Tuesday, October 30, 2007
The rising tide of anger directed at ESPN after a weekend of problems and then a Monday night disaster has been spreading.
Stories on various Internet sites, including NASCAR.com and even mainstream newspapers have finally been reflecting the incredible frustration of NASCAR fans over ESPN's problems both at the track and in the studio.
Monday night, NASCAR Now never mentioned the fact that ESPN had pushed the Busch Series race completely off the air just minutes before it was about to begin. Host Erik Kuselias never apologized, never explained, and never even acknowledged that there had been a problem. That is simply unbelievable.
As the show progressed, NASCAR Now chose not to interview the first time winner of the Busch race that ESPN2 had carried live. Never followed-up on the great story of his car's design, the charity involved, or how this win so deeply affected his team. The fact that he had not been interviewed live after the race by ESPN apparently was completely ignored. Did I mention the word unbelievable?
Finally, Monday's NASCAR Now chose to ignore The Craftsman Truck Series race from Atlanta entirely. The tight points race, the veteran competitors, and the great racing made no difference. This race was on SPEED, and suddenly it did not matter that it was one of only three national touring series. The show had aired on another network, and as has happened so often this season, ESPN completely ignored NASCAR reality...because they could. Now, it had gotten mind boggling.
Tuesday's NASCAR Now brought yet another surprise. Viewers heard the familiar tones of ESPN veteran Marty Reid as the show opened, and found Marty hosting the entire program. As has happened so often this year, there was no mention of where host Erik Kuselias went, or why Ryan Burr was not hosting the show.
Marty Reid is one of the most hard-working and nicest TV personalities you could ever meet. Long before his high-profile assignments with IndyCar and the NHRA, Reid was knee-deep in mud with the off-road trucks, and has covered tons of racing of all kinds in his career. His appearance on NASCAR Now brought-up more questions than answers.
As had been the case with Allen Bestwick, Reid swung through the thirty minute show with good humor and the right attitude. He finally had a chance to talk with the NASCAR Now reporters, and they clearly enjoyed his presence. Marty and Allen both share the same kind of self-effacing humor with their TV viewers and broadcast partners. Its never too serious, its just racing.
Seeing Reid on the show brought to mind the sudden weekend appearance of Bill Lester a while back. Lester appeared, worked an entire weekend of shows, and then vanished. When The Daly Planet asked ESPN about it, they said it was a one time thing. Lester said nothing in the media about it at all. The word "audition" comes to mind.
If Reid was taking a moment to try-out for the host position for next season, sign him up right now. NASCAR Now has never been at a lower point than after the debacle of Monday night. Angry emails from fans flooded The Daly Planet, and the questioning fan emails posted on the ESPN boards were wiped clean almost instantly. Across the Internet, however, the screaming of the fans continued.
What else can be done to fans of this sport? One whole series ignored. A driver cast aside for college football is again ignored after his first win. The stories of a three race weekend are ignored for scripted hype and artificial excitement about a Chase that involves only two drivers.
How should David Reutimann feel about ESPN right now? Owner Michael Waltrip? Toyota? How should Atlanta Truck Series winner Kyle Busch feel?
Locked in an exciting points battle, how should Mike Skinner and Ron Hornaday feel about no coverage of their sport? This is about their careers, their lives, and their hard work for the last nine months being ignored. Can things at NASCAR Now get any lower?
The only saving grace for this Tuesday was the smiling presence of Marty Reid, and the fact that he led this off-balance network through a good show. Marty has been ESPN's "go to" guy this season for Busch Series races, and now for their studio show. If Marty appears on Wednesday, maybe he will shed some light on why he is doing the show, and what changes we might be seeing for next season. Some kind of light at the end of the tunnel is exactly what ESPN needs right now.
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