Class of ’07 | Down on the Palestra floor, the band is striking up “Fight On, Pennsylvania!” But Brian Seltzer C’07 cannot be distracted. He’s fiddling with a soundboard and taking a last look through a stats sheet, his headset tight and his monitors warm with color.
Since he was a junior, Seltzer, now 29, has been the voice of Penn basketball, and he has been the voice of Penn football since a year after he graduated. For Penn sports junkies everywhere, Seltzer’s is the voice they connect with.
“With the games being streamed now, Brian is essentially the person alums all over the world hear,” says Michael Mahoney, Penn’s director of athletic communications. “He has become an essential part of the Penn sports scene.”
From 2010 through 2012, Seltzer was also the radio voice of the Reading Phillies, the major-league team’s Eastern League affiliate, and for the last two seasons he has hosted the post-game show for the Philadelphia 76ers radio broadcasts. He has also covered the Philadelphia Eagles as a reporter for 97.5-FM, one of the two local sports-oriented radio stations.
“Brian has positioned himself where he should be,” Mahoney says. “The people in major-league baseball, football, and basketball know him—and know he is a great play-by-play man. And, of course, we love him here at Penn.”
Seltzer sounds to-the-microphone-born. His sonorous tones and quick phrasing are perfect for a speed sport like basketball and an action sport like football, and he’s quite capable of bringing dead air to life during baseball broadcasts. But if it hadn’t been for a spur-of-the-moment decision as a high-school freshman in suburban Philadelphia, his broadcasting career might never have happened.
He had just attended a recruitment session for Cheltenham High School’s newspaper when he saw a bunch of students at another door, the one for broadcast outlets.
“It was just really good fortune—just being in the right place at the right time,” Seltzer recalls modestly. “The teacher who was supervising broadcast had great ambition about building that up at Cheltenham, and I got to be a part of it.” That teacher let him announce, live to videotape, pretty much anything Seltzer wanted—basketball, baseball, even girls’ tennis.
Instead of looking for a college with an undergraduate broadcast program, though, he came to Penn, staying close to home and hoping that something would open up at WXPN when he got there.
His timing was again spot-on. Seltzer got to do play-by-play on women’s basketball games and pre- and post-game work in other sports. At the same time, the University was expanding its live Internet streaming of games, so there was more to do and more areas in which to get involved.
Then, during Seltzer’s junior year, the athletics department, which had been using non-student announcers for years, gave him a shot at play-by-play for men’s basketball.
“It was like a dream,” he says. “It couldn’t have worked out any better.”
After graduation, the department carved out a full-time job for him—adding the play-by-play gig for Penn football and having him help develop the streaming initiatives. He has since expanded that to include more blog posts and online reporting. In case that wasn’t enough, he also got a seasonal job at 97.5 FM covering the Eagles, which he started during his senior year.
In 2009, he heard that the Reading Phillies’ radio job was open.
“I really didn’t expect to get it, since I didn’t have a ton of baseball experience,” he says, noting that baseball is very different from basketball and football in its pacing, not to mention the frequency of games. In the latter sports, he notes, “even if you aren’t up for it on a particular day, you can wrap yourself around the idea that there aren’t that many games and get the job done.”
Baseball, though, is an every-day proposition. While in some ways, it’s the cream of sports broadcast jobs, in other ways, it can be a bear.
“Without question, the experience with baseball is the most impactful experience I have had professionally and personally,” he says. “You have to know a ton of things that, despite having listened to games since I was a kid, I had not picked up on. You have to communicate defensive alignments, outfield shadings, the way the pitches are going, things you would take for granted just watching. And since I was there alone, it was hours each day on the air, from spring through fall—but it was a wonderful experience.”
Seltzer’s post-game 76ers gig conflicted, especially in April and May, with the Reading job, so Seltzer decided to go with the professional hoops option. He does the Sixers job in-studio for 30 to 45 minutes for the 82 regular season games (and, he hopes, the playoffs), recapping the game, looking around the league, making sure post-game press conferences are covered.
“Each step Brian takes, more and more people know him and are impressed with him,” says Mahoney. “But you have to remember that there are only 30 play-by-play jobs in every sport, and people don’t tend to leave them. The Sixers know him. The Phillies know him. The Eagles know him. If he bides his time and keeps on progressing bit by bit, I know he will be in line for one of them.”