Monday, July 9, 2007

"NASCAR Now's" Big Dose Of Hype

There must have been a list made immediately after the Pepsi 400. It had the points that ESPN had "selected" to by hyped for a full hour on the Monday edition of NASCAR Now. The items on the list did not need to be actually connected with the race. They did not even need to be connected to NASCAR, but each item did have to accomplish one thing. Allow host Erik Kuselias to do what he does best...."hype." This show was sports radio on TV from beginning to end.

Jamie McMurray, the winner of the race, did not even appear in this program until the second segment. That's right, the winner did not need to be involved in the headlines of this show, because once again NASCAR Now was a battle between "NASCAR reality" and "ESPN hype."

Kuselias told us that first on the "hype" list and the story of the race was "team mates." He told us Kyle Busch got no help from his Hendrick team. He told us Jeff Gordon did not line-up and push Kyle to the win. He told us Carl Edwards was pushing Jamie and that was the difference. He played edited sound bites to support his hype. Just like in ESPN's stick-and-ball world, there was problem with the team and Kuselias was going to get to the bottom of it.

Then, as almost always with this bi-polar hour, ESPN's own Tim Brewer appeared and immediately said that everything Kuselias has just told us was wrong. Gordon was doing what he needed to win said Brewer. He would have run over his grandmother to win the Pepsi 400. No one should expect anything because it is every man for himself on the last lap. Race car drivers are in the race to win, and they are going to try anything to do it. Brewer made no bones about the fact that what he was being asked to agree with was just plain wrong. Check that off the list.

Next on the list was Tony Stewart vs. Denny Hamlin. Imagine that, two hard-headed race car drivers come together in a high-profile race and then disagree about what happened. Imagine that. For ESPN and Kuselias, this was positively a gleeful experience. They played every sound bite of Tony, then Denny, and then more Tony.

ESPN General Assignment Reporter David Amber said Tony "rear-ended" Denny. That might just show Amber's racing knowledge. This was not a traffic light in Toronto. Amber's package was edited to provide the maximum hype and put Stewart, Hamlin, and the Gibbs team in a bad light. But, as usual, NASCAR reality showed up. This time in the form of Boris Said.

The ESPN Studio Analyst took this entire issue and ended it quickly. Said told viewers Tony was wrong, Hamlin was classy, and that's what happens when emotional drivers get themselves in trouble. Said was clear that when Tony cools down, things will sort themselves out, and this "incident" will be over and done with. It happens all the time. Well, check that one off the list.

On to the fact that Boris Said got "bumped" out of the field by rain after sitting on the provisional pole. It was suggested this was unfair. In reality, of course, it was because of NASCAR rules that have been around for a while. Kuselias pointedly asked Said "what do you think of the rule that gives the top thirty-five...a spot in the race?" Once again, ESPN had confused two issues. Boris replied "That would not have made any difference in what happened to me...Mother Nature put me out of the race." Another one off the list, and we move on.

Unfortunately, ESPN was out of fresh NASCAR "hype." Rather than focus on the tons of other NASCAR stories from the race, and rather than expand on the other drivers finishing in the top twenty, there was only one thing for the network to do. Show a fight from the IndyCar Series. That's right, viewers got two guys in helmets pointing at each other and then a lot of wrestling after the IndyCar race at Watkins Glenn. Did we mention this race was on ABC, and produced by ESPN?

A weak attempt was made to tie this into NASCAR because one of the drivers was Sam Hornish Jr. who is apparently on his way to year. ESPN made reporter Angelique Chengelis read this story, while below her on his own video "box" was NASCAR Insider Marty Smith with a priceless "you have got to be kidding me" look on his face. An IndyCar shoving match where no punches are thrown and both drivers named in the story did not even get into it. An ESPN Instant Classic?

Finally, after getting almost every ounce of hype from these ridiculous stories, ESPN came back from commercial with their new segment called "Weekend Drive." Guess what? It featured Danny Hamlin vs. Tony Stewart with all the harsh comments, then the Hendrick boys not "lining-up" to help poor Kyle Busch, and finally viewers once again on NASCAR Now got to see the entire IndyCar "fight" with full sound from beginning to end. Did we mention that race was on ABC?

Other NASCAR TV programs have worked hard to establish their own identity this season. RaceDay, Tradin' Paint, Trackside, Survival of the Fastest, Victory Lane and even some of the weekday thirty minute editions of NASCAR Now have become good shows by working hard at their success since February. Even ESPN's Busch Coverage of the rain-out at Daytona resulted in a Daly Planet column entitled "ESPN Gets An 'A' For Effort.

Let's face it, the one hour Monday edition of NASCAR Now is having an identity crisis. When the winner of the race is in segment two, you got problems. When the hype is ridiculed by your own reporters on your own show, you got problems. When you show a fight from another series because you have the video, you got problems. Finally, when Marty Smith has the look of "I am embarrassed to be here" on his face, you got big problems.

On any racing weekend, there are tons of NASCAR stories and information that is available to ESPN. Once the Brickyard 400 comes around in a couple of weeks, ESPN will be on-scene broadcasting both the Busch and Cup Series races. That should mean a total change in the Monday edition of NASCAR Now. The network will have the manpower on-scene to produce a one hour show on the same level with SportsCenter or Baseball Tonight. Do NASCAR fans deserve less?

The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Simply click on the COMMENTS button below or email if you wish not to be published. All email is held in confidence, and thanks again for stopping by.


Anonymous said...

Once again, your bias against ESPN shows right through. As someone who seems to be "in" on what goes on in a control room, I would think you would've put two and two together and realized that there was an issue with NASCAR Now today. Every Monday, ESPN leads with the highlight and then goes to the winner or a phone interview with a crew member. This week, there was obviously a problem with getting Larry Carter on the phone, so NASCAR Now had to keep pushing things back until they had their interview. Hence, they led with the Steward/Hamlin stuff, and saved the race highlight and Carter interview for the B block. Going to the highlight, and then running McMurray's interview, only to wait 10 more minutes for Carter wouldn't have made any sense. They shuffled things, and made it work. Give them a bit of credit.

Also, you seem to have something against ESPN promoting stuff that's on their air. Once again, just because NASCAR has something going on Speed or TNT, doesn't mean ESPN should promote it. NASCAR coverage isn't a partnership between networks. ESPN has other shows running while NASCAR is running on Speed, Fox, or TNT. It's in ESPN's best interest to refrain from promoting stuff on other networks. Again, they don't promote baseball on Fox, football on NBC, or SEC coverage on CBS, why should they promote someone else's race coverage?

Anonymous said...

ESPN has other shows running while NASCAR is running on Speed, Fox, or TNT. It's in ESPN's best interest to refrain from promoting stuff on other networks. Again, they don't promote baseball on Fox, football on NBC, or SEC coverage on CBS, why should they promote someone else's race coverage?

That's the difference between ESPN's coverege this go around and the the coverage years ago.

Years ago ESPN help promote the sport and build the sport and fans loved them for it. Now, ESPN is just out to make as much money as possible off of the sport and it is showing in their terrible coverage.

Of course... it is hard to blame them considering NASCAR sold out to FOX/NBX back in 2001 and wouldn't even let ESPN reporter on track grounds after everything ESPN had done for the sport. To me it looks like NASCAR's greed is coming back to bite them in the butt.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Thank you both for taking the time to leave your comments. I wonder if the host might tell viewers next time the winner is not going to be interviewed in the first segment that there was a problem.

ESPN can promote anything they want, the question NASCAR Now about the sport or the network? Your answer...the network.

If you take an opportunity to read my comments about ESPN's rain delay at Daytona, the Friday one hour NASCAR Now, or the NASCAR Countdown show it would be hard to justify your statement about a bias on my part. We all have an opinion, and this is mine. Please feel free to state yours, but next time when you comment, think about your statement..."it's in ESPN's best interests to refrain from promoting stuff on other networks." So, you mean like the NEXTEL Cup and Craftsman Truck Series....on NASCAR Now?

Joe from Philly said...

"NASCAR coverage isn't a partnership between networks"

Guess that means ESPN shouldn't cover the Eagles highlights this year because they were on CBS.......

I certainly don't expect one network to promote another network's programing. But, they are doing a show about NASCAR, which other networks also cover, so it's hard to avoid at least showing hightlights of some of the NASCAR events of the weekend.

BIG difference between promoting and covering.

This is a news and highlight show. People tuning into a news and highlight show called NASCAR Now expect news and highlights of NASCAR.

One other note: I actually watched a bit of this show last night while playing with my son. Anyone else notice Erik stumbling over the introduction of Bestwick as Tuesday's host? He stammered and then finally said "guest hosting for us tomorrow". He seemed uncomfortable to say the least....

BTW, Dan Patrick may have given ESPN an opening to save face. Erik needs to go back to radio to fill a key time slot ;-)

Kevin in Indy said...

I just read Joe's post. Bestwick is hosting NASCAR Now tonight? Hmm, I may have to break my boycott of NASCAR Now tonight since they have someone knowledgeable hosting. Daly Planet readers, is it okay for me to do this?

Jason said...

anonymous #1:

I would love to know where you are posting from? Could it not be Bristol, CT?

Your defending of a obviously flawed show is really not warranted. People on this blog besides Mr. Daly have said time and time again what it is that bothers them about NASCAR Now every single week. Obviously the people at ESPN are not listening to the very people who would stand up and support the show if it was done correctly.

NASCAR lived with ESPN is a lovely symbiotic relationship until NASCAR killed that with its grab for TV money. Now that ESPN is back in the picture, it seems that it is attempting to make NASCAR pay for that action by sucking the knowledge out of any coverage. The people that pay for this are the fans.

ESPN, since the Disney people have taken over in the last few years, has become nothing more than a cross promotion brand for ABC. You can see it on College Gameday last year when the only games that went to the were the games that ABC was broadcasting that week. You can see it this summer in the fact that they are playing video from another racing series during a show called NASCAR Now. If ESPN wants to do this kind of cross-promotion why did they not bring back RPM 2 Night? Oh that is right, they want to bring in NASCAR fans so they can hype their entire lineup to them.

ESPN has lost its way, having a mid-life crisis where they buy a Corvette and a lot of gold chains in a attempt to cover the fact that they are old, fat, and balding. It is time for some new scrappy upstart to show up much like ESPN did in 1979 and stand the world on it ear.

The people in Bristol, CT need to wake up and realize that their show stinks and it is insulting to fans when it tries to create hype where there is none. The fans of NASCAR do a fine job of creating hype where they feel it is warranted; they do not need the help of some hack of a talk-radio host.

In short: ESPN stop foisting your choices for both hype and "knowlege" upon the fans. You have massive amounts of knowledgeable NASCAR talent in your stable, use it and send people like Kunselias back to the radio or better yet back to a law office.

Anonymous said...

Send him back to a law office?

He's annoying but harmless as a NN host or radio host. We certainly don't need to add to our lawyer inventory in this country ;-)

Kevin in Indy, nows your best chance to possibly get some real info. Though I don't think the host fixes what ails NN the most....

Jo said...

John, I agree with your take on the coverage of the Busch vs HMS deal. In their "highlights" of the tiff, they even showed that Gordon was in mid-sentence of being interviewed as Kyle walked by and thumped Gordon on the shoulder. Gordon gave him a thumbs-up but continued the interview; Kyle didn't stop. And this is being "blown off" according to Kuselias? Tim Brewer was right! But scandal makes so much better a story than fact on NASCAR Now....

JHD said...

I was coming on to post that AB will be Tuesday's host and that Erik looked like he was forced to drink a gallon of sour milk when "announcing" it. Looks like Joe from Philly beat me to it.

Moving on, I really don't understand the mentality of it "if it's broadcast on your network, those are the only highlights you show."

If a show is going to be called NASCAR Now, I as a fan expect to see NASCAR highlights from everything, no matter where it was on TV originally. I don't care one little bit that the telecast was on a different network. What I do care about is any information relating to one of my favorite sports.

If ESPN is going to be that narrowminded, might I suggest rebranding the show? Something more accurate would be in order, like "NASCAR Only Some Of The Time" or "ESPNASCAR Now" or "*&*(& You NASCAR Fans."

Anonymous said...

Here's a link where you can provide comments/feedback on the ESPN/ABC sports programming. Maybe it would be helpful to send them a link to this site or at least copy them on posts. Hopefully they will be receptive to constructive criticism!! (and maybe we could let them know just how much we love Allen Bestwick)

Anonymous said...

I have no problem with Daugherty, but Kolber is a different matter.

Brad, while not having experience on the track, knows what he is taliking about in resepct to Nascar.

Susy is a complete novice. She will be Eric K with a skirt. Her knowledge will be scripted, and any insight she has will be given to her via an earpiece/producer.

It is just ESPN being ESPN. They want their fingerprints over it.

If Nascar Now is any indication, don't expect too much.

David said...

Your on it JD. Was there even any mention of Aaron Fike? I didn't even bother watching NASCAR Now and usually don't watch unless it is by mistake or I actually happen to notice it is on and they are showing something half decent. Don't call your show NASCAR Now, if it is not going to be about NASCAR. Hell, RPM2Night covered everything including all 3 top levels of NASCAR and yet NASCAR Now doesn't have the guts or the decency to talk about one of the most exciting series in NASCAR.

It seems they have the right "experts" in place, but just need a host with 2 brain cells about the sport to bring it all together for a killer show. Please, remove this knucklehead from NASCAR Now. I can't stand him and 90%+ of NASCAR-nation cannot either.

Shoop said...

Post of the year.

I agree with everything you said. Every dotted i and every crossed t.

NASCAR Now is a joke, and hurts the sport of NASCAR more than it helps it. All the hard work that NASCAR has been doing for the past 10 years to "legitimize" itself as a major sport is slowly being destroyed.....weeknights, 30 minutes at a time.

Dot said...

It's too bad that ESPN cannot take a page from the book of new CEO of Home Depot. He had read an article on MSN about the crappy service at Home Depots across the nation and the thousands of emails that followed. He has vowed to correct this. I find this refreshing.

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous #1

JD is right. Its BASIC television 101 to tell your audience if you have a problem. Not only will they understand, they will forgive you for switching the show rundown. As for the "analysis" of the Hamlin Stewart wreck, sorry, but Boris Said is not qualified to analyze a super speedway, restrictor plate, draft induced accident. Greg Biffle did an OUTSTANDING job of picking it appart on INC, and he came down on Stewarts side. Your priorities are all out of whack, and your instincts as a programmer fail to make the grade, in my opinion. If your outlook is pervasive at ESPN, its easy to see why and how thay are missing the mark so badly.

Anonymous said...

ESPN sucks!!!

Here is the link to complain!!!

Anonymous said...

As it has become ever "greater," ESPN has an ever incresing problem in differentiating between reporting sports and promoting sports carried by ESPN or ABC.