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Personality Profile: Kirk McEwen

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When you talk to Kirk McEwen, you can’t help but be in a good mood after the conversation. His energy, love for life and passion for sports, music and fun are very easy to recognize.

Kirk12The morning man for 98.7 The Fan in Tampa has a radio background that seems to have become a bigger attraction to sports talk radio programmers across the country today. While he currently patrols the airwaves as a sports radio personality, his prior experience and success have come as an air talent in the rock radio format.

Kirk’s career started in Baltimore where he worked for legendary rock station 98 Rock. He was hired to work part-time on the weekends and eventually earned a promotion to host evenings. While doing radio for 98 Rock was exciting, when DC 101 in Washington DC came calling, it was an opportunity he couldn’t pass up.

Kirk11For the next 3 years Kirk established himself on the DC 101 airwaves and became a fixture in the market but soon he found himself being pulled back home to 98 Rock. He hosted nights, afternoons and finally mornings, where he’d become one third of the highly successful “Kirk, Mark and Lopez Show“. KML was instrumental in launching the career of Larry the Cable Guy and was voted “Best Morning Radio Show” in 2004 by Baltimore Magazine.

While the show became a mainstream success in the Baltimore market, it would suffer a crushing blow in 2005 when Kirk’s on-air partner (Lopez) would lose his battle with cancer. Kirk and Mark would remain on 98 Rock until 2006 but then they’d make a move across town to WHFS where they’d take over mornings.

Kirk17The opportunity at WHFS would be short-lived but Kirk would rebound, landing on his feet at 105.9 The Edge where he’d return to hosting mornings, this time alongside Mike O’Meara. The show had enjoyed a solid 23-month run when a format change occurred and Kirk was once again left on the outside looking in.

As many in the industry know, sometimes a short-term setback can lead to a better long-term situation and after a 10-month break, Kirk was hired by CBS to head south to Tampa to help launch a brand new sports radio station, 98.7 The Fan! Upon arriving in the sunshine state, Kirk was paired with former NHL player Chris Dingman to form the “Kirk and Dinger” show and he’s been a fixture on the Tampa sports radio scene ever since.

Kirk7On the personal side, Kirk is a self-proclaimed “military brat,” whose father served in the U.S. Air Force. He was born in Berlin – the youngest of six kids and is the younger brother of former CBS “This Morning” personality Mark McEwen. He is also multi-talented, with a side career in stand-up comedy and music. He’s opened up for comedians Daniel Tosh, Tommy Davidson and Larry the Cable Guy and his band (The Kirk McEwen Band) have opened up for groups such as Cinderella, the Fabulous Thunderbirds and Matchbox 20.

I reached out to Kirk to pick his brain on his radio career, the transition into sports talk radio and to understand how he blends his various backgrounds into his daily show and I found him to be very engaging, upbeat and interesting. I think you’ll enjoy reading the conversation.

Kirk15Q: Prior to entering radio, who were some of the personalities you enjoyed listening to who led you to want to explore this medium?

A: My brother was instrumental in leading me down this path. He loved his job and was good at it and had a lot of success on a number of great stations all over the country as well as on television. He worked on CBS This Morning and the Early Show and there’s no question he was a strong influence. Another guy who I liked a lot was Tony Colter. He’s on Sirius now but was on 98 Rock in Baltimore and DC 101 (stations I also worked at) and he was a friend of the family and someone who knew how to have fun playing rock and roll.

PPC ph-ce-orioles-voice-A.jpgQ: What was your first job and what responsibilities did you have?

A: Chuck DuCoty gave me my first job at WMUC which was a college radio station in Maryland. I went in for an internship and one of the DJ’s had broken some albums after learning that he was only getting 38 hours per week instead of 40 (which back then meant you weren’t considered full-time) so my internship quickly became a job. I started out doing some weekend work and climbed up the ladder from there.

Kirk14Q: In addition to being a radio personality, you also possess a background as a stand up comedian and musician. How do those experiences help you in what you do each day on the radio?

A: Humor is good in any format and when you can make people laugh that keeps an audience interested. When I first started out doing radio I’d be thinking about which of my friends or family were listening and what they might say to me afterwards. When I’m performing comedy or music, I’m usually in front of people that I don’t know and that helps because I’m not worried as much about what they might think. If I’m being heckled or if the lights on stage don’t work, that forces me to have to pull my act together and prove to the audience that I’m a strong entertainer even when the situation is challenging and the same thing applies to doing morning radio!

mcewenQ: Your brother Mark was very successful in the media industry. Did his achievements make it easier or more difficult for you to establish yourself?

A: It made it easier for me to get noticed because people would want to talk to me because of who my brother was. He’s no longer in the public eye and I miss that because he was great at what he did. I gained a lot of opportunities that I might not have received if I wasn’t Mark McEwen’s brother. The challenge though was getting people to remember who I was because half the time they’d be like “Oh your Mark’s brother“.

Kirk21Q: Some of your biggest career success came in Baltimore and Washington DC where you worked for rock stations DC 101 and 98 Rock. What do you attribute your success to in each of those places?

A: My passion for music and love for people played a big part in helping me succeed there. Growing up, my brother had one of the coolest jobs in the world to me and so I thought it would be great to do the same thing. When you’re on the radio and you’re talking to people, they don’t care what you look like, they just want to be part of the conversation with you. I think my ability to relate and connect with people helped me a lot in those two places.

Kirk8Q: In 2012 you moved to Tampa and entered the sports radio format, joining 98.7 The Fan. Why did you think this format would be a good fit for you?

A: I’ve always loved sports. I used to play stratomatic baseball and go to games and it’s always been a part of my life. In 1988 Ken Singleton played baseball and was doing part time work on the weekends in Baltimore on Channel 13. When he left to go to NY they held a contest to replace him and I finished 2nd because the station thought I would become good and leave since my brother was a known broadcaster. They were right about that but it allowed me to get some experience on tape doing sports and I thought it was something I could do really well. After my situation in Baltimore ended, I had heard that the story on me was that I was lazy and it was the furthest thing from the truth. I went up to NY and told my agent that I’d like to have a chat with Chris Olivero and Scott Herman to clear the air. I showed up in my Len Dawson jersey and we talked for a while and everyone agreed to start with a clean slate. A few months later my agent called me and asked if I’d entertain moving to Tampa and I said yes and I’ve been here ever since.

Kirk16Q: As you began your run with 98.7 The Fan, you were initially paired with former NHL player Chris Dingman on the “Kirk and Dinger” show. How would you summarize that show and what led to it being changed?

A: It was interesting. You had a black guy from the mid-Atlantic and a Canadian hockey player and we were thrown into a room and told “go”! We had to create the image of the show and get a feel for each other and we ended up having some success but it was a challenge for us to find that groove. I was new to the market and Chris had never done radio before, let alone a morning show and so we made it the best we could given the circumstances.

kirkkage2Q: With Dinger gone, you’ve added Jesse Kage to the show, who like yourself, has a background in rock radio. Why does his addition to the show excite you?

A: I get a feel for people really fast. When you hear Jesse talk, he’s very educated. The dude has a bald head, tattoos and a huge goatee and he’s friends with everyone. He’s younger than me and we come from different backgrounds yet have a lot in common so we’re able to bring good balance to one another. There are times during the year when you can’t over analyze a game and you need to be able to entertain people and it’s easy to do that with Jesse. This pairing feels really natural.

kirk25Q: What do you tell a Tampa sports radio listener who might be concerned that the show will have too much guy talk and not enough sports talk?

A: We will talk sports and have good guests on and the goal for us is to make people think and interact. We’re also guys though who like a number of different things and we want to be able to let people in on our lives. There will be a good mix for everyone to enjoy and it will be built around our personalities. The hardcore stuff such as doing game breakdowns isn’t what we do. There’s another local outlet available that can give people that style of show.

kirkkageQ: On the show you also include Roxanne Wilder and Special Ed Grube. Why do you believe it’s important to utilize a supporting cast on a radio show?

A: When you can include different people in a show it provides more interesting viewpoints. Roxanne for example is very sports savvy and brings things to the table that are different than what Jesse and I do. When the whole Ray Rice thing happened we wanted a female perspective on it and she can do that and do it really well. Special Ed on the other hand is crafty at writing songs and creating bits for the show and having that mix of people contributing to the success of the show keeps it fun and loose.

kirk26Q: When you guys step back and look at the “Kirk and Kage” show, what is the mission statement for the program? 

A: It’s sports with a jagged edge. There might be some similarities to what Toucher and Rich do in Boston but we have our own style. We’re not a hardcore sports show but we know there are times to be serious and times to be funny and we want to provide a good mix.

Kirk4Q: When it comes to improving your show, how do you measure improvement? How often does your show meet and what do you look to accomplish in that meeting?

A: We call my boss (PD John McConnell) “Johnny Sports Guy” and he’ll get in and listen and we’ll chat in his office about the show but it’s a feel thing. We’re always thinking of things we can do to make it better and we’ll text a lot or talk in person and point out things that have to be stronger. It’s really about regular communication and everyone feeling they’ve got a say in the show.

987TheFan2Q: To someone on the outside who isn’t familiar with the Tampa sports radio market, how would you describe it? 

A: It’s challenging because there are beaches, good concerts, families with pools who want to relax and enjoy the sunshine and to get their attention you need to put a winner on the field. Even if you do, people may still not check it out. But I like it because the challenge makes it fun. Football is king here even though the stands may not reflect it. The Lightning sell out all the time and the Rays have great TV ratings even though the in stadium attendance isn’t high. There are also a ton of transplants here so fan allegiances are diverse and that allows us to branch out from time to time.

markmcewenQ: As you reflect on your career and all you have accomplished, what is some of the best advice you were given that you still utilize today? Who gave it to you?

A: My brother told me “when you talk, if you smile, you can’t help but be in a good mood”. People don’t want to wake up and hear someone on the radio who’s miserable. I love being able to talk and have fun and I pride myself on being a brother in rock and roll. There aren’t a lot of black guys doing this format who haven’t played professional sports and I think that helps me in standing out.

Kirk10Q: What is one area where you believe sports radio needs to evolve?

A: People doing this need to have more fun. This ain’t your dad’s Buick. Most of us didn’t play the game and we don’t need to apologize for that. It’s about guys having fun, sharing opinions and not worrying about being wrong. There’s too much emphasis on hard hitting information in some places and I think shows can hit on issues that guys like and enjoy themselves a little more.

Kirk22Q: If there’s anything you can offer to someone who’s just entering this industry and trying to develop a career in it, what would it be?

A: Years ago I would have advised people to get into radio. I’m not sure today if I would. People aren’t listening to radio as heavily as they used to. Now they’re podcasting and doing social media. However, if you’re passionate about it and really want it, work hard at learning as much as you can, find a mentor, and work on developing your own style. Trying to be someone else doesn’t work. Be yourself and be comfortable with it.

Kirk McEwen can be heard weekday mornings in Tampa from 6am-9am on 98.7 The Fan. You can also follow his show “Kirk and Kage” on Twitter by clicking here.

Sports Radio News

Doug Gottlieb, Nick Wright Feud Over College Sports NIL Issues

“Gottlieb caught wind of Wright’s rant and let his disapproval be known.”

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FOX Sports hosts Doug Gottlieb and Nick Wright definitely do not see eye-to-eye when it comes to money going to college athletes.

Despite both being employed by the same company, Gottlieb, who is never afraid to voice his opinion, fired back at Wright Friday regarding his take on college football’s NIL rule in the wake of Alabama head coach Nick Saban’s claiming Texas A&M’s Jimbo Fisher “brought” his recruits.

On Wright’s morning show, First Things First, the colorful broadcaster had a two minute rant about how he’s happy that schools are finding workarounds under the new NIL rules implemented by the NCAA to pay the players for their name, image and likeness. He said the universities have been taking advantage of college athletes, particularly black student athletes from rough backgrounds, for years and now that the tide has shifted, people are freaking out.

“The general sports public wants extra regulations and extra rules, is keeping their thumbs on college football and basketball players because their is an undeniable and always has been an incredibly uncomfortable racial context of the guys,” Wright said. “It’s mostly young black men from mostly really tough circumstances, generating billions of dollars. Who’s sharing in that?” Wright asked.

“An overwhelmingly white administration, an overwhelmingly white coaching staff, and an overwhelmingly white non-revenue sports. How do we pay for the tennis team and golf team, ah men’s football and basketball. What do they get? A scholarship. Be happy, we pulled you out the hood. Maybe you’ll have a better life if somehow you make the league or do something with your education.”

Gottlieb caught wind of Wright’s rant and let his disapproval be known. That resulted in a back and forth between the two sports personalities on Twitter.

Gottlieb continued, claiming the NIL rule puts exceedingly high expectations on the student-athletes before ever stepping on campus and are given something without having to “earn it.”

“The sad part is this push to pay SAs before they have even played a game, taken a class or assimilated to a school sets them up for failure in their post sports career. If you have been given before you earn, where is the motivation when you get to the real world?”

Wright then took a shot at Gottlieb, saying it always feels good that his take is the complete opposite of Gottlieb’s.

The dialogue continued with Gottlieb throwing shots at Wright, calling his take “embarrassing” and mentioning how he failed to point out the educational imbalance in society during his take. Wright asked Gottlieb what are some of the other “fake racism” takes that he claims are out in the media.

Gottlieb is no stranger to conflict with his FOX Sports colleagues. Troy Aikman called his opinion on Andrew Luck’s retirement “total bullshit” in a tweet from 2019. More recently, Gottlieb got into it with Speak for Yourself co-host Emmanuel Acho after Gottlieb ripped his brother Sam’s “Top 5 QB list” on First Take. He also called out Skip Bayless for name-calling.

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Bob Cousy: ‘JJ Redick Is Untalented Using Me To Get Attention On ESPN’

“People with less talent will always try to make a name for themselves by criticizing other people and hopefully getting some attention and perhaps increasing their credibility,” Cousy said.

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Celtics legend Bob Cousy was not too happy with J.J. Redick dissing his game and credibility as an all-time great player.

During an appearance on First Take, Redick got into a fiery debate with Chris “Mad Dog” Russo about whether Chris Paul deserves to be mentioned among the best point guards in NBA history despite another disappointing exit from the playoffs. Russo claimed that Paul is “no Bob Cousy” which prompted Redick to retort, saying Cousy couldn’t even dribble with his left hand and called the players he played against, “plumbers” and “firemen.”

“Bob Cousy won championships when there were eight teams in the NBA and you had to win two playoff series,” Reddick said. “Let’s celebrate Bob Cousy in his era, but you can’t compare pre-1980 with the modern NBA.”

The 93-old Cousy made an appearance on SiriusXM Radio where he went scorched earth on Redick, basically calling the ESPN analyst “untalented” while listing some of the players that he went up against in his era.

“People with less talent will always try to make a name for themselves by criticizing other people and hopefully getting some attention and perhaps increasing their credibility,” Cousy said.

“So when you respond to something like this, you play into their hands. I won’t do that, but I will defend the firemen and the plumbers that he referenced. And I’ll just give you a few of the names of these firemen that I played with and against during those years. How about Bill Russell, the aforementioned, not too bad a player. Wilt Chamberlain, remember that guy? He wasn’t bad. I guess he must have fought fires as well. But in any event, Wilt Chamberlain.

“Still the best, in my judgment, small forward that ever played the game, a guy named Elgin Baylor. A couple of point guards that weren’t too shabby, my colleague who also had an award created [in his name], guy named Oscar Robertson, who was pound for pound the best player perhaps in the game.”

Chris Paul is a 12-time All-Star compared to Cousy’s 13 appearances.

One thing Paul and Bob Cousy do have in common is their aptitude for leadership. Cousy developed and started the NBA players union in 1954, being named its first president. Paul served in that same role from 2013-2021.

The two men also share similarities off the court. Cousy was a stanch anti-racist advocate during the civil rights era 50s and 60s, when it wasn’t all that popular to so. Paul has also spoke out on issues regarding race, working with commissioner Adam Silver to address some of the issues facing the black community.

Maybe the two have more in common than either Redick or Russo would like to admit.

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Cole Cubelic: ‘A Lot Of Media Wasn’t Prepared To Talk About Nick Saban and Jimbo Fisher’

“There were multiple other messages that were attempted to be delivered by Nick Saban two nights ago that I don’t think anybody paid attention to, and I’m wondering if Jimbo paid attention to them.”

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The comments from Alabama football coach Nick Saban regarding other teams allegedly “buying” their players through the new rules pertaining to name, image and likeness (NIL) deals has set the college football world abuzz.

In his comments, Saban directly accused Texas A&M Head Coach and one of his former assistant coaches at Louisiana State University Jimbo Fisher of unreasonably using NIL deals to recruit college football players, and remarked that the system as a whole has created a fundamental disadvantage for certain programs. Additionally, he stated that Alabama has never tried to lure a player solely based on these deals; however, he left the door open to potentially having to adjust his recruitment strategy to align with the actions of his competitors around him.

Much of the college football world weighed in on the comments, but the voice everyone was waiting to hear was that of Jimbo Fisher, including McElroy and Cubic in the Morning on Jox 94.5 FM in Birmingham, Ala. On Friday morning, the program opened with show co-host Cole Cubelic reacting to the candid response given by Fisher in a news conference carried on multiple media outlets in which Fisher called Saban a “narcissist.”

“When we’ve had coaching feuds before, we’ve had guys go back and forth; we’ve had guys go at one another, sometimes in a little bit more of a subtle way; sometimes maybe a less-confrontational way,” Cubelic said. “Jimbo even said it yesterday – he’s not afraid of confrontation; he’s not worried about it.”

An aspect of what has made this discordance between two highly-accomplished and eminent coaches a story being followed across the college football landscape is the fact that it has taken place within the public sphere. When Saban appeared on SiriusXM Radio and apologized for singling out Texas A&M in his comments from earlier in the week, there was not much emotion involved, according to Cubelic. Fisher’s remarks in his press conference though, were of a completely different sentiment – and may have escalated the situation altogether.

“Debates often turn to arguments as soon as emotions become involved,” Cubelic said. “…Jimbo Fisher yesterday at 10 a.m. – that felt emotional; that felt personal, and that one had to dig deep. Jimbo Fisher said yesterday he doesn’t anticipate things are going to be repaired. I don’t see in a way that these two sort of get things back in line.”

“The bridge is burned both ways,” added show co-host Greg McElroy. “They’ll probably shake hands; do what they need to do pregame. But as far as any love lost? Nah, that’s a wrap.”

A part of this story that remains seminal when reporting or commenting on it is listening to the full extent of the comments from both Saban and Fisher on the situation so as to more effectively contextualize and comprehend the situation. Cubelic said that he did multiple interviews on different programs yesterday, and some of the interviewers, as he anticipated, had solely listened to portions of the comments, rendering them not completely prepared to have a truly pertinent discussion about the topic at hand.

“We said it here on the show yesterday morning — right out of the gate — people are going to take the Miami; the Jackson State; and the Texas A&M stuff, and they’re going to clip it and they’re going to play it and they’re going to read it and that’s all they’re going to pay attention to,” said Cubelic. “There were multiple other messages that were attempted to be delivered by Nick Saban two nights ago that I don’t think anybody paid attention to, and I’m wondering if Jimbo paid attention to them.”

Jimbo Fisher and the Texas A&M Aggies visit Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide on October 8 in a matchup that will sure to be a primary topic of discussion in the weeks and months leading to kickoff.

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