Max Kellerman and Marcellus Wiley were actually the first two candidates to test for ESPN’s “SportsNation” when the show was being created in Bristol six or seven years ago, though neither got the gig — that is, until December 2012.
Originally, Kellerman couldn’t do the upstart Worldwide Leader property because of contractual obligations, and Wiley admitted to TheWrap that he was simply a “favor” audition. But then “SportsNation” became a hit and moved out west to Los Angeles, where the Compton-born Wiley and recent New York City-transplant Kellerman reunited both for their shared ESPNLA 710 AM radio show, and the afternoon fan-friendly telecast.
TheWrap visited ESPN’s L.A. Live studio on Wednesday to talk Super Bowl, weather, and for some reason, Kendrick Lamar’s Grammy snub. Though that’s a pretty typical change-of-direction conversation for the guys who spend more time together than apart.
Super Bowl Media Day occured 24 hours before the set visit. The annual circus, which took part in Newark, N.J., had reporters surrounding Seattle Seahawks’ cornerback Richard Sherman, who had become more famous for his WWE-style post-NFC Championship Game rant than his stellar on-field play. When Sherman didn’t give any quotables fodder, teammate Marshawn Lynch stole headlines on Tuesday by ditching the event, only to curse on live TV when he was tracked down by NFL Network reporter Deion Sanders.
It was just another Super Bowl Media Day, when takeaways are in the eye of the beholder.
“What is the Super Bowl really? It’s largely a TV show,” Kellerman, a well-known sports personality and boxing analyst, told TheWrap. “Is it any old TV show? No, it’s the biggest TV show in America every year. It’s the No. 1-rated show every year — it’s the Christmas of American television. It’s such an event, there’s so much coverage, you have to figure out storylines. Any little morsel we get, we devour. People get paid based on how interesting they can make the narrative.”
He added: “So when Sherman gives you something, or Marshawn Lynch doesn’t give you something, which is actually giving you something — of course it gets blown up.”
This year, the typically warm-weathered Super Bowl will take place in February’s frigid MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, where the New York Giants and Jets play. Wiley, a 6’4”, 275 lb. former national type-writing champion (82 words-per-minute in 1988) and NFL All-Pro defensive end, who played his college ball at Columbia University in New York City and spent four seasons playing in Buffalo, is not a fan of the change.
“I hate the cold-weather Super Bowl,” Wiley told TheWrap. “You want to warm up because you’re at your best when you’re out there loose, limber, you can fly around. You really get to see athleticism and you get to see what a team’s potential is. When those conditions aren’t there, then it becomes more of, ‘Wow that looks like a great production for the fans. Look at the snow coming out.’ Yeah, but I can’t run.”
Wiley continued: “I can’t pass rush, I can’t get a grip. Peyton Manning has to adjust his hands on the football, so he’s going to throw a different football, he won’t make the same choices, he won’t go deep as often. So many levels of the game [are] effected when the conditions don’t support guys being at their best. I understand that people want to see something different, but if it comes at the sake of the play, I don’t like it.”
The hosts of the debate show were on opposite ends of the Mother Nature debate; Kellerman likes the weather element — and the venue. “The capital of the known universe has the biggest sporting event in America,” Kellerman said. “Is that a bad idea? No.”
Of course, when asked if they’re going to the game, both said they are not. “Are you crazy? It’s freezing,” Kellerman quipped, only half joking.
One thing the duo agrees on in Sunday’s winner. Wiley, a lifelong Denver Broncos fan, is picking against his own team. “Something is telling me the Seattle Seahawks will win this game,” he told TheWrap. “Let’s say 23-20, close one,” Wiley quantified, adding, “Those days of the blowout Super Bowls are over.”
Kellerman sees it as 31-27, also Seattle, though he had praise for the leader of Denver’s offense, the most famous man on the field Sunday, Peyton Manning: “He’s the best quarterback ever, but he’s not greatest quarterback ever,” Kellerman distinguished. “This should not be a conversation, he should be the greatest ever, but it is — it’s a legitimate conversation.”
Finally, the guys who agree and disagree with each other on sports and pop culture from 12 p.m. PT to 1 p.m. on TV and 2:45 p.m. PT to 7 p.m. on the radio, agreed on disagreeing with the Grammys selection process that netted Macklemore & Ryan Lewis Best Rap Album (for “The Heist) over Kendrick Lamar (“Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City”) — a sentiment that was famously even shared by Macklemore following the win.
“We thought that we had evolved to the point where someone in the Grammy committee is actually measuring what real hip-hop’s response is to hip-hop music,” Wiley, who was born in Lamar’s own hometown of Compton, said. He added that Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ “The Heist” was well-produced, but is not even a top 10 hip-hop album for 2013, and “in the conversation” for Top 50.
Kellerman, who used to rap himself, had just as strong an opinion: “I can’t believe anybody cares about the Grammys or Academy Awards. These are … irrelevant rankings largely by dumb people who come to bad conclusions.”
“I was a little kid, I was 14, and ‘Dances With Wolves’ won it over ‘Goodfellas.’ I haven’t watched the Academy Awards since then.” He concluded, “If Led Zeppelin and Wu-Tang never won a Grammy, why are you still paying attention to the Grammys?”