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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glen said...

You are absolutely right! ESPN should stop trying to use on air talent who have no knowledge of NASCAR. If they can't see that the logical choice for permanent host of this show is Allen Bestwick than at least, give it to Ryan Burr. Also, use only "expert" commentators with NASCAR expertise. Stacy Compton & Boris Said are two of the best that have appeared on NACAR Now. Rusty Wallace is definitely not vital to the show nor are any of the other "experts" with no NASCAR experience.
Maybe this is all "trial & error" stuff and ESPN will get it right by the time they take over the race coverage and NASCAR Now will finally become the show we all thought it would be before it actually went on the air for the first time. We can only hope!

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately the entire ESPN coverage of NASCAR doesn't measure up to their sports expertise! I, like the column writer cannot imagine they would continue on with main hosts of shows that haven't the slightest notion at to what NASCAR is about. It should be an embarassment to ESPN if it continues past their opening season. If it weren't for Boris and Stacy, I'd never watch "NASCAR Now" It should be called "NASCAR What?"

MBeard, Muskogee, OK

Anonymous said...

Let Marty Smith host it with Stacy and Boris. That guy has forgotten more about NASCAR than those ding dongs will ever know. Marty respects the sport and more importantly, has the respect of the drivers.

Anonymous said...

I was disappointed with Cowlishaw's sports coverage when I lived in the Dallas area. So it's no surprise to me that he's disappointing on TV as well.

Kuseliass needs to go to cover the World Tiddly Wink With Manhole Covers Championship. If he has any knowledge of racing, much less NASCAR, he sure doesn't show it. Put somebody like Eli Gold or Buddy Baker in his place. They both know racing and could both do a much better job. Heck, there's 2 guys on a small station in Boone NC that do a 5 minute race pick show that could do a better job than Kuseliass.

Until or unless ESPN decides to become professional with their race coverage and in-studio shows, they'll continue to be a laughing stock.