Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

`King of Queens' Star Is Host of Florida Sports Awards

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

`King of Queens' Star Is Host of Florida Sports Awards

Article excerpt

Like Doug Heffernan, the character he plays on the CBS sitcom The King of Queens, Kevin James is man who loves his sports.

Growing up on Long Island, he rooted for the Jets and the Mets, played football and wrestled in high school, then continued playing small college football for a time at Courtland State.

Eventually, he phased out both football and college for a career in comedy, which has led to TV stardom and will lead, on June 12, to the stage of the Moran Theater of the Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts.

Not that being the host of the annual Florida Sports Awards telecast ranks with starring in his own TV sitcom. But James said it is something of a departure for him, and therefore an interesting challenge. "I'm really new at the hosting thing," he said in a telephone interview.

In effect, as he hands out the statuettes known as Jaspers, he'll be to Jasper what Billy Crystal is to Oscar, except "not as talented but taller," he said.

That's what Andy Jacobs, chief executive officer of the Otis F. Smith Foundation and president of the Florida Sports Awards (formerly the Jacksonville Sports Awards), wanted.

With the awards ceremony being broadcast statewide this year on eight TV stations including Jacksonville's WTLV TV-12, Jacobs was looking for a host who would make the event seem more like an Academy Awards broadcast and less like a post-season banquet.

But not too much more. Jacobs wanted someone who could do standup comedy, was a recognizable name and was comfortable talking about sports. James fit the bill. After all, this is a guy who was a high school wrestling teammate of Mick Foley, who, under the moniker Mankind, is now one of the stars of the World Wrestling Federation, which came to Jacksonville Sunday for the broadcast of its weekly program Heat.

James felt the heat himself this TV season from both pro wrestling and from ABC's Monday Night Football. The King of Queens faced a struggle to survive against such formidable ratings competition on Monday nights. But while most new TV sitcoms vanish quickly, The King of Queens has done quite nicely, lately moving into the Nielsen top 20. …

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