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 Jayski.com 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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