Brown carrying Pirates’ banner well

Commentary

With basketball season now ­over and the first regular season NFL game 88 days away, it’s now clearly baseball season for slow adopters like me, and it’s going to be fun to enjoy it for a few weeks until the Pirates slip out of contention.

In fairness, they’re not really in contention, but there’s always hope — even five dozen-plus games into the season.

As a Pirates fan, the broadcast teams generally deliver — whether on TV or radio. Some people might nitpick the commentary of Bob Walk and John Wehner but not me.

There’s a reason they’re not working network games, and they fit for the Pirates. They might not be stellar, but they’re steady. Many less entertaining and informative options exist in other MLB markets.

At the top of the team’s broadcast pecking order (and it’s hard to believe, and a testament to my age), Greg Brown has been handling Pirates play-by-play duties for 25 years. He’s grown as a broadcaster in that time and deserves credit for all he does for the organization.

His tenure trails that of only Lanny Frattare (33 years) and legendary Bob Prince (28 years). Brown has called more than 3,800 Pirates games, and he has become the voice of the team, with a recognizable call: “Raise the Jolly Roger!”

He’s also poised to call many, many more games. He’s a few years shy of 60 and both respected and well-liked.

Listening and­ watching Pirates games represents a summer tradition for many people, and the team’s on-air crew makes that an easy tradition to uphold.

Prime time PSU

Penn State football fans might need to again alter their bed times a bit this season.

With start times announced for five games for far, two are set for prime time kickoffs.

So far, Penn State-Pitt on Sept. 8 and the first Penn State game on a Friday — Sept. 21 at Illinois — are set for night-time kickoffs.

It’s 8 p.m. for the Pitt game, which will air on ABC for the second year in a row, and it’s 9 p.m. (a not-fam-friendly, super-late start) for the Illinois game that will air on Fox Sports 1.

With Ohio State — almost certainly a night game for the White Out on Sept. 29 — still to be scheduled, three of the Penn State’s first five games will be played at night.

Aside from that 9 p.m. Friday game, prime time games are obviously not unusual for blue-and-white faithful. The team played three in 2017, four in 2016, two in 2015 and four in 2014.

Stat standouts

Two of the best, most respected TV sports statisticians in the business (and it’s a small fraternity) are Penn Staters.

Those folks offer notes and tidbits of information to broadcasters during games. It’s an art form to earn the trust of the on-air guys.

That’s why 80-year-old Marty Aronoff, works nearly 300 events per year, and Ben Bouma, a former Penn State club hockey player who helped make Pegula Ice Arena a reality, continue to earn assignments.

Aronoff, who pretty much created the job category, handles college football, the NFL and just about every possible sport.

They’re both solid pros, whose work fans probably appreciate but never overtly notice.

Tuner tidbits

n He’s not first on the depth chart, but former Heisman Trophy winner and Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel is trying to make the most of his opportunity with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the Canadian Football League. As part of CFL games airing south of the border in the United States, the Tiger-Cats visit the Calgary Stampeders at 7 p.m. Saturday on ESPN2.

n As much as baseball season arrives at this time of year, college softball just ended its appreciated annual visit to our TV. Plus, ESPN has committed to producing the broadcasts in a high-quality manner. One jarring moment came during the semifinal round, though, as the on-air team noted it was refreshing to see the competitiveness of those involved. It sounded silly, because with men playing any sport it’s hard to believe broadcasters would ever be surprised that those participating were competitive.

n Yes, you’ve seen and will be seeing more of broadcaster Keith Olbermann on ESPN lately, and that’s a good thing because he’s generally good at what he does. As part of his latest deal with ESPN, his sixth separate stint with the network, the 59-year-old Olbermann will host 11 p.m. “SportsCenter” shows about 20 times this year. As long as he sticks to sports, he’ll be super. His knowledge and personality make him strong on TV, and they can also (when too strong) be a liability. Still, it’s good to have him back.

Sampsell can be reached at stevesampsell@gmail.com.

COMMENTS