Wednesday, February 14, 2007

ESPN: NASCAR Now with Chris Fowler

ESPN made the mistake of bringing in Chris Fowler to Daytona in the middle of the biggest breaking news story in some time. Regular host Erik Kuselias was nowhere in sight, and Fowler was clearly not a favorite of analyst Rusty Wallace. Barely hiding his disgust for Fowler's lack of racing knowledge, Rusty took it upon himself to correct and disagree with Fowler several times in the first segment of the program alone. Poor Boris Said, also on the set, was put in the position of peacemaker.

ESPN was clearly struggling with the on-going multiple suspension and fines stories, but Shannon Spake worked hard to relay as much information as possible when updating viewers on the Team Evernham problems. Kudos to Rusty Wallace for taking a critical view of NASCAR's penalties against Evernham. The death penalty for a speeding ticket, he remarked.
Fowler seemed amused by all this, chuckling openly about the "good old boys" and how they cheat. I felt at any moment he might update us on Ole Miss or the Crimson Tide, but he clearly had no clue about NASCAR. He also never explained his presence, or the absence of the regular host.
For some strange reason, ESPN's new field reporter Marty Smith was attired in a suit jacket and tie, even as he was summarily booted out of the #55 garage. Marty seems strangely confused about this live TV thing, and is going to face an interesting transition from internet reporter to high profile national TV personality. He is a smart and hard-working guy, so let's hope that the ESPN veterans help get him up to speed with the techniques he needs to perfect.
Somehow, Brad Daughtery, Bill Cowlishaw, and Chris Fowler in jackets and ties just do not represent NASCAR to me. ESPN needs to understand that NASCAR did just fine without them, and that the network needs to regain its credibility with viewers. NASCAR Now needs more hard news coverage, and less posing and preening from its Bristol, CT based announcers.

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