and Eddie show has already begun for a select and privileged few. Cracking wise and firing quips, the Timanus father-and-son duo settles in for another night of covering the fastest sport on two feet. That it takes two of them to get the job done is hardly noteworthy to the assembled media, most of whom know all about the Timanus tandem's unique style.
Eddie, the 33-year-old writer for USA Today, is blind. His dad, Chuck, serves as Eddie's eyes. It's really that simple - and simply beautiful to behold. Chuck does a running commentary along with play-by-play. Eddie listens, cocks his head a little and grasps each sequence of the game as it unfolds. Then he files it in a nearly-perfect memory or takes notes with a slate and stylus, a device that helps him record the events in chronological order.
Chuck & Eddie interview Towson's Tony Seaman after a game
Naturally, fellow scribes and photographers have taken notice of the twosome. "The first time I met these guys, I sat in the UMBC press box on a rainy day shooting my video through the window," said E-Lacrosse founder John Weaver. "I noticed that the play-by-play of the two teams (I think Harvard and Hobart) was perfect. It was like radio, with the greatest detail and I just enjoyed listening to it. Chuck is the best play-by-play announcer in the business and he's got an audience of one." Chuck and Eddie find time to trade good-natured barbs with nearby colleagues as the game at Maryland progresses.
One is skewered for his allegiance to the hapless Baltimore Orioles. Chuck (Yankees) and Eddie (Blue Jays) follow major-league baseball and all other big-time sports. Lacrosse, though, is the ultimate for them. Always has been. Chuck never tires of describing the games to a son blinded as an infant by retinoblastoma, a cancer of the eyes that first struck Eddie prior to his second birthday. Before he turned three, Eddie was totally blind.
Chuck's animated play by play gets Eddie's absolute attention
Despite the severity of the disease, Chuck and his wife Terri knew things could always be worse. "The blessing for us is that most of the kids who get this disease have multiple handicaps," Chuck said. "Eddie didn't. And he was very intelligent right away. He started learning Braille before he lost his second eye. I tell you, he's accepted it a helluva lot better than his parents did. He's never let it slow him down." At the Maryland game, Chuck continued to paint a picture for Eddie. "Tried to shoot it far-side high," Chuck chirped about a Terps' shot that junior goalie Jon Higdon snared for the Mids. "But he read him all the way." Eddie takes it all in. "I think he envisions the field," said Chuck, the Public Relations Director for the Association of Retired Employees. "He's walked the field so he knows how long and how wide it is. He's handled all the sticks and the goals. He knows all that stuff."
Chuck & the Washington Post's Christian Swezey enjoy a laugh
"I know where everything is," echoed Eddie. "When he says a guy is on the crease, I know where that is." He also knows when to get a zinger in on his dad in an understated manner. Eddie pounces when Chuck makes a mistake by entering into his son's domain, which is trivia. Eddie is a five-time Jeopardy! champ and a Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions semifinalist. When it comes to knowing something about almost everything, Eddie's on an elite level. Describing a particularly high hit by a Maryland defender on a Navy attackman, Chuck pretends to speak for the fallen Mid. "Excuse me, has anybody seen my head?" Chuck jokes. "That's like Louis the fourteenth."
"Louis the sixteenth," Eddie shot back instantly, long before anybody else could correct - or would know about - Chuck's gaffe concerning the French monarchy.
DID YOU SEE THOSE JERSEYS?
They're sporting the new REBEL/STX Uniforms!
Eddie has covered lacrosse for USA Today since 1993. He and his dad rarely miss a big game. They were a no-show for the recent Virginia-Hopkins tiff, although they had a pretty good excuse. Chuck and Eddie were in New York City for Million Dollar Masters Jeopardy! at the Radio City Music Hall. The event was videotaped and will be broadcast in mid-May. Eddie's not telling how he did. "He came back to work, so we're not sure if he won or not," said USA Today College Sports Editor Tom O'Toole about the $1,000,000 payout that goes to the winner. Jeopardy! is about the only thing that can even momentarily tear the Timanus' away from lacrosse. "That's the most incredible experience in lacrosse, watching those two guys," said Maryland Coach Dave Cottle, whose Terps topped Navy, 6-5, for the fourth consecutive April behind three goals by versatile junior Mike Mollot. "Eddie will make an observation about the pace of the game or about something that Chuck said and be right on the money. He has such a feel for the game. Those guys are great for the game of lacrosse." Chuck, a native of Cortland, New York and a Cortland state alum, and Eddie have lived in Northern Virginia for more that 20 years. Chuck used to do radio play-by-play for various sports teams - not lacrosse- at Northern State College in South Dakota. It was there that Eddie fell in love with sports.
Eddie won two sportscars on Jeopardy! He lets Chuck drive.
Dad would take the eight-year old on road trips with the various teams. "The guys were always nervous because Eddie was smarter than they were," Chuck said with a chuckle and a hint of pride. "He'd do their homework for them." The Timanus family moved east so Chuck could take a job on Capitol Hill with a South Dakota congressman. That he would be able to be near his beloved lacrosse again was a major perk for Chuck and, as it turned out, for Eddie, too. Eddie breezed through local schools, leaving South Lakes High in Reston as its second-most famous graduate - after Duke basketball great Grant Hill. Eddie went on to Wake Forest where he earned a degree in economics and minored in music. While attending Maryland's Sports Management Master's program, he hooked on with USA Today doing research and answering phones. That led to writing assignments and compiling the paper's various college polls. "It was a natural progression," Eddie said. "I started doing a notes column and then I covered a few games.
It's all so we can get into games and eat for free." Eddie uses computers in the office that talk, which allows him to know what he has written. He normally doesn't have much column space for his copy. Not that it bothers him. Nothing seems to get to Eddie. "He's one of the most amazing figures I've ever been around, in terms of how he comports himself," said O'Toole. "He's never had a bad day." Terri Timanus knew that the celebrity, however brief it might have been, from the Jeopardy! hoopla would not affect the family dynamic. "A lot of people were pretty amazed by him," said Terri. "And we feel he's pretty special, too. But that was just Eddie being the way he is." And being Eddie must be pretty good. He owns the most visible by-line in lacrosse, he's getting married in July and he earned $74,500, two Chevy Camaros and rousing audience support for his knowlege and wit on the most prestigious of TV game shows. Weaver was like many others who tuned in to watch Eddie eat up his opponents with the cat-like reactions of a crease attackman. "I never rooted for anyone on a game show before and I tuned in every night, while on vacation in a different time zone, to watch Eddie," Weaver noted. "I just wanted to see him compete and win that week, and he did just that. He's exactly what we want to teach young lax players to be like. How many times that week did he come back from being down to win? How hard does he prepare for something like that and for his career every day? He's just a lacrosse hero who never played as far as I'm concerned."