Answer Man

Special radio may be a winner at meshing sound, TV picture

Q. This continues to drive me crazy. When I watch the St. Louis Cardinals on TV, I want to turn on my radio so I can hear John Rooney on KMOX. But the TV picture is so delayed that I hear what happens on the radio long before I see it on TV, which takes all the fun out of it. What causes this, and, more important, is there anything I can do to sync picture and sound?

— M.K., of Belleville

A. Satellite and cable may have added hundreds of new entertainment choices to our lives, but when it comes to allowing us the old-fashioned pleasure of hearing Mike Shannon say “The crowd’s on their feet for the Canadian Star-Spangled Banner” while watching TV, they often score a big goose egg.

When you read about the process involved, the reason why becomes as obvious as that lazy ground ball to an All-Star shortstop. When I was growing up in a black-and-white TV world with five channels and a rooftop aerial, TV signals still were sent nearly in what is known as “real time.” Basically, that means you saw the event on your boob tube almost instantaneously to it happening on the field. So in those days, you could turn on your glitzy new transistor radio, tune in Harry Caray and Jack Buck and not worry about hearing something seconds before you saw it.

That’s still how it works on your radio, which is why fans can drag their radios or other devices to the park and hear descriptions of the plays as they are happening. Local radio stations generally send their signal from Rooney’s microphone, through the transmitter and into your radio at the speed of light.

But getting a cable or satellite signal to show up on your TV screen is like me chasing down a drive down the line at Yankee Stadium: It’s going to be a long process. First, video alone requires much more bandwidth and processing than simple radio audio, which takes more time in itself.

Then, the path to your TV screen can be torturous. A signal at a sports event generally is sent first to a director’s truck. From there, the signal is beamed up to a satellite and then back down to a cable company’s receiver, from where it is sent through the cable wires and into your house. Then, the signal must be decoded by your cable box and may require additional processing by your HDTV. Finally, it may be further delayed if it first runs through your digital video recorder (DVR).

Satellite has the same types of delays with another satellite uplink and downlink to the dish on your rooftop. In both cases, further delays may be built in to insure your kids aren’t subjected to the accidental transmission of four-letter words and wardrobe malfunctions. Add it all up, and you probably begin to see why radio audio and TV video have grown so out of sync since the days when I occasionally had to adjust the horizontal and vertical holds on my family’s Hallicrafter.

If you can find one, the solution is as quick and efficient as a 6-4-3 DP — a radio that allows you to sync its sound with your TV picture. A special control allows you to delay the sound coming out of the radio’s speaker by 15 seconds or more. Just turn on the TV and radio and then slowly move the slider switch on the radio until the audio description matches the picture you’re seeing on TV. It may take a bit of practice and different channels may need different adjustments, but one company who makes them says you can get it to the point where you can actually hear and see the ball hit the bat at the same time.

And here’s more good news: Scanner Master, of Holliston, Mass., tells me it is ready to launch its newest model with additional features — the SportSync SR-303 — possibly as early as September, but almost certainly sometime this fall. (The price of the now-discontinued SR-202 was $60.) The company promised to send me an alert, which I will relay to you, or you can try to catch it yourself at I have been unable to find rival models, but I am open to suggestions.

Q. While down at the Lake of the Ozarks recently, my wife and I saw a type of wild tree that I have never seen before. It had large clusters of green fruit/nuts. The clusters were shaped like a bunch of bananas, but the fruit was shaped like a smallish egg and was very sticky to the touch.

— S.J., of Belleville

A. Without seeing it, our plant expert Charles Giedeman could only offer a guess, but it may be spot-on: a bald cypress. They particularly love the swamplands of the South, where they are the official tree of Louisiana. But they can do quite well in parts of southern Missouri, Illinois and Indiana.

Giedeman says the cones they grow do sort of resemble clusters of small eggs. And here’s another match from on how to grow them from seed: “Put on gloves to prevent the sticky resin from the cone getting on your skin and avoid contact with other clothing. The resin is difficult to remove.” (It also apparently deters animals from eating them.)

I don’t know if you took pictures or have a good mental picture of what they looked like, but the most distinctive features of the trees are the swollen, fluted trunks at the base of the tree and the above-ground root structures, commonly known as “knees.” They are known as “bald” because unlike most conifers, they lose their leaves each fall. For a more solid confirmation, send me a picture of the fruit and I’ll pass it on to Giedeman.

Today’s trivia

What city is usually cited as the first one in Europe to boast paved roads?

Answer to Thursday’s trivia: There are four active players in Major League Baseball who have played on one team for 12 years — and have never played for another MLB club. Did you remember them all? They are: the New York Mets’ David Wright, who recently returned to action after four months on the disabled list; Minnesota’s Joe Mauer, who was the American League’s MVP in 2009; Philadelphia’s Ryan Howard, a St. Louis native who is the fastest player to hit both the 100- and 200-homer marks in MLB history; — and, of course, Yadier Molina, the St. Louis Cardinals’ seven-time All-Star catcher. Thanks to ESPN’s Mike & Mike for this interesting example of longevity mixed with team loyalty.

Send your questions to Roger Schlueter, Belleville News-Democrat, 120 S. Illinois St., P.O. Box 427, Belleville, IL 62222-0427, or call 618-239-2465.