Sometimes being a member of the media can be downright hazardous — and I'm not just talking about the chili dogs they served at the Olympics.

I'm talking about gathering the news.

In that light, I was delighted to learn help is on the way. A story last week said a Massachusetts Institute of Technology researcher has invented a "roving robot reporter."

The idea is that the machine could be used in areas where reporting in person can be highly dangerous. In my case, that would be the locker room after a Jazz loss to Memphis.

The remote-controlled robot, called the Afghan Explorer, can acquire and transmit both video and audio signals and is controlled by satellite phone. Live interviews can be conducted face-to-face, with the interviewer being miles away.

The robot is said to be about the size of a large dog or, in sports terms, Bob Costas.

Think of the applications! I could navigate it through the locker-room door, hang a left, and be right up in Karl Malone's face. I could follow John Stockton around without so much as leaving my seat on press row.

I could get right inside the "war zone" without risking my neck.

The robot even carries a flag with a peace symbol on the antenna, to indicate that nobody is taking sides. Just another hard-working journalist, looking for the truth.

So, Karl, your defense stunk. What's up with those bricks you've been launching? And by the way, don't you think you're getting a little old to be playing basketball?

The robot is equipped with accelerometers, thermometers and distance sensors. That way a reporter can tell when Jerry Sloan is about to blow.

Couple of questions, Jerry: Whose idea was it to re-sign Greg Ostertag in the first place? And how come you never won a championship as a player or a coach?

When sensors indicate the room temperature is rising to dangerous levels, I can maneuver the robot into

reverse and hightail it out of harm's way. In a worst-case scenario, Jerry might send the machine back with its neck twisted at a nasty angle.

Is this too good to be true? A contraption that can go places previously off-limits like, for instance, the training room. While I sit with my feet propped up, eating nachos and firing off impertinent questions from afar, the machine is gathering my quotes. All I need to do is hit the "return" button and guide it around Donyell Marshall — which shouldn't be hard — and bring it home to the media room.

Imagine, a device that could move along the sidelines at will, poking its head uninvited into huddles, disrupting concentration, asking obnoxious questions and generally getting in the way — just like Hannah Storm.

Perhaps you think this sort of invention is frivolous or impractical for a sports columnist. On the contrary. In locker rooms I have been threatened with physical assault. I have been verbally abused and had my shoes spit upon. Other reporters have had athletes spit in their faces, dump water buckets on their heads, shove them or sexually harass them. I know one writer whose shirt was torn open at a high school football game.

I am asking for an Afghan Explorer for Christmas.

There have been some great inventions over the years to make my job easier. The typewriter was followed by the portable computer, followed by the laptop, which drastically helped my situation. Reporters went from bulky cassette, to micro-cassette, to digital recorders.

But nothing has been as good as this.

Now all they need to do is find a way to make it write a column for me.

I can add my byline after it's finished.


E-mail: rock@desnews.com