Saturday, January 12, 2008
The NASCAR TV Story That Refuses To Die
The Daly Planet has never received such an outpouring of emotion and frustration.
Never have so many NASCAR fans from so many different states, countries, and continents come together to speak on one topic. After two days of possibly the best "fan journalism" in the country, all we have to say is...wow.
What started as one little column about next season generated a "reader comments" section the likes of which many journalists and TV personalities told me they have never seen before. It snowballed into what some folks are calling a "fan manifesto" for the NASCAR TV networks and the sanctioning body executives.
You can read the original column by clicking here, and please make sure to open the COMMENTS section at the bottom of the article by clicking on the word "comments." Never in the history of this website has that word had more meaning.
After reading your comments, veteran Charlotte Observer NASCAR writer David Poole said, "What NASCAR needs to understand most is that it's that kind of passion they they are incredibly lucky to have, that people care that much about what's shown and how it's shown." He then added, "fans amaze me." I second that emotion.
Now that the COMMENTS section has reached well over two hundred, it is time to find out what we learned from the generous outpouring of opinions from fans for a sport they love. Here are some of the key points that were the most popular.
Fans were offended that only one car could be seen finishing the race. They took it personally, even if their favorite was the winner. They asked, what did that prove? What fan goes to the race track and on the final lap watches the winner finish, and then puts their hands over their eyes? The easy answer...is none.
Why then, should a TV network be allowed to put its "electronic hands" over the eyes of millions of fans? In 2007, all cars on the lead lap need to be seen finishing the races.
Fans want to hear about NASCAR from professional announcers who know the sport. They want to be treated as though they understand "the game," and want to get more knowledge from the TV experts. Being reminded over-and-over again of the basic fundamentals of the sport is not only ridiculous, it is insulting.
What NFL fan gets the forward pass explained in every week's game? What baseball fan gets "how many strikes make an out" reviewed during the seventh inning stretch?
Fans want to see all the "players" on the field treated equally. The fan base of a driver does not "go away" just because on this particular day, on this particular lap, he is running in twentieth place. The entire field makes up the race, not just the top five combined with the "stories" the TV networks decided to follow from their own pre-race telecasts.
Fans want to feel NASCAR on TV is not "scripted," but live and in-progress with every team being treated equally.
Fans wanted to see the best racing on the track, even if it was not in the top five. The basic desire of the TV viewers is to see the same racing action that the fans at the track are watching. This was fundamentally not the case in 2007 for many races.
TV networks simply did not dare to "leave" the top five for fear that something would happen and they would miss it. Show the racing, and take the risk.
Over-and-over again, fans said that the radio version of what was going-on did not match the TV pictures. One fan who worked at the tracks said the TV pictures did not match the battles and the racing that the actual fans at the track were watching. How does this "separation" of reality happen?
What is happening for the fans in the stands should be what is happening for the fans watching on TV.
Fans want to remind the TV networks they have viewing options. Next season, four channels of DirecTV's Hot Pass are waiting along with the InternetTV feed and updated live leaderboards from the NASCAR.com gang. Once again, radio will allow all the races to be heard in an exciting and professional manner as they happen. As one fan said, "the TV mute button is the first option."
Why make fans seek other sources of information by forcing a TV-driven agenda into a live sporting event?
Many fans have confessed that for 2008 they will simply record the live races and either join them in-progress or view them later and fast-forward through the commercials. Isn't it somewhat ironic that fans are fast-forwarding by the sponsor's commercials to see the exact same sponsor's race team...race?
The placement, presentation, and number of TV commercials in NASCAR events is a crucial issue. Millions of DVR's and TiVo's can hardly wait for February.
Fans want NASCAR to be the priority of the network broadcasting the race. Sports information is available everywhere, it does not need to be on a "ticker" running at the bottom of the screen covering up the racing. There do not need to be updates and cut-ins and Infield discussions of baseball, basketball and football during a NASCAR race.
The priority during a live race should be on the forty-three stories unfolding on the track. Viewers who need information on other sports should be directed to the TV network's Internet site.
The later start times and the resulting lack of post-race interviews was a common thread. What used to be a Sunday afternoon passion has become an evening affair that forces many people to step away from the TV and back into the responsibilities of real life.
Fans want to be able to watch a race and then have some time before dinner. Now, they can often come back after dinner with the family and catch the last fifty laps...live. Returning to traditional start times will bring additional viewership.
Finally, the common theme among all the opinions was that racing was a great sport, and that NASCAR held its destiny in its own hands. 2008 is going to be a pivotal year for both the sanctioning body and the TV networks working in support of a multi-billion dollar contract.
Thank you fans for taking the time to share your open and honest opinions about NASCAR on TV, and using your personal experiences to enlighten the networks, the media and the NASCAR executives about the reality they created. Now, it is time for the NASCAR TV partners to step-up and show us that they listened.
The countdown clock at Jayski.com is now under 45 days to the Daytona 500. Plenty of time to take the views of the fans and incorporate them into the 2008 coverage of the sport we love. It should be interesting to see what changes. Stay tuned!
The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Simply click on the COMMENTS button below, or email firstname.lastname@example.org if you wish not to be published. Thanks once again for stopping by and leaving your opinion.