Lee Hamilton / The NFL on Radio

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You almost have to be a zealot to properly call an NFL game on radio, and Lee "Hacksaw" Hamilton's XTRA booth on a Saaann Diego Charger weekend is not exactly lacking in zeal.

It's an opera, full of screeching solos, chaos and clashing personalities. It's beautiful radio--perfect NFL noise.

There are more professional, tidier broadcasts than those of Hamilton and Crew, regular productions that are easier on the eardrums and not as likely to pump out raging hyperbole.

But the NFL is such a visual made-for-Sony game, a straight radio call is a dull call.

Joel Meyers, for example, leads the Raider radio broadcast, pumped to Southern California on the Raider network along with analyst David Humm, and Meyers is smooth and sly doing the games; but, alas, he is no Hacksaw.

Maybe because Meyers does so many other sports (he did the Raiders' Monday night victory over Kansas City, then, voila, was on my TV set calling a college basketball game in Chicago the next night), and because he cannot compare to Bill King, the former Raider radio man who was the greatest NFL play-by-play man ever, Meyers sometimes sounds as if he's playing to a hipper crowd, trying harder to crack up his boothmates than to keep the listener involved.

Meanwhile, CBS radio's Monday night team of Howard David and Matt Millen is a huge step up from the teetering longtime duo of Hank Stram and Jack Buck that was recently dumped.

But, at its heart, NFL radio is a home team venture, and Hamilton's strange mix with Jim Laslavic and high-strung rookie Bill Werndl is a continuous passion play--the on-air verbal scuffles between the three are priceless.

"Dammit, it's Shawn Lee offsides again!!" Hamilton yelped during Sunday's loss to Pittsburgh, before wondering aloud when the Charger defensive tackle would start earning his paycheck.

Hamilton never has to worry about his, not as long as the opera's playing.

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