On Sun., March 12, college-basketball fans and bandwagon-office-pool aficionados will find out which teams will make their March Madness bracket. Even people who don’t care about basketball will fill these out because they know that everything’s better in a bracket.
With that in mind, I made my own little bracket to decide who my favorite Pittsburgh sports broadcaster is. I selected 16 people, ranked them according to my whims and then used arbitrary standards to pick winners. For example, you’ll notice that Ron Cook (see key at left for affiliation) was eliminated in the first round, because about 14 years ago he tried to make me move from my press-box seat so a friend of his could sit beside him. See? Arbitrary. The results below are broken down by round with just a few highlights from each.
The round stays upset-free, but there is some grumbling in the ranks regarding some of the rankings. The two most surprising were Root Sports’ Rob King capturing the four-seed in the North Side Region (played at Perry High School) and The Fan’s Andrew Fillipponi in the South Side Region (played at the Oliver Bath House). The sharp-tongued and occasionally disliked Fillipponi would run into the buzzsaw that is Bob Pompeani, but King quickly dispatched his bespectacled challenger, Jim Colony.
Two major upsets have some Las Vegas gamblers pleased that they can spot a strong underdog capable of big wins. In the North Side Region (played at the new Pittsburgh Penguins practice facility in Cranberry), Pirates play-by-play man Greg Brown upsets broadcasting legend Mike Lange simply because I like baseball better than hockey. Both men are catch-phrase wizards, but Elvis left the building when he saw a cannonball comin’. Brown will take on Andrew Stockey, who just edged Pompeani, in the Final Four. King’s underdog steamroller continues plowing ahead when he takes out the Super Genius. Sometimes nice guys do finish first, or at least fourth. Can King keep it rolling against overall No. 1 seed Bill Hillgrove?
The answer is: No, no he can’t. Hillgrove has dominated the competition to this point, although Stan Savran put up a fight in the last round. King’s Cinderella run comes to an end when Hillgrove starts reciting stats from players who’ve been dead for 20 years. The knowledge is just too deep. In the second Final Four semifinal matchup (played in the gym at the Ace Hotel), Stockey and Brown are tight down to the wire, with Brown somehow winning on a TRIP-TRIP-TRIPLE and a TRIP-TRIP-TRIPLE-DOUBLE.
Fans gather on the banks of the Three Rivers and hang off bridges as Pirates announcer Greg Brown challenges “The Legend” Bill Hillgrove aboard the just-as-legendary Gateway Empress, the oldest ship in the Gateway Clipper Fleet. Brown strikes early, calling three-straight two-run homers and two references to a Martay Partay! Hillgrove plays small ball, confusing the crowd with his strategy of calling three straight plays for no gain, before charging into the lead with a perfect unexpected call of a fumbled snap turning into a 70-yard touchdown run. From there, Hillgrove effortlessly calls a fake punt, then a 30-foot jumper to tie the game at 68-68 in the final. The final dagger comes with Hillgrove’s emotional call of the Steelers’ seventh Super Bowl win, which eclipses Brown’s brilliant call of yet another Pirates wild-card berth.
And in a career of “one shining moments,” Hillgrove gets one more, even if it is in the back of the City Paper.
Update: Read Charlie Deitch's followup piece on his controversial pick for Greg Brown over Mike Lange here.