Thursday, August 16, 2007
"NASCAR Now" Finally Explodes My Brain
Please sit down before reading this column. I do not want to be personally responsible for injuries sustained when you collapse either from laughter, or as I believe happened to me, a small explosion at the back of my brain.
Here is the opening line from Thursday's NASCAR Now program on ESPN2. Please be seated and plant both feet firmly on the floor. Here we go.
Host Erik Kuselias shouts "was NASCAR's new 'Chase' format responsible for Jeff Gordon's spin-out with two laps to go at Watkins Glen?"
This is the part where the the internal bleeding began. Here is why it continued.
Kuselias then carried on about a regular monthly meeting of Chevy team owners that got cancelled. It got cancelled because Gibbs has not yet chosen Chevy or Toyota for next season. So, the Chevy guys wanted to wait until Gibbs decided to have a meeting. This was the lead story on NASCAR Now. A monthly meeting got cancelled.
For those of you who need a moment to recover, it will be short-lived.
Kuselias then asked "Why was Jeff Gordon racing so hard on the final laps, why risk a wreck?" Can you feel the pain my friends? Kuselias continues that "those already in The Chase are only racing for wins." Say it with me...only racing for wins.
"This was most evident at The Glen when Jeff Gordon spun-out with two laps to go. The message was quite clear, second place is just the first loser" continued Kuselias. The show then played a sound bite from Carl Edwards who said about The Glen "I just didn't want to finish second." That is all he said...literally.
Then, the new ESPN conspiracy theory took full flight. "But it wasn't just Watkins Glen...it seems that once NASCAR announced its new rules, there was a new focus on winning" Kuselias added. As he spoke, ESPN played video of the finishes of Atlanta, Martinsville, and believe it or not, The Daytona 500.
The show then played a sound bite from Jeff Gordon about The Glen who said "I wanted to win real bad and I know points don't mean anything, so I pushed...and I pushed too far." I am pretty sure I heard him say...points don't mean anything, right?
Poor Boris Said must think he is in a meat grinder some days in his role as an analyst for NASCAR Now. This was going to be one of those days. Kuselias had now set-up his conspiracy that Gordon spun trying for the "bonus points" available in The Chase format. He pointed to this being a problem, and then brought on Boris.
"What do you think of the new system that puts more emphasis on winning races?" asked Kuselias. "I think its awesome" exclaimed Said. Meanwhile, the graphic at the bottom of the screen actually read "added pressure of racing for bonus points." This is apparently what Said was supposed to be talking about, but he did not get the memo.
Boris indicated that the drivers pretty clearly in The Chase can be more aggressive than those still racing for the top twelve. He never even referenced any kind of bonus points. He basically said they can let it all hang-out, and the others cannot. This did not go over well with the host after all this work on the latest ESPN NASCAR conspiracy theory. He gave it one last shot.
"Is there any down-side to the new Chase format?" asked Kuselias. In typical Boris style he said "no, not at all." As Kuselias slithered away to commercial, the bottom of the screen still read "added pressure of racing for bonus points."
So, we had just watched the national TV host of ESPN's NASCAR show try to convince the TV audience that Jeff Gordon spun at The Glen because of The Chase format. Perhaps, when Gordon himself came on and said the points did not matter and he had just pushed too hard, ESPN might have gotten a clue to this issue.
Let me tell you what ESPN was doing with all this garbage. Normally, they would be hyping qualifying and who had to get in on speed, who was on the bubble in The Chase, and who were the contenders for the pole. But this week, something had fundamentally changed. SPEED Channel was covering qualifying because of schedule conflicts at ESPN.
NASCAR Now's response to this was to eliminate any mention, in any way, of the live practice and qualifying telecasts. In this show, they only promoted the Busch and NEXTEL Cup races. Even though SPEED was doing the network a favor by stepping-in and providing live coverage, ESPN decided it did not exist.
The Daly Planet has spoken often about the Disney influence at ESPN bringing a sense of entitlement to the staff. If it is not on "our network" it does not exist. Such is the case for Michigan practice and qualifying, which ESPN would normally be doing. They are not doing it, so it does not exist...period.
Well, what would the national NASCAR TV show do on a Thursday when they were trying to avoid talking about Friday at the track? The answer is simple. Bring live on the set a Busch East Series driver for an interview. Suddenly, because of SPEED, NASCAR Now discovered the East Series existed, and they needed a live interview right away.
The glazed look in Erik Kuselias eyes told the story as he had absolutely no clue as to what his Busch Series East driver was talking about. The Toyota All-Star Showdown could have been the space shuttle. After purposefully avoiding the NASCAR regional touring series like the plague, ESPN suddenly made room for a live in-studio interview on this day. What a coincidence.
The show closed with sponsored Truck Series news, the DJ Copp pit tips, and Boris doing the horrible "driver pick 'ems." But what a story the first twenty minutes had become. A Chevy meeting cancelled, The Chase causes accidents, and a Busch East driver just happened to stop-by.
Sooner or later, someone from NASCAR will actually watch this show and pick-up the phone to ESPN. When ESPN's reality does not match NASCAR's reality, there is a fundamental problem that needs to be addressed. Hopefully, before The Chase causes any more accidents. Now if only the headache would just stop.
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