Monday, June 25, 2007

"NASCAR Now's" Breaking News Is Hilarious

As The Daly Planet mentioned some time ago, ESPN2 has tried desperately to switch the focus of NASCAR Now from "hype" to hard news. They have pushed their reporters over-and-over again to come up with "breaking news," exclusive interviews, and being first to uncover a story. Today, they pushed the envelope beyond hilarious.

Hyped as "breaking news" at the top of the one hour Monday show was the "story" that Hendrick Motorsports was not going to buy the "number eight" from DEI. That's right. That was the "breaking news" that lead the show. Dale Junior leaving DEI without his famous "number eight." No matter how much money Rick Hendrick and Dale Junior have, they simply cannot buy it. Wow, that does sounds like a big story.

Let's step back a moment. This story was breaking national news on the daily NASCAR show on ESPN. This is the Emmy Award winning global media company that is home to SportsCenter, ESPN News Network, and a host of programs that viewers nationwide have learned to trust for accuracy and integrity. ESPN is the "Worldwide Leader in Sports."

Host Erik Kuselias tried hard to "sell" the fact that ESPN2 and NASCAR Now were once again on top of a new NASCAR story. He had two expert analysts on the set with him to tackle this issue. But, there was only one small problem. It was the same problem ESPN ran into when NASCAR Now tried to be the "hype machine" of NASCAR. That problem is reality.

That reality is that NASCAR "owns" and assigns the numbers for the cars and trucks in their national racing series. They have for over fifty years. While certain teams have kept the same numbers for many years, they have never owned them. Never. The ability of one team to "sell" a number to another team has never existed. Never.

Once again, for some reason, Around The Horn's Tim Cowlishaw was on the NASCAR Now set. Cowlishaw is ESPN's "designated talker," and lived up to his Daly Planet reader tag as "Mr. Obvious." Glazing over the reality that there was absolutely no story here, Cowlishaw ranted that NASCAR needed to "step-in" and let Junior take the "number eight" with him for the fans. "NASCAR does many illogical things" said Cowlishaw. Not sending "the eight" with Junior would be just another bad NASCAR decision.

You have to wonder if NASCAR Now just discovered RaceDay on SPEED, and the obnoxious Ricky Rachtman's completely fake "Free the Eight" campaign. This issue, however, is not like voting Kenny Wallace into the All-Star race because he is a fun guy on SPEED.

The graphic on the screen in front of Stacy Compton said "Breaking News." NASCAR Now's "voice of reason" once again tried to put things in order, even as the ESPN on-air hype around him was still in progress. Compton simply said "they (DEI) don't own the number." Well, thanks for that Stacy.

Perhaps, if Compton had helped ESPN to understand this fifty plus year-old concept before the show, NASCAR fans across America would not be rolling their eyes once again at this nonsense. Those would be the fans not still howling with laughter.

How much longer is this new "twist" in NASCAR Now going to continue? Kuselias brought in by liveshot his reporters Marty Smith and Angelique Chengelis. Strangely, he did not ask them about the exciting "number eight" breaking news that lead the show. Perhaps, that is because they both would have fallen off their chairs. No reporter even commented on the "lead story" of the show.

Earlier this season, ESPN tried to hype minor incidents between drivers, be it on the track or off. They found that did not work, because those things happen all the time...imagine that. Remember the "Kasey Kahne says David Stremme is fat" controversy? That will go down in ESPN's NASCAR TV history.

Once again, rather than offer a full plate of NASCAR for fans to digest, the program had to be "about" ESPN itself. They are trying desperately to get their credibility back in this sport. Now, there must be breaking news, they must be first to report, and they must have new "Insider" details.

Who are they kidding? ESPN ignored the entire NASCAR scene for six years while they pouted about losing the NASCAR TV contract. They cancelled RPM2Nite even though NASCAR itself was going strong. They said to America "if we can't show it, then you can't have it." Just like Jimmy Spencer, NASCAR fans never forget.

Now ESPN gets the rights to show NASCAR races, and suddenly there "needs" to be a daily show about NASCAR. What a strange coincidence. This is the struggle that NASCAR Now faces. One of credibility and loyalty to the sport. This new "breaking news" approach is not going to cut it with fans who relied on and the other racing sites to help them through the years that ESPN spit on NASCAR every chance they could.

With ESPN stepping-up and covering NASCAR's NEXTEL Cup Series in several weeks, the daily NASCAR Now program will be put under more scrutiny and pressure than ever before. New fans, media members, and Internet posters will be watching their news choices, their interviews, and even their choice of words.

I really don't believe that the NASCAR Now crew even understands what is coming. They are about to be thrust into seventeen weeks of non-stop national attention in a "playoff" and then "World Series" atmosphere that will make the Yankees vs. The Red Sox seem like a walk in the park.

Rabid fans will be hanging on their every word, and looking for a daily update on ALL the on-going stories in Mooresville, NC. Not just the one shop where Shannon Spake has been sent. Not just some chatter on the set from a Truck Series driver.

If the network continues to "create" news and promote only itself, they will have driven a wedge between themselves and the fans that is going to be tough to remove. Since February, NASCAR fans have given the biggest and most powerful sports network in the world the opportunity to deliver accurate and honest news and features on the NASCAR scene.

Now, it is late June...and this is what we get. The "breaking news" that Theresa won't sell Junior his number when he leaves DEI. Of course, there are those pesky details. She does not own it...he can't buy it...and ESPN made it all up. What will they think of tomorrow?

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Anonymous said...

To be fair, also has this issue as their lead story on their website. So it's not just ESPN.

Other than their usual over-hype of this "Breaking News" tonight's NASCAR Now was pretty good. Erik Kuselias actually engaged Tim and Stacy and I'd say almost appeared to be interested in what was being discussed. In fact, I'd say he was more interested than TNT's crew yesterday. They even covered the Busch race, complete with an interview with the guy who led the broadcast! (HINT: Do that every week)Overall, Erik is getting better especially when just talking to ESPN's people. Some things, like talking to the "insiders" is bad more so because of ESPN's rediculous format than Erik's lack of knowledge, although that doesn't help.

Oh and by the way, Tim Cowlishaw couldn't even win a debate about Montoya on Around the Horn! The other two reporters, JA Adande and Jay Mariotti had more to say, and made actual good points. So why again is Tim on NASCAR Now?

Anonymous said...

I thought it would be a great thing with ESPN having the NASCAR contract agian. Yet as each day passes, I hold less and less hope. NASCAR Now is just ANOTHER example of "ball sport guys" with egos making all the decisions. Until ESPN gets race fans working on the shows, all hope is lost.

Vince said...

I used to record this show on my DVR to see if Allen Bestwick was hosting. But I've given up and don't even bother any more.

This show is a train wreck and nobody cares. Not ESPN, ABC, Disney OR NASCAR.

Anonymous said...

ESPN has a GREAT, GREAT, GREAT motorsports news show.

It's called RPM2NITE.

Revive it!

Anonymous said...

Related to the "breaking news" part of this and some posts a while back is this from David Poole's blog,

"I came as close as I ever have to hanging up on a national television show Tuesday. I agreed to go on ESPN's "NASCAR Now" show live via the telephone at 6:30 p.m. to talk about the Dale Earnhardt Jr. story."

I won't copy the post but direct you to his blog, look for the 6/13/07 post. It is worth reading. Poole blasts NN for stealing credit for AP's Jenna Fryer's story.

My point is, "Breaking News" on NN is suspect. Don't buy the H-Y-P-E sold by the Four Letter.


Kevin in Indy said...

I admit it, I went back on my word. I tuned in to NASCAR Now. I had vowed to never watch it again. With Allen Bestwick's great work this weekend, I naturally assumed that the suits in Bristol would take a look and say "Hey, this guy is good" and put him on NASCAR Now on Monday evening. Much to my dismay, what did appear but a yapping talking head and guy with a beard. In my head I heard the guy who was reporting on the Hindenburg....."OH THE HUMANITY!" And the sad conclusion, again, that the suits in Bristol don't give a crap about NASCAR. So, I will say it again, with much vigor, pep and vim (whatever that means)I WILL NEVER WATCH NASCAR NOW AGAIN!

Anonymous said...

Is this show still on? I gave it a chance the first week and haven't been back since. It's worse than a train wreck. At least you might glance at a train wreck!

Anonymous said...

How much longer is this stupidity going to go on? When is ESPN going to put that clown Kuselias back in the circus? He's as useless as a screen door on a submarine.

Anonymous said...

The #8 not going with Jr IS a big deal. And the story broke at 5:30. If I'm correct, Nascar Now comes on the air at 6. While you know, and other NASCAR fans know about NASCAR owning and controlling numbers, other newer and more casual fans may not. Why would this rule ever come up unless someone wanted to take a number with them? That being said, I think it's breaking news simply because of the financial burden on the fans if he has to take on a new number next year. All of the red number 8's in the crowd will have to buy all new gear next season. Sure, he may keep Bud, and he may keep red as his primary color, but fans will want stuff with his new number. I think on that fact alone, ESPN was right to cover it the way they did.

Say what you want about ESPN ignoring NASCAR for years, but your statements are blatantly incorrect. ESPN has a daily show because it's in their contract with NASCAR. Many networks have the exact same deal. You think Fox would do a World Series pregame show if the World Series was on ABC? Why is it that only NBC does an olympics wrap show at night?

I don't think ESPN can win regardless of what they do. NASCAR fans view them as outsiders from the northeast. You complain about Kuselias, but if they used one of their big-time anchors on the show, you'd complain because "what do they know about NASCAR, they do NFL shows!" While you may not like their daily show, I'm looking forward to Cup coming to ESPN. Monday Night Football was hurt only by some of the anitcs in the booth, such as bringing in celebrities. But the camera angles and overall coverage was tremendous. So far, their Busch Race coverage has been great. Considering the amount of money they're probably going to add to the Cup race coverage, I think we'll at least have those to look forward to. Anything is better than some guy yelling Boogity Boogity, or the hacks at TNT.

Anonymous said...

As bad as ESPN's coverage has been so far you cannot blame them entirely for cancelling RPM2nite. If you will recall, NASCAR refused to allow ESPN on site access and limited footage access following the original tv contract with Fox and NBC/TNT several years ago. ESPN's attitude was justified with NASCAR's typical hardheadedness.

Jeff Marcosky said...

First, there are a number of really bad NASCAR or Motor sports television shows out there and NASCAR NOW is one of them. Remember NASCAR Nation? The SPEED program that was more entertainment with host/reporters who knew nothing about racing. NASCAR NOW is one of those shows and we have to stop watching it and keep panning is as much as we can. Maybe if the drivers would stop going on or the teams stop inviting Marty Smith over they would get the message.

Or, just put Alan Bestwick on the show with people who know the sport and can complete a sentence.

Oh, Ricky Rackman is very obnoxous and I hope Jimmy Spencer clocks him one too.

Mindy said...

In fairness, I don't think ESPN was pouting at NASCAR all those years but rather NASCAR limited their access so much that RPM2Night became pointless. They did try for a while but who wants to see photos of the finish rather than video? They couldn't even interview the drivers on the track and were reduced to trying to grab them as they boarded their helicopters.

Lance said...

i hate to say it but...

the F1 concept is starting to look pretty good nowadays from practice-qualifying-race. the whole p/q/r in F1 takes less time than a whole nascar cup event. no wimpy "debris" cautions....hell, during the F1 race one of the corner workers lost the passing flag on the frontstretch at indy and F1 officials didn't even bother with a "debris caution"...keep it moving. i guess they thought, if these cars can run over curbs, gravel, grass what's measly flag gonna hurt?

Daly Planet Editor said...

Just to be fair, ESPN has no contract with NASCAR for the program series NASCAR Now. There is a rights use agreement on footage, but my ESPN folks say the show is not contractually obligated in any way to NASCAR.

On the #8 issue, I disagree with you. This is a pretend issue, and NASCAR issued its own statement for the people who have no clue to the rules of the sport. In case you had not noticed there are a lot of them about these days. Numbers have always been owned by NASCAR, and teams cannot generate revenue by selling them.

Finally, I do not dislike Erik Kuselias in any way. Never have, and never will. He took the same chance that Doug Banks did that reading a script would get him by on NASCAR Now. His Sports Bash fans will tell you he is not a racing guy, and never was. If the anchor on Baseball Tonight did not know anything about baseball, the fans would rise up and it would be all over the national media. When NASCAR fans get two men who have no clue as hosts to the only national racing show, I get blamed for not "liking" the guys. Please.

Jim said...

Reading your post made me think of the weather guy standing in front of the hurricane going "its a bit rainy and windy right now." They should have sent someone to stand in front of the DEI sign to say "Theresa's not selling the 8."

Or maybe its like the commercial where Jr. changes his number. Panic ensues, the hedge gets cut down, dude gets a tattoo and Jr's just kidding.

I keep coming back to the money, though. Jr. nation has TONS of memorabilia with the number 8 on it. If the number and the sponsor got with him, theres really no motivation to get new gear. But if the number changes, MILLIONS of people are getting new gear. The hat, the shirt, the jacket, the bumper sticker, the coozy, the umbrella, the flag, the tank top, the scanner, the headset,the shot glass and who knows what else.

A change in numbers would be worth millions and millions of dollars in merchandise sales. Embrace change. Cuz I've got a good feeling change is coming.