Saturday, November 17, 2007

SPEED Falls Into The Hype Machine


How many times in sports have we seen it? Two golfers are promoted as going head-to-head on Sunday and they don't even wind-up in the same foursome. Neither one wins the tournament. One ends the day just happy to be off the course.

Two college football teams are touted in the pre-game show as being carbon copies of each other. This game could be epic. Instead, the game is a blow-out and the stands are almost empty in the final quarter.

Experienced TV networks understand that they do not "know" the story of the event in advance. No matter how hard they try, they will never "know" what will unfold once the live action begins.

It is a fundamental truth in sports TV that to focus on one match-up, to focus on one conflict, or to focus on one story before a live event will always get you burned. Friday night, it was SPEED's turn to find that out the hard way.

Krista Voda focused the pre-race show on the Hornaday vs. Skinner match-up without SPEED's normally outstanding balance in coverage. Both reporters Ray Dunlap and Adam Alexander spent the entire thirty minutes talking about seemingly the same subject.

The network's boxing theme of two heavyweights going into battle did not take into account two elements. The rest of the field and Lady Luck. Ultimately, both would play significant roles in upsetting SPEED's pre-planned storyline.

SPEED also dusted off Toyota's biggest shill Darrell Waltrip and tried to pass his presence off as bringing "the big time" to the network. Please. SPEED has invested themselves in this series for years and did not need someone who is not a Truck Series owner, participant, or TV announcer to lend a helping hand.

Before the pre-race was over, SPEED once again made a very strange decision. Instead of giving us a final season run-down of the field with additional interviews, we got a sponsor plug. Jack Roush stopped by to introduce Colin Braun as his new Truck Series driver for next season. The only question was why?

This Ford sponsored race is the last one of the year. The final one. The last pre-race show, the last starting grid, the last time for pre-race interviews. Instead of Todd Bodine, Jack Sprague or Ted Musgrave we got a live video press release.

Two of the biggest stories were Jacques Villeneuve driving in this race and Whelen Modified champ Donny Lia stepping into a Craftsman Truck Series ride. Neither were told. The network had been pulled into an off-balance focus on only one story.

Transitioning from the pre-race to the race itself really told the tale. There were a lot of interviews and a lot of news that was still sitting on the starting grid untouched. That is rare for a network like SPEED that has been delivering high-quality telecasts all season long. Why they got caught-up in this hype is anyone's guess.

Once the race telecast had begun, the story was quickly told. Mike Skinner's problems cost him the championship early, and it was over. Now, the network faced the situation we spoke about earlier.

The single story that SPEED had chosen to focus on and promote was suddenly gone. Now, they had almost an entire race to face-up to the stories unfolding on the track that the network had neglected to cover in the pre-race show.

Rick Allen and Phil Parsons have certainly dealt with a lot of situations this season, and they were up to the challenge of re-orienting the viewers to the reality of the racing on the track. Michael Waltrip continues to be a controversial figure on this series for SPEED. Like him or hate him, Waltrip brings enthusiasm and energy to the telecast that are sometimes lacking from the laid-back Parsons.

After the race ended, SPEED once again fell victim to their pre-race planning. It certainly is hard to compare SPEED even one time to ESPN, but this endless focus on the championship regardless of the overall stories of the race certainly seemed to be almost "ESPN-ish." The pit reporters and the announcers focused on Skinner, Hornaday, and the Harvicks despite the brief and mandatory race winner interview with Johnny Benson.

The strange thing is that SPEED had a lot of time available, and lots of drivers with good stories to tell. Other than the Championship trophy presentation, SPEED declined to follow-up on the very drivers that they featured all season long.

Rick Crawford finished fourth. Young Justin Marks picked up an eighth place result. Matt Crafton, Jon Wood and Todd Bodine finished in a wild race for the twelfth place. Modified champ Donny Lia finished twenty-fifth, only two laps off the pace and never got himself in the way. Lia has a huge fan following in the Northeast.

Rather than continue live, SPEED chose to join an old Survival of the Fastest show in-progress. This is not exactly the way fans wanted the network's normally excellent Truck Series coverage to end.

There was no opportunity for Ray Dunlap, Adam Alexander or Krista Voda to come on-camera to sign-off at the end of a long season. There were no final closing thoughts from Parsons and Waltrip, the race analysts. Finally, there was a rushed closing read by Allen that mentioned the TV crew and then ended abruptly.

NASCAR fans who watched The Craftsman Truck Series on SPEED deserved to have the network stay and talk to as many drivers and crew chiefs as possible. This day was not just about Hornaday and Skinner. It was time to pay-off the stories that SPEED has been following in this series all year long. Unfortunately, it did not happen.

Whether SPEED was pulled into the "hype machine" by ESPN or NASCAR or themselves remains to be seen. One thing is for sure, the "fight" promoted by the network never happened. Let's hope that SPEED took some good notes about putting all the TV eggs in the same basket for next season's finale.

There will be a Craftsman Truck Series TV season in review column on The Daly Planet during the following week. Please keep your comments on this post to the Homestead event and the issues associated with that telecast. Thanks to SPEED for a good long season of good hard Truck Series racing.

The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Simply click on the COMMENTS button below and follow the instructions. Thanks again for stopping by and leaving your opinion.

27 comments:

Anonymous said...

While I agree that the end was awfully rushed, I think you're being a little hard on the SPEED crew.

This was the only series with a real battle for the championship going into the final race. Of course they're going to hype that battle. And the way it ended was a great example of how "anything can happen" during a race. So was the finish.

I enjoyed the broadcast. Certainly substantially better tha anything ESPN's done this season.

SophiaZ123 said...

I was STUNNED they left the air EARLY as was posted by Stricklanfan last night.

WHY? JD you mentioned WHY they should've stayed on the air.

I mentioned last night the DAYTONA HYPE alone sounds like ESPN. I Missed some of the pre truck race show.

But I tell you I was ExTREMELY disappointed in this direction.

If this is going to be the direction SPEED is taking to become like the loathed, detested and despised, ESPN, I will cancel digital cable AND SPEED rather than be aggravated even more next season.

This was very disturbing after a fine season of watching the Truck series. I was flabbergasted they did not at LEAST let the guys in the booth reflect on the year better. Also I would've liked to have seen Crawford interviewed.

I have sung the praises of SPEED mostly, all year but last night at Homestead was a big disappointment.:(

The fact that they left the AIR so early truly RUINED the evening for me.

It was ludicrous.

stricklinfan82 said...

JD,

Along the same lines you left out another obvious example of Speed "Hype". Late in the race during green flag racing they ran a long video showing highlights of the 2002 Daytona 500 to hype up their 100 hours of Daytona Speedweeks coverage in February. Instead of showing us Kyle Busch, Johnny Benson, Ron Hornaday, Mike Skinner, and company racing UNDER GREEN, Speed instead spent several minutes re-airing the drama of Jeff Gordon spinning out late, Sterling Marlin pulling his fender under yellow, and Ward Burton scoring the surprising victory in a Cup race from almost 6 years ago. Terrible decision, something I never expected from the Speed boys.

stricklinfan82 said...

Make that Sterling Marlin pulling out his fender under RED, not yellow, LOL. Had he pulled out his fender under yellow that might have made it a highlight worth interrupting the truck race for.

Busch Series Fan! said...

Yes, I thought it rather strange showing a Daytona 500 race almost 6 years ago. Being a CAT employee, we were happy with the finish and Ward's win but I thought it was uncalled for to show the highlights during green flag racing last night.

Anonymous said...

Proof, if any was needed, of the arrogant,self-serving and stupid nature of race coverage fans have been dealing with this year.

This attitude of "why let reality get in the way of a good story" is killing interest in a fantastic sport.

The worst part about it is wondering what the future holds for the sport, and what part the current network partners will play. Can these old dogs really learn new tricks? Or better yet, can these new dogs learn some old tricks?

Regressing the coverage back to a 1998 style isn't possible, but it would be possible to take some of the things that made those broadcasts fun and interesting to watch, and apply them to today's paradigm.

What's being presented right now won't continue for long because it's not working.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Maybe too many SPEED management cooks on-site all trying to "help" make the Craftsman Truck soup?

Anonymous said...

Yeah - SPEED really seemed strange last night.

They had a perfect chance to carry their audience over to Trackside but they go to an old Survival?

Crazy. It's not like SPEED knows how to fill 15 minutes from a track.

PlayingTime said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Richard in N.C. said...

JD- I appreciate your opinion, but as a long-time NASCAR & Truck series fan and a fan of both Skinner and Hornaday, I was just as interested in the Truck race as Sunday's Cup race and did not object to SPEED's intro. The head-to-head of 2 "old" veterans did not come off, but that was the story I was most interested in - so I taped the race just in case.

Now as to the lack of an ending, you are spot on.

Daly Planet Editor said...

richard,

I am also a big fan, but the other guys should just not be abandoned. SPEED told the same story twice in the pre-race, and then told it again in the race open.

Just one walk-through of the field like Wendy does on RaceDay would have got us all up to speed in only a couple of minutes.

Sandie said...

@sophia--I doubt it as they've ended early before and have stayed until the window was over. I can only think of *maybe* 2 times off hand in the time that SPEED has had the Pick 'em Ups that they've left early. But yes in the final race it definitely was surprising.

midwest race fan said...

JD - I really enjoy your website and I have told you this before in past comments. I was working and not able to watch the truck race, but like many ..I do enjoy the trucks and the way speed channel covers them. I TIVO'd the race and look forward to watching it back and see how over hyped this show was. I don't know if I agree with your thoughts, the hype for the championship was the story! it was better then jimmie and jeff. Over hype for a championship happens in all sports. Everyone loves some drama. what would've you done differently then what speed channel did?
midwest race fan

Daly Planet Editor said...

midwest race fan,

Just as I said in the above post, put a walk through of the field in the pre-race so it could be updated in the race.

The championship is a story, not the story. It is only recently that it has taken over the entire final race.

If Skinner had gone out on the first lap, SPEED would have told us what about the remaining trucks other than the pole sitters prior to air? That would be nothing.

This is a classic sports lesson of putting all the eggs in one basket. The bottom line is, Hornaday and Skinner did not race each other and Ron finished calmly in the top ten for the championship.

Meanwhile, the race itself was great. Two stories that unfolded naturally and should have both been previewed and followed.

Don't get me wrong, this is by far and away the best NASCAR series of the year as far as live TV goes.

We will discuss the Truck season in a later post. Thanks.

JD

Anonymous said...

I think SPEED bought into their own hype - afterall it was the "closest Championship battle" of the three series.

I couldn't believe they left the air early. "Survival of the Fastest" wasn't even scheduled to be shown then, so how were they "joining their normally scheduled program already in progress"? The Truck Race coverage was supposed to lead directly into Trackside, at least according to all the earlier promos they gave us.

I was also surprised by the Daytona promo during green flag laps, but at least they held Ray Dunlap's sponsor-obligated "Tools of the Trade" until after the race. I think they even ran it after Hornaday was presented with his Championship trophy. Normally that spot runs during the race. Maybe it was pre-empted by all the "SpeedWeeks in HD" promos.

But overall I enjoyed the race and SPEED's coverage.

Anonymous said...

I was only disappointed that SPEED didn't cover the whole pack like they normally do. They would have predicted Benson's strong showing(win) had they opened their eyes during practices and were looking for stories. Their were rookie stories and guys changing rides and looking for rides next season; teams changing, slightly or rearranging and even a sale I think I heard about...anyway. They missed a lot of stories.
Coffee

Anonymous said...

oops, I can't spell:

"...looking for stories. Their were rookie stories and..."

'their' should have been 'there' in my previous comment.
Coffee

ruddrpm said...

Uh...Travis Kvapil was 400+ points out in 3rd going into this race. Everybody else's story has been told all year long. What's wrong with a little championship hype?! Does anybody EVER get covereage at Homestead other than the championship contenders?! JB won the race & that's great, but he was still a no-show as far as points are concerned. He got his last lap pass & victory lane coverage. Let Hornaday have his friggin' night already, whats wrong with that?!......

Daly Planet Editor said...

ruddrpm,

No one is saying in any way to decrease the importance of the championship.

The fact is that this is the only NASCAR national series that airs on SPEED and they left the air early instead of staying live and talking to drivers and crew chiefs.

The fact is they did the Hornaday vs. Skinner thing twice in the pre-race and then again in the race opening.

The issue is why they avoided anything but a very brief Jon Wood and Kyle Busch pre-race interview.

Drivers and teams raced all year, finished in the top ten in points, and then get avoided by the only network that covers the series because they left the air early?

Someone decided not to go directly into Trackside with live post-race interviews. Why?

ri8girl said...

Why dress Krista all up, glam up her make-up (is that hyphinated?) then have her change into 'work' clothes for the race? It's a stupid little thing, but in some ways very emblematic of the whole broadcast.

JD tell me someone from SPEED management reads this blog so we don't have our only good network suddenly go off the reservation.

Daly Planet Editor said...

ri8girl,

Like a lot of networks, SPEED has made a commitment to clothing sponsors. I do not know if the current agreement just means free clothing, or the network is paid, but as you can see on the air everyone is attired a certain way.

As Krista transitioned from host to pit reporter, she had to climb in the right gear for the job.

While I am glad the network uses Krista, I wish she was able to host the post-race as well and avoid the kind of problem that we saw with the Homestead race.

Let the guys in the booth go home, and let Krista host the post-race activity.

JD

pogeyboat said...

i think the truck series shows the lack of need for the chase. two going for the championship in both series one with the chase,one without, so whats the big deal with the chase?

whats with the seeming need for the waltrips? enough already. i don't know how many times i yelled at the tv for mikey to just shut up. he's overbearing and rude on every show he 's on. i've reached my saturation point with both of them.

why so much with krista? they have a jewel in wendy,let her shine!

speed is the best package along with mrn,wish they would review their best of the year and build from that. would be a waste for them to become espn 3.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

get rid of that jerk waltrip

batchief said...

I for one was glad to see Krista doing pit road reporting. I would imagine she didn't mind if for no other reason than to keep her pit road skills as she will be back on Fox come February in the pits.
I think 3 pit reports are better for information than the 2 that Speed has been using most of the time this year for the truck races. As far as the comment about Wendy being a jewel for Speed and I am sure they also think so, but don't forget, Krista is considered a jewel by both Fox and Speed and has been for 6 years now.

Anonymous said...

The SPEED Channel put, of all people, "Riki Rachtman" on Nascar Raceday....need I say more? Yeah, they're pretty out of touch, I'd say...so Friday's coverage(or the lack thereof) didn't surprise me much.

Anonymous said...

First let me preface this with, I despise being mean spirited or negative, and I have no preference of networks that broadcast as long as I enjoy the race, but nothing ESPN does can drive me as crazy as what the Waltrip brothers do. I don't want them fired, but only to start acting like smarter,more educated adults. Stop putting on the clown or comedian acts,as they are not on the Blue Collar Comedy tour,not the least bit funny, only aggravating. So to me, who started watching many truck races,INCR, but could not take Michael, and DW, and his BOOGITY BLAH, BLAH, BLAH, which may be the dumbest and most aggravating thing on TV,please, please work on these things in the of season. Also DW,spend a little time and do some homework and preparation for the broadcasts as you may be the worst prepared commentator on any TV broadcast. This could become my Holiday Wish!!