Ray Pilat has been a very active member of the Methuen community since he moved here nearly 50 years ago, but he is probably most well-known for his time covering the Methuen Rangers for Continental Cable and Methuen Community Television (MCTV).
It was always more about the kids than it was about the sports, though, Pilat said. Neither an athlete, nor an avid sports fan himself, he recalled that he was reluctant to cover his first game.
“I started working on cable television with the late Bruce Arnold. Talk about a legend. Bruce Arnold is the legend of the Merrimack Valley,” Pilat said. “He wanted to expand, he wanted to go out and do a Lawrence vs. Methuen football game. So [he and others] approached me and I initially refused, but after some arm twisting and meeting with them a few times, I said OK.”
After that, he was hooked. “That wasn’t my forte… I really liked covering politics,” he said, “but the sports became my niche.”
It started with that one football game. Then, basketball and field hockey and wrestling meets and awards ceremonies, even a talk show called the Ranger Roundup.
“We used to interview every one of the teams with their captains,” Pilat said. “It was a half hour program and we’d just talk to them. It didn’t make a difference if a team didn’t have a winning season, it didn’t matter to us.”
And it didn’t matter if the host knew how to play the sport. That made for some of the most amusing broadcasts. Pilat joked about a memory of himself on camera.
“I remember the field hockey team showing me how to hold a stick and move the ball. Here’s a guy who never knew anything about field hockey,” he laughed.
In 1996, Pilat was one of the founding fathers of MCTV and he continues his post on the board of directors to this day. MCTV is a non-profit television station staffed entirely by volunteers that’s dedicated to covering the community of Methuen.
It was founded because “the cable television operator was not enthusiastic about providing local programming,” according to their website.
“It was important to us as a group that cable provide the air for that programming and MCTV would come up with the programs,” Pilat said.
Methuen resident Karen Hayden has been the executive director for MCTV since 2002. She said that the goal of MCTV is “to educate and entertain and have a tighter knit community through media.” She said Pilat has had a huge impact on the station and achieving that goal.
“He’s always treated people fairly and he’s always willing to teach and share his knowledge when someone new comes along,” Hayden said. “Also, he’s got a good sense of humor. He’s easy to work with and he’s a fantastic grandfather.”
Fellow MCTV broadcaster Jamie Atkinson, who himself recently celebrated 25 years in local broadcasting, got his start with Pilat on the station’s high school basketball and football broadcasts and pro sports talk shows like “Patriots Pride” and “Red Sox Monthly.” He said Pilat has always been an inspiration and ally on and off the mic.
“I’ve learned a lot from Ray. He taught me to stay calm and never worry if you make a mistake,” Atkinson said. “Most importantly, he taught me that when we do a game, it’s all about the kids. I’ve had so many fond memories working with Ray. He is more than a broadcast partner. He is a great mentor and friend. After all, he is Uncle Ray.”
Atkinson said there are so many great memories of working with Pilat, but perhaps his favorite was a remote broadcast of “Patriots Pride” in 1996.
“We did a Super Bowl special at the high school when the Patriots were in the Super Bowl and it was great,” he said. “Unfortunately, the Patriots lost to the Packers, but we had about 30 people show up for a live audience and Ray and I had so much fun with the crowd that day.”
A Lawrence native, Pilat moved to Methuen with his then-new wife in 1971. He taught general business and marketing classes at the high school until 1983. They bought a house, had two children and have remained in Methuen since. Their son moved away, but their daughter has remained here with her own two children.
“It’s the people that keep me and my wife here,” Pilat said. “Watching my grandchildren grow up in this community is special.”
Pilat received recognition from the Exchange Club and was declared “Man of the Year” by the Methuen Board of Trade for his contributions to MCTV and the local youth, but he doesn’t take much credit, repeatedly referring to other people’s achievements and support, especially that of his family.
“I was lucky enough to have a wife and children that embraced me doing that,” he said.
The community, too, embraced him “doing that,” with former students to this day leaving comments of fond memories on his Facebook page and approaching him in public to thank him.
“Just about six months ago a woman approached me,” he said “She was the coach of the Methuen High School cheerleaders.” She wanted to let him know how much she appreciated him treating the cheerleaders like any other sports team. “She said, ‘That was such a great feeling for us’.”
“You have to understand, cheerleading is now recognized by the MIAA, but at that time it was not, and there are still people in this area who hold on to those concepts. But I’ll tell ya, those kids are fantastic,” Pilat said.
“Working with the youth and watching them progress has been my greatest success,” he said.
“I cherish the success that they are having now. My grandsons [one is a senior at Central Catholic High School and the other is a recent graduate] are friends with these kids who compete for Methuen High School. They’re all friends and these kids have become my friends,” he said.
Wait … did he say Central Catholic High School?
With that connection to Central Catholic, does Pilat’s loyalty still lay with the Rangers or is it now with the Raiders
“It lies with my grandsons,” he said coyly. “The rest is just laundry.”
You can catch Pilat and his younger grandson, Harrison Chase, on MCTV’s “Patriot’s Pride” during football season, and learn more about MCTV, including how to volunteer at their website, methuentv.org. MCTV airs on Comcast channel 22 and Verizon channel 33.
And when there is a special event that needs a signature set of pipes and an elevated touch of class — such as the recent renaming of the MHS auditorium in honor of Pilat’s long-time friend, MHS legendary principal Arthur Nicholson III — you can be sure Pilat will be at the mic.
“That was such an honor to be part of that ceremony. No one is more deserving than Nick,” Pilat said. “I’m very blessed that I was given a chance to make an impact in this community and that folks still want me at the podium. I’ll always be there.”