Saturday, June 2, 2007
Suzy Kolber And Brad Daugherty Are The Ultimate Odd Couple
Over the course of this season, fans have watched the infield studio portion of ESPN's Busch Series coverage go through a painful series of changes. ESPN is trying to put together the pieces of their NEXTEL Cup pre-race show which they will begin later this year. In essence, the NASCAR Countdown for the Busch Series races is a continual audition.
Suzy Kolber has been a designated hitter for ESPN since her career began. Veteran ESPN viewers may remember her involvement in the original debut of ESPN2, which featured a "hip and cool" look and feel that was supposed to appeal to the younger generation. It went over like a lead balloon, and forced the network to change itself completely into what it is now, a nameless extension of the "mothership" of ESPN.
Kolber is a veteran broadcaster and has been used in a wide variety of roles. She is smart enough to be one step ahead of the former hosts of NASCAR Countdown Chris Fowler, Brent Musburger, and Erik Kuselias. These three tried to pass themselves off as knowledgeable about NASCAR, only to be exposed as stick-and-ball guys who just happened to be at the track. Give Kolber credit, she understands that asking questions is the way to go in her early shows. Unfortunately, there is a limit to just how many questions should be asked by a host who is supposed to know the sport.
Dr. Jerry Punch, Andy Petree, and the pit road gang did their usual solid job of clicking off the qualifying times, and putting the information out to the viewers. Kolber, Dale Jarrett, and Brad Daugherty were on hand in the infield studio, and tried to establish their credibility throughout the qualifying session. It was a tough sell to viewers.
Daugherty and Kolber were attired in shocking red shirts that did not lend themselves to the cameras, or the background. This was a departure from the suit-and-tie attire that the anchors and analysts on this program have appeared in this season. Dale Jarrett, fresh from practice, was in his UPS driver's suit, and appeared to need a Gatorade.
As the session wore on, the ESPN Producer tried to insert the infield studio gang into the coverage more often. This led to a very interesting example of what ESPN needs to deal with before the NEXTEL Cup season begins. Alongside Dale Jarrett, Daugherty is completely out-of-place. Not one comment in this qualifying session contained anything other than the obvious topics that were already being discussed. He often repeated exactly what DJ had said, which made him appear to be woefully short on the type of in-depth NASCAR knowledge that this role requires.
Kolber adapted a role that was clearly the only solution to her situation. She became the questioner, and spent the entire time asking poor old Dale Jarrett everything under the sun about anything she could think up. Most of it was so fundamental that DJ just kindly replied, and then waited for the next question. That usually came almost immediately.
This approach allowed Kolber to make it through the qualifying session with no problems, but that is not going to set her up for the NASCAR Countdown show which will follow shortly. We certainly wish her all the best, as this high-profile position is not going to be helped by Brad Daugherty, and is only going to be further complicated by the impending arrival of Brent Musburger as "the host."
NASCAR Countdown is coming up, and we will be watching. ESPN is today going to be offering their all-star NASCAR crew to the TV audience for the first time, and it should be an interesting experience.
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