Friday, June 22, 2007

Kuselias Goes To Radio And "NASCAR Now" Goes To Heaven


Friday began for a lot of sports fans like myself by checking out Mike and Mike on ESPN Radio. This program is also broadcast on ESPN2, which I was watching. With co-host Mike Greenberg on vacation, the Friday show turned to a sports radio veteran to step-in. His name is Erik Kuselias, and he is the full time host for NASCAR Now on ESPN2.

That same morning in California, the inspection process for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup cars took place in Sonoma. Shortly thereafter, news began buzzing through the pits that over in "template land," all hell was breaking loose. There were two cars parked without inspection stickers that allowed them to race, and they had the numbers twenty-four and forty-eight.

Mike Golic is well-spoken, but he is no match for Mike Greenberg. Meanwhile, Greenberg is great on facts while Golic is great on common sense and "reality." Their differences make them a good radio show, and the fact that they like and respect each other as friends really closes the deal for listeners.

Erik Kuselias was already wearing thin on Mike Golic one hour into their program together. Kuselias had turned everything Golic said into a debate, and would not let anything just "slide by" as conversation. In talking about football teams, Pacman Jones, and player behavior, Kuselias was on a roll. Anyone who watches or listens to the show regularly could tell that things were coming to a head. Golic was steamed.

With Kuselias on the radio and TV with Mike and Mike, ESPN News Anchor Ryan Burr stepped-in for his second NASCAR Now show of the week. Little did he know one of the "new" top stories of the year was brewing on the West Coast. Burr had delivered a great Thursday show, but the last segment was ruined as the program aired, and ESPN was unable to fix it for the East Coast. For Burr, Friday was going to be memorable.

Erik Kuselias was pointing at Mike Golic. Kuselias was yelling about all kinds of things like personal responsibility, NFL players as adults, and being accountable. Golic was trying to be realistic in that the "new breed" of players in the league needed some sort of "assistance" to stay out of trouble.

The problem was, Kuselias kept telling Golic he was "wrong." In a radio talk show anyone can have an opinion. When that opinion is being expressed by a former NFL player who the show is named after, a substitute host might consider a little understanding. Not Kuselias. No friendship here and no respect.

NASCAR had made a decision. They were going to park the points leader and his wingman for practice and qualifying. Both of them had presented illegal COT cars and could start from the rear of the field...if the changes they made Friday after inspection allowed them to pass. If not, no racing. The bombshell had exploded.

There was steam coming out of Mike Golic's ears when he turned to Erik Kuselias and said "you're a lawyer." Golic continued that as a lawyer, Kuselias could "spin things anyway he needed to for a client." Golic said it didn't make any difference what reality was, or what people actually needed, that Erik Kuselias could say anything at anytime as long as he had the need. Kuselias looked at Golic with an arrogant smile and said "I'm not above that."

I reached up and changed the channel. I was as done with Kuselias on Mike and Mike as I was on NASCAR Now. Sports TV does not need to be mean and argumentative to get points across to viewers. If that is the format the people like on some sports radios shows, that's fine. As many readers have told me, that is Kuselias strong point, battling callers and stirring the pot on radio.

Ryan Burr and his crew took to the air with NASCAR Now and slammed a thirty minute NASCAR show on the air that viewers could watch each and every day. Burr hit the big story, then went directly to Marty Smith in California for a live update. Smith laid down the details not only about the inspection issue, but potential penalties that could come down next week.

Bob Holtzman was the ESPN "pool" reporter this week, and he updated the Hendrick story with good driver comments from Sonoma. Richard Childress had great words about the urgency to keep things under control with the COT, or go right back to the incredible expense and exotic parts that currently rule the Cup circuit.

Holtzman continued with an interview of Terry Labonte who was returning to NASCAR under rather questionable circumstances. In the only glitch of the show, Holtzman showed that "pool" reporters like David Amber or Wendi Nix often miss the NASCAR stories because of their lack of racing knowledge. Labonte's return was causing hard feelings up and down pit road. He is back to use his champion's provisional if he does not make the race on time, and guarantee Michael Waltrip's car into the event.

Burr lead Tim Cowlishaw through the mandatory sales feature of "driver pick'ems," and also ran a video advancer on Sonoma edited by the NASCAR Now production staff. There were no technical problems with this show, and it seems that ESPN's on-air issues are long gone.

With Allen Bestwick in Milwaukee doing double-duty hosting NASCAR Countdown and the ESPN Busch Series race, fans like to settle for the next best thing in Ryan Burr. His on-air presentation is excellent, and his knowledge of the sport is solid. Why he has not migrated to this program full-time is anybody's guess.

It is now about a month before ESPN leaves the friendly confines of the Busch Series, and steps-up onto the main stage of NEXTEL Cup. They will be the face of NASCAR for the entire "Chase for the Cup," and NASCAR Now will be their news outlet. This is the time to make the changes needed to allow both the live racing and the daily news show to shine like the network envisioned when they began planning.

ESPN has already released Doug Banks and brought-in Ryan Burr. Last week, they allowed Mike Massaro to step-up and host NASCAR Countdown. This week, Allen Bestwick hosts Countdown and calls the action in the Busch race. We know change can occur, and hope ESPN uses this four week period before "The Brickyard" to continue these positive efforts. When the national spotlight begins to shine in July, everyone on the air had better know their NASCAR...everyone.

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6 comments:

Anonymous said...

As a radio talk show host, Erik Kuselias is fantastic. I used to listen to Erik most days prior to him joining ESPN’s NASCAR coverage.

He is much better on his own than he is sharing airtime with a co-host. So your point is taken as it relates to his appearances on Mike and Mike.

I want to do my disclaimer here: I have been a NASCAR fan since the mid-80s and I am a lawyer. Please don’t hold that against me.

I was little disappointed that Erik was leaving his radio gig on ESPN Radio to join their new NASCAR crew. In my time of listening to “The Sports Bash” I don’t recall Erik discussing NASCAR. Most folks at ESPN never did. ESPN is, for the most part, a sports elitist organization that does not like to recognize certain types of sports (e.g. racing, UFC etc., etc.)

So, I was very skeptical of Erik’s knowledge of NASCAR racing. I think the history and tradition of NASCAR is as important as what is going on now. I think it is arrogant and insulting when a network, be it ESPN or whoever, puts pretty faces on TV when they don’t have a clue about NASCAR’s history and heritage – both good and bad.

Erik is purported to have an encyclopedic brain with an exceptional ability to read and retain knowledge. This may or may not be true. But that can not replace decades of passionately following NASCAR. I think that is where ESPN went wrong, and I think that is why Erik is out of place to long time fans of NASCAR.

Now, the reason I like Erik as a general sports talk personality, is because of his ability to gather a lot of information, synthesize it and present it to the audience. He does have a vast knowledge of football that makes him very enjoyable to listen to.

Also, in the mainstream media, there seems to be a fixation on legal issues and the law in general. Athletes get arrested or into some type of legal trouble all the time. Erik was able, with his background, to cut through the BS and give a sound objective legal analysis. For me, it was refreshing instead of hearing regurgitated lawyer and PR spin from the members of the media. A good example of this was the Kobe Bryant rape allegation. Erik actually went back and read Kobe’s statements and other documents and was able to give me, as a listener, a disinterested and reasoned picture of the known facts. To me, that was refreshing.

I wish he would go back to doing radio. If he wasn’t doing NASCAR, I think you might like him a little bit more than you do now.


Regards,

C

Anonymous said...

John....

I get you don't like Eric K as host of NN. I don't either.

BUT, but for you to write, as you did about Mike & Mike, "Their differences make them a good radio show, and the fact that they like and respect each other as friends really closes the deal for listeners"....well, now I have to question your judgement and comments you post on the blog. Which I read daily via an RSS feed. I don't think they are a good radio show, and without the ESPN name attached would be out of this job.

Those 2 guy's show, Golic and Greenburg are awful-they scream at each other, the promos for the show are in poor taste and too loud. Yes, I despise them as much as you do Kuselias.

If you are as savvy as you seem to be about TV and radio production, I have to hope you are praising M&M in order to skewer Kuselias. You know, honestly, M&M are bad radio. They do the same things on radio you complain about EK doing on TV on NN. Except they will take a tiny nugget of sports news and chew on it for an hour-or more. Please, spare me.

Maybe you know M&M personally and so have a different take, but me, as a radio listener (my preference over TV), I hate their show. It is bad radio.

Jim
Raleigh NC

Anonymous said...

The missing Driver Pick'em segment was shown Thursday night on the replay of the show on DirecTv. The SAME segment was used Friday... I guess they didn't want to waste it.

Also, I disagree with Jim. I enjoy M&M and I do believe that "Their differences make them a good radio show, and the fact that they like and respect each other as friends really closes the deal for listeners".

thedope said...

I find Erik Kuselias completely annoying. He grated on my nerves on the Sports Bash, and I don't like him on NASCAR now.

Although his background and credentials are somewhat suspect to being a host on Nascar Now, at the end of the day the question must be asked: is he entertaining and informative? Ultimately, he's in the entertainment business. I find him to be neither entertaining or particularly informative. As far as I'm concerned he's another loudmouth that adds little - in the mold of Tony Kornheiser.

Vince said...

I have to agree with thedope on his comments of Erik K. And disagree with the lawyer C's comments. Erik is just plain annoying, obnoxious and arrogant. He needs to go back to being a lawyer and stay the hell off of TV and radio. As for the M & M show, I find it completely annoying as are those two. I watched 5 minutes of that so called show when it first came out and that was it for me.

And I have to disagree with a comment you made concerning the technical problems on NascarNow, to quote "There were no technical problems with this show, and it seems that ESPN's on-air issues are long gone". Just because ESPN can get though one program doesn't mean their technical issues are long gone. Their production of NASCARNow has been sloppy from the start in Feb. I also disagree that Ryan Burr is the host NascarNow needs. I think the best choices from ESPN land would be Allan Bestwick or Mike Massaro. I find Ryan Burr to be average at best. He is still reading from a script and does not have the Nascar or driver knowledge to ask the right questions and interact with the drivers. But he is much more pleasant to listen to than Erik K. for sure.

I did like the fact that NascarNow on Friday had more on camera interviews with the drivers and no cell phone interviews.

I guess I was mostly disappointed with NascarNow because I'd been watching Speed's coverage of practice and their live stage show at the track and NascarNow was a big drop off in the quality after Speed's coverage of the day.

I'm waiting to see how ESPN does with the Busch race tonight. It seems to be getting better every week. Hope it keeps up.

Anonymous said...

I watch/listen to 30 to 40 or more minutes of MIKE & MIKE on ESPN2 most mornings - BUT Friday with the Butcher of NASCAR NOW filling in for Greenberg I could only stomach about 8 minutes before turning the channel. The Butcher of NN is not only uninformed, he obviously does not care that he is. ESPN has obviously taken its eye off the ball.