Sunday, June 3, 2007

"NASCAR On Fox" Crew Scared Of A Little Rain


Thirteen races ago the NASCAR on Fox crew began their coverage of the NEXTEL Cup Series with the Daytona 500. Since that time they have logged a lot of miles and put a lot of content on our TV screens. The NEXTEL Cup race at Dover would have been the finale for the portion of the season that Fox Sports broadcasts.

This fourteenth race was postponed by rain on Sunday, leaving a multi-hour period of time for Fox Sports to show us the work they have done this year. Hundreds of hours of race footage, features, and interviews were ready to be used by the production team. Instead, they chose to run and hide from the rain. This was one of the worst TV programming decisions of the year for both the Fox Network and NASCAR.

Here in South Florida, Magnum PI was on my Fox station in full swing by 2:30PM. Ninety minutes after taking the air, the NASCAR on Fox gang along with the Fox Sports executives chose to "go away." On the final Sunday of their NEXTEL Cup race coverage, this decision remains completely puzzling.

Remember, this year Fox Sports does not telecast the Busch Series races. They also do not carry the Truck Series events. This crew was on-scene to telecast the NEXTEL Cup race only. The entire Fox Broadcast Network of stations had cleared several hours of time for them on Sunday. There were no football games to deal with, no college basketball in progress, and no other agendas for the Fox station group to fufill.

As the rain fell in Dover, the NASCAR on Fox telecast quickly became the type of slapstick comedy that drives viewers crazy. Chris Myers in the Hollywood Hotel had used every single bit of Jeff Hammond and Darrell Waltrip's "racing buddies" comedy routine by the end of the first hour. It was clear that the strategic vision to deal effectively with this rain delay was lacking. Simply "continuing to talk" while the track dried was absolutely not working.

Think about this one point. Fox Sports and its parent company News Corp. had spent millions of dollars on the rights and the production of the thirteen NEXTEL Cup races the network had broadcast this season. On the Sunday of the final race, it was raining. The two choices were to review the content that Fox has spent millions to purchase and produce, or go have lunch. I hope it was a good lunch.

Beginning with Daytona, this season on Fox has been full of great finishes and good stories. From Mark Martin's heartbreaker at Daytona to Jeff Gordon's "Stanley steamer" in Darlington, fans would have liked nothing more in this rain delay than to re-live these moments with the crew that originally broadcast them.

Instead, viewers were treated to Darrell Waltrip in a turban answering corny questions and trying to fill time. The Hollywood Hotel should have become the headquarters for a season-in-review show that featured videotape played back of the best moments and the finishes of the previous thirteen races.

This is exactly the type of situation where Chris Myers becomes an instant problem. Only a veteran NASCAR TV "insider" like Steve Byrnes, Krista Voda, or John Roberts could have led a multi-hour highlight show. This was a chore for the infield team, and their leader was not up to the task.

Every driver's motor home, every team transporter, and even the Media Center would have been the easy-to-find location of everyone who needed to be interviewed about the season so far. Drivers, crew chiefs and owners could have watched the incidents, good and bad, and then appeared on-camera with a reporter to talk about the memory. They could have addressed what they learned, what has changed, or if they were still upset.

The decision by the NASCAR on Fox gang to leave the air after ninety minutes of "fill" time short-changed the one group Fox had already alienated this season. That would be the fans. This TV crew had missed Kyle Petty's third place finish at Charlotte. They had only shown the winner finishing as their new "TV technique" in the previous races. They had missed high-profile drivers finishing in the top ten as if a NASCAR team's efforts were "not worthy" of Fox unless they won the race. Suddenly, the Producer did not "get it," and the fans knew it.

There has been a lot of chest-beating this week about the quality and legacy of the NASCAR on Fox telecasts. There has been a lot of publicity generated by Fox about their crew, their awards, and the revenue-generating websites and special interests now enjoyed by many of their on-air personalities. One special interest group that this crew missed serving on Sunday was the millions of fans who set aside time in their lives to watch several hours of NASCAR programming.

What an opportunity to showcase the good things that the Fox team had done this year. What an opportunity to remind us of how many races, how much time, and how much effort had been spent by the production staff to show us the final TV product. What an opportunity to show us the technical toys, the TV compound, and all the behind-the-scenes things that viewers never get to see.

Finally, what an opportunity to send this TV crew out on a high-note. Viewers would appreciate the hard work it takes to arrange and then carry-out quality substitute programming like a NASCAR on Fox season-in-review show. But, that just did not happen and the Fox team this season went out with a thud.

My Magnum PI episode was about Vietnam buddies and their bond. Magnum and his pals were shown slogging through rice fields and dealing with the monsoon rains. It was somehow ironic that this TV show from the 1980's was on the air because the NASCAR on Fox crew did not want to get wet. Like the millions of other NASCAR fans in North America, I turned off the Fox Network for the last time this season, and moved on with my life.

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11 comments:

SonicAD said...

I don't mind that they went off early, even though here they went to judge show reruns. Why? Because, these judge show reruns appear to be what was originally scheduled for tomorrow afternoon. My local FOX station and many others hasn't aired Monday races in past years, forcing us to watch on cable, but I suppose as part of the new TV deal all of them are kept on FOX. Considering it's a Monday race, the judge shows, etc. would probably be better for ad revenue, so running them on Sunday allows them to get that revenue, and not lose out by showing it on Monday.

Actually, I was scared half to death when they said it was going to be on FOX, and didn't say it would also be on a cable channel like SPEED, as they did in years past with FX, and I called my station (WXMI - Grand Rapids) twice to try to figure out if they'd have the race, and neither time could they figure it out. I ended up recording their news broadcast, and when the segment about NASCAR came up, they still didn't mention if it would be on. Fortunately, I checked further, and at the very end of the broadcast they finally mentioned that it would indeed be on there Monday.

So long as every station has to show it this is much better though given everyone can see it instead of just those with SPEED (where I expected it to be dumped to, with some FOX stations carrying it). Not to mention being able to watch in HD. I'm sure some of them may go with their regular lineup though, so expect some unhappy comments tomorrow.

Hall said...

What we need in motorsports broadcasting are professionals who have both motorsports cred and TV cred (like Mike Joy). What we need less of are motorsports big mouth clowns (Hammond, Waltrip, and Reynolds) and the strictly TV professionals (virtually everyone on Fox other than the three motorsports clowns). I remember when I used to complain back in the 90s about having to listen to Buddy Baker ramble on. Oh, for the good ole days . . . .

Hall said...

Oopps. That's McReynolds, not Reynolds. Sorry Larry.

GinaV24 said...

Very good commentary. We had tickets to the race and then decided NOT to go because after watching the weather forecast, it seemed pretty obvious that there wouldn't be a race on Sunday and so I was looking forward to a good season recap from Fox, instead the idiots were in full song and I just couldn't stand it. So after listening to DW ask Jeff Gordon some really inane questions, I decided it wasn't even worth taping. What a shame! As you said, Fox crows about how great they are, well, I have to ask who's voting for them to get these awards because from this fan's point of view, they are not an award-worthy team. Maybe a few years ago, but not now.

Anonymous said...

C'mon pal lighten up...it is not like Fox decided not to broadcast the race at all, and do you really think another hour or two of more pointless trips into coaches to see what kind of animals live there
(or their pets for that matter) has not been done to death? The coverage Fox provides is the best and most entertaining available, an aspect this dying sport needs more of and I look forward to their return

Anonymous said...

I like Hammond, McReynolds and the pit crew. Mike Joy is great, but they have a real moron in DW and Fox itself has blown it in covering the finish. I haven't watched a full race this year. I listened to the coverage while at Charlotte. DW is as goofy as his brother. I hope it gets better, but Bill Webber is even worse. Keep Mike Joy, Larry Mac and Hammond and mix with the other crew.

Ron Steiner said...

I love watching the shenanigans that go on during a rain delay. The chance to listen to the drivers and commentators is usually fairly entertaining. I watch because of the glimmer of hope that the race will continue. However, once the race has been called, that glimmer has faded and it is time to hit the "Honey-Do" list that I was putting off so I could see the race. My TV gets switched off.

Fox, realized this, cut the cord and moved on. Yeah, they have a full 13-race archive to refer to, but I am sure the highlights aren't edited or organized in a cohesive manner. Can you blame them for cutting out? They still have a full day of work left to do today.

Daly Planet Editor said...

My point is that even if they still made the decision to leave early, it should have been after they showed us what they had done this season. Each race already has numerous highlight packages cut for many purposes, and some of the interviews and "moments" of the thirteen race coverage, including the pre-race show, will never been seen again. My opinion is that this was a good opportunity wasted.

Vince said...

For those of you that think Fox has good coverage of the races, you obviously never watched racing before Fox started covering NASCAR. They are a joke. If I want to watch the Three Stooges, I'll watch the real Three Stooges. Not Chris Myers, Jeff Hammond and DW. I am soooo glad this is Fox's last race for the year.

Amy said...

FOX is not the be-all and end-all of NASCAR coverage it pimps itself to be. Mike Joy is indeed good, and I can live with Larry Mac and even Hammond. But DW has got to go. Why FOX thinks his "Boogity" schtick is so charming I have no idea. They were even pushing a "DW says Boogity" ringtone during yesterday's rain show. If I ever hear that ringtone in public I swear I'll clock the fool using it!

And Chris Myers is awful. He wasn't good when he took over for Roy Firestone on ESPN's long-gone interview show, and he's even more inept as the NASCAR on FOX host. I don't know exactly why all the networks think they need to have different hosts and "teams" for the pre-race and race coverage. Couldn't the same team handle all of the duties?

Anyway, I'm glad to see FOX's portion of the season gone. Now I just have to grit my teeth through Bill Weber on TNT . . .

Desmond said...

NASCAR on FOX should have come better prepared for a rain delay, especially since two other races scheduled to be broadcast there had already been delayed by a day.

Thanks for the wonderful ideas on how to fill the time better than what they actually did. Instead, this turned into another episode of The DW Show.