Sunday, June 24, 2007
Stacy Compton: The Sacrificial Lamb Of "NASCAR Now"
Week after week since Daytona in February, Stacy Compton has bit his tongue. As the studio analyst for ESPN's NASCAR Now, he has been perched on the ESPN High Definition Studio set surrounded by an incredible cast of characters. This Sunday morning, he was alongside host Erik Kuselias and Around The Horn's Tim Cowlishaw.
During the season, Compton has been practicing his skill in the art of patience, while all the time carving for himself a nice little TV career. His plain-spoken opinions may at times be simplistic, but they are honest. He is a NASCAR veteran, just not a high-profile one. He continues to actively race in the Craftsman Truck Series, where he is in the top twenty in points.
There is no doubt that Stacy is NASCAR, and he represents for ESPN a proven viewpoint that reflects experience and character. That is exactly what NASCAR Now needs on the set, because each week, the stick-and-ball boys in Bristol need a sacrificial lamb. That lamb is Stacy Compton.
Former series host Doug Banks used to look at Compton and read a scripted question. Banks would bob his head and nod while Compton spoke. What Stacy knew, and eventually we all found out, was that Banks has absolutely no NASCAR knowledge. The entire time that Banks and Compton appeared together, Compton had to bite his tongue. There was a secret...the host had no clue.
On this Sunday, seated next to Compton was Tim Cowlishaw. This Dallas-based reporter has become an incredible "content machine" for ESPN. The network loves to turn him loose to fill time in almost any circumstance on almost any show.
Why he is on NASCAR Now has never been explained. The program has a ton of good solid reporters, several analysts, and a couple of hosts. Cowlishaw just seems to stop by and talk about things like he is in a bar and the TV is on ESPN2. Daly Planet readers like to refer to him as "Mr. Obvious."
This disheveled man speaks to Compton as if he is casting judgement on him, exactly the same way that Kuselias does. Somehow, Cowlishaw and Kuselias think they "know." They listen to what Stacy says, and then talk about it as if he is not there. Its one of the strangest things on sports TV right now. Compton just nods as they yell and gesture, and bites his tongue.
A while back, Compton was alongside driver Boris Said watching Kuselias interview the twenty-four car crew chief Steve Letarte. Jeff Gordon had just won Darlington with a COT car spewing water like a geyser. Rather than let Compton do the interview, the egos of ESPN continue to force the host to ask the scripted questions, rather than let experts talk racing with those actually doing it.
Kuselias first question to Letarte was "so, how close to blowing-up were you?" In the background, you could hear the muffled laughter of Said, and see Compton just slowly shaking his head as if to say....who are these guys?
This week, Kuselias led a discussion about the best sponsorship for Dale Junior. Compton made all the right points about what Bud had done for Junior, and vice-versa. Cowlishaw pushed all that aside, because he only understood the obvious, and he chose Sony. Compton reminded them Junior still had a personal services contract with Bud, so even if the hood of the eight changed, he still worked for Budweiser.
The glaze in the eyes of Cowlishaw and Kuselias again summed-up for viewers the problem with NASCAR Now. These guys had no clue. Kuselias dismissed Compton's logical analysis, and that arrogant smirk viewers know so well came on his face. Kuselias said the best sponsor for Junior would be Yoo-hoo. That's right. On national TV, Kuselias said Yoo-hoo chocolate drink would be good for Junior.
Without saying anything else, Kuselias implied that even the rich rednecks like Junior enjoy a good cold chocolate drink. That's what those guys drink down there in like...North Carolina right? Once again, Stacy Compton took a deep breath. Once again, he forced a smile. And once again, he bit his tongue and thought...what the heck have I got myself into?
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