Sunday, September 16, 2007
The Sunday "NASCAR Now" Hour Of Pain
Brad Daugherty looked into the camera and said "sources close to ESPN have told me that there is some bargaining going on to take this race and move it to Las Vegas next year." This is the way ESPN chose to greet the New Hampshire NASCAR fans on the Sunday morning edition of NASCAR Now.
Since February, the spin on the NASCAR Now stories has been negative. Brad Daugherty, who can either be "the voice of the fans" or an ESPN "expert analyst," was reporting right at the start of the show that today's race would probably be dumped for next season. Nice.
Show host Erik Kuselias then asked Daugherty two questions as if he were NASCAR's VP of Communication, Jim Hunter. "Where does NASCAR stand?" and "is NASCAR happy?" were the phrases used to ask about Loudon and then The Chase.
Perhaps, Kuselias could have asked "where do you stand, Brad? or "are you happy?" instead. If Daugherty indeed now speaks for NASCAR, that would add a third role to his already confusing presence. The naive Daugherty stepped right in and answered both questions as if he was the NASCAR spokesman. Can this get any stranger?
Newspaper columnist Tim Cowlishaw joined Kuselias and Stacy Compton on the set in Bristol, CT. Throughout the season, Cowlishaw has just been reprising his role on Around the Horn, and talking off the top of his head about NASCAR. In this show, he made-up some mind-bending content about who were the favorites in The Chase and why.
Stacy Compton must need his blood pressure taken right after this show is over. Between Daugherty, Cowlishaw, and Kuselias, Compton's voice of experience is almost always overwhelmed by hype and controversy. This week, Compton looked at Cowlishaw and just put him squarely in his place.
Compton's simple point was that for ESPN to try and pick favorites and eliminate others before the first Chase race began was ridiculous. The bottom line for this baseball and football obsessed network is that NASCAR is different. You can't look at RBI's and Batting Average, do the math and pick the Red Sox.
Nothing will appease ESPN and their ego driven agenda. Kuselias then interviewed Clint Bowyer and said "what do you think your chances are to win the championship?" What is Bowyer supposed to say? I stink and we have a second class team? ESPN2 has been doing this show for seven months and these are the questions viewers get on a national TV series about racing.
Marty Smith stopped-by and updated the Jimmie Johnson story with some good background on both Johnson and Chad Knaus. Smith continues to have the inside scoop on Junior's new number and sponsors, partly due to their personal friendship. Smith also updated the Jeremy Mayfield story and his fall from the top tier teams in the sport.
Since Kuselias does not know racing, he read the script when asking about the possible change of car models in the Busch Series for next season. It was great to hear Kuselias say "pony cars" without having a clue to the meaning. Smith really made this show, as he often does in just one appearance.
Boris Said has been a breath of fresh air on this program all season. He handled the rude question from Kuselias about Boris making the race due to the Andretti DNQ in his usual calm manner. Said is just happy to be on the track, and he helped to put into perspective how the "racers" are going to handle the "Chasers." With a big smile, Said just quietly speaks his mind and reminds viewers of the positive side of the sport.
There is only one rule in a garage. Men in suits should not be there. NASCAR Now has added sponsorship from Home Depot, and in the mix they created a fake garage in the Bristol studio. Now, they make Kuselias stand in "the garage" and read his script. Its priceless TV.
The Sunday show played a feature on Jeff Gordon that was later played again in the NASCAR Countdown pre-race show. After Shannon Spake's report, Stacy Compton spoke kindly of the way in which Jeff Gordon helped him in the sport. Kuselias dismissed Comptons comments rudely and then unveiled his most brutal question of the year.
Turning to Cowlishaw, Kuselias demanded to know how far down the list of all-time great drivers in NASCAR is Gordon? Are you kidding me? Here is a man still in his prime and contending for yet another championship and he is being "categorized" and "put in his place" by Tim Cowlishaw?
What else can Erik Kuselias do to help viewers understand just how much he detests NASCAR? He consistently made fun of the sport during his days on Sports Bash, and then during his various duties on ESPN Radio. This is a hardcore stick-and-ball guy who got "assigned" a duty that he clearly cannot stand.
Instead of presenting a show that talks about the reality of what is about to take place on the track, Kuselias always changes the agenda to "who is better than who." His only other question is, "who do you pick to win?" This allows him to hold someone responsible for that later. This one hour Sunday preview show has been a crushing disappointment with the exception of the news reporters.
Kudos to Stacy Compton, Marty Smith, and Boris Said for hanging-in there on this Sunday. Despite the continual attempts at hype and controversy, these three continue to push the real agenda of a unique sport that was doing just fine before ESPN returned, and will probably do just fine once they are gone. If ESPN continues to put out this level of NASCAR programming, the clock may have already started.
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