King, Cowherd, Schaap To Fill In For Olbermann Beginning Next Week

Courtesy:  ESPN

Courtesy: ESPN

The “King” of talk is coming to ESPN.  Larry King will fill in for ESPN’s Keith Olbermann on Olbermann next Tuesday – Thursday, October 1st – 3rd. King will fill in while Olbermann takes a temporary leave of absence to host TBS’ Major League Baseball post season studio show.  Olbermann will be gone from his namesake show from next Monday, September 30th to October 2oth.  He will return October 21st.  King will fill in for Olbermann each night at 11pm ET when the show airs.  He is also scheduled to make an appearance on Olbermann this Friday, September 27th.  King, who hosts his own show, Larry King Now, discussed filling in for Olbermann when asked about his temporary assignment.  “I am a great admirer of Keith Olbermann who I think is the quintessential sports host,” said King.  “Sports have always been my avocation – they’re part of my being.  Having the chance to come back to my hometown of New York and host Keith’s show for several days is a terrific joy for me and a return to my first love.”

ESPN Executive VP of Programming and Acquisitions Norby Williamson was just as pleased that King accepted the offer to fill in for Olbermann.  “Olbermann is designed specifically around Keith’s one-of-a-kind personality so having a guest host like Larry, who can deliver a similar level of editorial expertise and intellectual commentary to entertain sports fans, fits the bill perfectly,” said Williamson.  “Larry is so popular and well-known to television viewers but being able to bring them his unique perspective on sports topics is a new twist and we’re excited to have him.”

Once King’s turn is up on Olbermann ESPN’s own Jeremy Schaap and Colin Cowherd will each have a turn hosting the show with Schaap hosting first from October 8th – 10th.  Cowherd will fill in for Olbermann from October 15th – 17th.  Jamie Horovitz, ESPN VP of Original programming and production was optimistic in discussing having two ESPN veterans filling in for Olbermann in his absence.  “Both Jeremy and Colin have distinctive personalities and points of view that will bring a different perspective to the program while Keith is away,” said Horowitz.  “While we’ll certainly miss Keith in the coming weeks, we’re also looking forward to producing some fun and entertaining shows for sports fans with our guest hosts.”

King’s new web only series, Larry King Now, is much like his previous hit CNN show, Larry King Live.  He continues interviewing some of the most important names in the news and world of entertainment in his show, which can be seen on Hulu and Ora TV.

Colin Cowherd can be heard regularly on ESPN and ESPN radio on his show, The Herd with Colin Cowherd.  It runs daily from 10am ET – 1pm ET.  The former host of SportsNation, Cowherd also now hosts Colin’s New Football every Sunday morning at 9am.  Cowherd shares his personal thoughts on football and life in general.

Jeremy Schaap hosts ESPN Radio’s The Sporting Life and serves as correspondent for ESPN’s E:60.  He also contributes to ESPN’s Outside The Lines, NFL Countdown, and College Game Day.  His interviews and commentary are featured each week on ESPN’s flagship show, SportsCenter.

More information on each of these shows and more is available online at http://www.espn.com and http://www.facebook.com/ESPN.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Keith Olbermann Returning To ESPN

Courtesy:  ESPN

Courtesy: ESPN

Broadcaster Keith Olbermann is returning to his roots.  Olbermann will return to ESPN2 this Summer with a late night show beginning August 26th.  The show, simply titled, Olbermann, will be an hour-long program.  It will broadcast live at 11pm EST from ABC’s Times Square studios in New York City.  Olbermann’s new show will focus on each day’s big sports topics through a variety of vantage points, commentary, interviews, panel discussions and highlights.

ESPN President John Skipper explained the choice of bringing Olbermann back to ESPN in a statement.  “Keith is a one-of-a-kind personality and these shows will be appointment viewing for that very reason,” he said.  “Keith brings a blend of editorial sophistication and unpredictability – you can never be sure what you’ll get.  Olbermann on ESPN2 gives viewers the quality late-night complement to ESPN’s SportsCenter in the same way we’ve developed distinct show options across our networks the rest of the day.” 

Olbermann offered his own thoughts on returning to the ESPN family.  He was optimistic about the show’s future and his own in his remarks.  “Apart from the opportunity to try to create a nightly hour of sports television that no fan can afford to miss, I’m overwhelmed by the chance to begin anew with ESPN,” he said.  “I’ve been gone for sixteen years and not one day in that time has passed without someone connecting me to the network.  Our histories are indelibly intertwined and frankly I have long wished that I had the chance to make sure the totality of that story would be a completely positive one.  I’m grateful to friends and bosses – old and new – who have permitted that opportunity to come to pass.  I’m not going to waste it.

More announcements on Olbermann will be announced in the coming weeks.  It is expected to be similar in style to SportsCenter.  In many cases, Olbermann will air immediately after live events on ESPN2 beginning with US Open Tennis on August 26th.  This makes for more flexibility with the show’s start time depending on the length and timing of the events in question. 

Keith Olbermann originally worked for ESPN from 1992 – 1997.  During his time at ESPN, he served as co-host of the 11pm SportsCenter broadcast.  HE also helped launch ESPN Radio and ESPN2.  He was awarded the ACE award as the nation’s top cable sportscaster in 1995.  After leaving ESPN in 1997, he would go on to broadcast the World Series the same year, and again in 2000.  He returned to ESPN in 2005, during which time, he served as a daily radio contributor.  He served as co-host of NBC’s Football Night in America from 2007 – 2009 and was named as co-host of TBS’ studio host during the network’s post-season baseball coverage.

All of the latest news from ESPN is available on the network’s official Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/ESPN and its official website, http://www.espn.com.

To keep up with all of the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

ESPN NASCAR Coverage Continues With Special Interview

Courtesy:  ESPN

Courtesy: ESPN

ESPN’s team of Dale Jarrett, Andy Petree, and Allen Bestwick sat down with Julie Sobieski (ESPN VP – Programming & Acquisitions) and Rich Feinberg (ESPN VP – Motorsports, Production) during Wednesday’s media Day at Daytona International Speedway to discuss ESPN’s past, present and future with NASCAR, as well as other topics.  Included here is a full transcript of the group’s discussion courtesy of ESPN and NASCAR.  Thank you to both companies for allowing this transcript to be posted.  Enjoy!

 

JULIE SOBIESKI: There’s a tremendous buzz and excitement for the start of the season and for ESPN, we’re really thrilled to be a part of it this year, as we were six years ago, getting back into the sport, and as we’ve been for over the last 20 plus years as an integral part of the NASCAR sport.

 

The value to ESPN still starts with the great racing on the track and the drivers themselves, but as a media company, for us it now extends far beyond the telecast of the races themselves, across our multitude of platforms, from news and information to ESPN.com and ESPN Mobile, ESPN W initiative that we have.  The new women’s initiative is now actively following the story with Danica and also with Johanna Long, ESPN Radio and ESPN Magazine.  We’re just thrilled with all the buzz and excitement heading into this weekend and happy to be here.

 

RICH FEINBERG:  As always, it’s a privilege for our production team to be here in Daytona.  It’s a special place for a lot of people, and that includes every one of us.

 

Really it’s been a short 13 week off season for us as it has been for many of you, where Brad K won his first championship in Homestead, as well as Roger Penske winning his first Sprint Cup championship, that was an exciting time for us and our team to broadcast to all race fans and ESPN fans.

 

Over the past 13 weeks, our team has been working hard to make all our plans for the 2013 season.  Delighted that our entire talent group will be returning again this year, the same group that we’ve had last year, and that includes Carl Edwards will be joining us as a booth analyst for several Nationwide races throughout the season.  We’re delighted to have Carl with us.

 

NASCAR and ESPN continues to be an important partnership for our company and our weekly productions of both the Nationwide Series and the Sprint Cup Series are by far the largest technical productions our company does on any sport that we cover.  We’re proud to take on that challenge, and we think that our efforts manifest itself on the air quite well.

 

We kick it all off this Saturday at noon with ESPN coverage of the Nationwide race.  As many of you know, last year’s Nationwide race here at Daytona was a great start to our season, and in fact it was the most viewed Nationwide race ever on cable television, delivering over 4.4 million viewers, so we hope that we will continue that energy going into 2013. We’re really looking forward to the season, and thank you all for being here.

 

Q. Allen Bestwick, there’s been a lot of talk during the winter with all the announcements about who’s competing in the Nationwide Series, about what a stacked field it is, what are your thoughts on that?

 

ALLEN BESTWICK:  I know everyone’s attention has been focused on the Gen 6 car and everything that’s been going on in the Sprint Cup Series, but we had a conversation on Tuesday as we got ready to come down here thinking about the Nationwide Series and what are the stories.  And my two partners here, one of them, Andy (Petree), said, you know, really this is shaping up to be the best season ever for the Nationwide Series, and Dale (Jarrett) jumped in and said, and I think this is shaping up to be the best ever Nationwide race at Daytona.

 

Now, think about their history at this race and in this sport, and they’re not prone to overstatement.  So for them to say this could be the best season ever for the Nationwide Series ever, and this could be the best Daytona race ever for the Nationwide Series, in my admittedly somewhat sleepy mode with our morning conference call, I sat up and said, whoa, that’s a big deal, and I look forward to seeing how it all plays out.

 

Q. For Andy, along those lines, the rules differences between the Nationwide Series and the Sprint Cup Series.  Can you talk a little bit about how the races are going to be so different?

 

ANDY PETREE:  Yeah, this race here at Daytona I think for the Nationwide Series is going to be a lot different than what we’re going to see on Sunday.  I think it’s going to be a lot like what we saw last year with the Nationwide cars, a lot of pushing, a lot of tandem drafting, the finish was incredible last year, let’s hope it’s not quite that incredible with so many cars getting tore up.  But that’s what you’re going to see in the Nationwide race, you’re going to see a lot of that, and I think you’re going to see a whole different style of drafting on Sunday with the new Gen 6 car, so I think the fans are going to be a lot of variety this weekend, a lot of different style of racing.

 

This is my seventh season now with ESPN, and like Allen said, I think it really does have the potential to be the best Nationwide season we’ve ever seen, and I’m really excited to cover it.  I always get excited for Daytona, and I can’t wait for Saturday.

 

MODERATOR: Both Andy and Dale Jarrett have 20 year anniversaries going on.  This is the 20th anniversary of Dale’s first of three Daytona 500 wins.  He won the ’93 race for Joe Gibbs Racing and Andy was the crew chief of the car that he passed right at the end with Dale Earnhardt, and he’s still sore about that.  And also this is the 20th anniversary of the first Sprint Cup championship that Andy won as a crew chief with Dale Earnhardt.  And one more for Dale Jarrett, this is five years since he drove his last Daytona 500 in ’08, so a lot going on for you, Dale.

 

DALE JARRETT:  Yeah, there is a lot going on, but just glad to be back here and a lot of exciting things happening and going on.  We are excited about the Nationwide Series.  As you look at the lineup, it’s just incredible to think what it could come down to whenever we get back to Florida in November as to the championship battle that we may be seeing.  But it’s all going to start here Saturday, and I do believe that we have potential to see something maybe that we haven’t seen before.  We kind of saw that last year, and I don’t know what you do to top that with the guy running 11th coming out of Turn 4 wins the race, but I think the potential is there to be even more exciting, so really looking forward to that, and it’s been nice, kind of reliving that 20 years ago that it happened with Joe Gibbs Racing, Andy not so much maybe, but it was a very, very special day, and this has been tremendously successful place and proud place for the Jarrett family over the years, and just glad to be back here.

 

 

Q.  For Rich, how many races do you think Carl is going to be doing, and what makes Carl what do you like about him in the booth?

 

RICH FEINBERG:  Right now looks to be about three.  We’re still kind of finalizing the schedule, and it’s one of those things that evolves as the season goes on.  Obviously his priority is competition.  What I like about him is the currency.  He’s currently racing in the series and is a competitor on the track, and the ability to speak to that in real time to our viewers as a driver as well as the charisma that I think he brings to the screen is something that we value in our telecast.

 

Q.  But you don’t know which three yet?

 

RICH FEINBERG:  We’re still working on that.

 

Q.  And for Andy or Dale or anybody, what’s going to make this Nationwide season so good?  What guys are you looking at?

 

ANDY PETREE:  Well, I think the championship battle in particular you’ve got Regan Smith that’s coming over to JR Motorsports.  We saw what he could do in the last racer at Homestead.  I expect him to be a really tough competitor for the championship.  We’ve got Travis Pastrana that’s going to run.  We’ve got so many different storylines.  I just think we’ve got a lot of strength out there.  You’ve got Elliott Sadler now with Gibbs, still hungry to win that championship.  I just think we’re going to see a really great championship battle.

 

DALE JARRETT:  You’ve got Vickers over there at Gibbs.  You’ve got Austin Dillon obviously last year showed he could be a part of that championship battle.  Kyle Larson is coming in and nothing but good things being said about him, really looking forward to watching him move along here and seeing that progress.

 

The last few years the championship battle has been good between Stenhouse and Sadler, but I think we’re going to see a lot more company up front, and that always is more exciting.

 

Q.  Dale, I’m sure you’re aware that all three winners over here crashed somebody on the last lap without penalty.  Does that send a message to Nationwide drivers and Cup drivers and Truck drivers that last lap, white flag, anything goes, if they can do it over there, why can’t we do it?

 

DALE JARRETT:  Well, I don’t know about how NASCAR will view that, and as a driver, I don’t know that you just take something that you see out there and say    I think it’s kind of how you grew up and the situation that you’re in.  Trying to do that on the two and a half mile racetrack here obviously creates a lot more danger than doing it back there on four tenths of a mile track at the speeds that they were running.  I think you have to pick and choose that.

 

But I think NASCAR over the last few years has kind of opened that up.  I’m not going to steal Robin’s line, let the boys have at it or whatever, but I think that they’ve opened it up to where they like that aggression.  That’s what got this sport where it is.  I’m not saying that what took place back there was all okay.  And I think that sometimes there’s ways of doing it without it being so noticeable, but I think that it’s    that that opportunity is out there, but you’re putting yourself in a position.

 

I think that there’s a lot that NASCAR will let go by, but you’re also putting yourself in a position for them to make a call, and sometimes that call will go for you and you have to be willing to accept the penalty if it does come down.

 

Q.  For Rich, how closely are you watching this track drying apparatus be developed, and how big a deal is it for TV to get back to racing quicker?

 

RICH FEINBERG:  I’ve seen the equipment, but I haven’t really been involved or been asked my opinion about it.  From a broadcasting and production point of view, it’s really amazing how long NASCAR fans will stay with a telecast during a rain delay.  Obviously less rain delays and more competition on the track is what fans want to see.

 

But it’s always amazed me, I think back maybe 15, 16 years ago when there were extensive rain delays, our network would go to standby programming, perhaps a race from the week before or the race from the year before, and what we hear from the audiences these days is they don’t want that, they want continuing live coverage.  We get tremendous cooperation from the teams, the drivers, from NASCAR, and the access is unbelievable in this sport.  So it does give us a chance to sort of dive deeper into stories and talk to the drivers more and offer their thoughts.  But at the end of the day, if the track drying process can be expedited and we can get back to competition quicker, we know that’s what the fans want to see.

 

DALE JARRETT:  I think our pit reporters and probably pit studio will be glad that it’s going to happen a little quicker, although they do a terrific job.

 

Q.  Dale and Andy, as former driver, former crew chief, former car owner, what’s the conversation like tomorrow, the gamble versus going all out and try to win the thing?

 

ANDY PETREE:  Well, I’ll speak from a crew chief/car owner’s point of view, I’ve never put a car on the racetrack that I didn’t want to go win, no matter what.  That would be my mindset is to go win that 150 mile race, and everything else takes care of itself.  Now, there is going to be some risk to do that it looks like.  I still want to go win.  There’s good cars in the truck; I’m sure you can win from the back, and starting on the front row is kind of nice.  You don’t lose the prestige of actually qualifying on the front by having to go to a backup car, but it does make your job Sunday a little tougher, but I’ve never put a car out there that I didn’t go try to win.

DALE JARRETT:  The great thing is for Danica and that team for three days they’ve had the wonderful opportunity to talk about being the fastest car here and her the fastest driver.  It’s been a great thing for our sport.  Now comes the issues with that very same thing that got you there and got you all of this attention is how do you handle this.  It would be a real letdown if something were to happen.  But these cars are difficult to drive here, and the drivers that I’ve talked to    but with the limited experience that she has, she needs to be out there practicing today, and she needs to run in the race on Thursday as much as she can, and if something should happen, then they’ll just have to deal with that.  They still know they won the pole and they had the fastest car.  She needs the experience out there in race conditions as much as she possibly can to get herself ready for Sunday, to get the best finish and opportunity to get herself in the best position.

 

As much drafting as she probably, she has a lot of experience in stock cars here and was really showing a lot of potential here, but these cars drive so differently by what these drivers are telling me that there’s a lot more for her to kind of learn now, unlearn some of the things that she did learn there, and get with what it takes to drive this Gen 6 car and be fast.  They’ve just got to throw that aside.  They won the pole, they were the fastest car, they built the fastest car, now they’ve got to get her ready to race on Sunday.

 

Q.  For Andy, as a former car owner, years ago the Nationwide Series financially, the teams were in a lot of trouble, but as you said, you pointed out the number of drivers, the number of farm teams for the Cup teams, the standalone teams, what’s changed, and especially in a time of economic distress for the Cup teams?  Why is this field so full from an economic standpoint?

 

ANDY PETREE:  Well, you’re probably digging into it a little deeper than I have.  I don’t really know.  I don’t have a good answer for that.  But I know the economics are different in the Nationwide Series than they are in the Cup Series.  There might be some sponsors out there, a lot of sponsors that maybe can participate at that level, and it’s a high level in the Nationwide Series where it wouldn’t necessarily be gnat Sprint Cup Series.

 

Maybe that’s some of it.  We’ve got great talent that has kind of found themselves out in the Sprint Cup garage, like Regan Smith.  He’s a great talent.  Now he’s over here in the Nationwide Series.  That’s good for the Nationwide Series.  I don’t really have a good answer for the economics of it.  Maybe it’s a sign of good times to come.

 

Q.  Julie, what’s ESPN’s position on renegotiating the television contracts with NASCAR?

 

JULIE SOBIESKI:  Well, I said in my opening statement, we have a long history with this sport.  We’re certainly interested in continuing our relationship with NASCAR.  There’s no secret we want to continue that conversation with these guys.  We still have two years left of the deal that we’re in now.  Our negotiating window doesn’t begin until later this year.  So right now we’re excited about the start of the season and we’re putting all of our efforts toward that.

 

Q.  I know there’s three television partners.  Would you want to pick up that middle section of six races?

 

JULIE SOBIESKI:  I think right now our opportunity is to look at the package that we have now, and that’s the conversation that’s looking in front of us.  Depending on how that conversation goes, there’s certainly lots of different ways to have discussions.  We don’t know what NASCAR’s interests are, but right now we’re looking at that for the first conversation that we have.

 

Q.  And then the second question is about the ratings, particularly the Chase ratings.  I figure that finale probably was disappointing considering it was a good championship race, so the ratings effort was disappointing considering it was a great race and you had a great new champion.  What does ESPN want to see happen coming off the year before when you had the big impressive number and the great Chase?

 

JULIE SOBIESKI:  I mean, certainly back in 2011, that was a huge number for us, and the stars perfectly aligned for that number to sort of come together.  I think we all want the ratings to be bigger and better on any sport, on any given occasion.  We’re never satisfied, and I don’t think NASCAR ever is, either.  But the ratings are still extremely strong week in and week out, particularly at that time of year with a tremendous amount of competition.  Brad is a great champion, and we think he’s going to continue to serve in that role all year.  We think there’s going to be another great championship battle, but there’s been several great battles now over the last few years.  We’re looking forward to that continuing.  Competition on the track ultimately is what gets people interested and star power and storylines that transcend sport, and we’re looking at one of those right now with Danica leading CNN and The Today Show and others.  I mean, we couldn’t be asking for more now.  We just have to hope for a fantastic race on Sunday, and the season will take care of itself.

 

Q.  Julie, you guys have not started negotiations with NASCAR yet; is that fair?

 

JULIE SOBIESKI:  Yeah, we’re always in conversations with NASCAR.  We’ve been in conversations with them since the day we started our relationship, but our formal window has not begun.

 

Q.  The scuttlebutt is that you and NBC are kind of the ones being talked about for the remainder of the schedule after the FOX block.  Would it make sense for ESPN maybe to move up a little bit and do like the midseason range versus the late season range because you guys have so much stuff in late season, and do you feel as if the Nationwide Series and the job you’ve done there, does that give you some leverage with NASCAR to say, hey, you can keep that platform there and we’ll take whatever chunk you want to give us for Cup?

 

JULIE SOBIESKI:  I’m going to let you do the speculating.  Like I said, we’re happy with the relationship that we have with NASCAR.  We want to continue those conversations.  Carving up a package is not necessarily our role.  We’re going to have discussions with NASCAR over the year and as we get closer, Nationwide is a fantastic property.  It’s very strong.  The ratings have been strong since the moment we got it and it continues to get stronger, and everything that our great hosts and analysts here have said about this season continues to make it that much stronger, but so is the Cup Series.  And so we’re going to look at this as one large discussion that extends across all of our platforms, and we’ll have that discussion with NASCAR outside of the press.

 

Q.  Andy, Danica obviously has a lot to learn here over the next week or so, but she’s got a team made up of a lot of guys who have won a lot of races, guys who have won Daytona 500s.  In terms of being one thing she doesn’t have to worry about, how big of a comfort do you think that is?

 

ANDY PETREE:  I think that’s a comfort, that she’s got a great team and team owner, all those good people around her, and I think every driver in the garage is trying to help her.  But she’s got more experience here than any other track that she’s raced at in a stock car.  I think it’s going to serve her well.  Nobody has more experience in this Gen 6 car than she does, and everybody has got to learn how to handle it, and this next practice is going to tell a lot about that.

 

But I think she’s got a big advantage here.  I think this is one of her best tracks to really shine and to have a legitimate shot at winning.  I think to say she’s a favorite, I wouldn’t say that, but she is on the pole, she’s got a chance to win.  And I think she’s got a chance just like anybody, but I think this is probably her best track to do that.

 

Q.  Julie, as far as the Nationwide Series goes, what is the challenge of trying to juggle schedules with a series on four networks throughout the year, and then Andy, can you talk about Tony Gibson and where you think his strengths are and why you think he might be successful with Danica?

 

JULIE SOBIESKI:  I think to start with the juggling, we’re fortunate enough at ESPN to have multiple platforms to carry our programming.  I don’t look at that as a disadvantage, I look at that as a strong advantage for us to be able to do that.

 

ANDY PETREE:  You’re talking about Tony Gibson, and I’m a big fan of his.  He’s a real seat of the pants type crew chief, a lot like I was.  I think he’s a great people motivator.  I think he’s got a lot of confidence in Danica’s ability.  He’s had a lot of experience with different drivers, and I think he’s got a lot to bring to the table.  He’s very good technically and just has a way of getting a car right, and I think he’ll do a really good job for Danica.

 

Q.  Andy and Dale, is it difficult for you guys as you become further removed from the car and it has continued to evolve?  How do you stay up on what you would assume the car is doing or what guys are having to do to the cars to make them competitive today?

 

ANDY PETREE:  Well, it’s just the relationships that we have in the garage area.  I’ve got a lot of good friends in there, a lot of guys that have been crew chiefs for a long time and actually a lot of the new guys.  And I’ve tried to stay very involved technically in the cars.

 

In my retirement, after I was a team owner and crew chief, I was building these suspension test rigs for all the Cup teams and Nationwide teams, and almost all of them now have it.  So I’ve been in these shops a lot.  I deal with a lot of the engineering staffs, a lot of the crew chiefs.  I talk to them on a technical level when I’m in the garage area.  It’s my passion.  I really enjoy the cars, so I really stay up on it.

 

I mean, just last year I built one of these modified cars because I wanted to build one.  Never driven one.  I built one, tried to go race it a time or two, and then sold it.  That’s the way I do it.  I really like to be hands on, so I do that some.  But I do stay very connected in the garage.

 

DALE JARRETT:  Yeah, my way is just fortunately I’ve made more friends than enemies from the driver standpoint through my career.  So I can go and call these guys, go to their bus, talk to them.  I try not to bother them too much in the garage area because they’re working there.  But they give me a lot of information there.  And even though the race cars have changed certainly now with this new car in particular, I can understand when they’re telling me something about the cars and get that.  As they’ve changed some of these racetracks, they’re very good to sit down with me and tell me about what used to be the feel and what used to happen at these tracks.  So yeah, I’ve been removed now a little over five years from actually being inside these race cars and these tracks, I still drive my school car some just to have an idea of that.  But that doesn’t give me the idea of what they’re going through, but it is those relationships and friendships that I think help me keep kind of current with that so I can undertand what they’re talking about.  So fortunately these drivers are very good at giving me information and those friendships mean a lot to Andy and I both.

 To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Larry King, Richie Sambora Team Up For Late Late Show Episode

Courtesy:  CBS

Courtesy: CBS

CBS’ Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson had a very special pair of guests this past Friday night.  One of those guests was rocker and Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora.  Sambora was joined by a very special “rock star” that no one would have seen coming.  Who was it?  That person was none other than former CNN host Larry King.  Yes, that very same Larry King.  King joined Sambora for a special musical skit that left both men and the audience in stitches.  And now audiences can get a behind the scenes look at the performance.  The new behind the scenes feature starts with a quick clip of Richie and Larry backstage letting audiences know what to expect.  From there, it goes to rehearsal of King’s introduction and the pair performing together.  Audiences can check out the behind the scenes rehearsal from Friday’s show right now here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8TAHR3LrrIU

And for those who missed the show, you can even catch the clip of the pair performing together over at the Late Late show’s website now at http://www.cbs.com/shows/late_late_show/video/MAl2CiRogDhK_R_OG_kWLSa6pDxWf40L/craig-ferguson-larry-king-is-a-rock-star.

To keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it or its companion page, http://www.facebook.com/pages/Reel-Reviews/381028148587141.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

New PBS DVD Shows The Importance Of Knowing One’s History

Courtesy: PBS/Inkwell Films/Kundhart McGee Productions/Ark Media/WNET Thirteen

America is a melting pot.  Its history is made up of the stories from the immigrants who settled here from its earliest days.  Sadly, many of those stories have been lost because we as a nation have forgotten our roots.  We have forgotten from where we came.  Now thanks to PBS, a new special has been released that will hopefully re-ignite the fire among Americans to learn their family roots. 

“Finding Your Roots”, hosted by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. is a ten part special spread across three discs.  Gates interviews many of this great nation’s most famous names, discussing their family roots with them.  The famous names come from the world of music, acting, politics, and more.  One of Gates’ most interesting interviews comes in the segment featuring musicians and friends Harry Connick, Jr. and Branford Marsalis.  Another was his interview with actors Robert Downey, Jr. and Maggie Gyllenhaal.  And one of the most interesting cross sections shown in this ten-part special comes in his interviews with Doctor Sanjay Gupta, comedian Margaret Cho, and famed personality Martha Stewart.  They, along with the other unmentioned interviews, make this special one of PBS’ best to date.

“Finding Your Roots” starts with gates interviewing musicians Harry Connick, Jr. and Branford Marsalis.  Starting the mini-series with this pair of interviews is more than just an interview with a pair of famous musicians.  What gates and those behind the camera intended to do with this segment was to try and bridge the racial gaps of our nation.  The connection between Connick and Marsalis shows that while people may have different color skin, that’s all that really separates us.  Connick admits in his interview that he wanted to be black.  He says that he dressed and acted the part.  What’s really interesting about this is the discovery that one of his ancestors, James Connick, fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War.  On the good side, it should be noted that James Connick  did not fight for slavery.  He fought solely for economic reasons.  He wasn’t even a slave owner.  He was just trying to support his family.  Apparently, Harry didn’t know this.  But it raises what becomes a very interesting trend that viewers will see as the special moves to other notables.

Just as Harry Connick, Jr.’s roots proved to be rather interesting, so did those of Branford Marsalis.  Interviews with Branford’s famed father Ellis Marsalis, reveals that Branford may have actually gotten his musical abilities not so much from his father, but from his mother.  Or rather, he got his talent from her side of the family.  What’s more, it’s also revealed that one of his ancestors was actually the result of a relationship between a white man and black woman.  This brings this very first pair of interviews full circle.  Gates tells audiences that despite the popular belief, far fewer African American males were born of Native American blood than believed.  Many more will find that they have deeper African American and European roots than Native American.  What it seems that Gates is getting at in this first segment is that while the color of our skin is different, blacks and whites may be far more closely related than we think.  We need only take the time to look back and find our roots.

Gates’ interviews with Harry Connick, Jr. and Branford Marsalis are both entertaining and very insightful.  They’re just one part of what makes “Finding Your Roots” so impressive.  Another interesting pair of figures interviewed for the special is Robert Downey, Jr. and Maggie Gyllenhaal.  It’s revealed that both are descended from Jewish ancestry.  What’s more, Gyllenhaal’s Jewish ancestry is one hundred percent pure Jewish.  She admits in her interview some interesting facts that reveal ancestry and genetics play directly hand in hand.  Again, viewers will see this pop up a lot throughout all ten parts of the mini-series.  What’s really interesting to learn about Maggie Gyllenhaal is that apparently she’s descended from nobility.  It’s revealed through investigations and Gates’ interview with her, that Maggie Gyllenhaal is actually descended from King Henry I.  And somewhere along the line, she’s also linked to both George H.W. Bush and his son, George W. Bush, as well as Shirley Temple, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  She showed that she had no clue about any of these links, and just how amazed she was by all of it.

Robert Downey, Jr., on the other hand, had much different roots.  He and Gyllenhaal both are children of film makers.  And like Gyllenhaal, he too has Jewish roots.  It’s also revealed that he has Swiss roots.  Unlike Gyllenhaal’s roots, though, he can’t claim connection to any real famous historical figures.  Ironically enough, he himself has become one of the biggest names in Hollywood throughout his career.

Musicians and actors were only a tiny portion of the whole that makes up “Finding Your Roots.”  Gates also interviewed Sanjay Gupta, Margaret Cho and Martha Stewart.  This feature offers perhaps some of the most interesting material in the series.  These segments reveal to both the celebrities in question and to viewers some rather unexpected and surprising information.  One of the most interesting pieces of information is that Martha Stewart has links back to the Mongols.  She laughs in discovering this as she admitted to Gates that her dog is actually named Genghis Khan.  What’s more, many of her ancestors also had professions that involved much of what she does today.  As noted in previous segments, it seems yet again that there is at least some link between one’s ancestry and one’s own personal genetic makeup.  Maggie Gyllenhaal admitted her pleasant surprise at her link to her Jewish ancestry due to her own recent personal choices before her interview.  Branford Marsalis’ parents told Gates that he got his musical abilities from his mother’s side of the family.  That link is explained in the connection to specific well known acts from the rich history of music. 

The roots discovered in conversations with Martha Stewart are the revelations of Margaret Cho’s family.  Her interview reveals that one of her distant ancestors was a very well respected member of his community.  What’s most interesting in her discussions is that members of her family are not actually Korean.  They came from other regions of Asia.  She shows her surprise, laughing about it.  She tells Gates that this was a surprising revelation, being that her parents always claimed such national pride for Korea.  This discovery is made through genetic testing.

Sanjay Gupta’s interview was one of the most moving of the entire mini-series.  Gupta shows just how amazed he is by all of the information discovered through the research done for his interviewed.  At one point, he even begins to tear up.  That single moment is perhaps the defining moment of this entire special.  The emotion that he shows is the entire point of the presentation.  So few Americans are aware of their families’ histories.  It doesn’t matter if someone is related down the line to this famous person or that, or if they are simply related to some random person.  It’s that discovery of one’s past is the most important.  It can make all the difference in a person’s life.  It adds that much more to the nation’s already rich history as a whole.

Gates’ interviews with members of the entertainment community reveal some very interesting notes about them.  It also reminds viewers that they might be just as interested if they take the time to do some research into their own family roots.  There’s no telling what viewers might find if they take that time.  “Finding Your Roots” is proof of that.  “Finding Your Roots” is available on DVD now.  It can be ordered online at http://www.shoppbs.org.

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it or its companion page, http://www.facebook.com/pages/Reel-Reviews/381028148587141.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.