Ask Adnan Virk if he is a rising star at ESPN and he will refer to the assessment by the blog Awful Announcing and concede that is how it must appear to the casual viewer.
“You look at the optics and that makes the most sense from the outside,” said Virk, the Toronto native who grew up outside Kingston, Ont.
It is about the only time Virk will let someone else do the work. In the four years since he joined ESPN, Virk has proven himself ready and quite capable of handling all assignments tossed at him, be they anchoring SportsCenter or Baseball Tonight, hosting issues-oriented shows such as Outside The Lines, substituting for Keith Olbermann on the latter’s late-night show and, more recently, doing baseball play-by-play. Virk will call the Tigers-Pirates spring training game for ESPN Monday from Bradenton, Fla.
“I like to do new things, I embrace challenges,” said Virk, 35, who does not worry about becoming a jack of all trades and a master of none. “The more you can do, the more valuable you will be.
“I caution people against predicting things for myself. This is not the 1950s, where you had the same occupation for 30 years and then you retired.”
Virk is one of three anchors for Baseball Tonight, his primary responsibility for ESPN. Virk dives into ESPN’s other properties during the four months Baseball Tonight is dormant.
The plum during his most recent tour, the assignment Virk calls “the most surreal” was filling in for Keith Olbermann on the latter’s late-night show Olbermann.
It almost didn’t happen.
In late February, Virk was in Canada, visiting family and got a text message about 2 p.m. asking whether he could sub for Olbermann. It is an indication of Virk’s regard for the opportunity that he considered briefly whether he could drive back in time to do the show. He asked to be considered the next time and has now filled in for Olberman — who has been battling shingles — six times to great acclaim. Dave Sarosi, the co-ordinating producer for Olbermann told Virk he had “the right sensibility” for show.
(Virk couldn’t avoid his peripatetic nature when he first hosted Olbermann. Earlier in the day, he was the host for Outside The Lines. “I was exhausted when I walked out that night.”)
By his own admission, Virk is one of the most ardent admirers of Olbermann, praising Olbermann’s smart writing and irreverent on-air style. Virk PVRs Olbermann’s show to study Olbermann’s writing style and when Olbermann left ESPN for MSNBC in 1997, Virk was horrified to discover his local cable provider didn’t carry MSNBC. Not until Virk called them. On his first guest hosting assignment for Olbermann, Virk included a segment recorded when Virk was with The Score and had interviewed Olbermann at the old Yankee Stadium in 2008.
“It’s not a dream,” Virk said of hosting Olbermann. “Because I never thought it would happen.”
Virk has been designated as the show’s go-to host when Olbermann is unable to do it, what David Letterman and Joan Rivers once did for Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show.
“It may be a little dated but you think about how much respect they had for Johnny,” Virk said. “It is crazy, an unbelievable thrill.”
Olbermann’s response to Virk’s substitution has been muted, although you can bet if he didn’t like it, he would say something. Virk has been told by Olbermann’s technical crew that Olbermann “is like an umpire in baseball. He doesn’t say anything if it is good.”
Sports media’s rising 13 stars
Posted by Joe Lucia on Dec 5, 2013 13:26
The year 2013 has brought us a new 24/7 cable sports network, numerous new shows, and plenty of new faces. There have been several talented personalities that have become household names in the past year and others that are just now starting to become more widely recognized on the national scene. 2013 has been a great year for many young, up and coming sportscasters to make their mark on the industry.
It’s tough to exactly classify what constitutes a rising star in sports media. Is it someone who made the leap from local to national? Someone who just got the first prime role of their career after working hard and paying their dues? Or is it someone who is simply starting to earn more deserved praise around the nation and cemented themselves at the top of the industry? However you define it, this collection of individuals had a noteworthy 2013 and their arrows are still trending upward for 2014 and many more years to come.
Here’s our list of 13 Rising Stars in Sports Media for 2013…
Andrew Catalon – CBS/NBC announcer
After several years of freelancing for major networks, the 33 year old Albany sportscaster signed a permanent deal with CBS Sports Network to call college football and basketball games this year. Although you may have heard Catalon call football, basketball, or golf it’s most likely you know him as the voice of NBC’s Olympic curling coverage. His CBS contract allows for Olympic coverage so it’s likely you’ll be hearing him call the cult favorite once again in Sochi this winter. The multi-faceted play by play man should be a stalwart in announcing circles for many years to come.
Lindsay Czarniak – ESPN anchor
Czarniak got a fantastic promotion in 2012 to anchor of the 6 PM SportsCenter alongside John Anderson. She’s been excellent in the premium role, and also made history earlier this year by becoming the first woman to host coverage of the Indianapolis 500 on ABC. It’s clear that ESPN has big plans for her, which her quick rise through the ranks can attest to. It’ll be interesting to see if NBC or Fox makes a run at Czarniak when her contract is up for renewal because of ESPN’s loss of NASCAR rights following the 2014 season. Czarniak got her start on ESPN hosting NASCAR Now, and also worked for TNT as a NASCAR reporter in the past.
Seth Greenberg – ESPN college basketball analyst
The former Virginia Tech basketball coach joined ESPN shortly after he was fired by the school in April of 2012, and the explosive former coach has taken to broadcasting better than most all of the former coaches brought on by ESPN. Working both in the studio and as a color commentator, Greenberg’s background in both coaching and broadcasting gives him a rare combination of polish, insight, and knowledge, with a dash of emotion thrown in there as well. ESPN made him a fixture on the live daytime episodes of the morning SportsCenter in the spring, where he took on a central role even leading the show in and out of breaks, showing the faith Bristolites have in Greenberg in front of the cameras.
Bomani Jones – ESPN personality
After bouncing from ESPN to SB Nation, Jones rejoined ESPN earlier this year, and is already making up for lost time. He’s a co-host of Highly Questionable with Dan Le Batard and the chemistry between Jones, Le Batard, and Papi is undeniable. Jones also makes regular appearances on Around the Horn, and his young, alternative voice is a nice contrast to the majority of the older white panelists and voices elsewhere at ESPN. At only 33, he’s still got the vast majority of his career in front of him and his journey to ESPN is a success story that could inspire any young blogger or writer out there.
Gabe Kapler – Fox MLB analyst
Kapler has worn many hats over his career – player, manager, coach, columnist, and now, analyst on Fox Sports 1. Appearing primarily on Fox Sports Live, Kapler has been the lone baseball hire by Fox since the launch of Fox Sports 1, and he’s seamlessly taken to his new role like a fish to water. Kapler has quickly become one of the best baseball analysts on any network, and he’s been doing this for less than four months. He also occasionally writes columns for FoxSports.com, and is showing himself to be a thoughtful and knowledgeable writer.
Joel Klatt – Fox football host/analyst
Klatt was one of Fox’s cornerstone hires for their college football coverage, coming out of near anonymity in Colorado. He’s been incredibly smooth in the studio, covering both college football and the NFL and has proven to be a capable anchor as well. He’s the rare ex-player that has served in a hosting role, even making appearances on Fox NFL Sunday doing in-game highlights. Fox has always done the NFL well, but their college football coverage has been hit or miss. Klatt has far and away been the best part of their coverage in 2013.
Rebecca Lowe – NBC EPL host
What better way to welcome the Premier League to NBC with a young, yet experienced, British voice? Lowe hosts all of NBC’s Premier League coverage, and her star has risen so quickly that she’s heading to Sochi in the winter as part of NBC’s Olympics coverage. Lowe has added a layer of authenticity and knowledge to NBC’s coverage that had been missing in past American EPL packages, and she’s quickly becoming the face of the Premier League in America thanks to NBC’s outstanding coverage.
Pedro Martinez – TBS MLB analyst
When Martinez was announced as a Postseason analyst for TBS, many people were horrified and expecting the worst. After the Postseason was over, that opinion had done a complete 180. Martinez proved himself to be honest, intelligent, and quite humorous as part of a shockingly good TBS Postseason studio show. Once Martinez’s shakiness in front of the cameras disappeared and he got comfortable, he was fantastic. If Martinez continues along in the broadcasting world, he could be a superstar.
Liam McHugh – NBC anchor
McHugh hosts NBC’s NHL studio coverage, and does a very good job (especially considering the prevalence of Mike Milbury on the pre and post-game shows). With NBC locking up the NHL’s American rights for the foreseeable future, and ratings creeping up following the lockout, more and more fans will likely be exposed to McHugh and become fans of his work, both in moderating panel discussions and calling highlights. While it’s tough to break through when you work at the same network as Bob Costas and Dan Patrick, McHugh saw his airtime increase at NBC this year, taking on the role of hosting a Notre Dame pregame show on NBCSN.
Pablo Torre – ESPN writer
Torre joined ESPN in late 2012, and while most of his work has been done with ESPN the Magazine, he’s also been featured as a panelist on Around the Horn. On the program, the 28 year old Torre joins Jones as one of the young alternative voices, a stark contrast from the Woody Paige-type panelists on the show. But his columns are what brought Torre to ESPN, and his ability to write both statistically-minded columns and tremendous profile pieces set him apart from most columnists in the sports journalism world today.
Adnan Virk – ESPN anchor
Virk has been with ESPN since 2010, but was largely confined to duties on ESPNEWS. But with Steve Berthiaume’s departure to the Arizona Diamondbacks, Virk took over as one of the hosts of Baseball Tonight and hasn’t looked back since. Virk is able to moderate discussions containing diverse personalities, from former players and coaches to reporters and analysts. Virk is just the latest of many ESPN personalities that started out as an anchor and fluorished as a host. Additionally, he’s ESPN’s ultimate utility player at the moment, used as a fill-in host for Mike & Mike and a SportsCenter anchor in addition to his Baseball Tonight duties. He even does movie reviews.
Chris Webber – TNT NBA analyst
The former five time All-Star continues to get better and better with each passing day at Turner Sports. In the past year, he’s shined both in the booth and in the studio with a mix of humor and insightful analysis. In fact, it’s fair to wonder whether Inside the NBA would be better off with Webber instead of the high profile addition of Shaquille O’Neal. Whether it be a seat in Atlanta or in a broadcast booth, Turner would be wise to give C-Web a larger role at the network.
Arlo White – NBC EPL announcer
While Lowe is the face of the Premier League in America, White is the league’s voice. His talents came into renown while calling MLS games with the Seattle Sounders, and took off during his work with NBC for the Olympics in London. Now focusing on the Premier League, White’s distinctive, passionate style of broadcasting is able to drag even the most casual viewer into a soccer game. Given the fact he’s taking over the role of lead EPL commentator from the beloved Ian Darke, it’s a testament to his work that the coverage has remained as strong and critically acclaimed as it has thus far.