Erik Kuselias—ESPN's Newest Face
Topics: Erik Kuselias
January 12, 2007
Friday, January 12, 2007, when Erik Kuselias opens ESPN Radio’s SportsBash with his customary growl, "Here…We…Come," it will be for the final time. ESPN recently announced plans for a new half-hour daily television program called NASCAR NOW to debut on ESPN2 February 5, 2007, at 6:30 p.m., with Kuselias slated to man the driver’s seat.
ESPN, the self-proclaimed "Worldwide Leader in Sports," employs a veritable army of personalities, both on its syndicated radio network, as well as its array of television stations, which includes ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN Classic, ESPN News, ESPNU and ESPN Deportes. Many of those personalities are former professional athletes adding years of experience and knowledge to analyst roles. Many others are journalists. Erik Kuselias is different from any of his colleagues in that, by definition, he is neither.
Kuselias, the photogenic 37-year old, didn’t come to ESPN by way of a professional sports career, nor was he a career journalist. Before joining the ESPN family, Erik was managing partner at the Hamden, Connecticut, law firm of Goldblatt, Kuselias & Rashba, P.C., where he specialized in litigation practice.
Despite Kuselias’ unusual path to becoming a radio talk show host, he is certainly no stranger to athletics. Kuselias was a star football and baseball player in high school, as well as a member of Brown University’s baseball team.
He is also no stranger to journalism, as he is currently working on his dissertation to receive a PhD from the Columbia Journalism School, to accompany his undergraduate degree from Brown, and his law degree from the University of Michigan. As if those accomplishments weren’t enough, he has also served as an elected member of the Hamden town council—at the tender age of 26—and is a member of the intellectualist group Mensa.
Kuselias received his start in sports radio in 2001, when he and his brother, Chris, started doing a one-hour weekly sports program for New Haven, Connecticut, radio station WELI. Kuselias was involved with WELI through contract negotiations for local personalities when someone asked him if he knew someone that could do such a program. Brother Chris sparked the idea he and Erik could do the job as a tandem, as the brothers had spent all their lives debating sports.
Someone at ESPN heard the dueling Kuselias brothers’ show and offered them a one-week trial on ESPN Radio in 2002. That one-week trial became a weekday show in 2003, as the brothers introduced the audience to SportsBrothers.
Chris left the team in February, 2004, to focus on his successful business, but Erik’s decision to remain a full-time sports talk show host was easy. In terms of walking away from the courtroom, Kuselias indicates, "I don’t miss it. I didn’t love it, and in our family we had a rule. You can be unhappy, but you can’t not do anything about it."
Of his run on the SportsBash, Kuselias says, "It’s been fun and interesting. I’m very proud. We’re one of the fastest growing shows in the country, and our affiliates have doubled." He cites his favorite guests to not necessarily include current athletes, but the sports insiders, such as NFL guru Chris Mortensen, former major league general manager Steve Phillips, baseball writer Buster Olney, and former NFL player Mark Schlereth. "I don’t do a coach-speak or athlete-speak show where I ask a coach what he was thinking when he left a guy in in the sixth inning. We go for the inside information."
Many fans of the show will view its legacy to include the resurrection of ‘Brass Bonanza’, the theme song from the old Hartford Whalers hockey team, as Kuselias played the corny band tune every broadcast during the NHL’s 2004-2005 season strike.
Kuselias’ desire for depth is why he considers his legacy on SportsBash as "…pushing the envelope in demanding a discussion of sports in an intellectual and opinionated way." Listening to SportsBash, the audience is quick to notice that Kuselias not only presents his opinions in a very lawyer-like manner, complete with evidence and logic, but demands the same from his guests and callers. This approach distinguishes SportsBash from virtually every other sports talk show on the dial.
When asked about the switch to a NASCAR themed program, Erik indicates, "ESPN has made a huge commitment to the industry." The network has committed eight years to Nascar programming and, according to Kuselias, wanted to provide the growing sports venue with its own person in a setting that is fast-paced, fun, but demanding in the depth of information it provides. NASCAR NOW will be broadcast Monday through Friday from 6:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., as well as Sundays for one hour pre-race, and one hour post- race. No decision has been made as to its production during NASCAR's short off-season.
Kuselias is set to be the lone anchorperson for the show, but will be far from the only person the audience sees. The show will rely upon industry experts to provide analysis and breaking news. "We might have (Dale Earnhardt) Junior on one night or Junior’s tire guy." While he considers the biggest challenge of his new position to be the adjustment to an abbreviated forum time-wise, Kuselias looks forward to the fast-paced responsibility of being flexible and reacting to the unpredictable nature of live television while following up on spontaneous topics or conversations.
Kuselias indicates the future of SportsBash or its drive-time slot has yet to be determined, but he will continue to act as a guest host on ESPN Radio programs such as Mike and Mike in the Morning, and Dan Patrick’s afternoon radio program.
As Erik has proven with everything else in his life, he will no doubt enjoy great success in his new endeavor. His devoted fan base, while missing the spirited debate and variety of SportsBash, should find NASCAR NOW able to satisfy its ‘Kuselias fix’. Hopefully, he can find a way to incorporate a little "Brass Bonanza" into the show on occasion.
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