Sunday, August 26, 2007
"NASCAR Now" In The Midnight Mode
Another unique situation occurred for ESPN with NASCAR Now airing a midnight version of its thirty minute show after the night race at Bristol. Hyped as a potential crash-fest, the network instead found itself dealing with a clean and almost boring race with a runaway winner.
Right away, host Erik Kuselias talked his way though the video highlights with Stacy Compton and Boris Said alongside. Kuselias is always put in a tough spot when he has little lead time for highlights. There is no script that he can rehearse, so his lack of racing knowledge is put on display.
This was the case at midnight, where Stacy and Boris often stepped-in to help him with concepts like passing, running the high line, and the fact that drivers don't "plan" where to finish at Bristol...things just happen.
Instead of showing the actual racing action, NASCAR Now is caught-up in showing accidents and incidents as the stories of the race. Its kind of like SportsCenter only showing homeruns in baseball highlights.
Usually, this is only a small part of the whole story of what happened. Viewers need a recap of how the race shook-out, not who spun or blew-up. Key pitstops, great saves, and moments of patience can be just as critical as "he hits the wall."
Leave it to Tony Stewart to swing the hammer at the press and then for ESPN to replay it. "It was awesome" Tony said of the new pavement. "It was the most fun I have ever had racing at Bristol since I have been here" he continued. The reporters crowded around pushing him for controversy. They were egging him on with "how was it different?" questions. The gang wanted anger, they wanted outrage, they wanted "bad boy" Tony to explode. What a fun way to live your life as a driver, huh?
"Did you watch the race?" said Tony. "What did you think was different?" When the reporters said "um...not a lot of crashes?" you understood a lot better what these drivers have to deal with day-in and day-out from the media. Tony said "you might want to watch some more races." NASCAR translation: how is it possible that you are here in Bristol with a mic in your hand, press pass on your shirt, and you have absolutely no clue to this sport?
Once back on the ESPN set, Erik Kuselias immediately defended his colleagues. "We have Manny being Manny (Red Sox baseball reference) and I guess this is Tony being Tony." What Kuselias is saying is that Tony was out-of-line and giving the press a hard time again. Can you believe that is all he got out of Tony's comments?
Then, to swing his own hammer at Stewart, Kuselias said "let's talk about the guy who actually won the race, Carl Edwards." Wow. So, Stewart is just some backmarker who dared to spout-off at the high and mighty Media? That's going to play well on his radio show. Can you believe after all the problems with ESPN reporters and Tony this season that ESPN would choose to step back into this arena?
Stacy Compton and Boris Said both pointed to Roush/Fenway for getting their COT act together and the efforts of their engineering staff. This was, they both said, the key to Carl Edwards winning effort. Unfortunately, this type of racing inside information goes right in one Erik Kuselias ear and then out the other.
Recapping the race includes interviewing and featuring Dale Earnhardt Jr. every time. Junior kidded ESPN for their rain delay luck, and then paid a great compliment to the whole DEI team. With ESPN obsessed with The Chase and not the race, Brad Daugherty appeared live from the track to address more "Junior making The Chase" issues. Daugherty just needs a crystal ball on his set, because ESPN continually asks him to address issues involving "guessing and predicting."
Tim Cowlishaw again appeared to review information already discussed and try to create some controversy. He tried to stir the Stewart vs. Roush, Bowyer vs. Hendrick, and the Kenseth vs. Carl Edwards pots, but had absolutely no luck. The silence on the set from both Stacy Compton and Boris Said spoke volumes.
You have to wonder what these two veterans think about designated "mouthpieces" like Cowlishaw and Daugherty repeatedly talking about the obvious. Now seven months into ESPN's NASCAR efforts, the frustration level has got to be high.
Fittingly, NASCAR Now once again dug-out Aerosmith to show-off the fact that ESPN has some of the best sports editors in the business. Each week they work very hard to breathe life into this tired and absolutely ridiculous piece of video which closes the show.
The challenge of sprucing-up the lip-syncing of a fifty-nine year old man from Yonkers and his band mates into something that NASCAR fans can tolerate is no small job. But somehow, armed with a couple of fender-benders and a back flip, they made it work once again.
If NBC/TNT can win a national Emmy Award for Best Live Sports Series with their 2007 NASCAR efforts, than certainly the ESPN editors will sweep the 2008 Best Editing Award for thirty eight weeks of performing life support on "Back in the Saddle Again."
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