PSU lacrosse earns some air time

For those who have not seen Penn State’s top-ranked men’s lacrosse team in action, there’s no better time than the present — and the team’s march toward a potential national championship will play out on TV beginning this afternoon.

First-round play for the 14-1 Nittany Lions begins at noon against the University of Maryland-Baltimore County. The game in Happy Valley airs on ESPNU.

Quarterfinal action is scheduled May 18-19 in Hempstead, New York, and East Hartford, Connecticut, with those games airing on ESPNU. The semifinals and championship game will be contested May 25-27 in Philadelphia, with those games airing on ESPN2.

Lacrosse offers fairly fast-paced, viewer-friendly action and ESPN’s broadcast teams serve the sport, and viewers, well. Play-by-play man John Brickley and analyst Mark Dixon, a former standout at Johns Hopkins, will handle Penn State’s opening game.

As the tournament progresses, and especially when the action culminates in Philadelphia, the deep, prepared roster of analysts includes Quint Kessenich, who was one of the nation’s top goalies and a national champion at Johns Hopkins.

Fans are probably more familiar with his work as a college football sideline reporter and conducting mat side interviews during the NCAA wrestling championships.

Junior attacker Mac O’Keefe leads Penn State, which claimed its first Big Ten Tournament championship this season and has not lost since Feb. 23. O’Keefe has 60 goals and 17 assists in the team’s 15 games.

Precarious Preakness

While the Kentucky Derby drew strong ratings, the Preakness Stakes might not be so lucky.

Because of the controversy about the Derby’s finish and other factors, four of the top contenders for the second race in the Triple Crown have decided not to participate next weekend in Baltimore.

Without a potential Triple Crown winner, and with a somewhat diminished field, horse racing ratings and viewership may take a hit in the final two legs of the traditional three-race lineup.

Salters’ spot

When ESPN announced its Monday Night Football team of Joe Tessitore, Booger McFarland and Lisa Salters would remain for next season, it indicated an opportunity for all three — especially Salters.

A Penn State alumna, she’s the most experienced member of the team, someone who has proven herself in almost every possible scenario. Last season’s more crowded lineup, which included rookie analyst Jason Witten, sometimes made it hard for Salters to earn airtime.

While administrators lauded Witten, even nicknaming him “Captain America” while praising the broadcast team’s chemistry, the fan and media criticism of his work eventually weighed on the all-pro who decided to return to the Dallas Cowboys.

It’s a shame, because he was improving and had the chance to get better, maybe even strong.

In theory, without Witten, there should be a little more opportunity for Salters to get space on the broadcast. With the sometimes loud Tessitore and the seemingly overly contrived McFarland, it will be important for Salters to provide balance.

Both of her partners have been standouts in other roles for ESPN. Tessitore has been a pro on college football and boxing, as well as other assignments. McFarland has been funny and versatile.

Last season, though, they struggled. Tessitore sounded overly bombastic and loud at times. At the same time, McFarland sometimes engaged in debate or point-counterpoint arguments during the broadcasts with Witten. Or, he took a strong stance and offered opinion more than analysis. That’s not necessarily bad. It just sounded forced at times.

Maybe Witten’s departure will alter roles and provide opportunities for everyone. For the sake of viewers, though, here’s hoping there’s a bit more space for Salters.

Tuner tidbits

n ESPN’s “Sunday Night Baseball” features the Chicago Cubs tonight for the second week in a row, and they’ll be back next week as well. Tonight the Cubs play host to the Milwaukee Brewers. Next week, the Cubs’ game against the Washington Nationals will be Sunday night’s featured game.

n A documentary about open-wheel racing pioneer Janet Guthrie — the first woman to compete in the Indianapolis 500 and the Daytona 500 — will debut May 28 on ESPN. Ironically, after ABC carried the Indy 500 for decades, the race moves to NBC this year.

n NBC debuted a biopic about Pennsylvania resident and auto racing legend Mario Andretti on Saturday. Again, with the Peacock Network carrying the Indy 500, expect to see the Andretti film, which has been highly praised by those able to review it, again this month.

n The NBA Draft Lottery will air at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday on ESPN. Analysts and fans will speculate about the new home of Duke’s freshman standout and likely No. 1 pick Zion Williamson.

Sampsell can be reached at stevesampsell@gmail.com.

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