Sunday, November 18, 2007

ESPN On ABC Goes Out Like A Lamb


There were certainly some high hopes that this final weekend in Homestead would see the ESPN on ABC gang come through with their best telecast of the season.

The stage had been set with an outstanding Busch Series race on Saturday featuring the same announcers, the same TV crew, and the same track. What could go wrong? Unfortunately, for NASCAR fans nationwide...the answer was almost everything.

Sometimes, the poor ESPN guys just cannot buy a break as they try to navigate their way through the twisted world of the ABC local stations. On this Sunday, KABC in Los Angeles, the number two TV market in the US, somehow forgot to show the first thirty minutes of the live NASCAR Countdown pre-race show.

Can you believe it? Even with thousands of angry calls pouring into the KABC and ABC Network switchboards, the fans could not convince the Master Control operator at the station that he probably should switch to the live final NEXTEL Cup race instead of running the children's show the station was airing.

Thirty minutes into the forty-five minute program, the greater Los Angeles area joined the final NASCAR Countdown right in the middle of a Tim Brewer Tech Center update. What a way to kick things off for the West Coast viewers.

The amazing thing is that those viewers missed the best thirty minutes of the entire five hour telecast. Jerry Punch offered a great feature, and Suzy Kolber did her best to lead her cast through the top stories of the weekend. Thankfully, this included both the Truck and Busch Series highlights from the final races.

The only glaring omission by ABC in the pre-race was the lack of any interview or brief tribute to Ricky Rudd. This tough and strong-minded driver still has a big fan base and will be fully retired after the race. Rudd is "old school" and will be missed in the grandstands and around the nation.

When the ESPN race team took over, things from pit road were being followed quite well, but that could not be said for the announcers upstairs in the TV booth. Quickly, Jeff Burton and Martin Truex Jr. had incidents that were first missed, and then brushed aside by the ESPN on ABC crew. It was clear that despite the reality of the situation, it was going to be "all championship all the time" for this race.

Even good old Junior got into the act by being spun coming onto pit road. A yellow flag coming out during green flag pit stops quickly put the network team right over the edge. This set the tone for the night, with the TV crew forgetting to reset the field after a caution. They forgot to even mention who the Lucky Dog was for the first of many times this night.

They were obsessed with the Johnson and Gordon cars, although for experienced race fans there was no drama to be had. As we have said many times this season, how can two sets of announcers at the same track be describing two completely different races?

The radio call of this event had exciting racing, two and three wide action, and lots of updates on drivers from all different teams, big and small. The ESPN on ABC presentation consisted of the top three cars on the track and then Mr. Gordon and Mr. Johnson.

As cars began to fall out of the race, their stories were never updated. After several accidents, no one was interviewed outside the Infield Care Center so fans would know they were OK. Several accidents were very hard hits. This practice used to be a very fundamental part of NASCAR coverage. Now, ESPN cannot be bothered because they have a pre-determined storyline to tell.

It only got worse from there, and it was a shame. Perhaps, too many cooks were trying to create the Homestead "soup" in the TV truck. ESPN never did regular field rundowns with the pit reporters assigned to the drivers. Only the silent ticker at the top of the screen had any reference to what was happening on the track.

In The Daly Planet forum, readers kept asking "how did he get so far back?" or "how did he gain ten places in two laps?" as the disjointed coverage stumbled along. Nothing in the field was being updated except the top three cars and the two points contenders.

As we all know, the key issue that NASCAR fans want the TV networks to understand is that each and every driver is represented in the fans watching the race on TV. No one misses that point more than ESPN, who can literally not mention a driver's name after reading it on the starting grid. How is this possible?

The reason is clear, and has been made clear by this production staff all season long. The network creates a storyline to follow prior to the event, and despite the reality of the race itself, they will not bend. No matter how completely foolish or amateur it makes the announcers appear to be, live NASCAR racing cannot make ESPN change their story. They are simply sticking to it.

At Homestead, the story was the "threat" that Jimmie Johnson was somehow going to mysteriously lose his championship if Jeff Gordon won the race. Jeff would lead one lap, then get more points for leading the most laps, then win the race and it would be the greatest...ok....I can't even deal with trying to type that hype.

The biggest shame of the poor job ESPN did televising this race was the lack of exposure for the fulltime NEXTEL Cup teams that ran hard all season. The stories of both the drivers and the teams went untold in what should have been a balanced and informative multi-hour telecast.

When Jarrett and Reutimann ran well, nothing was said. The drivers still chasing rides for next season were never mentioned. Rudd was never shown. It was just a very poor excuse for network TV coverage of the field in the final race.

Then, to put a cap on the night, only the winner and the new champ were shown crossing the finish line. It almost appeared that the Director did not know where to go or what to do. ESPN had been doing a fine job of showing the lead lap cars racing to the stripe, but that went out the window along with almost any other positive elements of the on-track coverage.

Strangely, we did not see the Draft Tracker at Homestead, where the cars run well over one hundred and fifty miles an hour. Earlier this season, we did see it explaining how Clint Bowyer spun at Richmond while going almost eighty. It was the dreaded low-speed aero push.

Another element missing from both the pre-race and the race itself was Aerosmith. Where they went, why they went, and who made them go was never explained. In the final race of the season after ten long months of being back in the saddle again, Aerosmith had taken their motorcycle song and left the building.

Luckily, the saving grace for this night was Allen Bestwick. He quietly went about interviewing the key players in the championship, and then handled the awards presentations with dignity and his normal good humor.

When the network had additional time to fill, it was Bestwick who waded into the masses and pulled out interviews with Johnson's interim Crew Chief and even the champ's dad and grandmother. Let's face facts, the only thing Allen Bestwick has not done for ESPN this season is change the oil in the TV truck.

Bestwick has done play-by-play for races, been a pit reporter, hosted the NASCAR Countdown show, hosted NASCAR Now and been a feature reporter for that same show. On several occasions, he hosted the pre-race show, did the play-by-play and then handled the post-race segments by himself. If there is a Most Valuable Player award for this season, Bestwick gets the nod.

As we close out the final race of the season, it is tough to defend any of the glaring and almost strange problems ESPN had with this race. How tough is it to tell us who the Lucky Dog is after a caution? How hard is it to reset the field before a restart? Its great to know who was first off pit road, but who stayed out?

Fans want to hear from their driver after an accident. Fans want to hear from their driver when his car is retired from the race. Fans do not need to hear pre-recorded team radio conversations, pre-recorded crowd noise, or pre-recorded team speeches after the engines are started. All of this combines for one big mess.

Later in the off-season, we will be discussing the ESPN NEXTEL Cup season as a whole, but for right now we need time for the memory of Homestead to fade. I never saw my favorite driver after the green flag. I did not see him finish. He was never mentioned in a race recap. I never saw one of his pit stops.

My personal memory of Homestead is watching the race ticker to see where my driver was, and coming to the grim realization that the official NASCAR TV network of The Chase for the Championship was not going to mention him. He never ran in the top five and his name was not Johnson or Gordon.

Halfway through the race, if I did not have to write this column, I would have turned the TV off and never turned it on again. I wonder how many people across the nation, wearing the t-shirt and ball cap of their favorite driver, reached for the remote and voted on the ESPN coverage with one swift click. What a season.

The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Simply click on the COMMENTS button below, or email editor@thedalyplanet.tv if you wish not to be published. Thank you for taking the time to read our columns, and for adding your opinion to this ten month long Internet conversation.

69 comments:

wickedj said...

ok John, fess up whos your favorite driver...

Carl in Alaska said...

John, thanks for your forum. You have been on the mark since I found your site and haven't failed to take SPEED/FOX to task when they deserved it. My only hope is the execs both networks and NASCAR sit down and iron out something that fulfills fan expectations. I watched the post race shows Victory Lane and NASCAR Now and came to the explanation for the the fan dislike of ESPN/ABC over SPEED/FOX. Their year ending production video leaves me with the impression that SPEED/ABC is the friend I would like to go out to dinner with and not like the ESPN/ABC crew that I would have to spend a business lunch with in suit and tie. They are just so much enjoyable. Isn't that entertainment is for?

Enjoy the holidays and keep in your heart our servicemembers at home and abroad. Happy Holidays to all.

Patrick said...

wickedj,
The point is this: it doesn't matter who is JD's favorite driver. If it wasn't Johnson or Gordon, they weren't seen. ESPN should think about each driver as potentially the powers-that-be's or their boss's favorite. If you show them all, you won't disappoint.

Anonymous said...

JD-ditto to everything you wrote. I, too, want to give a shout out to Bestwick. But, I'm afraid to do so as he might be replaced by Suzy and her babbling about driver "Elliott Schrader".
We NASCAR fans are a forgiving group. If ESPN gets it together for next year, we will welcome them back. The onus is on them.

Makiki

SophiaZ123 said...

JD

EXCELLENT wrap up of this most painful last half of the season that only got worse.

Though it's STILL MYSTIFYING why Busch races were better.

I have one word for how I felt tonight. Betrayed.

By ESPN and more so, as many of us ponder, betrayed by NASCAR for

a. ALLOWING THIS ABYSMAL coverage

b. or being oblvious to it while making excuses for it.

Feeling betrayed for giving 4 hrs a day each Saturday and Sunday to be told NOTHING about follow ups to engine problems or wrecks.

I mentioned this betrayal in the other post on HOMESTEAD with 340 posts and will not repeat.

Like others, I have had it with this sport.

Truly. I never have been RELIEVED the season is over before.

I have no faith. Zip, Zero, Zilch, NADA that things will improve JD.

Why should I?

I can only say one thing tonight I never thought I would utter.

I LOVE DARREL WALTRIP!!

And Mike Joy, loved seeing you twice today.

ALLEN BESTWICK! Is the best and ONLY GREAT THING about today's coverage.

THANKS for pointing that out.

slithybill said...

I didn't watch the race today. Based on your column and the in-race comments, I think I made a very wise decision. I did DVR the last hour, and I'm glad I did because I got to see Allen Bestwick shine. He is definitely the MVP for NASCAR on ESPN. (I only DVR'd it because I thought there was a chance of rain in Miami today and I wanted to see for myself how ABC was going to handle things if the race ran past the magic 8 o'clock hour.)

I can't believe Dale Jarrett ran well and was never mentioned once. I can't believe Ricky Rudd was never mentioned. Actually, I guess I can believe it. That's one of the reasons I didn't watch the race!

Gotta go watch Victory Lane now. Looking forward to INC tomorrow. Hopefully it'll be back next year.

Thanks, Mr. Daly, for the great site and for all the wonderful columns. Looking forward to reading your season wrapups next week.

Matt said...

ESPN's year-long problem has been the same thing. And it's not DraftTrack, Aerosmith, the director, the cameras, the SC minutes, Suzy, Brad or Brent. It is the three amigos in the booth. They have no chemistry, are not watching the race (or any race), and have no personality. They don't pay attention, and don't seem to be enjoying the races. In the end, no matter how many toys a network has, it is the job of the play-by-play man and his booth-mates to keep the fans updated. They are the ones who know who is the lucky dog, who is on the lead lap, and which drivers are running well. They should know the rules, points and otherwise. They should know when to get excited, and when not to. And they be able to create a race, where there is none. And, as we have seen since August, Jerry, Rusty and Andy cannot. And They clearly never will. They are the reason that ESPN's coverage of NASCAR has been the biggest failure of 2007.

Sean said...

Matt, you are right on the money my friend. I have been saying the same thing all year. There have been so many moments during their racing where there isn't a lot of racing, and the guys in the booth just don't know what to talk about. There is just no chemistry in the booth. Andy Petree has been surprising all year, Rusty has been subpar for being a former Nascar driver(It has been consistently shown he doesn't have a lot of knowledge of the sport), and Doc just can't handle being the play-by-play guy.

Sandie said...

Great wrap up JD!

I LOVE Allen and once again he showed why *he's* the man! It has been so frustrating not seeing Allen used to his fullest potential! He's *shown* many times that he's more than capable and as you said he can do it all singlehandedly!

I truly hope that they truly fix things for next season, but I'm not holding my breath. Tonight was just a mess and *should* be an embarrassment! Luckily we had Allen otherwise Lord only knows what a fiasco that could have turned out to be!

elena said...

What a shame ESPN has not taken their job of presenting NASCAR seriously. They seem to think that you can give someone a fact sheet and they can call a race.

My dad and I loved both baseball and NASCAR. One of the fun things we'd do is keep score. When you have a good announcer, it's easy to do. We'd have a sheet and where everyone started, when they moved up, pitted, crashed, etc. This is years ago and no laptops. After the race we'd discuss the whole race for hours. It was so enjoyable.

Since I can't be at the races, it has been very disappointing that ESPN does not follow the field.

ESPN should not think that just because someone has been a driver and looks nice in a suit, means that person can analyze a race. It seems that Rusty has a limited vocabulary and after an hour or so he has used every trite phrase and then goes on to repeat them. They also don't seem to know the difference between creating hype and being excited about the race.

There is no chemisrty in the team. There's no way they even chat as though they like each other. Too many egos.

There are many wonderful stories still to tell for this season. Maybe if ESPN is doing any programs in the off season, they could catch us up on each driver. There are so many young drivers that we are barely getting to know. ESPN needs to profile them so they can build a fan base too.

from a Dale J. and Jeff fan

Jimmy O'Neill said...

John --

Like you, Dale Jarrett is one of my favorite drivers, and I was equally disappointed (but not surprised) to never hear of him during the race.

You may not have liked Dave Despain's WindTunnel this morning (I did), but as I recall, he interviewed Ricky Rudd and pointed out that it was his last race -- something that ESPN/ABC couldn't squeeze into it's five or so hours of "coverage."

Thank heavens the season is over.

Illpolo said...

Fox should be licking their chops in getting ready for the Daytona 500 next year. Hopefully they are able to take the failures of ESPN and then improve their production of Nascar even more for 2008...I am already looking forward to it.

ESPN should be ashamed of every aspect of their coverage or lack thereof. The point was made about the announcers being the main reason for such a poor presentation by the network; I definitely agree, as the radio broadcasters can make the race exciting and informative without images, so why should the TV announcers WITH images have such a major problem.

There are so many things wrong with ESPN and their coverage of Nascar that I venture to guess that we need either an Internet broadcast of all races available or a void in the contract with ESPN, otherwise we are in for several years of terrible coverage.

Photojosh said...

Kenseth winning the last race that he and Robbie ran together was the only saving grace at Miami.

We didn't hear anything but 24 and 48. Jimmie/Jeff/Jimmie/Jeff/Hendrick/Jimmie/Jeff! ENOUGH! I know they are 1 & 2 for the championship, WE ALL KNOW.

Then again, this is hardly new. Anything past the top ten is a ghost town to ESPN. I'm going back to MRN, those guys know how to call a race.

Tim S. said...

I think my "favorite" part of the race tonight was when they asked the poll about the most memorable moment of the year... they came back from commercial, asked the poll, then had a whole THREE laps of racing before another commercial break for at least 15 laps or so.

Miss a lap, Miss a lot? I guess we missed quite a bit with 3 laps shown out of a 30-40 lap stretch.

It's too bad one of the memorable moment choices wasn't the horrendous ESPN/ABC coverage for the last half of the season. Only thing left to say is hooray for 6 more months or so before suffering through this again.

Vroom! said...

Crusty Wallace dosn't help the broadcast, he so desperatly wants to be over polished.

The Chase itself has thrown the emphasis to those on top versus all of the grand story lines taking place throughout the entire racing field.

Anonymous said...

2 things I'd like to mention: Replace Rusty with DJ and re-unite the Hickory Speedway mafia (Punch, Petree & Jarrett )cause they HAVE chemistry. Secondly, in case you didn't notice, Mark Martin had a top ten finish......

RBEAN said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
RBEAN said...

The answer for such terrible ABC/ESPN telecast next year. HOTPASS in HD. They use announcers that know what to do.

Anonymous said...

I watched the race but had the sound off and my scanner going on the computer, that is the only way I could tell what was going on with my drivers who were never mentioned even when they were in the top 10 for a period of time. It was the Jeff and Jimmy show, ESPN will not listen, will Nascar? Thank you John for keeping it honest and speaking for us fans.

jfs-va said...

Is it time for the Bud Shootout yet? :>)

My first year as a NASCAR fan(along with my son) has indeed been interesting. I'm glad I found this site after perusing Jayski early in the season.

I'm so looking forward to the Fox broadcasts...heck...even TNT..lol.

I'll tell ya what, the most lame thing is when Rusty claims that fans come up to him and tell him how much they love the draft tracker. Right...sure. Long time race fans don't like it and I would hope newer fans like me don't get that mesmerized by it.

We tried out Raceview on NASCAR.com the last two weekends using the 14 day free trial. We'll probably use it next year. You definitely get a ton of info on your driver that way and it's fun to "virtually" watch him race.

Until next year...cheers to all.

Skip said...

I decided to just listen to MRN with headphones and watch the coverage and I have to say that the camera work was a ton better for Homestead than previous races. But I think that has more to do with the track than with the producers suddenly getting a clue. No matter how they tried there was so much racing going on there that they couldn't help but show some.

ESPN has done one thing though, that I never thought possible. It's made me look forward to DW screaming 'Boogity Boogity Boogity'.

Jo said...

JD - wow you got it dead on the money! Thanks for this forum - its been a sanity saver for us.
My husband has a theory on why Busch races were better - it was the 1st one of the week end. He thinks that the announce teams don't like WATCHing racing - so the second one is a drag & they aren't professional enough to sound like they care & so the prodution quality sinks like a stone,
We shouldn't have to have the TV tuned in -AND have 2 computer screens running (Trackpass & Fox Race tack) AND have MRN going just to watch a race to get complete coverage.
If espn would treat NASCAR as a sport, like the NFL or MLB we would get much better coverage.
They think we are hicks from "down south who don't know any better"
they need to re think that.
Its very hard to sit through bad TV - & We expected better.
Allan B. was awesome, Mike Joy was great, the camera work was wonderful esp. at sunset. As the
sun sank - so did the coverage. Hopefully it will get better next year. Thanks JD

MelissaAnne said...

I couldn't agree more with your column this morning, JD- as well as the comments already posted. The coverage of Homestead was horrible. I don't need to see one car filling up the entire screen for the last 20 minutes of the race.
There may have been no Dreaded Draft Tracker in the Cup race, but during the Busch race, the geniuses at Sportsvision, while crowing about their technology actually said that the Crew Chiefs could learn "a lot about racing and how to get their drivers to pass better" from it.
yeaaaah.
So, thanks for keeping us informed in 2007, can't wait for February!

Kathy said...

When I listen to the guys in the booth for Fox, I feel like they LOVE racing and are able to report what the fans are interested in because they are fans themselves. They are spontaneous and knowledgeable. I get the feeling that the ESPN guys just don't know enough about the effects of a yellow flag falling during green flag pit stops to speak on the issue and just choose to ignore it completely. There has been a great deal of evidence of that fact in their reporting. Rusty has been wrong so many times that I am frankly shocked. Did he not learn anything during the years he drove?

Ritchie said...

John, you mentioned the radio broadcast of the races and several people have made comments throughout the season about substituting the MRN broadcast for ABC's coverage. I listened to radio coverage for almost fifteen years before I got cable, and I am very sentimental about listening to the radio coverage of NASCAR. That being said, I think it is somewhat unfair to compare the two mediums. I do understand that the race does seem more exciting on radio than what we see on ABC's broadcast. The problem is that with television, the communication is visual along with oral. The video tells you as much if not more than the audio signals. The radio broadcast is much more one dimensional, so they can say things like "Earnhardt has closed to within one second of Gordon" with tremendous enthusiasm and create tension, without ever looking foolish where a T.V. broadcast can't always do that. This is because we are always weighing what we hear from the booth with what we are seeing with our own eyes. While the radio is telling us that closing to within one second is exciting, the picture of Earnhardt being 80 yards behind Gordon tells us that such excitement is embellishment.

My point is that although much improvement is needed to the broadcasts, comparing radio commentators to TV commentators may be a little unfair. TV commentators are always going to be restrained by the video.

Anonymous said...

Anyone else totally annoyed by the audio in the first third of the race? The engine noise completely overwhelmed the announcers voices.

I can't wait to get Fox back. How could ESPN/ABC miss this badly on producing their show(s)?!?

ri8girl said...

What happened? One thing they did get right was leaving Jr alone. The only time I knew what was happening AT ALL, was when AB tried valiently to grab all the storys and feed them to us as fast as he could talk. There was one point where espn booth shut his mic off mid sentance. Thanks to the posters here I got the info I needed. I don't have an MRN affiliate and so am completely dependent on Track Pass scanners and the TV. I personally watched last nights race more to see what ESPN would do not for the race itself; which I found dull and confusing. THE SECOND Victory lane came on I started to understand the race I had just sat through. They reviewd all the relevent stories with the best footage and post race intervivews. They gave the tribute to Rudd and so on. If ESPN repeats this same level of disfunction next year I will have to invest in Hot pass or one of the other 'pay' entities to watch my sport in an enjoyable way. I won't ever be able to afford to GO to a race, and now I will have to afford a way to even watch one, not a good future for NASCAR.

I can not tell you how disapointed I am to know that Brian France is not planning on moving over any time soon. I believe strongly that this ESPN debacle would have lasted no more than two weeks if Bill Jr were still here.

I'll do the poster who admitted to missing DW and say even Bill Webber would have done better, he at least trys to stay relevent.

Palmetto said...

Two possible reasons the Busch coverage was better:

The Busch title was decided two weeks ago. No reason to focus exclusively on championship leaders Edwards and Bowyer.

The Busch series doesn't have a Chase. No reason to ignore everybody outside the top ten. Now if they'd just pay a bit more attention to Busch regulars...

Garry said...

Ok. Here goes: The whole 45 minute pre-race was devoted to The Hendrick teams, and the whole post-race was devoted to The Hendrick Teams. Even Casey Mears who finished 16th was interviewed.(Gasp!) They did not interview Kyle Busch, who was leaving Hendrick to go to Gibbs. No mention of Ricky Rudd who hangs up his helmet after 32 years! That's longer than Rick Hendrick has been in the sport, people. No interviews with ANY of the Chase drivers, and, most importantly, NO interviews of the teams that were racing for the top 35 spot for next year.
I mean, for God's sake, they interviewed the back-up crew chief for Jimmie Johnson! That's like interviewing the waterboy for Ohio State.And as an "Oh, by the way" If you took all the excitement from Rick Hendrick, Jimmie Johnson, Chad Knaus, and Jeff Gordon from last night, you could put it in a thimble.
Another side note, but very interesting- For all the people calling for FOX to come back on, Mike joy on Wind Tunnel last night, DW on NASCAR Raceday yesterday, along with Larry Mac, all said(as if it was fed to them by Brian France),"I am tired of hearing about the bad state of the sport.It's not the coverage of the races, it's the bad racing. "Larry Mac even said,"I read on the internet all the time about how bad the coverage is and how bad NASCAR is. There is nothing wrong with NASCAR." Sounds like the spin doctors are gearing up for next years telecasts already.

bevo said...

Halfway through the race, if I did not have to write this column, I would have turned the TV off and never turned it on again. I wonder how many people across the nation, wearing the t-shirt and ball cap of their favorite driver, reached for the remote and voted on the ESPN coverage with one swift click.

That's what I did (minus the hat and shirt) so I didn't add any comments to the race thread yesterday after lap 50 or so. I accept defeat, ABC/ESPN won. They had to do it their way. I listened on Sirius and used FOX Trax while watching the Cowboys game.

Re: ritchie comments -
Yes it's different for a radio call vs. TV. The problem is that we do not get the camera shots of the rest of the field to make up for the lack of information from Dr. Punch and Rusty. If we had plenty of shots of the field we could see the battles going on.

The one bright spot for ESPN was Andy Petree. I have to admit though I too am relieved the season is over because of ABC/ESPN. The ESPN coverage reminds me of those cruise ship horror stories you hear about every now and then. You want to relax and you end up dealing with food poisoning, people falling overboard, sewage backing up and a drunk captain. It's a relief just to make it back to land without sinking.

Thanks ESPN!

Anonymous said...

I agree with your overall critique of the ESPN product, but, to be fair, they did go through the Top 10 with the pit reporters twice during the race (the only reason I remember this was that my favorite driver was in the Top 10 at the time).

It's a correction you may want to make, otherwise ESPN supporters will grab onto this error as a sign that you are not being fair.

Ron P. said...

All I can say is:
"Thank God that's over!"
This was the worst 2nd season coverage ever in the sport. Even the old ABC Wide World of Sports showing 10 minutes of racing was better than this years mess.
This is an open plea to the Board of Directors of NASCAR:
"Please for the Love of God make Brian France and ESPN/ABC go a way!" If for no other reason do it for your Lifestyles and Money. Be fore he make all that go disapear too. He's done it with the fans, he'll do it to your money. Please do not subject the Fans to the horrible coverage next year!!!!!!
With respect,
RJP

Joe from Philly said...

Well said as usual JD!

We turned the radio on just to avoid ESPN audio. It really seemed like we were listening to a different race than was being presented on the Entertainment and Sometimes sports Programming Network.

We got so sick of it at one point, I switched over to the Xbox 360 and played Lego Star Wars with my 4 year old while continuing to listen to the race!!!!

When we switched back, we continued to be annoyed at how little they cared about catching pit stops or letting us know why there was a yellow when returning from commercial.

I forget which caution it was but during a commercial break, MRN called the wreck and we waited....and waited.....and when ESsPN finally returned, they first went through all of their stupid graphics and shots of palm trees before showing us what was going on!!!! The wreck didn't fit their script I guess.


*sigh*

Oh well. We'll have Mike Joy and Larry Mcreynolds back soon enough!

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 9:44AM,

If you check my column, you will see that is says regularly. Twice in a Cup race is not enough.

When we return from a commercial under yellow, catch the restart and then things settle down into single file racing, it should immediately be time for a full field rundown from the pit reporters.

In TV, there is no other way to hear about the cars not on the screen other than to use the pit reporters assigned to those cars to run through the field.

Thanks for your comment.

TexasRaceLady said...

JD, your title needs some alteration -- ESPN didn't go out like a lamb -- it was more like a thieving raccoon sneaking away from the garbage can. That thieving 'coon stole my racing!

I couldn't believe that no one interviewed Ricky Rudd after the race. One of the last "old school" racers deserved some recognition.

I'm in total agreement with some here when I say "bring on FOX and DW" --- even though it hurts just a smidge. :-)

Looking forward to being with you and the rest of this wonderful group next year.

Anonymous said...

First off, if you saw qualifying, you'll remember Dale Jarrett seemingly had tears in his eyes because one of his good friends and employees, Rick Bowman, was very sick and in the hospital because of complications from surgery. I found out that Rick passed away Saturday morning. I know it's not directly related to this blog, but I just want to say my condolences to all his family and friends.

On the subject, I'll just say a few points because I could go on for awhile.

As other posters have mentioned, most of the issue stems from the booth. With the other networks, particularly FOX and SPEED, there's energy, there's excitement, there's times where they finish each other's sentences, there's also information being dispensed to the listeners. As a fan I feed off of the booth because I'm not there to witness the race. With ESPN there's nothing to feed off of. The only one who came close in my opinion to delivering was Andy Petree.

Secondly, it just seemed like ESPN couldn't handle multiple storylines.

One example of this (of several), why would it be so hard when the drivers had settled into a run to show the 40 car, and quickly mention that it's David Stremme's last ride in that car and that he doesn't have a Cup ride for next season yet. It wouldn't have taken much time away from their Jimmie and Jeff show.

Also, I don't get why they feel they have to dumb-down the sport. When I got into racing, there were things that went over my head. But my interest kept me coming back and eventually I learned more of the technical aspects and the history. Yes, it's good to explain things, but if I were a new fan coming in with the way the TV coverage is now, I'd probably be wondering what's so interesting about this.

By the way, JD I feel your pain on realizing you're not going to hear anything about your driver. One of my faves is David Reutimann and I had to wait until this morning when the Toyota release came out to find out that he bounced off the wall, and that's why he fell back in the race.

Last year I wouldn't believe I'd be saying this now, but I miss NBC doing the second half of the season -- at least they tried to show more of the drivers and update the storylines from the garage area.

Anonymous said...

Thank goodness this painful season is over. Hopefully, NASCAR will take notice of all these discussions and undertake some needed changes with their TV partners.

For me, Homestead was great. This was the second time I muted the TV and listened to the play-by-play on Sirius.

Anonymous said...

Two good things about the shoddy coverage is that there was no draft tracker and no Aerosmith. I love Aerosmith, don't get me wrong, but after the first three or four times, that intro got to where it sounded like nails on a chalkboard.

As I've done pretty much all season, I had the volume on the t.v. very low while I listened to my #1 favorite driver Bobby Labonte, his crew chief and spotter on the scanner via TrackPass Pit Command. I was also able to keep track of where Bobby was with the Track Visualizer and watch his lap speeds with the Live Leaderboard. Since the network never shows anyone but the top five drivers, how else am I supposed to know where Bobby is? Or D.J.? Or Junior? Or Happy Harvick? Or Kyle Petty? Or any other drives that I like?

More than likely I will upgrade and buy the full TrackPass package for next season so I can actually watch what's happening on the track via RaceView.

I cannot stress enough to everyone out there how much of a 'lifesaver', although maybe I should call it 'fansaver', TrackPass has been this season. Yes, depending on the level you buy, it can be a tad bit pricey but it is worth every single penny. It's either spend some dough and be able to listen to my driver, MRN (or any other driver) or have lots of stress, anger and frustration because of the networks and their serious lack of coverage.

Chuck said...

JD,
Great recap, have to say I agree with all your points. My biggest pet peeve of the broadcast yesterday was the number of times I heard "gaggle of cars" in reference to the 24 or 48 being in traffic. Seriously, I was yelling at the TV.. just stop!.

Erik said...
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FBU1 said...

Thanks JD for an informative blog.

This past weekend, my cable TV decoder box took a dump. No service calls will be made before Monday. Time for plan B to watch the NASCAR finale.

On Sat., I followed the Busch race with Fox RaceTrax. The local MRN affiliate only carries Cup events. On Sunday, I settled in with MRN, Fox RaceTrax and Jayski updates. This is the first Cup race this season where I relied on MRN for the entire race. This was actually the first race in ages where I felt fully informed, with the exception of the visual element. I discovered that I could "see" the entire race through the eyes of the MRN reporters.

It was a very illuminating experience. One does not realize how incomplete and substandard the TV broadcast is until there is a benchmark for comparison. ESPN's executives have a fundamental difference of opinion with NASCAR fans about what defines a quality broadcast.

A Jayski link on Saturday lead me to an interview with Rich Feinberg, the VP for Motorsports for ABC-ESPN by Mike Mulhern of the Winston-Salem Journal. His own analysis of ESPN's return to NASCAR would appear to highlight ESPN's disconnect with the desires of a knowledgeable fan base. Here are some Feinberg comments from the Mike Mulhern interview:

“The product, in terms of television, we’re proud of the job we’ve done this first year.”
“Yes, we do have a lot of voices, and a good mixture of voices. We’re proud of that."
“We’re in the story-telling business. So we’ve got to find those stories."

Certainly, one cannot fault Mr Feinberg for defending his product. In my opinion, however, the fact that he appears to be most proud of the very elements of the broadcast that infuriate the viewers does not portend significant improvements. The "story-telling" theme, reinforced by "a lot of voices" results in a predetermined myopic vision of what will be reported. The reality of what is unfolding on the track would appear to be irrelevant. As VP of Motorsports, Mr Feinberg should understand that the race on the track IS the story. Viewers do not need a Disney-esque plot line to enjoy a race.

Seiko said...

John,
Thanks so much for a great place to come to comment on "our" sport's coverage over the last year.

I turned off my TV last night and just listened to the radio. After 5+ hours of SPEED before the race. I just couldn't take ESPN anymore.
As bad as Wind Tunnel was at least DW and Joy were on it.

What was the point to showing us the chase standings almost the entire race under the running order? I don't get it. Most people would rather see the intervals constantly running. At least that mattered. The chase was over 2 races ago.

It has pained me every ESPN-ABC show this year. HORRID pit coverage.

They have one of the best guys in NASCAR sitting in the pits (Allen Bestwick) and don't use him. He could have taken over for punch drunk in the booth and would have at least made the races tolerable.


New ESPN motto.
And you thought TNT was bad!!!!

Desmond said...

There goes Erik the butt-kisser again!:)

I don't like celebrity theme songs for any sport at any time. They are simply too distracting. Glad someone put his/her foot down and got rid of Aerosmith. May it be permanent.

As for the pre-race preemption by ABC7, it probably aired a program known as "E/I." That is a show deemed by the FCC to be both educational and informative for children. ABC7 had aired one earlier, at 11:30 a.m., and added another one at the last minute. It may have come from the network, because some of the children's lineup was bumped here to make room for Ohio State vs. Michigan last Saturday, which started at 9 a.m. Pacific time.

Desmond said...

Oops. I meant to say that the program was classified by the FCC as "E/I." That was not the actual name of the show. I do not know that.

Also, I should have emphasized that all broadcast stations in the U.S. must air three hours of this kind of programming each week.

Erik said...
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dubby said...

This is why I pay for NASCAR's 'raceview.'

I found myself sitting in front of the computer so I could see what was going on with Mark Martin.....

ESPN/ABC has been AWFUL....

KoHoSo said...

Having "grown up" in NASCAR with the television crews headed by Bob Jenkins, Eli Gold, and Ken Squier, I was aghast when I saw what Fox was doing with its coverage of the sport. All of the unnecessary bells and whistles, lack of coverage of all of the drivers, the "let's create controversy" or "let's always put each other down" attitudes, "Clueless" Chris Meyers, and the dreaded "Boogity, boogity, boogity" were driving me nuts. I so looked forward to the switch over to the crew led by Allen Bestwick on NBC, even though it had its own shortcomings. Even Bill Weber taking over the play-by-play on NBC was still a relief from what I saw as the over-the-top coverage on Fox.

Now, after an entire year of watching each and every race televised with the crew headed by Dr. Jerry Punch, all the while never seeing any improvement from the first race at Daytona to the finale at Homestead nine months later...

...I can't believe I'm saying this, but...

...I can't wait to return to the sanity of the NASCAR telecasts of Fox.

That pretty much says it all, doesn't it? :(

Dot said...

I found it odd that the "Back in the Saddle" song wasn't played over and over. Of all the times that it made sense to play it now that Jimmie Gordon is the champ again.

Vince said...

I agree with some other posters here. I place a big part of the blame on the guys in the booth. I admire Dr. Jerry's work in the past and know his history and how much he wanted to be "the guy" in the booth. But he just doesn't have "it". I know he has a vast knowledge of all things Nascar and it's participants. But he's about as exciting to listen to as it is to watch paint dry. When he tries to get some emotion in his voice it usually just sounds forced and unnatural. Rusty is just out of his element. All he's shown me is how much he does NOT know about Nascar. I truly think that when he drove he was in his own little world and didn't really comprehend anything outside of his own little world. He needs to spend an afternoon in the fan RV lot at 'dega. He'd learn a lot. I did like Andy and the job he did or tried to do. He's knows the sport as an owner, driver and crew chief. He's well spoken, but let Rusty walk over him too much. For next year I'd like to see AB, DJ and Andy in the booth. I think that with a little time they could be really good.

A personal note to the ESPN/ABC/Disney execs, guys all we want to see is the damn race! We don't care about your imaginary story lines or your constant hype. Just show us the racing, that's all. How hard is that? Tell the booth guys to quit jabbering and talking over each other.
And to listen to what their booth partners are saying. How many times has Rusty repeated exactly what Jerry or Andy has just said? Guys in the booth, reset the field after a caution. Follow up with the pit reporters after a driver has crashed or dropped out. I could go on and on.

The guys in the booth and in the production truck have to remember only ONE THING. You are our eyes and ears. We are not at the race. So it is your job to tell us and show us the action ON THE TRACK. Please!

JD, one comment about your title of this article. ESPN didn't go out like a lamb, they went out like a skunk! Peeeuuu!!!!

Anonymous said...

ESPN has to make changes for next season. I agree with the previous poster that Allen, DJ, and Andy should be in the booth. I think they should move Rusty to the studio to add credibility to the pre-race rather than just having Brad .

Daly Planet Editor said...
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Anonymous said...

JD,

Ricky Rudd was shown during the race. I specifically recall them showing him on the track, mentioning his retirement during the race and saying some nice words about his career. I'm pretty sure it wasn't too long past the halfway point when they showed him, if you recorded it.

JEH said...

JD,I have a question for you.In the race,the ESPN,ABC crew replayed an incident with Reed Sorenson's car on pit road.His car dragged the jack down pit road,at which point if flew out from the car.It's a wonder no one was killed.The crew made no mention of a it being penalty for equiptment leaving the pit stall.Also,Sorenson did not serve a penalty.Do you know why ?

SophiaZ123 said...

Ok, I love all God's creatures, including SKUNKS but must say, I agree with Vince.

We INDEED got SKUNKED!!! A lamb is something sweet and cuddly...a skunk can be as well but it can also attack it's predators with, well, you know.

ESP U's logo should be a SKUNK. As a local consumer reporter says DOESN'T THAT STINK.

Well, when it comes to ABC/ESPN NASCAR coverage, YES IT DO!

I have two skunk gifs and wish i could put them here!! LOL

oh, my...you gotta keep a sense of humor about this stuff.

:-)

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 6:22PM,

I saw it. Did that seem like it was fitting over twenty years of driving hard every single time out? Did that work as a tribute?

Do you know the history of this man in the sport? I was floored they treated him like a "has been."

Newracefan said...

JD, You said everything I would say much better than I can so I won't go on my own personal rant. I can only hope someone with power is listening and will respond to our demands ( I'd say requests but it's moved way beyond request). ESPN needs to understand even those of us who love HMS, JJ, and JG thought the telecast was on overload and wanted the other fans to know how their drivers were doing, or might even have a few others drivers we follow that are not with HMS.
JD, Thanks so much for trying to make it better for all and we'll be right behind you as you continue the fight.

Anonymous said...

I think the saddest thing is....ESPN was the pioneer for quality, informative and enjoyable racing coverage. Before them, we had 30 minutes on Wide World of Sports with some British sports car guy trying to describe NASCAR. Then, along came Ned, Jerry, Benny, and Bob...and I fell in love with NASCAR on ESPN. What happened? Did they fire all the good people and put Disney employees in place instead?
I miss those days of REAL ESPN and TNT coverage (though, I don't miss Ely Gold, he never could pronounce Front Row Joe's name right).

Anonymous said...

Well said John, thanks for being a voice for the masses - we are with you.

Anonymous said...

JD, I'm Anon 6:22PM. Next season I'll probably create a blogger name.

To answer your question: No, I don't think it was as good of a tribute that should've been done. But quite honestly, the way coverage unfolded on ESPN this season I was surprised they said anything at all.

slithybill said...

Here's how much respect ESPN has for NASCAR fans: today's episode of NASCAR NOW will air at 1:30am ET on ESPN2. It follows a college basketball game from Hawaii, so there's no telling when it will actually air, or if it will be "joined in progress".

It repeats at 5:30am, so that's the episode I'm planning on recording.

This may be the last episode of the year. Tuesday's episode at 6:00pm ET now shows "Programming TBD" in its place.

At least "Chasing Glory" is still on at 5:30pm ET.

Respect. It's such a simple concept.

Anonymous said...

John,
You stated it perfect ESPN is a joke to our belived sport. They miss everything of importance. I will be SO Glad to see the FOX crew back in Feb. I just wish NASCAR would cancel the contract they have with ABC/ESPN for lack of performance.

Sandie said...

@slithybill--my DVR still shows NN Tuesday at 6 eastern, I don't have TBD. Could be something with your program guide...but of course who knows *what* will actually happen.

@JD--I agree about Ricky! Yes they may have made a "mention" during the race, but truly after 32 years HE deserved a real tribute on the Pre-Race show!

haus20 said...

The two most over used words by Crusty and Punch Drunk this year...Sailing and Gaggle...those words need to be banned from the ESPN dictionary...


In all reality, unless your driver was in the top five or named Johnson or Gordon, you would have been just as well informed about the status of the race by watching the live leaderboard on Nascar.com. It didn't matter who the driver was, he didn't exist until he could be seen in the camera shot with the race leader.

As someone said in an earlier post...HOTPASS is in HD next year.

LuckyForward said...

Mr. Daly, your forum is an excellent site. And I was able to do what you could not: I left the race to watch football on Sunday, never to return. The "storyline" of Gordon POSSIBLY overcoming Johnson to win was so ridiculous. At the same time, I expected something like that to take place, and it did.

I did not get to see my favorite driver either.

Again, thank you for your excellent insights as well as the opportunity to share our thoughts with you and others.

Desmond said...

The program that pre-empted NASCAR Countdown on ABC7 in Los Angeles was The Suite Life of Zach and Cody. Now, being 35 years old and single with no kids, I am not that familiar with Disney programming. But I doubt that Zach and Cody is an educational and informative show. Still, it's classified at one, and once ABC7 realized that it was short of the required three hours per week, it was slipped in at the last minute.

(Source: tallglassofmilk at AOL Fanhouse)