Saturday, February 10, 2007

Fox Sports: Bud Shootout - Part 2

Halftime of the Bud Shootout only served to reinforce the belief that Jeff Hammond is ready to step-up to the Hollywood Hotel host position. Chris Myers, once useful in keeping order, has become outdated. Hammond is now a polished television professional, and deserves the opportunity to be featured as a host, which would allow a more focused infield presence.

Dick Berggren continues to be a racing character as well-defined as the great Chris Economaki. His countless racing knowledge seems to be somehow mis-matched in the world of thirty second pit reports and young drivers speaking the corporate language of today's sponsorship. One defined pre-produced feature from "Doctor Dick" would be a welcome addition to the regular season racing coverage.

With fifty laps to go at 9:15 PM Eastern Time on a Saturday night, the NASCAR on Fox crew had a great opportunity to re-set the scene for new viewers in primetime, but again chose to take the easy way out. There were no highlights of the first race, no recap of what this event was, or how the participants got here. This should have taken place, and is pretty fundamental TV 101.

This season, we are going to eventually have some sort of agreement on who speaks when something happens on the track. Right now, its a group effort. Both DW and Larry Mac have decided to voice their excitement when something is in progress, relegating Mike Joy to becoming the patient father who waits until his excited children pipe-down to restore order.

Fox continues to shine on their coordination of pit road reporters and their seamless integration of the members of the broadcast crew. They also continue to send quality audio from not only the track, but the individual in-car cameras and pit road area. Mixed with the quality digital video, this bodes quite well for the technical aspects of the shortened Fox Sports NASCAR season.

For some reason, Ryan Newman continues to be the invisible man where Fox is concerned. If this inability to even mention Newman in passing comes from his Alltel sponsorship, it would certainly cut into the some-what marginal credibility of Fox when it comes to sales and sponsorships affecting the program content. Newman's exit from the Shootout was noted only in passing with a brief glimpse of his car coasting into the garage. What a shame.

This program may be noted for the first mystery caution of the season. Thrown immediately after a national commercial break, Fox casually mentioned never-seen debris as the reason for the caution. Apparently, it was an easy way for NASCAR to give the teams an opportunity to get tires, whether they chose to or not.

As we move toward the season, let's hope that Fox decides to focus on the racing as a whole, instead of continuing their obsession with who is leading the race, regardless of how many laps are remaining. Before the last thirty laps, the stories are in the pack, and not at the front.

With five laps to go, the dye was cast in the event, and the curse of Daytona reared its head. Passing for the lead, without friends, was not going to happen this season once again. This race served as a good tune-up for the Fox gang, but really helped to re-focus race viewers on the fundamental issues that the TV crew needs to address before the season begins. The most pressing issue is, with three announcers in the booth, two in the Hollywood Hotel, and four on pit road, are we in for another season of endless self-absorbed chatter...or quality storytelling from nine professional sports broadcasters? Only time will tell.

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