Saturday, July 28, 2007
Busch Race Finish Lost For ESPN Viewers
There was a good mood going when ESPN took to their airwaves with the Busch Series race from ORP as a part of the big Indy weekend. Fan favorite Mary Reid was back, and alongside of him in a "fill-in" role was former Busch Series driver Randy LaJoie. Down on pit road, ESPN broke out veteran Jack Arute along with newcomer Shannon Spake and IndyCar's Vince Welsh.
As a new group of announcers, things went quite well after the initial on-camera "opening" segment. LaJoie was not very happy to be dressed in a coat and tie with the nation staring at him, and looked as if he was trying to decide between fleeing or throwing-up. Thankfully, he chose to stay.
The Busch race at this track is normally a beating-and-banging affair, even if the second groove at the bottom comes in. This was no exception, with the normal spins and hot tempers. However, it was a good mix of veterans and newcomers racing, so it had a lot of fun elements.
Marty Reid eventually got Randy Lajoie to relax, and his funny and entertaining personality finally got a chance to come through. In person, LaJoie is hilarious. Reid worked hard to get Randy in the flow, and he responded by keeping the good information and the good humor constant throughout the telecast.
Jack Arute is a little rusty, and his reporting was spotty at best. Both Spake and Welch worked hard on pit road to keep on top of the breaking stories, and ESPN deserves credit for quickly reporting on two crew member injuries that looked a lot worse on video than they were in real life.
As the race wound down, ESPN seemed poised for a classic finish with the entire field streaming nose-to-tail for the line banging off of each other. Veteran Greg Biffle was first, and trying to hold off the open wheel veteran Jason Leffler. Toyota's David Reutimann took some hard knocks in the closing laps, but Leffler got around both drivers and was in front as the checkered flag fell.
Unfortunately for TV viewers, the only people who saw any car other than the winner finish the race were in the stands. ESPN fell squarely in the same trap that got Fox Sports earlier this year. For some strange reason, the Director and Producer chose to show TV viewers nationwide the winning pit crew jumping around instead of the entire field of cars crossing the finish line.
If this had been a superspeedway, it might have been OK. But, as it happened, there were several incidents before, during, and after the finish that ESPN totally missed because of this one mistake. NASCAR fans had to watch the winner slowing down and waving even as other cars spun, bumped, or continued to settle some issues that may have arose on the final lap.
Marty Reid struggled to keep his demeanor while describing the "other things" going on after the finish that were different from the sanitized version that ESPN chose to show the TV audience. What a shame that a good race, with a good announcing team, could be ruined by one bad decision from the TV truck.
I never saw my driver finish. I think he was in the top five. Many fans never saw their driver finish, even if he was fighting tooth-and-nail for a spot on the final lap. Just like Fox, the TV crew decided that they have the right to limit the finish of the race to just the car, or cars, that they choose. That is fundamentally wrong.
Does anyone believe that there was even one fan at the track that watched the winner of the race cross the stripe and then put their hands over their eyes? That makes absolutely no sense when you have over thirty cars screaming toward the finish line at high speed on a short track. How then can the TV Producer and Director decide that anyone watching at home should see the winner, and then see nothing?
If ESPN decides that fans only need to see the winner of Sunday's Brickyard 400 cross the finish line and no other cars, there is going to be a problem. ESPN might have gotten away with this Busch mistake because only The Daly Planet has the guts to address this issue, but if they try to pull-it off on the NEXTEL Cup race, even the "gravy train" national NASCAR media types might perk-up and notice.
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