Saturday, August 4, 2007

Tony Stewart vs. ESPN: Does He Have A Point?

Apparently, the criticism of Tony Stewart by ESPN "talking heads" this week was a little more spread-out than originally thought. Lots of article links and emails pointed The Daly Planet in several different directions and to several different ESPN on-air announcers. What the network is up to this time is anyone's guess.

As ESPN begins to recognize once again that NASCAR exists, Tony Stewart has become the first to have to handle the "other shows" that ESPN produces and the fact that the ESPN News Network is "always" on-the-air.

The Daly Planet has been vocal about the fact that ESPN has chosen, in some cases, to use reporters who are not familiar with NASCAR to report on it. Many fans believe it is because the network still does not fully respect or even understand the sport.

One Daly Planet favorite this season is ESPN General Assignment Reporter David Amber. On-hand at NEXTEL Cup races before ESPN began its coverage, this sports TV veteran proved immediately to be novice at NASCAR. Fortunately, that did not matter as the NASCAR Now program he reported for was also hosted by two NASCAR "outsiders," Doug Banks and Erik Kuselias.

Between Amber, Banks, and Kuselias, the largest and most well-respected cable sports network in North America had absolutely zero credibility with fans or teams. Banks was unceremoniously fired, and never heard from again. Kuselias never even acknowledged his co-host's departure on-the-air. The network refused to comment.

Now, six months after this ESPN mess of "NASCAR illiterate" on-air talent began, Mr. Amber found himself face-to-face with Tony Stewart in a group of reporters at Pocono. Mr. Amber decided to ask Stewart a question, and then all hell broke loose.

"If every time we do an interview you want to stand here and dig-up dirt, you might as well go and find somebody else because we will wait until you leave." said Stewart. "Do we always have to leave with a dagger in our back from ESPN? That's all I'm curious about." Stewart continued to add some additional comments, without profanity.

This story was reported nationwide by the Associated Press, which means it has "legs" and will be making the rounds of news outlets. Stewart broke the "pack" of reporters tradition, and told Amber that he, and ESPN, were not welcome to continue to interview him. The question is, does he have a point?

The Daly Planet has been working hard this season to celebrate the racing coverage we have seen of the Craftsman Truck, Busch, and NEXTEL Cup Series. Along with that, however, comes a bevy of brand-new shows that are concerned with off-track issues. Remember, ESPN is a twenty-four hour a day monster that must be fed content endlessly...on each channel. Hence, the infamous "Who's Now."

From SportsCenter to Around The Horn, NASCAR now has to find a place in the content of all these shows. Prior to this season, NASCAR was clearly the Kryptonite of ESPN, and the network gave the entire sport the cold shoulder.

Does anyone remember Doug Banks asking Kasey Kahne if he would "stand by" his comment that David Stremme was fat? Anyone remember the hype of Montoya being "dangerous" and the other drivers being "deeply concerned?" How about the fact that Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson were "feuding" after the Martinsville finish?

NASCAR is a square peg in ESPN's very round hole. On the track, good pictures and great sound. Hard-working announcers, and solid pit reporters. Away from the track so far this season...nightmare. Now, the network finds itself in a tussle with one of the sport's highest-profile stars. Can you believe it?

It might be time for ESPN to have a little meeting and try to decide how to rectify the "non-racing" issues that seem to be plaguing the network. Tony Stewart has a highly-rated Sirius Satellite Radio show each week, and this media platform gives him the guns to fire back at ESPN whenever he wants to a national audience.

Before you judge things on this simply "Tony being Tony," imagine if this was Jeff Burton, Jeff Gordon, or even Dale Junior who was truly upset. Remember, ESPN can decide at any time, on any show, on any network, to continue to perpetrate the belief that NASCAR drivers are just redneck drunks. Or, they can adapt a fresh new attitude and embrace the reality around them.

Maybe, a nice weekend retreat would help. Say aboard Jeff Gordon's one hundred and six foot eight million dollar yacht. That might change a few opinions.

The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Simply click on the COMMENTS button below, or email if you wish not to be published. Thanks again for stopping-by and leaving your opinion.


bevo said...

I never thought I would say this but thank God for Tony Stewart. It's about time someone held ESPN accountable for their actions. The president of ESPN was on Sirius Nascar Radio this week and you'd have thought the pope himself was being interviewed. No questions about the piss-poor coverage, having people with zero knowledge as anchors, awful support programming. It was boot licking of the highest order.

It looks like ESPN and TNT are trying to ruin any enjoyment watching the race.

Anonymous said...

I am not a Tony Stewart fan, but I am even less of a fan of ESPN's "Generate-a-Controversy" routine as it pertains to NASCAR.

Maybe the ESPN folks who don't care about races think this is necessary to get people to watch; it isn't.

To ESPN: just show the action. You're so busy with your silly attempts to make racing "exciting" that you're overlooking the fact that we'd rather see practice, the right to which you bought--and then won't even show it!

Anonymous said...

In football you have the antics of Michael Vick and the Cincinnati Bengals.Baseball has Bud Selig vs. Barry Bonds......Maybe ESPN seems to think every sport needs controversy today to "sell".....Bring back the days of Jenkins and Nuber,get some REAL race guys reporting real race topics...Racing is full of conflict every week,from the Saturday night bull rings to the Superspeedways of Talledega and Daytona,it's built into a sport at 200 mph,it doesn't NEED tabloid type treatment.Report on it like it actually happens and the ratings will happen.....

Kevin in Indy said...

Being from Indiana I am proud of Tony's accomplishments on the track. But sometimes he does leave a bad taste in my mouth. I didn't agree with what he said about Denny Hamlin after Daytona. But I will say that I am behind him 100% on his stance with ESPN. This is nothing more than a continuation of their hype-fest mode of operaton when it comes to NASCAR. They seem to think that it is nothing more than pro wrestling on wheels. Look at NASCAR Now with Erik (with a K) Kuselias hosting, it's horrible. There is so much more truly terrible things going on in the world of sports than to single out Tony for making a comment about hanging out on his week off and drinking a case of beer, especially when it's made in jest and he is well over the age of 21 and would be doing it at home, not on a race track. What about the rampant pot use in the NBA? I don't hear these moral arbiters talking about that. What about Barry Bonds using Human Growth Hormone so he could hit more home runs? The only coverage I've seen from ESPN was sympathetic to Bonds in regards to that ("well, everybody was doing it at the time"). What about the high rates of domestic violence among NFL players? Silence. Let's face it, we're all a bunch of rubes to ESPN. We all live in trailers by the river and use cheese whiz on all of our food. Give 'em hell, Tony! As that huckster, "Rev." al sharpton would say, "Speak truth to power".

Anonymous said...

Ironic, isn't it, that the ESPN studio "geniuses" feel free to lay into Tony Stewart over his verbalizing an intention to celebrate a win by drinking beer. But where were they when one of their own (studio anchors) was arrested for urinating out of a bar room window a few years back?
Anyone else smell a "double standard"?

Kevin Hillstrom said...

The folks who created ESPN made an interesting decision when they decided to call the network the ... "Entertainment and Sports Programming Network".

Entertainment comes before Sports in the title.

All season long, the topics you discuss regarding ESPN and NASCAR come down to this fundamental distinction (Entertainment vs. Sports). We don't like the way ESPN interprets the word "entertainment".

Anonymous said...

I'm no #20 fan-until now. I have grown to despise ESPN for the controversy du jour they use to supposedly pull in viewers.

I guess the NBA and NFL has to buy into it, they have too many players on too may teams spread out-for the players to be able to band together and say "STOP". NASCAR, on the other hand-well, all the players meet together before every single race. If they feel the Four Letter is trashing the sport, they can talk about it easily. As opposed to NFL and NBA the controversy du jour. And once they talk about it, well....maybe Tony is doing their bidding.

No, a mush mouth like Jimmie Johnson won't say anything, but Tony can and will and has the platform to do it.

He just may become a hero to the ball players for calling out the Four Letter Hype Machine the way he did at Pocono. The chumps at the Four Letter may start getting some of this crap thrown back at them from the ball guys the way Tony has done it.

We can only hope.

Oh, and when is SophiaZ123 going to chime in? Her last messages were great! Even wearing the tin foil hat...or whatever she was doing with the tin foil on her head.

SophiaZ123 said...

OMG! Where does one even begin. Another FANTASTIC on the money article. While I am a fan of Tony sometimes, I do sometimes have the urge to give him a spanking with a rolled up newspaper. But I had to laugh out loud when ESPN was called the biggest and most RESPECTED sports network...Certainly that was a joke. I think everybody knows it's become the WWE and Disneyworld of sports, much like France has done to NASCAR. In other words, aimed at kiddies and drama.

Aren't mobiles placed over babies beds to stimulate vision and the brain. Thus the VERTIGO inducing over kill of graphics on ESPN at the opening of shows.
Honestly, watching sports anymore should come with a "may induce motion sickness" warning...for a variety of reasons. Like now, I am muting my tv because that aging rock star is singing that song I REFUSE to mention. SIGH.

But first, thanks for thinking of me fellow posters but it was NOT a tin foil hat but, rectangle pieces of foil to touch up dark roots. The women here know what I mean but sorry for the bizarre image I might have created. I wasn't playing the Tin Man but more about Oz in a moment.

But while sewing up some catnip pillow today, like a good cat mom does from time to time, it was fun to hear Allen on my TV again as I wondered in amazement, why isn't he doing CUP. Then the pre show took a bizarre turn with more EXTREME sports thingie being promoted.

Back to Tony, INDEED he is VERY CORRECT on ESPN's attitude and so called ethics. As I think, Kevin from Indy mentioned and others, the problems with drug use, violence, drugs, underage dating of girls-Bengals speciality, NUMEROUS kids out of wedlock. wife beatings, general thuggery, including that one NFL or NBA star that got off I think from murdering his driver: ESPN picks on Tony for a tongue-in-cheek comment about beer???

Frankly, it's time somebody in NASCAR has pointed the proverbial finger at the Wicked Witch of the Sports. Frankly, I am beginning to think I stepped into the land of Oz and NOBODY wants to peek behind the curtain at the folks in charge to make them TAKE NOTICE. Isn't watching NASCAR coverage on ESPN like reading a book of FICTION??

To think the President of ESPN simply got "a boot licking of the highest order" shows how CLUELESS and GUTLESS many journalist and talking heads are. I can NOT believe somebody did not ask him about what ALL THE MESSAGE boards are full of..DESPISE for ESPN.

What if Tony ends up starting a boycott of sorts for ESPN with other drivers. NOW THAT would be something that might perk up the ears of France. Let's face it, ESPN FLAT OUT LIED when they said last week Harvick was not available to the media? Funny, I saw him mouth off on SPEED REPORT and Victory Lane.

Well, I had another point but this road race is getting ready to start.

But again, Thank You John for another great article that speaks for MANY of us and a site for many like minded folks to communicate on this new fangled thinkbox we have all become attached to...(Computer)

Ok, one whine..suddenly, I have to relog in here all the time..and some of these "Word Verifications" are so long and distorted I think the Russian KGB is making this up for the site. That's why sometimes I am SophiaZ and sometimes Anon and try to remember to put my name at the end.

After 4 attempts to do the WV, i give up....but once again, I have digressed.


p.s. NOTE TO JOHN..I had to long in as Sophia Z with a short Word Veri and after previewing and hitting PUBLISH, I had to do ANOTHER WORD VERIFICATION and this one IS in Russian and writtern in some script. Is this a hiccup with the site?

Anonymous said...

This NASCAR Fan wonders why ESPN is not openly critical of married team owners who openly flaunt sexual relationships with female drivers, half their age, whom they employ?
When Jeremy Mayfield was crucified last year, where was the judgmental media?
"Let them have it, Tony Stewart !" The media has no right to cast stones unless it is fully ready for retaliation.
Let's examine some of the personal lives of the "broadcasters"......
Let's also examine their "credentials". How many finished second grade ?

Anonymous said...

The argument would carry a lot more weight with me if A)It wasn't coming from a man who hates every member of the media not named "Matt Yocum" and B)Tony was actually mad at a comment someone made on one of ESPN's racing shows. These comments were made by "stick and ball" guys. Why take it out on the racing reporters?

darbar said...

If you look up the word "hypocrite" in the dictionary, you'll see a picture of the ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Ct. They lambast Tony Stewart for imbibing in an adult beverage while all they while they have no problem showing commercial after commercial for Guinness, Bud and Miller Lite. They persecute Stewart for a mild cuss word, but they remain silent when the likes of the second coming of the Savior, aka Tiger Woods, lets fly with quite a few GD's and F bombs when he misses a shot, not to mention all the expletives hurled by numerous baseball, football and basketball players during live broadcasts. They continue to positively hype the adulterers Kobe Bryant and Barry Bonds. And all this while at least three of their own are currently being sued for harrassment.

Over-hype seems to be the buzzword for everything ESPN. Instead of trying to bring in the tech geeks with useless broadcast frivolities, give us the race, straight and simple. Dump the stupid graphics, stop the in-race interviews with persons who are not important to the race at hand and just show the racing, including those who aren't in first place, but are racing good and hard just the same. And, shut up, ESPN announcers, and just let us enjoy the sport we love. OH, and remember, there are 43 cars in the race, not just four or five.
We'd like to see how our favorite drivers finish the race.

Anonymous said...

Whatever happened to the networks not being responsbile for the comments of its analysts?

Anonymous said...
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