Story last updated at 3:05 p.m. Friday, April 12, 2002

Bush broadcaster keeps far-flung villages rooting
by Sepp Jannotta
Staff Writer

When Karl Pulliam opens his mouth, the sounds that emerge fall an octave or two below the average voice.

Engage him in a conversation and you'll learn that his deep bass voice is soft, but tends to become animated when he talks of basketball.

That combination has given Pulliam, a manager of the Seldovia Oil Spill Response Team, the opportunity to pursue a new career <> broadcasting basketball play-by-play for radio.

Pulliam does games for Seldovia's Susan B. English School's girls and boys basketball teams as well as for other District 3 teams.

With games of local interest being picked up on KGTL-AM 620 and more remote teams' games going out to stations on Bristol Bay and the Aleutian Chain, Pulliam's "hobby" has become more of a cottage industry. A one-man crew, he sells advertising, sets up and trouble shoots his electronic gear, he calls play-by-play and commentary, does post-game interviews, and when the games are history, he sends billing invoices to the stations he broadcasts on.

Pulliam would be the last one to complain. When he talks about his second job, he grins like a Cheshire cat.

"I get very into it," said Pulliam, whose son Charles plays for the Seldovia's Sea Otters, something that has certain opposing coaches winking about the announcer's unbiased play calling.

If doing radio for high school basketball is a dream job for Pulliam, then covering the entire Alaska 1A state tournament and select games from the 2A tournament is basketball broadcasting nirvana.

The small schools tournaments bring the rural, and predominantly Native, cultures of Alaska's Bush villages together in Anchorage.

"Anybody that doesn't have a good feel for rural Alaska should go to (the 1A tournament at) East High," Pulliam said. "It's really a great experience. I wouldn't pass it up."

Over the course of three days last week, Pulliam called 23 basketball games.

If it sounds like all fun and games, wrap your tongue around this sequence of action you might hear during a game between Eskimo village teams of western and arctic Alaska:

"Matoomealook passes it to Aveoganna, then over to Oktodlik. Now on to Pathoteak, back to Matoomealook, holding nearcourt, looking to get the ball inside against this tough Koliganek defense."

Take a deep breath.

And what happens when three-fifths of Tikigaq's floor squad is named Nashookpuk?

"No one's perfect," Pulliam laughed. "The names can start to throw you off, even the team names. Shishmaref isn't easy to say." In the heat of the moment, it can become "Shishmaluk."

"You just excuse yourself . . . and try and get back in the flow."

The main payoff, Pulliam said, is knowing that parents and relatives in hoops-crazy Bush villages scattered across the state can follow games they often cannot afford to attend.

With the Alaska School Activities Association now enforcing a $50 per-game broadcast fee, Pulliam is worried that radio stations won't be able to afford to broadcast the games.

"I'd do the broadcast by cell phone if I had to," Pulliam said.