Thursday, December 6, 2007

NASCAR Fans: ESPN Wants Your Feedback!

Those were the exact words that appeared on the "subject" line of an email to NASCAR fans who signed-up for the ESPN Fan Zone this season.

The Wednesday, December 5th message from ESPN linked fans to a survey that promised some NASCAR content. What it wound-up giving many people was a glimpse of just how out-of-touch ESPN is with the sport.

Earlier this season, when ESPN's problems began, The Daly Planet urged readers to join the Fan Zone and provide feedback to ESPN about NASCAR issues. Fans added comments to blogs, sent email to NASCAR Now, and also forwarded email to ESPN about their coverage directly. The results were immediate.

Any blog entry with an unfavorable review of ESPN's NASCAR coverage was promptly deleted by the employees at the website. Email to NASCAR Now was met with polite responses, but no follow-up. Email sent to the other ESPN NASCAR contacts was sometimes acknowledged, but never answered.

ESPN was in lock-down and had all their wagons circled. They never expected this kind of attack from the NASCAR "Indians" about their sports TV coverage. After all, it's what the network has done for over twenty-five years. Suddenly, out of the blue, a focused and very dedicated group of informed fans was not happy with The Worldwide Leader in Sports Television.

Wednesday, fans finally got their response. A marketing survey on the Internet that allowed fans to win prizes if they took the time to fill it out. ESPN indicated that once the survey was completed, fans "will be automatically entered into an ESPN Fan Zone prize drawing to win 1 of 20 exclusive ESPN prizes." Basically, rate their NASCAR a hat.

We have all had surveys sent to us by various companies, but this one really packed a wallop. It began with the normal NASCAR questions like do you watch the coverage, how many races did you watch, and are you familiar with the ESPN personalities that cover NASCAR? That certainly seems harmless, but then it got very interesting.

The survey actually had pictures of the following ESPN announcers. Jerry Punch, Rusty Wallace, Andy Petree, Dale Jarrett, Tim Brewer, Brad Daugherty, Marty Reid and Allen Bestwick. Fans were asked if they recognized them, and then prompted to rate them on a one-to-five scale about their work on ESPN and ABC's NASCAR coverage this past season.

Other than Dale Jarrett and Marty Reid, all of the other names listed above had just finished working a grueling ten months on the road for ESPN. Each of them had made a commitment to ESPN for the season, and honored it. There is no doubt in any one's mind that this group put a year of their lives in the hands of the ESPN NASCAR production team.

Throughout the season, well-meaning fans sent suggestions to ESPN about everything from the action on the track to using the Infield Studio for qualifying. They addressed the NASCAR Now show, lack of coverage on ESPN News, and the poor treatment of the Busch Series down the stretch. One thing almost everyone focused on at one time or another was the announcers.

TV is not rocket science. If it was, I certainly would not be involved in it. What person who is a NASCAR fan did not know or discuss the ESPN problems this season? One quick surf around the Internet would turn-up thousands of posts about the incredible problems with the very TV fundamentals of racing that many believed ESPN created back in the 1980's.

To pretend that NASCAR fans can simply "judge" these men in the same way they would rate a song or a sitcom is ridiculous. It belittles the effort of those announcers listed above and seemingly portrays ESPN as a group so out-of-touch with the fans they have no idea that their problems are internal.

Regardless of the on-air issues this season, imagine being Jerry Punch. After becoming a household name with ESPN on the network's original NASCAR coverage, you chose to stay with ESPN when the NASCAR contract moved-on. You stepped into a world of college football and other athletics with dignity, and did whatever the company asked you to do from Lumberjack competitions to the Winter X Games.

Now, your picture is posted on a marketing survey so fans can tell some big computer in the sky that you stink with the click of a mouse. It certainly brings-up the issue of how something like is going to make Punch feel about his long-term employers. It certainly will not go over well with his agent.

Sometimes, you can just tell where a survey is going by the questions it asks as it proceeds. This time, it was not very hard to do. Squarely in the aim of the ESPN survey gun sights were Andy Petree, Rusty Wallace, Tim Brewer and Brad Daugherty.

Petree and Daugherty were singled-out for the royal treatment. Fan Zone users were given the opportunity to type what they liked best and liked least about the NASCAR coverage efforts of both of these men. Then, the fun part came.

On a scale from one to five, how well does each of the following words or phrases describe each man? Here were the actual choices. Cool, annoying, credible, offensive, likable, funny, avid NASCAR fan, knowledgeable and entertaining.

Brewer and Wallace escaped the word association, but fans still got to rate them and then type-in what was best and worst about their efforts. Imagine...actually writing in to ESPN about some TV issue that a fan might have with Mr. Wallace this season. What a novel idea.

The survey ended with some standard demographic information, but the damage was already done. The fact that the network "group emailed" this across the nation to fans is beyond ridiculous. Once again, ESPN had treated NASCAR with such an incredibly low level of respect it boggles the mind.

Announcers may be the face of a sport, but at a national level problems with a telecast lay squarely at the feet of the Producer and his boss, the Coordinating Producer. There is no one else to blame. They call the shots, they create the telecast, and they "tell" the announcers what to do constantly. The "content" of a sports telecast that viewers see as the final finished product is the responsibility of the Producer.

Time-after-time, TV viewers watched Jerry Punch stutter and stammer because he was being told what to do by the Producer and he knew it was wrong. He knew something else should be going-on and he did not have the power to correct it.

Remember when DJ, an ESPN part-time announcer, crashed on the track and was never heard from again? Jamie McMurray and others also had hard crashes but the network wanted to go "somewhere else" with the broadcast. This happened because the Producer was sticking with his ESPN "story-telling" agenda. NASCAR fans do not need a survey for that. We all saw it.

Did Jerry Punch pick Aerosmith? Did he dig into his CD collection for Rihanna and create the three hours of racing from Long "Shut-Up And Drive" Pond, PA? Did Rusty Wallace create the Draft Track? Do you think he called down and said "let's use the Draft Track again instead of resetting the field out of this commercial?"

Does anyone believe that Tim Brewer said "let me explain just one more time about the COT splitter, I don't quite think they got it the last fifty times?" Are there viewers who believe Andy Petree saw a driver walk out of the Infield Care Center and said, "he looks fine...we don't need to talk to him. He does not have a lot of fans anyway."

Nothing on this survey asked about the ESPN Producer or his performance. It did not ask about ESPN's production elements like the Infield Studio, Draft Tracker, lower third sports ticker, SportsCenter Updates, the Tech Center, in-race reporter or the dreaded Full Throttle.

It never said on a scale of one to five, how does it make you feel as a fan when we leave the race without talking to anyone other than the winner? Did you get angry that college football devastated the Busch Series races and the Happy Hour telecasts? Were you upset that ESPN dropped coverage of NEXTEL Cup early practices...even for "The Chase" races?

Instead, it came down to rating the faces and the voices without having any idea of what they were being told to do, and what they were doing naturally. Instead of putting the on-air talent on the hotseat alone, ESPN should aim squarely at the veteran NASCAR team inside the TV production truck, and their senior managers at the network.

In cleaning up this mess, there is plenty of work to do in all areas of the network staff. That includes those who do not show their faces and whose names are not household words. Maybe another survey will be out soon.

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 taking the time to stop-by and leave your opinion.


Matt said...

Very well-written article and I agree with all of your points. It's sometimes hard not to point the finger at a specific person during the broadcast, but we must remember that they are just one member of the entire production team.

I watch old ESPN broadcasts and just compare what they did then as opposed to now. I can only hope that someone from ESPN is doing the same thing.

SophiaZ123 said...

WOW..that is very lame of ESPN to indeed, reduce their guys to a mouse click and a pre picked out word?!

As much as I disliked ESPN's coverage and the chemistry in the booth, the bigger problem was the production/director/camera crew. CRIPES.

Instead, it sounds like ES P U wants folks to complain about the "messengers" instead of the faceless, behind the scenes folks..and I might add the POWERS THAT BE are gutless.

Why? Because we screamed, railed, ranted, kvetched and in between, gave GREAT criticism. It all fell on deaf ears.





Now they are sending out a pathetic email like the one you mentioned, JD, and expect THAT to be their answer.

This just proves even MORE how out of touch they are....For Dr. Punch to be reduced to such rubble is unforgivable.

Even though I am no fan of Rusty wallace, he can not be blamed for the ENTIRE PRODUCTION DEBACLE treatment that ESPN did to NASCAR.

Also, I just read how MNF had it's highest ratings EVER for ESPN to praise and worship THEMSELVES more over....So, I do not expect ESPN to change a da** thing next season.

MNF had good teams playing I read...and not to mention, TV full of reruns and reality crap.

It's truly depressing when we reflect back.

JD you hit the nail on the head repeatedly with articles.

Nobody cared, except a few of us on this big blue ball that we call Earth.

Oh, and all the pie in the sky GOOGLE SHOTS were useless as was the zoom zoom cameras but that wasn't mentioned in this mass email either I suspect?

Or ...whatever.

Anonymous said...

JD, you write this article as if performance surveys are unheard of in this industry. I know for a fact, NBC does this regularly with NBC News, NBC primetime programing, and CNBC. Are upset with the fact that this survey was sent out, or the way the questions were posed?

stricklinfan82 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
stricklinfan82 said...

Ha! This is absolutely hilarious.

All this does is give ESPN a cheap way to say "we're doing our job and reaching out to the fans for their input", when in reality they aren't doing a darn thing to try to make their product any better.

Why is ESPN completely afraid to listen to the very specific constructive criticisms of their coverage and make some changes????? Shouldn't ESPN want to do everything possible to make their product better and give people a reason to tune in to their network? Why insist on being stubborn and doing things "your way" instead of the way the people watching want you to?

NASCAR fans are the people watching these broadcasts, so why not cater the broadcasts to what the people watching want to see?

As you said JD, TV isn't rocket science. ESPN can't even handle the most fundamental part of televising a NASCAR race, qualifying session, or practice session - KEEPING THE CAMERAS FOCUSED ON THE RACE TRACK! Viewers don't want to see video packages, studio guests, draft tracks, a behind the scenes look at the ESPN pit studio, or pre-taped interviews covering the entire TV screen while cars are on the track. We just want to see the track, that shouldn't be so difficult!

"Do you recognize this person?", "Rate this person on a scale of 1-5", and "Which of these words best describe this person?".... Yeah, this survey is really going to fix the numerous specific coverage issues ESPN had this past year. Give me a break!

JD, I noticed in your Q&A article that all the potential future guests you mentioned are all in the Fox family of announcers. Have you reached out to any TNT or ESPN TV folks as well and if so have any of them either accepted or declined your invitation?

Anonymous said...

Well written article JD. But no-one at ESPN seems to understand how upset the NASCAR fans are with their horrible coverage.

You would think that Mr. Brian France or someone at ESPN would listen and get the rating back up.

Instead they are trying to find reason and ways to blame it on something else.

Keep up the good work with your articles.

Maybe someone at ESPN will read your article and think.

Shorebilly said...

You missed one important point...the Chase Banquet..on ESPN Classic!!! I think I'm the only person on this end of the county who subscribes to enough DishNet in order to receive ESPN Classic. And to add insult to injury, the BUSH Awards will be broadcast on ESPN HD channel no less!! Shame on the folks at ESPN who hate us NASCAR fans!!
Another point is the "floating" time spot for NASCAR really never knows when to tune in to that matter what time it was scheduled to air!!
And don't forget that ignorant yahoo who sounds like Howard Cosell...can the bastard.....or banish him from ever announcing any NASCAR related programming again.
Oh Yeah...almost forgot...please inform the folks at ESPN that the greater majority of NASCAR fans could care less about ALL of the races in their entirety....folks at ESPN who are reading may schedule your race times now, the 2008 NASCAR schedule has been posted for a few weeks now....I sincerely doubt that you could schedule Tennis matches this far in advance!!
ESPN, do the job correctly, or give the contract to FOX, a network who at least understands NASCAR.
And while I'm at it...why haven't the "powers that be" in NASCAR forced the folks at ESPN to clean up their act??

Glenn Klima
New Milton, WV

Todd said...

JD, your post hits home 100% as always. My problem with taking the ESPU survey, is when I tried to go to it, all I got was "incorrect password" I never thought I'd say That I can't wait for "boogity, boogity, boogity" again, but I can't wait for the PRO's at Fox to fuel my NASCAR habit!

Daly Planet Editor said...

To try and call this a performance review survey is impossible. If there were no other problems, and the on-air talent alone was being evaluated, this might have some merit.

Instead, the actual problem of not having a team in charge that understands and respects the sport is being ignored.

How do you save face as an announcer when you are being told to do things that are clearly wrong? Punch and company know the sport, and they know what should be done, does anyone believe they are the actual reason it is not happening?

SallyB said...

It seems to me that the 'survey' on ESPN is fairly typical of most Nascar related surveys... they aske questions, then skew the choice of answers to support the opinsion they wany. For instance, a survey might typically ask: What do you think about the 'Chase for the Championship? It should only have 5 drivers, It should have 10 drivers, It should have 15 drivers.
Notice that "Can it!" is not an option. Surveys typically look good on the furface, but seldom give fans an opportunity to really say how they feel.

Anonymous said...

While I see you point JD, I also think it is fair that, after all the complaints we has about on-air talent's performance this year, we rate them.

These guys were not blameless when it comes to the braodcasts' poor quality.

No one told Rusty to say "Driving their brains out/Driving the wheels off that car" 10 times a race for example.

But I do agree that the real problem is, this "survey" doesn't address the core problem: the EP doesn't understand NASCAR or its fans and is delivering an embarrassingly-bad product as a result.

Vince said...

Great article JD. Once again another example of ESPN's execs lack of understanding about the real issues in their coverage overall. It's not just the announcers. It's the whole package. The whole production was lame from the top down.

As someone who's taken and administered plenty of these type of surveys in the past, I can assure you every survey has an agenda. It is very easy to word the questions in such a way that you will get the desired results. As you like to say, it's not rocket science.

They've obviously picked their scapegoats and want the fans to "help" them validate their selection. Then they can come back later and say, hey we listened to the fans and acted on it.

glenc1 said...

"ESPN was in lock-down and had all their wagons circled." The mixed metaphor did make me laugh, but I get what you're saying...

This is what I've believed all year long, that the *producers* are the ones who ought to be taking most of the heat (although anonymous 7:26 has a point about the 'driving your brains out' thing--don't forget "I tell you what"...although we'd like to...) Anyways, it's always easy to blame the faces you see instead of the ones you don't. They need to look at the entire production and make some serious changes to how they cover races--but it sounds like they still refuse to listen to what the fans *really* think.

Speedcouch said...

Excellent points, John! More fans need to realize that the producer is the one coaching the announcers and has overall control of what we see and hear during the broadcasts.

Busch Series Fan! said...

Yes blaming the guys that we see on tv isn't entirely correct either although they've certainly made a lot of blunders during the broadcasts. I think that ESPN should start with the producers and work down to get the telecasts watchable at least. My nephew in Cleveland does a better job on his sports talk show than these guys and I know that ESPN is putting a whole lot more money into their races. I did not receive a survey either. Maybe things will improve next season . . . . .

earl06 said...

Wow. I keep thinking it's impossible for ESPN to sink any lower, but they prove me wrong time and time again.

I know! At the Daytona 500, ESPN can have 800-numbers scrolling across the screen so you can vote for your favorite track personalities. We'll call it, "Announcing with Brent Musberger" and eliminate one person each race until Jamie Little has to do the whole race by herself.

I guess there's no such thing as being too dumb to work at ESPN.

Anonymous said...

I received the ESPN email. I answered the questions but told them in the "remarks box" that the trouble was not really the on air guys. The biggest problem is with the producers and directors. Doubt it will do any good, but we can only hope.

Anonymous said...

Amy said...

This sounds like an orchestra that I played in back in the late 90's and the turn of the century. They hired a new conductor who happened to be female and the good ole boys that were in the orchestra led a coup to get rid of her using surveys. The orchestra was a community orchestra and the female conductor was going to take it to the next level. The orchestra surveyed the audience and the musicians constantly. That was a ploy to get everyone behind them and fire her. The concertmaster ended up getting the conductorship without a new open search for a conductor. He was offered the job before they hired the female but turned it down and when the guy that he wanted to get the spot ended up not getting it, he realized that he wanted it to begin with and led the coup. The politics sucked.

I just hope that ESPN really looks at what the fans are saying with an open mind and try to fix things. I love Nascar but I really hope that they fix it before they lose fans. I also love college football and enjoy watching the other sports as well so I can see the problem with the scheduling as one live event can go long especially in football when there is the possibility of overtime. The program of poker could be moved to a channel that not everyone gets.

I also think that Nascar needs to wake up and realize that not everyone has cable/satellite and from the time that Fox leaves Nascar until the races go to ABC there is no Nascar to watch and the interest can wane seriously. I have a friend that is in that position and that family is losing interest and the interest is going to the NFL.

The above is just my humble opinion.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
JD, you write this article as if performance surveys are unheard of in this industry. I know for a fact, NBC does this regularly with NBC News, NBC primetime programing, and CNBC. Are upset with the fact that this survey was sent out, or the way the questions were posed?

December 7, 2007 12:04 AM

I also get email surveys from the NBC survey group, and in general those surveys ask very specific questions about the shows (once they determine you are a viewer of a certain show), not the specific actors and actresses (or news anchors) on them.

So that's different from what is being discussed here. ESPN should have taken a cue from NBC polling and asked specific questions about how the viewer judged the actual NASCAR race broadcasts, not "rate the broadcaster".

Don said...

I guess the Thousands of emails they received that said "YOU SUCK" wasn't good enough to get through to them

Anonymous said...

Like another anon earlier I also gave feedback regarding producers/directors and issues other than announcers. I appreciated that they at least had a place to comment about the announcers not just the "on a scale of" questions. I watch IRL races and the only thing I remember yelling about was Rusty's announcing, not the coverage. A poor announcer is a poor announcer even in a well produced show. I was polite though and said Rusty was probably a nice man, just that announcing wasn't his calling. The bottom line: if their intent was to calm the Nascar crazies by sending out a survey, they are "crazy". Next year they won't get blasted with emails, we will just go elsewhere for our coverage of races.

stricklinfan82 said...

To try and call this a performance review survey is impossible. If there were no other problems, and the on-air talent alone was being evaluated, this might have some merit.

Instead, the actual problem of not having a team in charge that understands and respects the sport is being ignored.

How do you save face as an announcer when you are being told to do things that are clearly wrong? Punch and company know the sport, and they know what should be done, does anyone believe they are the actual reason it is not happening?


I couldn't agree with you more. I brought up the issue of the ESPN announcers not being the problem during the Charlotte in-race comments. I was watching Hotpass and they didn't follow the network to the commercial on one of the channels, so I was able to listen to the ESPN booth talk during the breaks.

It was shocking to listen them talk amongst themselves about what was going on on the track. They made comments like "The 48 car is the fastest car out there despite all the damage" and "Dave Blaney is having a great run isn't he?", and Andy Petree even said "the 24 car is going to win this race" (long before he ever took the lead and eventually went on to win the race). For some reason though, when the broadcast came back from commercial, Jimmie Johnson's march through the field after a crash was totally ignored, Dave Blaney's good run wasn't mentioned, and the prognostication of Jeff Gordon eventually winning the race never made the airwaves. I blame this on the guys in the truck, not the guys in the booth, because the announcers, at least on that night, were clearly up to speed on most of the stories going on in the race.

I think it's unfair to blame Rusty Wallace for "draft tracks". I seriously doubt that was his idea, so what else do you want the guy do to when the voices in his ear tell him to describe what's being shown on the screen? Tim Brewer's hands are completely tied with the ridiculous Dish Tech Center, and he comes across looking terrible when all he's guilty of is doing what he's told.

Suzy Kolber is a great broadcaster, but she simply doesn't belong on a NASCAR broadcast. She's taken a lot of heat from NASCAR fans, but I don't blame her, I blame the "powers that be" that put her in this position.

Brent Musburger is a football guy that obviously doesn't take NASCAR seriously based on his comments like "luckily the Cowboys don't play until 8:15 so there are actually people here in Texas to see this race", "there's a Cup race on ABC tomorrow so why not check it out when the NFL game you're watching is on commercial?", and "Obviously fans have long given up on the winless Dolphins so there is a great crowd here in Homestead for this race". I don't blame him for taking the paycheck for doing next-to-nothing and having no useful role on the race broadcasts. I'd do the same thing in his position. Again, I blame the powers that be at ESPN.

These on-air personalities are at the mercy of the suits at ESPN and the guys producing and directing these broadcasts. So for ESPN to single them out as the only people that the viewers at home should be evaluating is totally unfair.

Anonymous said...

I feel really bad for these guys. Obviously they're going to get wind of it. In the words of Michael Scott, "You expect to get screwed by your company. You don't expect to get screwed by your girlfriend."

Anonymous said...

I guess the Thousands of emails they received that said "YOU SUCK" wasn't good enough to get through to them

They're looking for a scapegoat so they don't have to address the actual problem.

Anonymous said...


Nobody at ESPN understands NASCAR and they all still think it is a backwoods redneck sport! (hee-haa)

Thanks Brainless Brian!

GinaV24 said...

I laughed when I saw this survey come through on my e-mail. I had hopes that it would actually allow me to comment and address the issues that were ignored by ESPN AND NASCAR during the season. As someone else wrote -- I guess the e-mails saying "you suck" weren't good enough for them. Instead there was a popularity contest shown. Well, I answered the questions anyway figuring it was the only chance for me to put my two cents in on this topic. I did write comments, too, detailing the "other" issues, like the production problems and the stupid storyline idea that ESPN just can't get over, as well as, "what happened to my driver" dammit! I have my doubts that anything will really come out of this survey, but I gave them my input anyway! Well thought out and good article, as always, John. So they were deleting anything critical of ESPN's coverage were they? I'm not surprised -- sounds like they fit right in with NASCAR's theme of don't disagree with anything we say -- we know what's best for you!

slithybill said...

ESPN's problem is with the people in the control truck more than the people in the booth.

I think the problem with ESPN's race coverage is that they took their live sports "formula" that works with baseball and football and basketball and just plugged NASCAR into the equation. I watched a college football game on ESPN a couple of weeks ago and noticed all the things during the game that so annoy me during a race: "intro" song (which really started with Monday Night Football I think), cross-sport promos, hip-hop bumpers into and out of breaks, etc. I've been watching games on ESPN all season and I realized it never really bothered me because I knew I wasn't missing any of the action on the field. And that's the biggest problem I have with ESPN: missing the racing on the track. I think the on-air personalities wouldn't be nearly as annoying to me if I was seeing what was happening on the racetrack while I was listening to their banalities.

No matter who is in the booth, the race is going to be a disaster to the television viewer if the right coverage isn't being called from the control truck. Even if that control truck does have enough equipment in it to land the space shuttle.

elena said...

Very well said, JD. As has been said, corporations that float surveys are not always pure of heart. They know the answer they want, and just have to ask the questions that will provide said answers.

Surveys also create a diversion. While Rome is burning, fans are filling out questionnaires.

I believe that both NASCAR and ESPN know that fans are not happy, but think they can deal with them. They tell themselves that it takes time to accept changes. They might ascribe to the fact that changed race coverage in the new milenium will take fans time to get used to and accept, like with instant replay in football.

As with any organization, when you convince the suits to spend mega millions in technology gadgets, new programming ideas and formats, your chosen on-air personnel, etc., you cannot go back and say "My bad!" Instead you defend your ideas and find fault with those who were in charge of executing it, and the survey is born.

The careers of those who dreamt this up, are in peril, and these folks will not go down easily. Presidents of large organizations are like Presidents of the United States in that when the chose someone to be in their cabinet, regardless of the revelation of the cabinet member's incompetance, they defend them to the end.

Until there are changes at the very top, I don't expect the concerns that have been outlined to be addressed quickly. Having said that, I don't think we as fans should stop trying to bring about a sea change in ESPN.

SophiaZ123 said...

Well, I just read the Chili Bowl is going PAY-Per-View?! on HBO at #24.95.

Gee, maybe NASCAR will go that route and hiss off the rest of the TRUE fans and price us RIGHT OUT of the ballpark, so to speak.

Actually, I am MOST DISTURBED the Brian France acts like, NOW that HE has the money, "NASCAR has no control over the broadcasting?"???????????????

What the hell did that mean anyway..If your LIVELIEHOOD is a legendary family business, WHY DOESN'T THE FRANCE FAMILY i.e. NASCAR have any say over the PUTRID treatment and coverage. I realize many of us have brought that up but the bigger question (yes, bigger than why does PeeSPN STINK to high heavens is WHY IS THIS SPORT ALLOWED to go down hill?

Why is ESPU being given FREE REIN.


God knows NASCAR broke the contract with the Craftsman Truck series early. Maybe we are all being duped and the sponsor changes should really be ESPN NASCAR.

If indeed BF feels TPTB has no control over how the partners BROADCAST the races.

I would like SOMEBODY in the media to answer that but nobody has the guys or will lose their job apparently.


SophiaZ123 said...

p.s. Should have read "Guts" not guys.

elena said...

I sent an email to the ESPN ambudsman, LeAnn Schreiber some time back. But I think that unless she gets hundreds of emails on a particular beef, she ignores the one or 2 on a subject.

I'm curious how many have ever emailed her your thoughts on NASCAR coverage? She is supposed to be the public's representative.

Anonymous said...

Very, very well-written article. I agree with all of your statements JD. Here is another thing to consider as well: when they brought Neil Goldberg over from FOX-the same FOX that had given many a reason to celebrate when ESPN announced they were coming back-to produce ESPN's coverage, I knew right away that ESPN's coverage was going to be junk.

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

The only reason that ESPN sent out the survey was so they could say that they "listened to the fans" and made changes to there coverage. It is all a smoke screen. I really don't expect that anything will change as far as the actual coverage goes for next year. The announcers might change but the race coverage will still be bad.

Anonymous said...

ESPN, Here it is, "Short 'N' Sweet".
Do the entire Nascar fan base a huge favor and sublet your entire contract to SPEED !!!!!
Then get the hell away from Nascar and stay away FOREVER !!!!!


Anonymous said...

Keep bitching about your free racing, and watch it go to Pay per View...Chili Bowl will be PPV joing the NASCAR drivers event from last summer It won't be long!!!

Anonymous said...

Why did they send out a survey, if they want to know how they are doing - just ask let everyone get off their chests what they really think, I could send a survey out and ask dumb s--- but what would it accomplish? nothing.

Anonymous said...

I wish Nascar racing was only on one channel.We all know that SPEED is the absolute best when it comes to covering NASCAR.

ESPN is so far out of touch with the real race fans they can't find their rears with both hands.

If the producer is so bad(and apparently they are) then replace that person with someone who is a real race fan. Someone who has the knowledge of what order things should be done in. I'm not a producer but I am a race fan. Even I would be able to follow what order things should be covered in.

As far as rating the announcers, the only one in the whole bunch that is even worth anything is Allen Bestwick. So if ESPN is looking to enhance their ratings next year try this:
1. Allen stays and oversees everything. The rest of those guys suck so get rid of them.
2. Live coverage of practice. No tape delays. Race fans appreciate being able to see live events. Maybe ESPN has too many irons in the fire (so to speak). Race fans want to see live coverage.


I personally hope when your contract with NASCAR is up you get out bid and we (the fans) get a far better network with far better superior coverage than you provide.

Anonymous said...

Keep bitching about your free racing, and watch it go to Pay per View.

There's no evidence to support this at all. TV does not operate through a system of punishment.

Newracefan said...

Great article JD and you hit the nail on the head. As much as we complain about Doc, Rusty, etc, most of us realized that many of the problems are the voices in their head's and who ever controls the camera shots and commercial timing, etc. Hanging the on air guys out to dry is worse than the coverage of Nascar by ESPN and I am very glad I don't work for them and if I did I'd be on right now. I am very concerned that ESPN has blinders on about what we fans need in Nascar coverage and the fixes they make are cosmetic repairs on a gaping chest wound. (Sorry the nurse in me just took over). Keep us posted of you hear anything and give our support Doc, he may be better suited to pit road but he didn't deserve this.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
I also get email surveys from the NBC survey group, and in general those surveys ask very specific questions about the shows (once they determine you are a viewer of a certain show), not the specific actors and actresses (or news anchors) on them.

December 7, 2007 11:42 AM

not true. I have seen some NBC surveys ask about CNBC anchors. they ask some of the same questions in the ESPN survey, like, "do you recognize this person" or "how do you rate this person". NBC even asks for your opinion of the competing stations anchors.

Anonymous said...

ESPN Will never say they are the ones that have messed this season up. It is the tabloid mentality and poor production on thier failure. Mark my words THEY WILL NOT CHANGE A THING. THE MONEY IS IN THE BANK. Brian France has a chance to do a lot of damage control if he is smart enough. The fans deserve better.

fbu1 said...

ESPN may be held to a higher standard than other networks due to their position in sports programming. And they should be. That is why ESPN's dismal NASCAR performance has been the number one subject of numerous fan conversations among fans. People are mystified about the incredibly inept execution of ESPN's responsibility as motorsports journalists, despite having an army of very talented people on the payroll.

If the fan survey was naming specific people, it should have included performance reviews of Rich Feinberg, the senior coordinating producer and VP of Motorsports, and Producer Neil Goldberg. Their insistence on transforming NASCAR into a unique reality show with a scripted story line was at the root of ESPN's embarrassing decline as a credible information source. These gentlemen never seemed to grasp the basic fact that the race IS the story, and that the story includes 43 characters, not five. It was their monumental egos that refused to budge, despite the tsunami of critical fan response to their efforts.

Feinberg and Goldberg should both be reassigned to other sports, in my opinion. Fat chance of that! Somebody else will inevitably take the fall for their failures.

Anonymous said...

I'm amazed that so many people here seem to think it's a great revelation that Rusty Wallace didn't invent draft track. Of course he didn't invent it. That much is obvious when he tries to talk about it--he doesn't even seem to understand it, how it works or what the acid-trip colors mean.

Herein lies the problem with ESPN's NASCAR coverage. The whole thing--from the bottom up--is a conglomeration of talent that just doesn't mesh. Wallace isn't a broadcaster, he has little on-air chemistry. How many times this season has he made a completely inaccurately comment to which Punch has to tactfully correct? To my recollection, it's happened several times per race. Are you really trying to tell me that producers told him to say "the late Richard Petty" on air, or say that a car was wrecked and crashed when there's already been three different camera angels showing that the driver just lost it coming off the corner (or vice-versa)?

Play-by-play for ESPN's NASCAR coverage is a professional position, and as such should be filled by professionals. Wallace comes across as anything but professional. He sounds anxious most of the time and quite often he sounds as if he's forgetting lines in a high school play. But the same could also be said of Brewer, who looks at the camera like someone behind it has a loaded gun pointed at him.

So yes, actually, fixing the personalities on the broadcast does have some merit.

That doesn't mean the producers share no blame, because the product they've created does suck. The difference between ESPN coverage in 2000 and ESPN coverage in 2007 can be summed up at this--in 2000, ESPN was in the business of broadcasting races. In 2007, ESPN was in the business of marketing a sport. See the difference?

I don't think the problems with ESPN's coverage this year lie entirely on ESPN's shoulders, either. NASCAR has been struggling to find an identity for quite a while now. The sport has moved away from its association with the south and tried to jazz itself up, but to what end? The sanctioning body has practically severed its ties with country music, which ten or fifteen years ago were inseparably linked. They've replaced appearances by Brooks & Dunn with Kelly Clarkson, but is the average Kelly Clarkson fan really a NASCAR fan?

And as for the whole point of the sport--the actual racing--what have they done with that? Fifteen years ago, the cars were silhouettes of actual production models, they looked like cars and you could park them next to a real car and the racing was, for the most part, fun to watch. Then the cars turned into these weird transmorphic shapes and didn't really look like cars anymore--some looked like bananas when seen from above--and the characteristics of the sport changed from mechanical grip and driver ability to an all-out battle of engineers and who had the best aerodynamics ala F1. And now, NASCAR seems to recognize that allowing the weird car shapes was bad for the sport so they mandate an IROC body with a huge freakin' wing on the back so that massive downforce levels will still be there, just not because of body modifications.

And what does that have to do with TV? It's obvious to almost everyone who loved this sport years ago that the powers in Daytona don't really understand what makes a good racing package. The decline of the sport began when the sanctioning body began putting more emphasis on marketing than racing sometime in the mid-90s. And who could argue with the changes they made back then? It was like boiling a frog in cold water--they turned up the heat so slowly that we didn't even notice the undermining of the sport.

Now that ratings are down, the COT is on the track, and the ink is drying on the new network/sponsorship deals, NASCAR is pushing its corporate sponsors--aka ESPN--to make the sport more popular, to drive growth that has been downtrending for a while now. And how does ESPN respond? Do they just stick to the on-track action that more often than not isn't really all that compelling? Do they show the breadth and depth of drivers and talent on race day or do they say, "Jeff Gordon, Dale Jr, and Jimmie Johnson are the three most popular drivers in the race today, let's focus on them no matter what else happens"?

Yeah, ESPN has problems. NASCAR has problems. And it's ironic that the best racing among the top series happens in the truck series--the one NASCAR doesn't really mess with because, apparently, the fanbase just isn't there.

caroby said...

I could not agree more, but how do you get things to change?

With ESPN in control, there still will be Footbll geeks trying to pretend that they know all bout racing.

Cheryl Roby

Delenn said...

How come Musburger and Kolber weren't mentioned on the talent list? I think Petree would do well in a booth without Rusty.

In my view, the on-air talent should talk about what they like when they have the chance. Are you really telling me the producers tell them not to pass on who the lucky dog is, or that they would not have a chance to mention a crash that happened whilst they were on commercial?

Sure, dopey things like Draft Tracker, and the garage that Brewer was parked in are not the fault of the on-air talent, but they have paid their part in the fiasco that is ESPN Nascar.

elena said...

anon at 8.51 reminded me of Mike and Mike when he mentioned that play-by-play announcers need to be professionals.

On their show, Mike Greenberg talked about how nervous he was when offered the opportunity to do it for Arena Football. He had to do a mock one with a tape of a previously played game. He said how hard it was and what a wreck he was at the beginning.

I also remember when Mike Golic questioned Tony Kornheiser getting the MNF as a color guy when he had no experience as an athlete. Even the newspapers said Tony was awful. Well, ESPN is still paying him to the tune of $1.8 mil above what he makes at PTI.

If ESPN doesn't care about irritating NFL fans, one cannot have much hope NASCAR fans will get any better.

darbar said...

One question---what will ESPN do with the results of this "survey"? It did not address anything of merit nor did it address any real issue that Nascar fans had with ESPN's coverage of Nascar events. I still say, ESPN doesn't get it, or at the very least, they just don't care. As long as their commercial time is sold out, they won't care about the content of their Nascar-related programming. ESPN has gotten too big for their britches, they've lost their identity and they've screwed up the real reason they were created in the first place. I've said it before and I'll say it again---when did Domino Tournaments and the Spelling Bee become a sporting event?

So, I ask you JD, what do YOU think ESPN will do with this survey? Put it in the shredder, use it to improve their coverage, or use it to fire whomever they wish?

Daly Planet Editor said...


I think they will use it to back-up any off-season moves they make in changing their on-air talent assignments. And from what I am being told, there is a lot of changing being considered.


Anonymous said...

This was a very sorry & lame attempt by espn to lay the blame off on someone any one but the behind the scenes powers that be. Also this way espn can say "we listen to our fans" NOT.
Great column JD you said it perfectly, as usual.

Anonymous said...

Look, it must be some what difficult to know what you are talking about, and be on live TV to do it.

ESPN failed. The end.

I often feel like they didn't care, maybe like a kid who says sorry but doesn't really mean it. I wonder if it had something to with NASCAR ending years of coverage with them? Maybe ESPN is acting out like a baby because NASCAR wanted to reach more viewers?

Maybe those guys are getting the short end of the stick by this survey? Which never got to me.

In the end ESPN as a whole, failed in my book.

Dr. Punch is the only one I really like out of all of them on ESPN's NASCAR coverage. But...its annoying to want to be called Dr. Punch.

Relax man, I know you earned that title by your hard work. But if you came into my bar and said "Hi I am Dr. Punch." You are gonna be feeling a little silly trying to talk to "some" folks about NASCAR.

But the truth, they are out of touch. But maybe this will change in time.

I remember FOX's great coverage of the Daytona 500 in 2001, it was their first, and they cut off the post race stuff. Later they said " it was a mistake", and they never did it again. And improved.

I hated Waltrip for years, but I love him now. On TV.

But in the end, as much complaining I did, I'm not the guy on TV. Maybe there is a reason for that. However if I were to be one of those guys, you would be entertianed for sure, for about 5 seconds and then they'll throw me off.

Lee from PA

Desmond said...

I did not see the survey, but from what has been reported, it looks like ESPN asked a curious series of questions about the NASCAR coverage.

Makes me wonder if we can expect any changes from the network.

Anonymous said...

I just hope and pray they get rid of Rusty Wallace. He is the worst announcer in the history of television.