Wednesday, April 11, 2007

ESPN Continues To Struggle With NASCAR Credibility

There is a new tone being set by ESPN2 and its daily show, NASCAR Now. As opposed to older ESPN shows like SpeedWeek and RPM2Nite, this new Bristol, CT based group has decided to treat NASCAR as a source of controversy and problems. Despite the fact that the sport is over fifty years old, NASCAR Now acts as though it is "discovering" issues that are always dramatically portrayed as "critical." The problem is, NASCAR Now has labored to build any type of credibility with the fans. That struggle continues.

Today, host Doug Banks blew through the Michael Waltrip accident story without displaying any human feelings or even seeming to care about this man and his struggles. Waltrip could have been a bum on the corner who was hit by a car. This is exactly the problem. Those of us who follow the sport know the history of Michael, his connection with Dale Earnhardt Sr., and his giant leap of faith into the world of team ownership with Toyota. We know his wife, his daughter, and his world. Almost everyone has been entertained by Michael on his SPEED Channel show Inside NEXTEL Cup Racing. Whether he makes you laugh or makes you nuts, we know who Michael is and care about him as a person...because we are NASCAR fans. ESPN has consistently struggled to attach "human emotion" to this sport.

Somehow, Clint Bowyer was roped into calling into NASCAR Now for an interview about another thing ESPN is obsessed with...accidents. Bowyer again had to talk Doug Banks through the Daytona accident that took place in February. Just like people who see a NASCAR race for the first time, NASCAR Now has not yet arrived at an understanding that incidents are just a part of the sport. The Bristol, CT producers love the "violence," which we know from both the Bowyer and Reutimann accidents. These are not hockey or baseball fights, and the continued use of accident footage just because ESPN has it is amateurish.

Angelique Chengelis is always on her game, and finally someone talked plainly about the Ford issues with Dale Jarrett and Mark Martin. If Chengelis had been allowed to do the interview of Clint Bowyer, fans would have been able to get good strong questions and information, instead of Bank's scripted fluff. Perhaps, if NASCAR Now made it available, the fans could send in questions for the drivers. Anything that can help with the hideous content of these interviews.

Brad Daugherty is still an interesting person to have on a NASCAR show. Everyone on NASCAR Now has a defined role...except him. He is not called an analyst, not called an Insider, and not called a reporter. He has never been allowed to prepare a feature report, never been allowed to interview NASCAR personalities, and is brought on the show to comment on things without fans understanding his perspective or credibility. I understand he was a Busch Series owner, a diversity executive, and serves on the appeals panel. But, how does that translate to this show? Why is he talking about the "bump" at Texas or Carl Edwards being "the man?"

With Major League Baseball's key match-up of Dice-K against Ichiro following this show, the emphasis of the entire ESPN day was on what ESPN does best, stick-and-ball sports. While NASCAR has held its own during spring training, the opening of the baseball season clearly puts this sport on the back-burner at ESPN in Connecticut.

Last week's host Ryan Burr absolutely got rave reviews for his knowledge of NASCAR, his ability to interview guests, and his relationship with the NASCAR Now reporters. Fans are wondering why ESPN cannot simply put this talented man on this show right now? With baseball underway, there is even more of a need to establish some credibility for this series before it fades even further into the shadows. NASCAR Now needs Ryan Burr, and they need him now.


Anonymous said...

Totally agree again, somehow I watched the full show today, but it was still unbearable. So many mistakes were made, with Doug reading from his script, and interrupting people.


Anonymous said...

At least the show aired, and was not preempted by tennis, or some other sport that ESPN thinks that we might want to watch!!!!

Glenn Klima
New Milton, WV

Harley said...

I am extremely disappointed with all the coverage ESPN give NASCAR, I wasn't a devoted fan when they used to broadcast races and from letening to people who were I was really looking forward to watching the "experts" cover the races. All I can say is, I hope it used to be better. It seems like a bunch of amateurs that never saw a race before.

Anonymous said...

I watched the show exactly once.

After 5 minutes the mindless drivel turned my stomach.

Anonymous said...

Well said, Mr. Daly. Every time I have watched "Nascar Now", they have all of the enthusiasm of a bored 5th-grader doing a speech on President William Henry Harrison. Nothing against the short-term, former president, but it is blatantly obvious that there isn't a passion for the sport that they are covering.

Their boredom has even rubbed off on the usually engaging and energetic Marty Smith. Someone needs to switch the drug they are putting into the Kool-Aid there in Bristol. What ever they are on is dragging their show down fast.

Circle Pines, MN

Anonymous said...

I 100% agree. Ryan Burr needs to be the host. I don't see this show lasting very long if ESPN doesn't do something quick. Hell I live 30-45 mins from ESPN, I'll go do the show. At least I have knowledge of the sport and know what questions need to be asked. The show needs a host that is also a fan. Plain and simple.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the observations! The show is painful to watch ... Bring back RPM tonight or get Jayski to help. They need to change the format.

Anonymous said...

I can't stand the show. Way too basic content and always way after the fact. Took it off my TiVo list the first week.

TheKomoman said...

Ryan Burr is on tonight and I'm watching it as I type this. COMPLETELY different show with him at the helm. It has actual FLOW and content! What a concept.

At least I get to listen to Kernan on Sirius now. I know there's no way, but I'd love to have him & Jenkins back on ESPN.

Anonymous said...

And these people are going to be in control of Jayski? What a joke thats going to be!

Anonymous said...

watched the show SO refreshing to see & hear a different side of Nascar not the same old kiss up stuff as we here from the circus performers each week.Was a fan for 35 years now l watch something real WWF. Hmmm 1am in morning - lost it,sure l forgot Mikey don't drink.