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Massaro Finds His Niche As Nascar Broadcaster

Jason Barrett

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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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Nick Kahn: Vince McMahon Played WWE Hiatus Smart

“Sometimes I think it’s just a three mile radius of LA thing. The ‘Hey, step down and you have to be punished for it’.”

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Nick Kahn is now the sole CEO of the WWE after Stephanie McMahon announced her exit from the company, which came in the wake of news that Vince McMahon would return to oversee the exploration of either a sale or merger. On the latest episode of The Bill Simmons Podcast, Kahn said that even while McMahon was away from the company, he never considered himself the boss.

“My thought has always been there’s only one boss at WWE and it ain’t me,” he told Simmons. “Vince is the creator and founder of the company. He’s also the controlling shareholder, which as you know, that’s not a work term. That’s a legal term of art. So I think it was always my point of view or Stephanie’s point of view that at some point he would come back. I think the way that he played it was smart, Bill, in that he went away for five or six months — which the audience seems to like that — and then he came back and took control back of his company.”

Vince McMahon exited the WWE power structure five months ago amid multiple allegations of sexual misconduct and the revelation that he used company money to cover up those allegations.

When asked if he is worried that McMahon’s return could turn off business partners or fans, Kahn pointed out that so far, that hasn’t happened. He wonders if there is really a strong feeling amongst the public about McMahon being back involved with the company at all.

“Sometimes I think it’s just a three mile radius of LA thing. The ‘Hey, step down and you have to be punished for it’.”

Nick Kahn says he made it a point to visit Vince monthly during his hiatus. Those were not business visits. He said that he, Stephanie McMahon, and Triple H had total control during that time.

Bill Simmons pressed Kahn, wondering if it bothered McMahon that wrestling fans seemed very happy with the WWE product without his involvement. Simmons reasoned that when anyone builds a creative product for as long as Vince McMahon built the WWE, there is a part of that person that wants to know the product cannot survive without him.

“To me, I never got a sense from him of any sort of bitterness or anything like that,” Kahn said. “He seemed, through the first month of his hiatus, thrilled.”

Since Vince McMahon’s return, Nick Kahn says he has not expressed any concerns about decisions made in his absence and he has largely still been hands off with the creative side of the business. His sole focus is finding the right business relationship to secure WWE’s future. He added that it is not a responsibility that McMahon is taking on alone.

“I’m involved in it. Triple H is involved in it. The board is obviously involved in it, Triple H being on the board, as I have the good fortune of being as well. We’ll see how it plays out. It should not be a lengthy process.”

Kahn did address two rumors floating around Vince McMahon’s return and the power structure of WWE. He said that any rumor that a deal had been done with Saudi Arabia to sell the company was “100 percent fake. 100 percent made up.”

Simmons also asked him about the relationship between Vince and his daughter Stephanie McMahon after she announced her resignation as co-CEO. Kahn said that both he and Stephanie always assumed it was likely Vince would return to lead the company. Anything beyond that, he isn’t interested in commenting on.

“It’s important to anyone listening to this, if you’re going to join a family business and you’re not part of the family, stay out of the family business part. That’s rule number one.”

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Stephen A. Smith Details How Kobe Bryant Handled Criticism

“Kobe was a savant. You did not know more basketball than Kobe Bryant.”

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We are approaching the three-year anniversary of the untimely and tragic death of former NBA legend Kobe Bryant, and ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith reminisced about the former Laker during an appearance on The Howard Stern Show Wednesday.

While promoting his book, Straight Shooter, Smith shined a light on his relationship with the five-time champion, saying he knew if he received a phone call from Bryant, the resulting conversation was likely to be contentious.

“Kobe scared the living shit out of me,” Smith said. “Kobe was a savant. You did not know more basketball than Kobe Bryant. So when Kobe called you — I can quote him for you right now. Voicemail: ‘You know who this is, motherf—er. Get your ass up, pick up the f—ing phone and call me back. That bullshit you just said. And don’t keep me waiting for so long, either. Your ass better not go on the air and say some more shit before you talk to me.’ That was Kobe. I would say something along the lines of ‘I don’t like the way he’s playing. It’s selfish basketball…I don’t like this decision.'”

Smith continued by commenting on Bryant rebutting that he would only play “selfish basketball” when the players around him weren’t playing up to their potential, before then saying Bryant was open to criticizing coaches if Smith was critical of the 18-time All-Star.

“‘He don’t know what the f— he’s doing, Steve. He don’t know what the f— he’s doing, so you don’t know what the f— you’re talking about, Stephen A. So you’re gonna bring up all that shit you’re talking about me, but you didn’t bring up that.'”

Smith then concluded by saying Bryant would tell him “I don’t know why I love your ass. I really, really, don’t. But I love you.”

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Super Wild Card Weekend Ratings Down Slightly From Last Year

Last year, the six games averaged 30.5 million viewers over linear television and streaming platforms.

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Ratings for nearly every Super Wild Card game of the NFL Playoffs opening weekend have been released, and while the numbers are encouraging on a per-game basis, overall, they show a slight dip from last season.

ESPN was first to unveil their ratings, showing Monday’s contest between the Dallas Cowboys and Tampa Bay Buccaneers — which aired on both ESPN and ABC — was watched by an average of 30.6 million viewers. That number is the largest NFL audience from the Disney-owned channels since Super Bowl XL in February of 2006. The 30.6 million viewers number is a 32% increase from last season’s game that saw the Los Angeles Rams beat the Arizona Cardinals.

“This exceptional number proves once again that live sports are unequaled in amassing large audiences,” said ESPN Chairman Jimmy Pitaro. “The success is also a clear reflection of how ESPN, working alongside the NFL and our colleagues at Disney, can help attract fans, build anticipation, and expand our reach. Even without a dramatic ending, it was an extraordinarily memorable evening.”

When final viewership totals were announced Wednesday evening, the company confirmed that the game was the most-watched NFL Playoff broadcast in the history of The Walt Disney Company’s ownership of ABC/ESPN, which began in 1996.

FOX Sports touted the highest viewership total of the weekend, with 33.2 million viewers watching the New York Giants defeat the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday. The broadcast peaked at over 40 million viewers in the final minutes of the game.

Meanwhile, Saturday’s San Francisco 49ers win over the Seattle Seahawks saw an average audience of 27.4 million.

An average of 28.6 million watched the Cincinnati Bengals thrilling triumph over the Baltimore Ravens on NBC’s Sunday Night Football. According to the network, the broadcast was the most-watched Sunday primetime program since Super Bowl LVI in February of 2022. Ratings for the Jaguars and Chargers broadcast on Saturday were not made available, but NBC Sports did claim that for the first time since 2021 both of its broadcasts eclipsed an average of 20 million viewers.

Finally, CBS Sports scored it’s most-watched Sunday AFC Wild Card game in nearly a decade as 30.8 million watched the Buffalo Bills defeat the Miami Dolphins. Similar to other broadcasts, the game peaked with nearly 40 million viewers. Coincidentally, the game was the most-streamed Wild Card game in the history of the network’s streaming platform, Paramount+.

Even with several networks experiencing noticeable highs, the numbers are a slight decrease from 2022. Last year, the six games averaged 30.5 million viewers on linear television and streaming platforms.

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