Saturday, February 16, 2008

Bittersweet Ending For Nationwide Series on ESPN2


The new network TV partner last season for NASCAR was ESPN. This company has a long and proud tradition of pioneering sports on TV for over twenty-five years.

Names of programs like SportsCenter and Gameday have become part of our culture. Celebrities have been made out of on-air personalities from Chris Berman to Dick Vitale. The mix of sports and twenty-four hour coverage changed the sports television landscape in America.

This rich TV history is what made the problems with NASCAR coverage in 2007 especially difficult for ESPN to swallow. No matter what the network tried last season, it failed. Technical problems, ABC station issues, credibility problems and even issues with the fundamentals of TV sports production plagued the season.

This February, ESPN came out of the box ready for action. The company had made wholesale changes across the board, and rolled-out those changes at Daytona. Their daily NASCAR Now show had new hosts, a re-vamped format and a commitment to on-location reporting.

The Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series team boasted the addition of Dale Jarrett and Ray Evernham. Allen Bestwick would host an experienced crew in the infield, while Jerry Punch would have his high school friend DJ alongside in the booth.

As the first Nationwide telecast began with the NASCAR Countdown pre-race show, it was clear that ESPN has finally found a leader. Allen Bestwick set a relaxed and professional tone that carried all the way through the race broadcast and post-race coverage.

Jerry Punch seemed to finally be able to express himself and not have to worry about carrying the load when it came to commentary. Jarrett is always polite, but he is quick to step-in and voice his views as the action on the track is in-progress. That is exactly what Andy Petree needed to re-define his own role on these telecasts.

Last year, the ESPN pit reporters were pushed by their superiors to ask the extra question and explore the topics that drivers did not wish to discuss. Needless to say, memories of that treatment still linger in the Cup garage. This is not a baseball locker room or an NFL coaches news conference.

The faces that the ESPN reporters deal with in NASCAR will be staring back at them until November. As we all know, and Jimmy Spencer will confirm, race car drivers have very good memories for who has treated them right and who has treated them wrong.

At Daytona, all four of ESPN's pit reporters opened the season with a new and friendly approach which seemed to go over quite well with the drivers. In addition, the network made sure to track the drivers who were admitted to the Infield Care Center, and provide updates as they left the facility.

Dave Burns post-race interview with Dale Earnhardt Jr. proved once again that Junior's patience has grown a lot since his DEI days. Burns pushed Junior into commenting on his very personal Shifting Gears TV series, and it was ironic that Junior chose to apologize for so many commercials featuring him in the programs.

Action on the track was once again well-represented as the technical staff made outstanding pictures and sound. Even the Draft Track worked well with Jarrett explaining the issues associated with Nationwide Series drafting as opposed to the Sprint Cup Series. Another strong technical performance to start the season for ESPN.

In every sport, the TV crew knows there will be a "crunch time." It may be a late and desperate pass by Eli Manning or a critical drive off the tee on 18 by Tiger Woods. It is a moment in the telecast that requires only one thing. That is to be seen by the viewers.

This fundamental issue is a key building block of effective TV sports coverage. Three hours of a football game can be forgotten quickly if the winning pass is not captured by the TV crew. Losing sight of the ball on Tiger's drive that sets-up the Eagle to win the tournament immediately becomes the focus of an otherwise outstanding telecast.

Saturday afternoon, ESPN fumbled the ball at "crunch time." Tony Stewart had the strongest car and was leading the field as they approached the finish line. The only real issue on the track was how would the rest of the field finish? They were in a tight pack of nervous cars and the veterans were mixed-in with the rookies.

Moments after the all the cars finished, that question still remained in the minds of viewers nationwide. The reason was simple. NASCAR fans had been watching ESPN2 for three hours only to have the Director decide to show just Tony Stewart and the NASCAR flagman at the end of the race.

All the stories Jerry Punch and his analysts had built-up over the course of the race were swept away. All of the young drivers who had finally gotten themselves in the hunt on the final lap were never to be seen finishing by their sponsors and fans. The most unfortunate thing is that a great start to the NASCAR season had been ruined by a miscue at "crunch time."

Every TV network has the right to show sports in whatever way they choose. ESPN certainly has the right to decide in advance at a production meeting that the final lap will conclude with a tight shot of the leader and a zoom into the NASCAR flagman. That is what the ESPN executives decided, and that is what we all saw.

The problem with that approach is, why would fans come back for the next race?

My driver was in about fourth and I had been rooting for him all race long. I kept up with the stats, used my computer for additional info and was absolutely happy with the ESPN produced coverage. Things were shaping up for a thrilling finish.

On the final lap, as the camera took the infield shot, I could not believe it. As ESPN2 showed Stewart cross the line and then zoomed into the flagman, I began to yell. There was no drama here for Stewart, the Nationwide Series is just fun for him. There was no story to tell, as his car had the field covered since the green flag dropped. He confirmed that in a post-race interview.

ESPN VP of Motorsports Rich Feinberg told reporters at Daytona on Wednesday that the new group of on-air talent and the new line-up would allow the network to cover this series better and tell viewers the stories they needed to know.

What NASCAR fans needed to know on Saturday was pretty simple to understand. Who finished the race behind the winner?

The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Simply click on the COMMENTS button below and follow the instructions. Rules for posting are on the right side of the main page. Thanks again for taking the time to stop by.

49 comments:

l_long said...

Great breakdown of the broadcast, JD. Here's hoping that constructive criticism will not fall on deaf ears this season!

TexasRaceLady said...

Since media keeps trying to stuff my chosen sport into the stick-and-ball hole, maybe ESPN will understand this ----

"You fumbled the ball on a 4th and goal with 2 seconds on the clock."

I was a happy camper until the end. To wind up a pretty good race watching the crew and the flagman uas a huge letdown, to say the least.

JD, keep after them. We've got your back. :)

Newracefan said...

I was really pleased in general with the coverage until the checkers. I had to revert to the internet to see where my drivers finished and some of them were in the top 10. HELLO ESPN were you awake. The next issue was the post race coverage what's up with only interviewing CUP guys and Brad K (JR's driver), Brian Clauson was available Speeds Nascar Live/Victory Lane show interviewed him and he was the top finishing NW only drive and a rookie definately deserved an interview. Espn has come far but there evidently is still a way to go.

Kimberly said...

That has been my major beef with all the networks except Fox. Why don't they want to cover the field? Not everyone's driver/team crossed the finish line in the top 3. And we need to see what is happening behind the winner.
Come on TV execs! This is not a soap or stick and ball sport. The ratings would go UP if you listened to us.

Daly Planet Editor said...

newracefan,

I was in the same boat. I had to use the computer to see what had happened on the track at the finish. That left me wondering what folks not online did?

JD

Photojosh said...

Yeah, I felt much the same way. I thought the broadcast was really pretty good until the end. The broadcast crew (particularly DJ) did a good job of mentioning lots of the cars in the field. The racing was covered well. And even the draft-track wasn't as annoying as last year.

But what is up with the finish? No list down the screen like they do in Cup races, no pull back shot, not even static shot of the finish line.

But hey, it's still early in the season. The improvements that ESPN has shown so far convince me to give them a few more chances. Let's see how we feel 4 races into the season.

SophiaZ123 said...

JD

Your article stated this was THE PLAN of ESPN to do only TONY and the FLAGMAN.

Well, this is not the director's cut but the FANS SPORT.

If you are telling us that no matter what we want, ESPU will continue to follow their own, ignorant, misguided agenda to show "their ending of the race", I will not be watching anymore ESPN races.

Besides, it's mostly Buschwhackers and i can watch them on Sunday on FOX.

God help FOX if they pull the same crap.

And I for one will use radio for the rest of the season for ALL the races.

There is NO EXCUSE.

In my book, all the plusses of the earlier part of the broadcast are made NULL and VOID when you SPOIL the end.

It's the same thing as ripping the last page out of a mystery novel. Sorry, not happy.

ESPN TOTALLY BLEW it.

WHY do we keep bringing this up, I ask myself.

They do NOT care. For those of you thinking 'it's one race, it could get better.'


Stop dreaming.

Anonymous said...

Glad to hear that Bryan Clauson got interviewed on SPEED. Sorry I missed that, because ESPN's emphasis on Cup drivers (and Dale Jr's driver Keselowski) was ridiculous and embarrassing for them.

I don't think Dave Burns "pushed" Dale Jr to do anything. It was very obvious with Dale Jr that there was someone in Dave's earpiece telling him to ask Shifting Gears questions, since they had the time. It was very similar to the way reporters act when there's a rain delay. Dale Jr obliged, because he obviously loves talking about the program and is excited about it. However, drivers like Clauson unintentionally suffered in the process. If you're going to say someone "pushed", it was the production folks, not Burns.

ESPN needs to learn that we like to hear questions directed to as many drivers as possible, not as many questions as possible directed to a few drivers.

And they need to learn it soon.

Edward said...

ESPN blew off the viewers of the Nationwide Race - AGAIN!!!

1) They kept the camera ONLY on Tony Stewart at the end of the race. Did anybody else even finish the race?

2) Other than the ticker at the top, they never gave a complete run down of where every driver finished in the race. There was supposed to be 43 drivers in the race. To ESPN, it looks like only a half dozen finished the race.

stricklinfan82 said...

I listed my numerous likes and dislikes about the broadcast in the in-race comments post so I won't repeat them here but here's the bottom line:

The on-air crew did a great job, and the off-air, behind-the-scenes crew dropped the ball and did a horrible job.

JD, while you are correct that the behind-the-scenes people have the 'right' to produce these broadcasts as they please, they better realize that if they keep making us fans angry by making stupid decisions we're going to use our 'right' to turn off the TV screens and stop watching their network.

There are 43 drivers in this race, all with large groups of fans watching on TV to see THEIR driver, and their driver alone. What ESPN's behind-the-scenes guys did today was tell every viewer that is fan of a driver other than Tony Stewart "Screw you, your driver doesn't matter." Well guess what ESPN, if you keep telling us our driver doesn't matter we're not going to have a reason to watch anymore and say "Screw you, you don't matter."

Remember ESPN, you need the fans a lot more than the fans need you. We have many other alternatives to follow these races. You NEED us sitting in front of these TV screens watching YOUR broadcasts to make money, so how about giving us some incentive to do so?

I've been a fan of this sport for a very long time and I never thought I'd consider not watching a race but ESPN has me on the brink of making this decision. I had a driver in this race I was pulling for and spent 3 hours watching to see where he would finish, and ESPN re-paid my investment in their product by saying "Screw you, you don't matter!"

If my driver is running 4th or worse with 30 laps to go I might as well turn off the TV and read where he finished online, because that's the only way I'll know where he finished anyway because I sure as hell won't see him finish on TV. Why bother watching the rest of the TV coverage when all I will see is someone else's driver taking the checkered flag and a flagman?

Thanks for treating the NASCAR fans so terribly ESPN. NASCAR, Brian France, are you listening? If a long-time, loyal, die-hard fan of this sport like me is on the brink of being turned away from watching anymore, how do you think the casual fringe fans that you value the most must feel?

And no NASCAR, Dale Earnhardt Jr. winning again is NOT going to keep me watching, so don't think that is the solution to your ratings problems!

Charlie said...

I thought the coverage on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being the best) was around 4. ESPN missed some exciting lead changes when they were showing a car in the pits. I could hear MRN radio guys just yelling. Twice this happened. MRN going nuts, nothing from ESPN.
During the pre-race show I was waiting for a discussion about who was going to the back at the start of the race, nothing. What was the pit window for tires and fuel. What size fuel cell were they using and how would that affect the race. They did just touch on the fuel cell but nothing about the size or why. Just before the start of the race Punch said the pit window was 30 - 35 laps on tires and around 50 laps for fuel. No discussion on this either.
I guess I got spoiled watching the Truck race last night. Now that was good camera work and showing the field during the race.

SophiaZ123 said...

I can listen to CUP races on MRN.

Anybody know of a FREE website to LISTEN to the Nationwide races?

Now that I have wireless, if I need to go to another room, I can take the computer and LISTENING aspects with me.


And do NOT SUGGEST I Pay more to listen. NASCAR is not getting another dime from me...I pay enough for basic digital to get SPEED.

But I feel the same way STRICKFAN does only I was much more honked off about the ending...well, maybe not.

I mean I like Tony and all but there were so many others I was pulling and rooting for ESPU's decision and especially after what JD wrote, if INDEED that is fact (DIRECTOR DECIDES WHAT WE SEE)

ESPN can shove their cameras into Lloyd's Lake.

I will not tune in again to such an ARROGANT NETWORK for the race.

UNFRICKING real.

Richard in N.C. said...

SOPHIAZ- I did not try today, but last fall I was able to get Truck and Busch race radio broadcasts free off NASCAR.com - and last night I did pick up the truck race broadcast free there by clicking on a small button in the lower right hand corner of screen. I believe I first had to go to the Truck series part of website before I found the radio button.

Anonymous said...

I've said a few times this year that ESPN is on probation with the viewing fans and this wasn't the way to start out a new season.

We don't want to see draft tracker.

We don't want to hear 43 radios saying "green, green ,green", "clear high (low)", with Full Throttle'.

We DO want to see more racing action back in the pack, not just the front runners.

And we DARN sure want to see cars crossing the finish line so we can see where our favorite driver ends up in the race.

If you don't want your ratings to fall like a rock like last year, you'll listen to us and make these little changes quickly and every one will be happy.

If not, well, I'll be watching my races on the radio.

Steve L.

Vicki in Columbus said...

I think that ESPN did a great job with their on air changes, but they should have also made off air changes too. The producers/directors (whoever calls the shots behind the scenes) need some changes too.

JD, help me out with this. A writer did an article/blog about ESPN changes and wondering about the people behind the scenes, you linked his article in one of your blogs and can't for the life of me remember who it was.

I have been somewhat impressed with ESPN's coverage/program changes so far this year, but their end of the race coverage needs a serious overhaul.

ESPN paid alot of $$$ for the Busch, now known as Nationwide Series. It surprises me that they don't do more to promote this series. As someone said, either here or on the In-Progress blog, everything they do seems to be geared towards their coverage of the 2nd half of the season. From no serious pre-season coverage to covering mostly Cup drivers, whether it be pre-race, in-race or post-race.

I agree with Anon @ 7:06 re: Shifting Gears question. I got the feeling that Jr. seemed somewhat surprised by the questions.

SophiaZ123 said...

Thanks Richard NC!

NASCAR.com is so hard to navigate...I will try that next week.

But one needs bread crumbs for some of these websites today.

SPEEDTV made their front page a train wreck and their forms STINK after the upgrade.

Used to be something called WARP or something last year that had free audio..but I did not have wireless then to take my laptop with me if I change rooms.

Thanks for the response.

I would rather LISTEN than watch and then get SO AMBUSHED at the end of shoddy-no excuse-for how bad it it-directors decision or not-nonsense.

:-)


EDIT:

Vickie I agree that Jr seemed surprised by the questions on his show. He went thru this yesterday and got hassled because he did NOT KNOW what time the show was on?? Well, he has been a little busy...then he was told 6.30

So today they asked about the show and at the end he said "Watch it at 6.30" Nope they corrected him and said "it's following this race coverage."

They don't need to make the boy feel stupid but honestly, the ESPN guy ASKING JR about the ESPN show should KNOW what time it is on rather than put Jr on the spot.

:-)

Anonymous said...

Atleast they showed the winning oreder right after the flag, it's not like you needed to rush to the computer to see the finishing order. after they cut to the pit crew, the scroll on the top of the screen showed the finishing position.

bevo said...

ESPN blew it with the finish. Listening to MRN last night for the trucks they did the very same thing - how stupid is it to go to the reporter in the winner's pit to tell you how happy they are ON RADIO???

The problem is that "human interest" story lines trump everything else in the media these days.

Anonymous said...

But, I don't want just a list of how the drivers finished. After watching for hours, I want to see them race each other to the finish line.

Makiki

Jo said...

Hey my driver won & I'm ticked about them not showing the field crossing the finish as it happened.
I listed my gripes & compliments in the online section, so I'm not gonna repeat them again Except this one

Dear Networks-
All of you-

EACH & Every Driver-

no matter if its the 18 yr old rookie

or

the import from where ever

HAS FANS

Show the field - all of it

Crossing the freakin' finish line

Its
What
The
Fans
Want !

Its about the fans , stupid!
If we ain't watching - your revenues will go down!

And as we have shown, we have,
we still can
& we will - in the future
use alternate means to get our
racin' fix!

elena said...

I was so excited about the new season. ESPN looked like they were really doing it right. I felt there were a few things they could have done better, but as a whole I was enjoying the broadcast--until the end. As I did last season, I will continue to email ESPN with my list of gripes. There's no doubt they will get thousands of complaints.

I still don't get it. This is Daytona. The first race. Race ended early, with lots of time. How could they skip showing all the cars crossing the finish line? Thank goodness for my computer.

Seek said...

The botching of the checkered flag for the Camping World 300 has already been harped upon here, so I won't add anything more than I AGREE.

On a funny note, did anyone else notice the post-race comments from the infield where Allen Bestwick and Rusty Wallace both had their chairs raised up (to where you could see their belly-buttons if they were naked) to match the height of Brad Daugherty?

Methinks they need to find a middle-ground!

Charlie said...

Sophiaz I listen to the Nationwide and the Cup on my regular radio. A local Country station airs it.

David said...

I am amazed that the networks have left the fans to find out the info on their favorite driver to themselves. ESPN must have agreed that hey it is all about the big drivers and weekend no matter what. Everyone else can jump on the internet and find out about their favorite driver. They now have the ability to force the story line (Today's was Toyota vs. Dale JR and Hendrick) on the fan's with no worries. We don't have to wait for the paper the next day for the run down we can watch it online. They are developing a "Show" not actually what happened. I am really disappointed by todays broadcast. ESPN must think they could never make the TV fans happy or must not really care contrary to their exterior PR memos. It is so simple to produce a quality broadcast that the fans could enjoy. The blueprint for it has been forged by TNN, TBS(old not new) and the REAL ESPN. They should just ask around. Hey I will even volunteer my services. It can't be that hard based on what they did to the fans today..

Daly Planet Editor said...

Vicki,

That was Bob Margolis of Yahoo! Sports. The link to his outstanding blog called "From the Marbles" is on my main page.

JD

SophiaZ123 said...

Bevo

You have killed my faith in MRN to hear they pulled the same crap at the truck race? Those boys are usually so good.

WTH is the deal with the 'it's only about the winner/pit crew' stuff?


Charlie

Last year my local country FM station only carried CUP...heck, I should've gone out to the car to check today..hard to dial it in on old stereos or boomboxes in the house, unless we know it's on first. Car is easy to punch in. But worth a look.

The little AM stations usually blow off NASCAR for HS and college basketball games and such but i will get out my handy radio next week and look if my FM station can't cough up the Nat series.

I said last year I would not watch ESPN at all for the middle series but hello, it's DAYTONA.

But of course it does not matter what we say.

It's all about what the ESPN STOOGES RUNNING THE SHOW THINK. :(

But that hurts me to hear about the MRN boys.

Anonymous said...

what is with all of the negativity??? ALL OF THE CHANGES AND you give them this? I will grant you this: there was one large mistake at the end of the race. But I do not think that should warrant the all around negative comments that I am seeing here tonight. stuff like "keep dreaming if you think there will be any changes" or "all hope is lost"

There were changes. all hope was not lost to many fans because of these changes.

If you have a problem with the finish than say that. Don't just disregard ALL the changes and hard work put into these broadcasts. even I had a problem with the finish, but I still think the OVERALL broadcast was well done. There are too many hours left of ESPN coverage this season to just dump and disregard all of the changes made.

Richard in N.C. said...

If you go to MRN's website - might be RacingOne - it has a list of radio stations arranged by state. However, the last time I checked, the website did not ID which series a station carries.

I'm not sure about MRN, but you can listen to a replay of PRN radio shows on GoPRN after the show airs live.

JD, I realize it is equal treatment, but isn't there something inately counterproductive sales-wise to not show all the cars one last time at the point of maximum interest - the end of the race. If I were ESPN I don't think I would like to explain to some high muckity-muck at the Pentagon why none of the armed forces cars were shown finishing the race - especially if I were trying to sell more armed forces ads for the next race.

haus20 said...

Well I just finished watching the race...I was at the Chicago Auto Show...anyway, I agree that over all the race was produced well, but I must ask one question...WHY IN THE WORLD WOULD WE WANT TO SEE THE FLAG MAN???

I am a Stewart guy so I was happy that the Gibbs cars finished 1, 2, but there was quite a bit of jostling for 3rd through 10th or 12th that had been going on during that entire final restart. It would have been nice to find out who finished where...we had just spent several hours (especially those who watched live and couldn't fast forward the commercials) watching this great race and what do we see...a flag man waving the checkered flag.

Yep, that is why i recorded the race...I just had to see the flag man waving the checkered flag.

Anonymous said...

I know I'm in the minority here, but it doesn't bother me when the director shows the winner and little or none of the rest. The bottom line is that in sports, there's a winner, and everyone else loses. NASCAR fans complaining about not seeing their favorite driver because they're 2nd-43rd, sound like those parents who get upset when their kid places 6th in a race at school and gets mad when he/she doesn't get a certificate because "everyone deserves recognition." This world has gotten way to soft. Competition is good. It's healthy to win. Its' healthy to lose. It's even healthier to lose because you know what it's like to want to win even more. I love the Patriots, but when they lost SB XLII, I didn't want to see my favorite player Richard Seymour walking off the field. I didn't want to see him on the sideline. I know he didn't win the game. If your driver doesn't win, why do you care where he finished? Go online, see how many losers points he got, and move on.

NASCAR is a sport where teams are way too content with saying, "We have a 6th place car. Let's race more conservative and take the 6th place points." All too often fans are too content knowing their driver wasn't trying to win. Sorry, that just doesn't work for me.

Billy Delyon said...

I loved the coverage until they dropped the ball at the end of the race.

I understand folks being peeved, as I was doing the same as JD, yelling " I don't wanna see the flag man!!! SHOW ME THOSE CARS RIGHT underneath him though please!!!".....

Mercy....

But hey, for all the folks boasting about FOX's coverage, they too only showed the winner and his pit crew for a majority of the finishes during their coverage last season.. Talk about frustrating. I wrote many many emails to FOX about this subject. Grrrrrrr.
This had better not become the norm. Or we'll all have FOX to blame for this (relatively) new development kids...

Lisa Foster said...

I liked the broadcast, much more than last year's coverage.

I think though that they spent waaay too much time focusing on the cupwackers and the openwheelers in the race. Of course this is also NASCAR's fault for allowing so many s Cup drivers to participate in the Nationwide series. I didn't even hear the name Jason Leffler until the end of the race.

I liked that they showed more of the action on pit road versus them cutting constantly to commerical.

I didn't like the tech center interupting things during pitstops.
It's not just ESPN, I dislike that whenever one of NASCAR's broadcast partners do that. I want to see the action on the track, not in someone's version of a tech center.

Liked Dale Jarrett, he's definitely a positive addition to the broadcast team.

It sucks the lack of post race coverage, but with the current state of the Nationwide series, if your favorite driver wasn't a Cup regular, ESPN wouldn't have interviewed them anyway.

Tom said...

Good job overall. I noticed DJ made a real attempt to call out good drives by some of the "less stellar" drivers after the checkered flag. Perhaps he realized what had happened, and that is good for us. I doubt he would be a fan of not showing a lockdown finish. Lets hope this is an isolated incident. I am a Stewart fan, but as JD rightly pointed out, this series is not about people like tony, jr, and harvick. It's about the people we don't know so well.....at least it should be!

Tom
Inverness, FL

ri88girl said...

I was dissapointed with the ESPN coverage and thought it might be because SPEED has done such a flawless job during speed weeks. I guess I'm not the only one who was unhappy.

It is not just the failure to show the field crossing the line, but goes back to other things discussed here last year. For example, I found Jerry Punch no more imperssive than before. He was dismissive of information he didn't feel necessary, like why non cup guys might have fallen out of the race; or that so and so was released from infield care, but then NEVER interviewd the drivres for comment. Unlike in Trucks when Ray Dunlap got some very good 'color' that way on Friday from Skinner and Gaughn. He has no sense of humor and unlike the guys on SPEED or FOX, couldn't even goodnaturedly aknowlage a slip about Busch vs Nationwide series with a donated dollar to the bucket apparently in an attempt to protect credabiliy. It just made him look foolish and selfconcious.

I know everyone else is thrilled with DJ in the booth, but I don't think he was all that helpful. Maybe when he doesn't have to worry about racing with some of these guys the following day he can be more forthcomming. Once again I had a blast watching Rusty cope with his team's misfortunes in front of the whole world and the excange between he and AB was one of the only real and original moments in the entire broadcast.

That stupid sports ticker at the bottom of the screen has GOT TO GO. Additionally, they didn't even get their own story lines straight. Were we the only ones watching when Kaselowski caused the werck they congratulated him on missing. WHAT?

I AM NOT LOOKING FORWARD TO THE SECOND HALF OF THE SEASON.

Anonymous said...

I jsut watched the race this morning (Sunday) on my TiVo. Overall... I thought coverage was much improved with 2 exceptions.

#1 -- The stupid ticker on the bottom of the screen. Here's a hint... if someone cared about those events you're updating they would be watching them. But no... they are watching NASCAR which means they probably care about NASCAR.

#2 -- The end of the race was beyond horrendous. First of all they show a speed shot coming off of turn 4 to the checkers. Are you freaking kidding me? Speedshots offer the fan NOTHING and should be used sparingly and NEVER,EVER, EVER in 100 MILLION YEARS AT THE END OF A RACE WHEN FACS ACROSS THE COUNTRY ARE TRYING TO SEE THEIR DRIVER BATTLE FOR HIS POSITION.

The rest of the finish screwup has been well documented on here so I won't go into that.

Thanks for the changes ESPN... now you jsut need to fix up a few other issues and you will have great coverage.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 3:35AM,

I would take it from your note that you are a casual fan who really does not have a favorite driver?

Casual fans only understand the winning concept. For many teams, the fact that they were fighting for a top five or top ten finish is just as big as winning the race. This is NASCAR.

Let me ask you a question. Do you think anyone of the 200 thousand people watching that race in person at Daytona watched the winner cross the line and then closed their eyes? That is exactly what ESPN2 did to the millions watching on TV.

Viewers at home are entitled to see the same thing fans at the track are watching. By the way, that would be the field in a tight bunch screaming across the finish line.

JD

Anonymous said...

I know I'm in the minority here, but it doesn't bother me when the director shows the winner and little or none of the rest.
I agree.

Other thn the damned Draft Track (which I can't believe they're still using) and Jerry Punch, who needs to retire now, I thought the track was well produced as it was.

Put Allen Bestwick on the call and I'd be happy. (By the way, when you hear "classic moments" old highlights, note how many includes his voice.)

Anonymous said...

Casual fans only understand the winning concept. For many teams, the fact that they were fighting for a top five or top ten finish is just as big as winning the race. This is NASCAR.
---
Unfortunately, that is why men can drive in NASCAR's top series for years and never come close to winning, and people simply accept it. It wouldn't be a bad thing to place more focus on winning in this sport.

And of course, that would have meant -until recently - that Dale Junior would get much less coverage. Can't have that.

SquidBuzz said...

Yeah, after watching the race on DVR since I was unable to view it live, ESPN really blew the finish. Nice shot of the flagman while all the cars finished. Hopefully they learned something from this, but I get the feeling they won't. Look over the past year and let's see how much they have learned. Personally, I don't think that much.

Anonymous said...

I have a question that maybe John or another reader can answer. When ESPN original had the television package, did they tell the fans that they were going to show the entire field taking the checkers, no matter how many laps down or how long it took for the ALL the cars to finish the race? I remember watching it, and yes, sometimes it became tedious (especially when my driver came in in the top ten or so), but at least fans of those drivers were able to see them finish! Couldn't they put the camera on the finishing line at least in a small box while showing the celebrations? How much effort would this take and then one of the desires of the majority of viewing population would be fulfilled! It cannot be that hard to do. They sure as heck do it when they put the race in the small box and we have to look at some guy in a studio tell us about other sports that we are NOT watching!

Anonymous said...

JD wasn't the only one yelling at the TV at the end.

Anonymous said...

It was like watching a race with three friends there discussing it. Only one in it's class was a Busch race by Mikey and Bestwick in some far away place a year or two ago. There is NO excuse for not at least listing places at least through tenth as they cross the line and, in this case, my driver, Reuti, had slipped back to 14th.

Steve said...

So, let's see... ESPN claimed that after reading last year's overwhelming fan complaints, now they 'get it'. Uh huh.

Jerry Punch to put us to sleep so we won't notice all the other shortcomings? Check, got it.

Rusty Wallace and Brad Daugherty to offer obvious, useless, repetitive and annoying commentary? Check, got it.

That Draft Tracker that fans just LOVE?? Check, got it - I mean, we would WAY rather see cartoon flames than actual racing (but where's the pink-haired eSurance girl?).

A director who knows nothing about racing so he keeps the shots on the pre-planned story or the leader who's 3 car-lengths in front of the battles for 2nd - 10th, or even 20th - 30th? (What!?!? Somebody would want to see a battle way back there? Ridiculous! People don't tune in to see racing, they tune into see... um... the car in front... and ESPN... Yeah, that's it, they don't care what we're showing, they just want to see ESPN. Figure skating, poker, competitive knitting, pig races, hot dog eating contests... all 'sports'; they'll watch anything, simply because it's on ESPN.) Check, got it.

Assuming that the only thing fans care about is seeing the first place car finish and then his crew cheering, so there's no need to bother showing the other 95% of the fans where THEIR driver finished? Check, got it.

Reducing real racing shots into tiny windows so the fans can also see the crew chief trying to watch the same coverage in a tiny window on his TV? Check, got it.

Annoying, distracting stick-and-ball ticker at the bottom of the screen (millions of stick-and-ball fans tuned into NASCAR coverage just to stay up to the minute with the ticker, right?), and not understanding that stock car racing fans couldn't care less about up-to-the-minute stick-and-ball scores when instead they could be seeing a larger and non-distracting shot of whatever little racing the director accidently shows? Check, got it.

Not realizing that no one's going to keep watching the Nationwide races, nor the Cup Chase, with that kind of crappy coverage? Chec..., uh, wait a minute, we don't know what you mean. We're ESPN. We do everything in every sport better than anyone. We don't need to know anything about stock car racing. We're simply the best at covering sports. Well... wait ... stock car racing... that's a sport, right? And that's what NASCAR does, right? Whew! Yeah, OK then, we thought so. So great, we do it best. Because we're ESPN.

Yeah, that'll keep us tuning in. Uh huh.

In fairness, at least from this one small sample: DJ instead of Rusty = good thing. The Tech Center showed things that could actually be seen in the shot, and didn't show us the cartoon about the breaking valve stem. Restarts were basically seen (although we can't know if they TiVo'd them and then just cut out some seconds of 'live' coverage to make up for the TiVo'd time). Debris that caused cautions was found and shown. It seemed like there was better (i.e., more) camera coverage for replays compared to past years' Busch/Nationwide coverage. Good interview coverage after the race, although it's hard to know if it was just filler until the top of the hour (they could have started Junior's thing any time they wanted, so they said). There was no (as best I noticed) open wheel terminology: pit lane, 'yellow' (instead of 'caution'), 'caution period' (instead of just 'caution'); full throttle (stock cars don't have throttles - a setting on the steering wheel; they have gas pedals, accelerators - just like in your street car); etc.

Things to work on:

Show fewer cars making pit stops so you can show their complete stops. I don't think I saw a single stop that showed both sides. Like most problems, this reflects ESPN's lack of understanding of stock car racing and the team effort involved. Right sides only on 15 cars is not as good as both sides on 9 cars. Try to learn a little about how stock car racing is about more than the top couple of drivers; it includes those annoying pit stops everybody seems to want to see. The pit crews are a completely separate, and just as competitive, sport-within-a-sport as the drivers and the racing on the track you still don't cover very well. Maybe you could go film one of the pit crew coaches and the training sessions they do every day. What? ESPN didn't know that? Aren't pit crews just a bunch of guys that show up, just like back in the 60s? Nope. Not any more... not any more than when ESPN was respected for its racing coverage. Bring your knowledge into 2008 and also you your coverage. Show all 15 or so seconds of most every stop you decide to cover; otherwise, it's no different than your covering only the winning car at the finish line: you just don't 'get' stock car racing and all it entails.

Jerry Punch is just not a play-by-play guy; think Bill Weber covering a quilting bee. Put the good Dr back on pit road where the respect he has from the teams can be put to the fans' best use, the role he excelled in for so many years in motorsports.

Stop wasting the talent and passion of Alan Bestwick. Somehow he got blacklisted, but he was and is one of the best (modern-day) people to call races (right up there with Rick Allen). Put him back in the booth.

Dump the stupid cartoon graphics. Dump even the ones you don't think are stupid. The rest of us think they all are. Draft Tracker that isn't even accurate. Have the cartoon guys watch a couple of races where there's a car on fire or smoking heavily, and look at the 'air'. And 'Draft Lock'?????? What the hell is Draft Lock? The last little bit of Rusty's credibility went out the window with that one - well, along with 'great explanation', words we thankfully haven't heard yet.

And I think that gets to another problem with ESPN's coverage. It seems to have a flavor of: We don't understand anything about stock car racing other than there's a winner at the end, but, being sports-broadcasting experts, we're sure no one else knows anything about it either; so our job is to fill the time with commercials, drivel and dumbed-down (so at least we can understand it) crap. Hey, we even invented Draft-Lock to try to justify our cartoon flames to unknowledgeable fans/viewers. We know our stuff; they don't. We know air makes cars stick together. Well, at least it does in cartoons. And anything the guy in the Tech Center can say is a great explanation. We didn't understand (or even listen to) a word of it, but it was a great explanation. We'll even have two or three of our on-air 'talent' say so.

What can ESPN do better? Maybe most of all, find people, at all levels of the coverage, that at least know something about stock car racing. It is painfully obvious to us viewers that no one, from the network brass down to the guys in the truck, knows anything about racing. (People 'below' that - camera operators, sound engineers, set-up people - might or might not be actual fans; we just can't tell from the coverage; it seems the material is there but not utilized to its fullest.)

Come on ESPN, get a clue. Stick-and-ball sports only need one focus - wherever the ball is. Racing is not just one thing to follow; in NASCAR it's 43 teams to be tracked, and every one of them is a serious, dedicated, passionate competitor, regardless of where they are on the track at any given moment. Why can't you get people who can understand that and present it as such? NASCAR claims around 75 million fans, about a quarter of the US population; why can't ESPN find the one-fourth of the production people who are also racing fans and so would present coverage NASCAR that fans would love instead of hate - or worse, have to accept as better than nothing at all? Is that your goal, to just be better than nothing at all? I can tell you, ESPN, you won't be better than nothing, you'll BE nothing, broadcasting nothing that any NASCAR fan, casual or die-hard, will tune in to.

Anonymous said...

We never saw the back half of the 'Harvick' wreck. DJ refered to "a lot more going on behind them" but I guess they missed it. You can see the cars spinning through the infield on the second replay. They should keep a camera on the field to show how the field deals with the carnage up ahead. Some of the best shots are those guys threading their way through the wrecks. Heads up camera guys, it's Daytona.

AFMSgt said...

I was very disappointed at the end of the race as well. There were some improvements, but all I remember was Tony Stewart crossing the finish line and the camera zooming in on the flagman - what a waste.

I think that its ironic that IRL and CHAMP Car are in discussions to merge back together again. At one time, CART was the race series of America - and NASCAR was considered a regional second-class series. Then someone got greedy and split the series into IRL and CART - and facilitated not only the demise of the highest levels of open wheel racing in America, but also the rise of NASCAR into the premier motor sport.

We should take a lesson from the CART-IRL split - if NASCAR continues to allow ESPN to anger its fans, then the true race fans will go somewhere else for its racing thrills. It reminds of an old saying: "Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it."

AFMSgt

Anonymous said...

To ESPN:
I DON'T watch tv with my READING GLASSES on!! I can't read/don't pay attention to/don't care about ticker tapes!I wish you'd quit using them as when I want NEWS I READ THE PAPER (or Jayskis)!

thanks JD
Coffee

Ron P. said...

ESPN, Yep they did it again...(que the Britny music). What's with not showing the finish??????
ESPN still sucks, "my commnet not JD's".
And to answer the question above that somebody asked about the old ESPN: Yes they use to show all the racing, even if it was for 30th place. And they showed the racers finishing the race.... Watch the old races on ESPN Classic...Opps, you can't do that any more becasue they don't show them like they did up till last year. I guess they don't want anybody to see just how bad their new coverage is.
RJP

Anonymous said...

If only the Truck and Nationwide races were available on TrackPass.....I could listen to my driver and his guys on the scanner, check out the radio broadcast if I wanted and watch the stats of any and all drivers the entire time.

Since I was at Daytona, I was spared the pain of having to watch on ESPN and got to see where everyone finished. Since it seems ESPN is bound to do the same crap like last season, I'll watch only the races that my #1 favorite driver, Bobby Labonte, is running in. California is not one of them, either, which leaves my Saturday free for me to do other things.

Anonymous said...

JD - I think you missed the most important faux pas that Disney made in regards to the Daytona Nationwide race ...

They aired it on cable ... Why not show the first (& biggest) race of the season on the mothership ?? I don't recall seeing anything of any importance on ABC for that time frame on Saturday ... Why not shoot for the biggest audience possible as not everyone in the US has cable / satellite?? Airing it on cable defeats the whole purpose as it did for the majority of last season ...


My main problem with the on-air "talent" has been Shannon Spake, Jamie Little and Brad Daugherty ... I get the feeling that the drivers / crew feel like they're being stalked by Shannon & Jamie (and not in a good way) ... Disney tries to bill Brad as "the voice of the people" but he constantly comes off as if he doesn't know anything about the sport or is waiting for the voices in his head to tell him what he needs to say ... As much as I am for busting the glass ceiling / diversity, it doesn't work when the people can't do the job ...

Compared to last season, Disney did better ... But, has a ways to go to catch up to TNT/NBC and even further to catch up to Fox/SPEED ...

I've seen worse coverage ... But, I've also seen better ... And I know that with all of Disney's money & industrial power, that it has the opportunity to greatly improve ... I just had hoped it would've happened over the off-season ...