Wednesday, June 20, 2007

"NASCAR Now" Still Misses The Mark


Things have taken a new twist in the crazy world of ESPN2's NASCAR Now. This series has been a roller-coaster ride since Daytona. First, the audience discovered that ESPN had hired two announcers that knew nothing about NASCAR. In fact, they had never been to a race. As if that were not wild enough, ESPN began to feature stories that they could "hype," instead of the everyday news and notes. "Kasey Kahne says David Stremme is fat" was an all-time classic.

On the Tuesday edition of the show, host Erik Kuselias threw every embarrassing question and scenario directly toward Kurt Busch that anyone could imagine. Kurt was actually on the show because he is involved with the Gillette Young Guns promotion of a TV series on ABC. Now a TV veteran, Busch smiled and deflected every question about his brother, Dale Junior, his season, and even his future with Penske Racing.

Kuselias is shameless, because his background is talk radio. He clearly does not realize when he is crossing the line, because he does not know the sport. His former co-host, Doug Banks, never even knew there was a line, and he is now departed. This leaves the bulk of the shows to Kuselias, and his confrontational style. Its not working and ESPN knows it.

As if to throw some credibility his way, NASCAR Now has shifted from "hype" to "scoop." Over the past couple of weeks, the show is now supposedly "first" with a lot of breaking news and rumors. The show has a good group of hired reporters, but most of them look mortified when ESPN now "hypes" that they have "breaking news." This is not a sport that tends to break anything but rear clips, because pretty much everybody is in everybody else's business.

Wednesday, poor Marty Smith was put on the spot again. The graphic on the screen read "breaking news," but it was certainly not the case. After the NEXTEL merger with SPRINT, there had been much discussion about when to change the NEXTEL Cup Series over to the SPRINT Cup. It seems that they decided to do that for 2008.

"When do you think we will have some kind of confirmation from somebody on this?" asked Kuselias. Marty Smith had only quoted his double top secret inside sources on this story, and nothing more. SPRINT had denied it, NASCAR had denied it, and most everyone else in North America...did not care. Marty's final line was "I believe it will happen." That line never worked for me in Journalism class, but if it works for ESPN, more power to them. No sources, no confirmation, no timetable, but let's report it.

Brad Daugherty was next, and things took an interesting turn. Responding to Humpy Wheeler's comments about mixed race F-1 driver Lewis Hamilton, Daugherty spoke about his efforts on NASCAR's Diversity Council. His point was to create go-kart programs for urban kids to encourage them to take up racing as a way to insert black and minority drivers into NASCAR. What he never mentioned, of course, was why he did not do that during his reign, and why the Diversity Council basically fell apart.

After several commercials in the program for Carino's Italian Grill, their driver Brad Coleman showed up to be interviewed by phone. Imagine that. Coleman is an up-and-coming star, but Kuselias just read scripted questions to him. That turned what could have been a sparkling interview into just another typical NASCAR Now wasted opportunity.

The Daly Planet has written enough about this show. It continues to be a disappointment for fans and the sport. You simply cannot cover an entire sport that lives in one area of North Carolina from Bristol, CT with a couple of reporters. ESPN needs to have a studio in the Mooresville area, and let drivers drop-by rather than talk on their cell phones.

This sport is different from any other in North America. Basically one big group of people jumps on a plane, goes to a town, and puts on a "show." Then, everybody flies back home again. Because they all share so many suppliers of parts for the cars and many other support services, everything is in one area. This is not hard to understand. Its also not hard to find.

As ESPN found out last time they did this type of show, it is basically impossible to maintain any kind of connection or credibility with Mooresville, North Carolina from Bristol, CT. That show was called RPM2Nite. The studio was in the greater Charlotte area, and everyone knew it. That show put the ESPN stamp on NASCAR and gave ESPN the day-to-day credibility they are now sorely lacking.

The best thing ESPN could do is get Winston Kelley on the phone, and reserve space in the new NASCAR Hall of Fame business tower. At least fans would know that this eight year commitment to NASCAR is something ESPN is beginning to take seriously. Right now, for viewers of NASCAR Now, it appears to be something that ESPN "has to do." The problem is, they are not even doing it well.

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9 comments:

vroom said...

I would do 2 things...have credible hosts and move NN to Charlotte...funny how simple things are allowed to be complicated!

ri8girl said...

Over the last few weeks I have read your cratiques with agreement and pleasure at the insightful and constructive way you have tried to nudge ESPN in the right direction. I do wonder about one thing. NASCAR is a 'family' and the NASCAR 'guys' we all love to see report on our teams are like family. The problem being how objective or indepth can the reporting be if there is NO objectivity? You are not going to point out that although your mothers apple pie won the bake-off she bought it at the Piggly Wiggly now are you? I am completely willing to agree that I for one don't NEED objectivity in my racing anymore than the natural pride and competitive nature of the sport already provides, but perhaps that is on reason ESPN is trying to leave some distance between itself and Mooresvill.

Anonymous said...

Erick K is a freaking joke. For those of you with HD you can back me up on the fact that he looks like he is wearing a half inch of makeup. He knows nothing about the sport and that is sad. The so called experts are has been drivers. I would not let Stacy Compton drive my kid to school, much less a race car. I give Boris a pass because he is really trying hard, Brad D seems to be giving it his all as well, but he seems scared to death anytime a question is directed towards him and has to come up with something on the fly. The worst of them all is Tim Cowlishaw this dude is an idiot. He belongs back on around the horn with the rest of the short bus guys. ESPN needs to hire Alan Bestwick and feature more of Marty Smith, Mike Massaro and Angelic CHengalis, those folks know what they are talking about and have the respect of the nascar community. Erick K is a joke and I pray that at some point ESPN will realize that he is probably the laughing stock of the entire nascar garage.

Anonymous said...

Give the show, Nascar Now, to Allen Bestwick

Jason said...

I knew this show would be a waste of time when during the very first broadcast, they just couldn't resist talking about the super bowl.

Anonymous said...

Wow, I couldn't have said it better, I have seen the Nascar Now show a couple of times and each time I have wondered if those idiots know that race cars don't have muffler bearings, or if they have even seen a race. The show is so lame, I would watch a spelling bee, or championship poker, two other "GREAT" piles of steaming dog doo that ESPN dumps on us. Give us sports, real sports.

Anonymous said...

You couldn't be more on target with your comments and observations. In the beginning I emailed ESPN and asked where they managed to round up the commentators on that show. TIM BREWER as a sports analyist...give me a break and ERIC is just plain pitiful. What ever happened to the real sports commentator for this sport? Neil Bonnett, Benny Parsons are gone and the other good ones don't want anything to do with that kind of show!

Anonymous said...

Why was Brad Daugherty giving high fives when Kyle Bush went upsidedown at the Talladega Bush race? I he there for the wrecks?
ESPN is the WORST, stick to the stick and ball sports.

Richard in NC said...

JOHN, It seems obvious to me that ESPN takes NASCAR fans for granted - like SPEED does - and is concerned only about the perceived possibility of attracting new fans. It seems to me the time has come for all NASCAR fans to start e-mailing and writing Walt Disney Co., the owner of ESPN. I dread the thought of what the Chase is going to be.