Tuesday, April 10, 2007

ESPN's NASCAR Now: Birds In A Scripted Cage


A while back, The Daly Planet published a column on the difference between people who know NASCAR, and the people who TV networks "say" know NASCAR. ESPN has put NASCAR Now co-host Doug Banks in a very tough spot. It is clear that he is new to NASCAR, but the network continually puts him in the position of interviewing high-profile drivers, team owners, and even reporters. Time-after-time ESPN asks him to "know" what it is very clear he does not know. After several weeks of tough times on-the-air, NASCAR Now has decided on a solution. Everything is scripted. Each word is read carefully and slowly by Mr. Banks so as not to make an error. Unfortunately, the result is a disaster.

Certainly, other ESPN programs like SportsCenter use scripts and teleprompters, but one thing is very different. The announcers doing these shows "really know" the sports that they are talking about. That is why they have those jobs. In this case, Mr. Banks does not. Tightly scripting Banks in this program might work just fine if he was not forced to interview guys like Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Shane Huffman live on-the-air. Surprisingly, that is just what happened in this show.

Junior opened the new JR Motorsports shop and appeared via liveshot with Shane, who drives for him in the Busch Series. Banks started with a scripted question that was just completely incorrect. It forced Junior to correct him, and then Banks followed with several disjointed questions that made little sense. Junior appeared to be bored to tears, and kept taking very deep breaths. Banks obviously had no clue as to the Huffman family history in racing, or the connection with the Hooters Pro Cup Series as a feeder for Busch. While Huffman and Earnhardt managed to crack each other up, Banks stayed as serious as a heart attack. He might have been having one.

Marty Smith and Stacy Compton also made appearances in this show, and their information was just fine. Somehow, NASCAR Now has this thing about forcing Compton to "grade" drivers that is just ridiculous. This is not baseball, football, or basketball. The dynamic of racing does not respond well to being "graded." RBI's, yards-per-carry, and three point shots are not part of this sport. NASCAR fans want inside info from the teams, features on the personalities, and updates on the news stories. That would get an "A."

Unfortunately, what they are getting from ESPN2 and NASCAR Now is no behind-the-scenes profiles, reporters forced to answer scripted questions, and show hosts who have absolutely no history in the sport that they have been hired to discuss. As of April 10th, NASCAR Now gets a "D" on their own report card.

11 comments:

thecatfishshow said...

Just watched the midnight replay... my god, the show is beyond horrible. I hope you stay on their case in hopes things change. They need it badly.

Anonymous said...

Totally agree again, I was laughing at the Dale Jr. interview because I'm a big Jr. fan. This show was absolutely ridiculous, the guy knows nothing. At least though hes not as brash and arrogant as Erik Kuselias, that guy is a loser. Please get Ryan Burr full-time, or even better yet, Alan Bestwick.

Anonymous said...

This show is so painfully inadequate, I have stopped watching. Like other networks, SEPN seems to think thatNascar fans will tolerate listening to tripe that comes from announcers and 'hosts' that know nothing and care less about Nascar. Especially disappointing shen one considers the excellence of the old RPM 2Nite show with John Kernan and Jerry Punch.

Anonymous said...

As much as I had looked forward to the return of a daily NASCAR show on ESPN, I have STOPPED. If they don't want to pay the talent,I will do the show for free. No wonder the numbers are all down for veiwers.Stop insulting race fans with these jokers

Anonymous said...

Get John Kernan.

He was great as host of RMP 2Night (please bring that back, too), is knowledgeable about many forms of pro motorsports and loves racing. The drivers respect him, too.

Jeff said...

Mr. Daly seems to really hate NASCAR Now. I think it's time we all chip in some money to buy him a TV with a remote control. That will allow him to simply change the channel to something he likes rather than constantly obsess over what he doesn't like about NASCAR Now.

Anonymous said...

It continues to baffle me that after interviewing John Kernan for the host position they chose these bozos. Even Allen Bestwick would be an improvement. The current hosts could screw up coverage of a Pinewood Derby. I really expected a lot more from ESPN.

Anonymous said...

Agreed, this show is a total disaster! Eric Kuselias is a total loser. I too was looking forward to a daily NA$CAR show, as I can't get Speed Channel. But now I catch it if I think about it, and it doesn't bother me if I miss it. Can't believe that ESPN could screw it up as badly as they have! Bring back the old RPM Tonight - and John Kernan!!

Anonymous said...

John Kernan and RPM2Nite was what got me totally hooked on NASCAR. I never missed an episode, taped it daily just in case I didn't get home from work in time. I was so hopeful with the return of ESPN to NASCAR broadcasts that John and RPM2Nite would return as well. ESPN, please admit you've screwed up, ditch NASCAR Now and its bozos, and bring back RPM2Nite and hopfully John Kernan too. ESPN currently has the best voice in broadcasting, Allen Bestwick, who should be in the broadcast booth instead of working the pits. I guess I just don't understand the mindset of the powers that be at ESPN...

Anonymous said...

Amen. Not only is Doug reading the teleprompter, but he needs glasses! That squint he has as he tries to read is truly distracting. The new guy, Ryan, obviously knows nothing about NASCAR. I almost fell out of my chair while watching Friday's show when he referred to Busch driver Kevin Hamlin as "Dale Earnhardt's former crew chief"!!!!! I, too would love to see John Kernan back.

Anonymous said...

Hey J.D.

Did you notice the first comments with Marty were on air from Jr's new shop. The second time Marty was "on air" was by phone. And then at the end of the show, Marty was live again from Jr's new shop. Wow, love the consistancy...NOT. This show is nothing but a joke.