By Gary Larrabee
Special To The News
---- — The voice has been unmistakable on ESPN Radio’s “SportsCenter” — the gold standard of network radio sports in America — for 15 years.
You will hear him providing the 60-second “SportsCenter” news reports four times an hour in the afternoons or evenings any day of the week, though most recently he has been working the 4-10 p.m. shift Thursdays and Fridays and the afternoon shift on weekends.
It’s the rock-solid authoritative voice of Marblehead’s own Doug Brown, almost as familiar a sound to ESPN Radio listeners as many of the gents who host the shows on which he appears.
“It’s been a quick 15 years, let me tell you,” says Brown, 56, a Marblehead High and Boston University graduate who also can be heard providing play-by-play of Boston University men’s basketball during the winter on 1510 AM. That stint’s been going on for an even longer stretch: 25 years, four of those on television, way back when Channel 68 was known as WABU, owned by Boston University.
It’s all part of a remarkable career in broadcasting that started at WHEB in Portsmouth, N.H., while Brown was a student at BU. That job was as a disc jockey. His first gig in Boston was as editor/producer of the Jess Cain morning show on longtime AM powerhouse WHDH. Those were the days when Cain, one of the funniest personalities ever to grace the Boston airwaves, was the No. 1-rated program drive-time in the Hub.
When Dan Davis, Cain’s former sidekick, left WHDH to begin a 20-year stint working for ESPN Radio from the network’s first airing on Jan. 1, 1992, little did Brown know that Davis would be his entrée to ESPN Radio soon thereafter.
“I was juggling different jobs in Boston when Dan shared one of my tapes with his ESPN bosses,” Brown, a 1974 Marblehead High graduate, said. “I got hired and commuted weekends to Bristol (Connecticut, home of ESPN) for seven years. “I was doing Red Sox and Celtics studio hosting, pre- and post-game stuff, did a lot of college sports, even did 15-to-20 Red Sox play-by-play games while Sean McDonough did his national work weekends for CBS. I also had some time at Channel 38 before the Red Sox and Bruins went to NESN.
“When Channel 68 dropped its sports programming in 1999, ESPN offered me a full-time job after I’d turned them down previously, and took it this time. I’ve been in Connecticut ever since.”
No surprise he’s the senior member of the “SportsCenter” anchor team.
“Hard to believe when I thought, naively, that I’d be working in the Boston sports market all my life,” Brown joked. “I learned soon enough the reality of working in broadcasting, sports or otherwise. You can’t be sure what’s going happen to you in two months in this business, let along two years or 10. So I had no illusions when I came to ESPN, but here I am 15 years later and pretty happy about it.”
Brown’s ESPN assignments included reporting from the Sydney Summer Olympics and the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. But his bread and butter all these years have been the concise, professional deliveries at which he excels on “SportsCenter.”
“It’s an exciting job every day I’m in the studio,” says Brown, “especially when stories are breaking. The adrenaline rushes before and during every report I do. But when’s there’s breaking news, that ‘s really special.”
Most of his work time involves updating stories, writing copy, and plugging in audio for his segment. “I try and do re-writes continuously,” said Brown, whose wife Jennifer is also a BU graduate. “Whatever it takes to keep each segment fresh. I try and entertain, but most important I get the facts straight.”
The toughest challenge comes on weekends, when “I try and stuff 10 pounds of sports news into a five-pound sports bag; there’s so much going on. Sometimes it’s real hard determining what will make a segment and what won’t.”
He also enjoys the occasional opportunity to banter with the program host. “My rapport is good with all the hosts, so this is always a fun part,” Brown said.
In addition to his ESPN and BU jobs, Brown has also been doing freelance work for the National Hockey League for 15 years.
“I do reports that are inserted on flagship stations of NHL teams, like 98.5 in Boston for the Bruins,” Brown clarified. “They might be intermission reports or other short segments.”
The Bruins’ exciting run to the Stanley Cup Final this past season was an additional treat for Brown while doing his NHL bits.
Brown’s biggest frustration while working at ESPN? “Not being in the middle of the amazing streak the Boston teams have had since 2001,” Brown admitted. “All four teams have won championships; the Patriots three in four years, the Red Sox two World Series in four years after going dry for 86 years. I guess I was close enough to it and I go to report on a lot of it across the country. That was some consolation.”
He looks forward to reporting on more Boston pro team successes as his prolific sports broadcasting career continues at ESPN Radio and beyond.