The ceremony is well-deserved.
Friday night, before the Bradford High-Karns City football game at Parkway Field, WESB’s Frank Arlington — “Williams” to his listeners — will be feted for his 331st, and last, Owls broadcast.
After 34 years, though he’ll continue his on-air duties in-studio, Arlington will end his play-by-play football career. It comes five years after he gave up the basketball beat that lasted 27 seasons.
Add in the hoops, he did over 1,000 Bradford High football and basketball games. Toss in 34 Big 30 All-Star Football contests and a couple dozen Bradford Central Christian hoops contests in the 12 years the program existed while he was broadcasting. Then there were the 24 football games and double that number of basketball contests in a three-year stint at Lockport’s WLDL where he worked with now-Bills’ play-by-play man John Murphy and Arlington’s high school broadcast resume numbers nearly 1,150 games.
“I’m proud of the fact I’ve never missed a Bradford football game,” said the 59-year-old Brockport alumnus, whose WESB career started in 1986, doing two games with his predecessor, Kevin Kelley. “In fact, I only missed three or four basketball games … all due to family circumstances, none because of illness.
And while his health is fine, two replaced hips notwithstanding, Arlington admitted of ending his play-by-play career, “I just feel it’s time. For 34 years, every Friday night in the fall has been taken up.
“The team has really been struggling this year (1-7 record, six of eight games ending under the mercy rule, four shutouts) and it got to a point where my heart may not be in it. I’ve been doing it so long ... now I can spend more time with my wife and my Fridays will be open. We have a cottage in the Adirondacks and Patti has family in Lockport and now we can go both places in the fall.”
Arlington added, “In some sense burnout is a factor because of the travel we do. When we were in District 10, it was trips to Franklin, Meadville, Slippery Rock and some of those Erie schools. In the District 9 league, it was Moniteau, Punxsutawney and Karns City — 2.5-hour trips galore. It’s not that I’ve lost the love of play-by-play but I think it wore me down.”
And, given his schedule, that makes sense.
“I start work at 4:30 in the morning (news and sports) and that was burnout too,” he said of a shift that ends at 1:30 p.m. “By the time the season ended, my voice was tired, I was tired.”
But there was also another factor in Arlington ending his play-by-play career. He lost his 30-year-old son, Stefan, his broadcast partner, in January of 2018.
“My wife has had a harder time than I, but as a father, I felt he was going to replace me in football,” Arlington said. “He worked with me six years on the broadcasts and we won three Pennsylvania Association of Broadcasters awards for football play-by-play.
“Stefan played for the Owls and knew football … it was special working with him. But it’s funny, old-timers would come up to us and say, ‘How can you call your dad Frank (on the air)? And they would say to me, ‘Doesn’t it bother you, your son calling you Frank?’ But that was a professional-level exchange and we always got a laugh out of it.”
However, an accident changed Stefan’s life and ultimately led to his passing.
“He was taking garbage out of his apartment and fell going down the steps breaking his arm in two places,” Arlington recalled. “He never recovered from that. He couldn’t do a lot with his arm … he couldn’t raise it and it bothered him, especially when it was cold. Ultimately the pain led to his opiate problem.
“A lot of people don’t like to admit (the opiate issue exists) but we went through it and it was tough for Patti and I … watching him suffer. Opiates affect different people different ways.”
Arlington continued, “He had done basketball for three or four years after I gave it up until he went into rehabilitation. Stefan went through an addiction problem, then we got him clean and were thinking he was doing fine. Then he had a heart attack … basically from the wear and tear of addiction.
“After he passed, I almost didn’t do football in 2018, but (the station) talked me into it and I thought I’d do it a few more years … but when you’ve done it for so long and feel your heart isn’t in it, I knew it was time.”
(Chuck Pollock, a Times Herald senior sports columnist, can be reached at email@example.com)