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Massaro Finds His Niche As Nascar Broadcaster

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When Mike Massaro graduated from Emerson College in 1992, he wanted to be a local sports anchor.

That never materialized, but a family’s love of motor sports sent him in a different direction.

This week, with NASCAR closing in on crowning its 2015 Sprint Cup Series champion, Massaro will be on pit road at Phoenix International Raceway Sunday holding a microphone for NBC Sports as one of the most recognizable faces in NASCAR broadcasting.

Massaro, of Ellington, works for NBC Sports as a pit reporter for their coverage of Sprint Cup Series and XFINITY Series events. He also serves as a studio host and feature contributor for NBC’s NASCAR Across America.

“I had a career path that I was thinking about when I got out of school, but it was not racing,” Massaro, 45, said. “In my mind’s eye, I wanted to be a local sports anchor. The guy that did the two- or three-minute sportscast on the local news every night. That was I wanted to do, or thought I wanted to do.”

Massaro’s father, Tom, had been involved as a crew member for years helping local modified racing teams at the short tracks of Connecticut and the Northeast. So Mike was around tracks as a kid growing up in Manchester.

“I got out of school and it was so difficult to find a job,” Massaro said. “My dad, in his speech to me, said, ‘Look, you’re trying to do this mainstream sportscasting, but you know stuff that others don’t that might help get an advantage. You know racing, you’ve been around it your whole life. Why don’t you pursue that?’ He said it worked for Jack Arute Jr., it worked for [Windsor native and longtime Fox broadcaster] Mike Joy; they started at Stafford and went on to big things in television.

“My dad, he talked in a manner that really convinced me that maybe it was a good idea.”

After a year spent bartending after college, Massaro approached Jack Arute Jr., the son of then Stafford Motor Speedway owner Jack Arute Sr.

At that point Jack Arute Jr. was considered one of the most recognizable names in motor sports broadcasting for his longtime work covering IndyCar racing and NASCAR.

“I walked up to Jack right after the driver’s meeting at the Spring Sizzler and I told him I had just graduated from Emerson College and that I wanted to become a sportscaster and I’d love to volunteer at Stafford as an announcer. Jack didn’t even hesitate one breath. He said ‘Can you start Friday?’ I was kind of blown away by that. I started that next Friday and I remember being as nervous as I’ve ever been in my life driving to the track that night, and I was probably that nervous for the rest of the season.”

Said Jack Arute Jr.: “When he showed up, I looked at it and related it the same way to when I called [legendary motor sports broadcaster] Ken Squier out of the blue to start my broadcasting career. I think it’s easy to say that guys like me and Mike, we always wanted to remember that someone helped us and we had an obligation to help someone in the next generation.”

 

After volunteering for a year at Stafford, Massaro became the track’s public relations coordinator in 1995. In 1996 he got his first opportunity working national NASCAR radio broadcasts for the Motor Racing Network.

In June 1999 Massaro moved to Charlotte, N.C., for his first full-time opportunity in television, working as a reporter for Inside NASCAR on the old The Nashville Network.

“While I was working for [the Motor Racing Network] I became friendly with [Rhode Island native and longtime NASCAR broadcaster] Allen Bestwick. He had been working in television in Charlotte for quite some time. He asked me to send a video reel to a production company in Charlotte that was producing a show for TNN called Inside NASCAR.

“I put together this really rough tape. I didn’t hear anything from anybody for while. One day I came home from work and there was a message from a producer in Charlotte saying they saw my tape and they liked it and they needed a reporter. I called them back and he asked me if I could start the next week. I lived in Connecticut at the time. I didn’t want to say no. I said yes. I’d been married to my wife [Kristin] a couple years and we were living in an apartment. I looked at my wife and she knew what I wanted to do, and she said ‘Why not just go?’ I packed up my little Acura Integra, I threw as many clothes in there as I possibly could and I moved down to Charlotte by myself and lived in Allen Bestwick’s house for a week before I found my own apartment.

“I lived down there for a month and a half by myself before my wife moved down. That’s how it started on that show, Inside NASCAR. Later in 1999, as a product of Allen’s recommendation, I got my first pit reporting job, with NBC. I was doing NBC’s first Sprint Cup race, which was a Winston Cup race then [at Homestead-Miami Speedway]. I was on their first broadcast and that’s how I met a lot of the NBC people.”

But a full-time opportunity with NBC Sports would have to wait.

As NBC prepared for its first full year covering NASCAR in 2001, it stocked its broadcast lineup with personalities from across the networks already covering the sport. That led to Massaro’s landing at ESPN.

“NBC hired a lot of the ESPN people and ESPN had a lot of holes to fill and they called on me to be a reporter for RPM2Night,” Massaro said. “So I started with that, also doing reports for SportsCenter.”

Massaro remained at ESPN until late last year. At ESPN, Massaro worked in all facets of the network’s NASCAR coverage, from being a reporter to pit reporting and show hosting. After last season, ESPN no longer was a NASCAR event broadcasting partner. NBC returned to the sport, and Massaro joined the coverage.

“The NBC opportunity was incredible,” Massaro said. “To be back on pit road, to be a full-time pit reporter, was something that I had wanted to do for a long, long time. At ESPN I wasn’t a full-time pit reporter. I was kind of a part-time pit reporter, part-time host and jack of all trades for the last five years. What NBC offered me was an incredible opportunity to do what I really wanted to do, which was be on pit road and be part of the varsity team. They’ve allowed me to do that.

Read the rest of the article at the Hartford Courant where it was originally published

 

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Joe Buck, Troy Aikman Visit Bristol For First Time Since Signing With ESPN

“My anticipation for the start of this season is literally off the charts; I’ve never been this excited.”

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Monday Night Football on ESPN is going to have a new sound this year with Joe Buck and Troy Aikman in the broadcast booth. The deal is reportedly worth a combined $165 million, and will officially begin on September 12 when the Denver Broncos visit the Seattle Seahawks at 8:15 p.m. EST on ESPN.

“I’m thrilled to officially welcome Joe and Troy to ESPN and Monday Night Football,” said ESPN Chairman Jimmy Pitaro. “They are elite broadcasters who have been at the forefront of our industry for more than two decades [and] are universally respected, and fans truly appreciate their candor and expertise.”

Buck and Aikman visited ESPN headquarters in Bristol for the first time today. The broadcast duo, now entering their 21st season in the booth together, is switching networks for the first time, a move that was initiated because of Aikman’s expiring contract. Throughout the season, Aikman had an inclination that it would be his last at Fox; however, he would have stayed at the network. The original thought, according to Aikman, was that he would call Thursday Night Football on Amazon Prime while continuing his role in doubleheader games with Fox – but it was quickly realized that it would not be feasible.

“ESPN began conversations with me, and it was an opportunity that was just the best fit for me,” said Aikman. “I didn’t think that was going to happen until a little bit after the Super Bowl.”

Buck’s contract was not set to expire until the end of this season, but after watching his veteran partner change networks, the possibility existed that he too would depart.

“When I knew Troy was gone, I think there was a little bit more intensity in my talks with Fox about ‘Was I going to stay there?,’ or ‘Was I going to try to continue my relationship on-air with Troy?’,” Buck reflected.

After approximately a month of negotiations between Buck and Fox, the broadcaster was off to ESPN. While the negotiations moved quickly, Buck never felt like he was taken for granted by Fox after working there for 28 years.

“They tell you how much you’re worth to them every time a check arrives,” said Buck. “They prove all that stuff by letting you continue to do it, and the relationships that we had. It was very collegial and very friendship-driven, much more so than employer-employee at Fox, and I expect the same will continue here at ESPN.”

Much of the media landscape across the National Football League has been significantly altered going into next season. Whether it is Buck and Aikman going from Fox to ESPN; the new Fox booth of Kevin Burkhardt and, upon his retirement, Tom Brady; the addition of Thursday Night Football on Amazon Prime with Al Michaels and Kirk Herbstreit; and Mike Tirico being moved into the lead Sunday Night Football role with Cris Collinsworth, the game will adopt a new sound upon the season’s opening kickoff.

ESPN Head of Event and Studio Production Stephanie Druley commented that amid the new broadcast landscape, the network believes it now has the number one football broadcast booth in the country. Additionally, she revealed the addition of a second Monday Night Football booth to be announced in the coming weeks as part of the network’s new broadcast rights deal with the NFL. The secondary booth will be calling three games this year and five games next year, and an announcement with more details is forthcoming.

For Buck, being welcomed to ESPN was representative of a full-circle moment, as his father Jack called Monday Night Football on the CBS Radio Network with Hank Stram. While Buck idolized his father and strived to one day be like him, he was always attentive as to what was going on in one of the other booths in the stadium.

“I knew as a little kid something special was going on two doors down, and that was when Howard Cosell was there; Don Meredith was there; Frank Gifford was there – and it was, ‘Man, that is the peak of sports and media,’” said Buck. “My anticipation for the start of this season is literally off the charts; I’ve never been this excited.”

“This is an opportunity with ESPN that I’m really excited about,” added Aikman. “We’ve been doing it so long in one way [and] it feels like it’s 2001 again…. I have nothing but respect for the people I worked [for] at Fox, and appreciate the way I was treated for the 21 years I was there, but am excited for the next chapter.”

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NFL Explains How World Cup Effected 2022 Schedule

“We didn’t strategically deploy any of our games to either go really strong or go a little less strong, because we knew there was going to be soccer that day.”

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This will be the first year that the World Cup will be contested during the NFL season. It isn’t a challenge professional football is used to in America. That is why Mike North, the NFL’s vice president of broadcast scheduling, told Richard Deitsch that it was important to do some homework.

“Very early in the process we got with our broadcast partner at Fox and we knew that there weren’t going to be any windows where Fox was not going to be able to broadcast an NFL game,” he said.

The real effect had to do with the NFL’s international schedule. Five games will be played outside of the United States borders this season. North said he wanted to understand the potential schedule for the World Cup so he could create the best atmosphere for the international contests.

“I’m not sure we’re doing the right thing for the fan in Germany if we’re playing in Bayern Munich’s stadium while the German national team is playing a World Cup game; I’m not sure we are doing the right thing for our fans in Mexico if we were playing a game in Mexico on a day when the Mexican national team was playing. So we were certainly aware of the World Cup schedule and worked very closely with our friends at Fox to make sure we were aligned on how we were going to approach it.”

North said that he wasn’t worried about football beating fútbol. He just wanted to understand what he was putting his teams up against.

“We didn’t back out of any of our windows. We didn’t strategically deploy any of our games to either go really strong or go a little less strong, because we knew there was going to be soccer that day.”

FIFA moved the World Cup to the final two months of the year in 2022. To play the games any earlier would have meant players would have been dealing with extreme heat in Qatar.

The first match will be played on November 21. The final is scheduled for December 18. That overlaps with weeks 11 through 16 of the NFL season.

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Peter King: ‘Tom Brady Needs To Study Cris Collinsworth’

“He’ll know that to be good, he has to get out of his comfort zone of all niceties and tell it like it is.”

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Peter King dedicated a not-insignificant portion of his “Football Morning in America” column this week to advice for Tom Brady. FOX announced last week that the Buccaneers’ quarterback will become the network’s lead NFL analyst upon his retirement.

Brady’s decision and his reported salary have been the source of much speculation and prediction amongst his soon-to-be colleagues.

King is optimistic that Tom Brady will be entertaining and informative when he makes his FOX debut. He did offer the GOAT a little bit of advice about what he should be doing in the months leading up to calling it quits on his playing days and starting his new career.

“I think what I’d do if I were Brady is study Cris Collinsworth—and honest to goodness, I don’t say that because I work for NBC,” he wrote. “I say it because Collinsworth knows how to talk X’s-and-O’s conversationally, he’s an easy listen, and he can criticize when the time comes.”

Interestingly, last week, Collinsworth says he hears from most former players that are getting ready to make the jump to broadcasting. He was surprised he never heard from Tom Brady before FOX announced their deal.

King had two other suggestions. The first was that Brady watch multiple games from start to finish so that he can hear what the give-and-take between a broadcaster and analyst sounds like. The other is that he has to commit to being interesting and not censoring himself. King has faith that Brady will be able to do that.

“He’ll know that to be good, he has to get out of his comfort zone of all niceties and tell it like it is. On that LeBron James show last year, Brady said, ‘Ninety percent of what I say is not what I’m thinking. There’s a part of me that doesn’t like conflict, so in the end I always just try to play it super-flat.’ That has to end once he’s on TV if he wants to be any good.”

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