By R.L. Bynum
Kinas’ role with Westwood One expands for Winter Olympics
A play-by-play fixture on Triangle radio since 1999, Kinas will follow up his work broadcasting the Rio Olympics for Westwood One by being part of the radio network’s Winter Olympics coverage in Pyeongchang, South Korea, next month.
“I wouldn’t say it’s old hat,” Kinas said. “But my approach to the preparation and what they need from me … at least I know the quantity now.”
Kinas has long provided the summer soundtrack for minor-league baseball lovers in the Triangle. He first called games for the then-Double-A Carolina Mudcats (1999–2011), and has been the radio voice of the Triple-A Durham Bulls since 2012. His main winter job since the 2001–02 basketball season has been as the radio voice for N.C. State women.
He’ll call the East-West Shrine Game, a game he’s done for seven years, from St. Petersburg, Fla., on Jan. 20. After that broadcast for SB Nation Radio and SiriusXM, he’ll do two State women’s games the following week.
Kinas, 47, will miss State’s last six regular-season games while in South Korea after calling the Feb. 1 home game against Florida State. He’ll get a two-day break upon his return to North Carolina on Feb. 26 before the ACC women’s tournament starts in Greensboro.
“They have a couple of people lined up to fill in in my absence,” said Kinas, who did play-by-play for two NCHSAA state football championships this season. “N.C. State, just like the Bulls, could not be more supportive of me going. They’ve really been terrific.”
When Kinas returned from Rio in 2016, he called a Bulls game that night. A couple of days to decompress will probably be more important this time because of the time difference.
Kinas called the swimming competition with 12-time Olympic medalist Dara Torres during his 25 days in Rio, in addition to several other sports. He even got a one-on-one interview with Usain Bolt.
His duties will greatly expand for the Winter Olympics.
He will call figure skating with 1992 silver medalist Paul Wylie and work short-track skating events. In addition, he will head Westwood One’s coverage of the opening ceremony and the closing ceremony. Joe Tolleson was the announcer for the ceremonies in Rio but is unable go to the Winter Olympics.
“If you work in radio in sports, one of two goals is certainly in your mind,” said Kinas, who has also filled in for N.C. State men’s games when football games conflict and has called various games for ESPN3 since 2013. “One would be to work for ESPN Radio and the other — if that doesn’t work — is to work for Westwood One. They are the industry leaders in sports broadcasting.”
Getting that first chance to cover the Olympics came after trying to work for Westwood One for a long period of time. Mike Eaby, the vice president of sports administration at Westwood One, told Kinas that he liked his work but that but that his team was set.
Eaby delivered the same message in October 2015 but wondered if Kinas had ever called swimming. Eaby said that it was doubtful that there would be an opening, but he wanted to have information on file from some people just in case.
Luckily, Kinas had done the ACC swimming championships for several years and worked the high school swimming championships. He sent in a tape of his swimming work and didn’t hear anything until mid-February 2016. Eaby told Kinas, via email, that he was one of three people under consideration to call swimming in Rio.
After a week and a half “on pins and needles,” Kinas got delayed word that he was getting the swimming gig. It was delayed because Eaby had lost his cellphone number.
“It was opportunity meets timing and, fortunately, I had what they wanted,” Kinas said. “I filled the void they needed and the next five months were incredibly nerve-wracking because I knew swimming was going to be my primary sport and, while I had broadcasted swimming before, I wasn’t necessarily an avid follower of it and I had a lot to learn.
“They needed me to become an expert in the sport in five months by the time I got to Rio. They had a lot of faith and trust in me that I could pull it off and, fortunately, I think we did,” Kinas said. “Once I landed down there after the months and months of prep and the research and practice, that suddenly was the one moment in your broadcast life that really can make or break you.”
He obviously impressed Westwood One since he was invited back for the Winter Games. But preparing for that big stage the first time was daunting. He said that chats with Bulls players about adjusting to playing in the major leagues helped him come to terms with that.
Luke Maile, a former Bulls catcher now with the Toronto Blue Jays, told Kinas that he was just like baseball players conditioning themselves to play in the majors. Maile told him that he’d worked his entire career for that chance. Now that he had the opportunity, Malie told him that he’d earned the right.
“That helped quell a lot of anxiety for me, and the first day the Olympics began, swimming had four gold-medal events that night,” Kinas said. “So, we were off and running and eight straight days [of swimming] and it was exhilarating to be around those athletes and call some of those races and trust your instincts and trust your preparation that you’ve done it the right way. Fortunately, it worked out pretty well.”
His preparation time ahead of the Olympics can’t compare to what is required for Olympic athletes. But it still is intense and takes a tremendous work ethic.
“It never ends,” Kinas said. “I’m going to go to bed tonight thinking I need to look into this or I need to dive into this, I need to talk to these people. It’s the way that I’m wired, I don’t feel like I’ll ever be completely a hundred percent prepared. But, in the end, I end up being really overprepared, which is good because you need to lean back on that. If you’re not prepared and ready by the time you land in Rio, or land in Pyeongchang, you won’t do a good job. The heavy lifting is done now, months and months in advance.”
The learning curve is steeper this time around since he needs to be an expert on figure skating, short track and Olympic ceremonies.
“I’ve broken down my last five months on basically six weeks on figure skating, six weeks on short track and then the last five or six weeks on the opening and closing ceremony and kind of shining up some of the things that we’re doing over there,” Kinas said. “Trying to prepare for these three — and they’re all major events — my head feels like it’s about to explode.”
Kinas has had lunch with Wylie, who is based in Charlotte, a couple of times and that has helped him learn more about the sport and get to know his broadcast partner. He’s also consulted with someone else with an N.C. State connection who has covered figure skating: Terry Gannon, a guard on the Wolfpack’s 1983 national-championship team, who Kinas says is a great resource.
He also has other local resources who are helping him. Former Russian skater Elena Betchke, a 1992 silver medalist for the Unified Team in the pairs competition, coaches figure skating in Garner and Cary. Robyn Petroskey-Poe is a competitive figure skating coach in the Triangle.
He got some insights last summer about short-track skating from 2014 5,000-meter silver medalist Eddy Alvarez. A baseball shortstop, Alvarez is chasing his major-league dreams, and played last season for the Charlotte Knights, an International League South Division rival of the Bulls.
Being used to the grind of a minor-league baseball season helped prepare him for the 25 consecutive days of working at the Olympics.
“Homestands can be 10 to 12 days and you can work 14-hour days and pull tarps and get in at 9 after a game that goes until midnight with rain delays,” said Kinas, who got his start in the minor leagues in 1993 with the Clinton (Iowa) LumberKings of the Midwest League. “I was certainly up for the work and up for the hours. I just didn’t exactly know how stressful.”
Working the Olympics for a Westwood One team of about 15 is decidedly different from covering the Games for NBC.
“They have thousands and thousands of employees down there doing very specific jobs where our group of barely more than a dozen was trying to pull off the entire Olympics for a national radio audience,” he said. “When you have six play-by-play guys and five analysts and a couple of producers and engineers and one guy in IT trying to pull that off, it’s a pretty overwhelming overtaking. It’s amazing that Westwood One is able to pull this off every two years. I couldn’t be more pleased to be a small part of that.”
The Olympics is a dream assignment and he has other goals, whether it be working in Major League Baseball, the NBA or the NFL or possibly being in the mix to call games for Northwestern, where he earned his master’s degree, once Dave Eanet retires from calling games there.
“I’ve never put everything into reaching Major League Baseball because the odds of that are so just so minuscule,” Kinas said. “I certainly wouldn’t want to look at myself as a failure if that were my only goal and I didn’t reach it. Life is good. I’m blessed to do all of these various things and I tell people, if this is as far as my career goes, it’s been great. I’ve done some amazing things.
“The minute you stop aiming for something, you’re missing your target. So I do have several goals kind of inside that I really would like to reach. Hopefully, things are still trending in that direction. I think they are,” Kinas said.
When the world’s best winter-sport athletes compete next month, Kinas will be describing a good bit of it. His work will be available both on affiliate stations and various radio apps.
Pseudo community newspapers end
The charade that The N&O’s 10 twice-weekly community newspapers still are different or deserved distinct nameplates — which had been going on since the all of the staffs either got laid off or reassigned early last year — finally ended Sunday.
Each geographic area in The N&O’s coverage area still will get the same content. Starting today, however, instead of what has been presented as distinct community papers, all subscribers instead will get a publication inserted in their Wednesday and Sunday newspapers with the same nameplate.
The Triangle Today will “focus on lifestyle, entertainment and the booming food culture in our community.” It is also supposed to be delivered by itself to non-subscribers.
The community newspapers, which provided good local content for those 10 areas, including about high school sports, have been nearly identical for months. The only customization was when somebody paid for an obituary. Display and classified ads were also different.
When The N&O did away sports pages in its community newspapers in November 2016, that was the beginning of the depletion of preps coverage. All of the community newspaper sports editors were either laid off or reassigned. Now, J. Mike Blake is the only writer dedicated to high school sports coverage for the consolidated N&O/Herald-Sun sports staff. Recruiting writer Jonas Pope IV contributed to coverage last week of the Holiday Invitational.
N&O ends the outdoors page
For years, The N&O has featured a weekly outdoors page in its print sports section. That won’t be the case this year. Last Thursday was the newspaper’s last outdoors page.
The reason given in a note to readers last month for discontinuing the page was “a cutback in the number of pages in the sports section.” But Sports Editor Steve Ruinsky said that you won’t see content online that previously appeared on the print-edition outdoors page.
“Online readership is fairly limited on outdoors coverage,” Ruinsky said via a Twitter direct message.
A print-page reduction could very well be a component in the decision. But it appears to be another case of the newspaper reducing — or in this case, apparently, eliminating — coverage of subjects that don’t get many clicks.
Jason Hawkins’ weekly Sunday outdoors column appeared in the Herald-Sun’s sports pages for a number of years, but it hasn’t appeared in the sports section since August. It now runs twice a month on The Herald-Sun’s editorial page.
Herald-Sun All-Area tradition continues
The consolidated N&O/Herald-Sun sports department deserves kudos for continuing a decades-old tradition of naming a Herald-Sun All-Area Team for football and running it in the Christmas Day print edition. It would have been very easy to let that tradition die, although the presentation wasn’t as elaborate as in past years.
As expected, women’s basketball coverage changes
The dropoff in women’s college basketball coverage by the consolidated N&O/H-S sports staff was expected. No home games have been covered after years of The Herald-Sun covering nearly all UNC and Duke home games.
When No. 3 Louisville won at N.C. State on Sunday, it merited only three sentences on page 7B of Monday’s N&O and two sentences and 5B of The Herald-Sun, buried deep in the same college basketball roundup (though cut differently).
The consolidated sports staff called on Joe Johnson, the former Herald-Sun preps writer who now is a real-time reporter for The H-S, to write a story on UNC coach Sylvia Hatchell ahead of her expected 1,000th victory. That ran on the sports fronts of both print editions the day of the game.
Johnson was in Myrtle Beach, S.C., to cover Hatchell’s 1,000th win in a Dec. 19 day game, a victory over Grambling State.
There was no better evidence of how the two newspapers have traditionally viewed women’s basketball than the treatment of that story reporting a major coaching milestone. The Herald-Sun ran it on A1 the next day, Dec. 20, and The N&O only ran a brief on the eighth sports page, even though it had access to the same story. The N&O ran that story inside the sports section of the Dec. 21 print edition.
‘Adam and Joe” make national list
The “Adam and Joe” afternoon drive-time show on WCMC (99.9 The Fan) made Radio Ink’s list of the 35 best local sports talkers in America in 2017. The show, with hosts Adam Gold and Joe Ovies, is listed at No. 28 on a list topped by the now retired Mike Francesa.
North Carolina-related stories of note
Théron Janes wrote in The Charlotte Observer about how a mother and son, who have both lost their legs, found another way to bond playing competitive wheelchair basketball together on the Rollin’ Hornets.
Dana O’Neil wrote in The Fieldhouse (The Athletic’s college-basketball site) about Joel Berry, a grieving mother and how they connected in a deeply emotional way after seeing each other at a Chapel Hill restaurant.
Brant Wilkerson-New wrote in the News & Record of Greensboro about Marvin Bagley III’s path from high school junior to Duke freshman and the intense summer academic load it took to complete it.
Scott Fowler wrote in The Charlotte Observer about retired legendary NASCAR writer Tom Higgins, who is 80 and recovering from a stroke. In 1980, he became the first sports writer to travel to every race on NASCAR’s top circuit.
Andrew Carter wrote in The N&O/Herald-Sun about the challenges athletes face when demanding academic and athletic schedules collide.