Thursday, February 7, 2008

Ryan Burr And Daytona Media Day

Making the effort to put together three hours of live TV coverage from Media Day in Daytona was absolutely fantastic.

Putting two announcers in Daytona to handle the live interviews and two more "talent" back in the network studios to fill-in the gaps between those live segments was a great idea.

Even the fact that Shaq and Roger Clemens might interject some non-NASCAR news into the three hours was not a problem. The idea was that those stories would be covered and then NASCAR would return.

The ESPN News Network had borrowed the announcers from NASCAR Now and was going to present a brand new level of NASCAR coverage for 2008. All systems were "go."

ESPN had their top NASCAR reporter Mike Massaro in the Bristol, CT studios. No one will ever forget the incredible efforts of Massaro to almost single-handedly keep ESPN in the NASCAR game with his hardcore news reporting from helicopter landing pads, parking lots and anywhere else but inside the track.

After the last brawl with ESPN, NASCAR had escorted the network out of the tracks and asked it not to return. Mike Massaro was turned away at the gate. Now, both NASCAR and Massaro were back on ESPN. He was right there in the studio and ready to "bridge the gaps" between live interviews using his extensive NASCAR knowledge.

Alongside Massaro was ESPN News former anchor Ryan Burr, one of the three new co-hosts of NASCAR Now this season. Burr was sensational last year after he was added to the NASCAR Now line-up on a part-time basis.

Burr is a veteran "studio TV guy," but does not profess to be a NASCAR TV veteran. He is outstanding at keeping the pace of a show going strong and "directing traffic" on-the-air.

Down in Daytona, ESPN had a big debut on-tap. Nicole Manske would be on-the-air live with the NASCAR stars, and also work alongside of Rusty Wallace. What a great idea to give her some veteran support with Wallace being on-scene in Daytona.

Once the live coverage began, Burr handed-off to Manske and she conducted the first interview of the day, fittingly with the current series champion Jimmie Johnson. Manske was doing just fine, had a good presence on-camera, and set just the kind of relaxed tone that viewers wanted. Then, things abruptly changed.

Jeff Gordon was next, but instead of speaking with Manske or Wallace, he was actually being interviewed by Ryan Burr from ESPN's Connecticut studios. Burr is great with a script, but of the four on-air announcers in this program he would be the last pick to conduct live driver interviews.

Suddenly, the reality set-in for viewers as the interviews continued in the program. Kenseth with Burr, Hamlin with Burr, and then Montoya with Burr. After Manske appeared one time for a brief Michael Waltrip interview, Rusty Wallace made his first ESPN appearance of the season.

Guess what Rusty was doing? That's right...being interviewed by Burr from Connecticut.

The poorly constructed questions of Burr to the drivers were nothing compared to his inablity to talk racing with Rusty Wallace. Every single obvious and amateur question about this season was put to Rusty, who gamely tackled each one with a strong sense of diplomacy and patience.

If only Massaro or Manske could have been used to shoulder the load of interviews and deal directly with the drivers this coverage would have taken on a completely different dynamic. Massaro had to be especially frustrated, being the veteran NASCAR reporter on the network's staff.

The talking heads kept coming. Kasey Kahne, Jeff Burton and Kurt Busch all talking to Burr. Every single one of these interviews should have been conducted by Manske, Wallace or Massaro.

Finally, Manske appeared with Almirola, Franchitti and Nationwide driver Brad Keselowski. Wallace was not involved in any of these three interviews. Where did he go? Fans thought they knew the answer.

The text on the bottom of the screen promised Dale Earnhardt Junior was coming up next. It was clear that Wallace would get to interview "the big fish" in this pond. Junior with Rusty was going to be fun to watch.

When Junior appeared on-camera, he had the same glazed look that NASCAR Now fans had seen all last season. Someone he did not know had stuck an earpiece in one ear, slapped a microphone in his hand, and told him to look at the camera.

That's right. Despite the presence of ESPN's new NASCAR Now host and the network's NASCAR Infield Studio Analyst only feet away, Junior was going to be speaking to someone back at the ESPN Studios.

At Media Day in Daytona, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was interviewed via satellite by Ryan Burr from Connecticut. That, my friends, is amazing.

The footage of Nicole Manske and Rusty Wallace interviewing Junior was something that ESPN could have used all season long. It could have been clipped and posted on Jayski, and all the other ESPN media outlets. It could have been edited for SportsCenter and re-aired on ESPN News before the Daytona 500.

There is certainly no doubt that the desire to create more of a high profile for NASCAR seems to exist with ESPN this season. Ryan Burr is the right guy for the NASCAR Now studio shows that need a fast pace and a smooth delivery. He was absolutely not the right guy to conduct these interviews.

Unfortunately, ESPN also squandered the opportunity to repair the damage done to Rusty's reputation by letting him conduct live interviews. Rusty having fun with Tony Stewart showed viewers Rusty's ability to deal with live TV. Showing his relationships with these top drivers would have gone a long way to healing any hard feelings remaining with fans from last season.

Manske was also left out in the cold. Her interviews were fine, her presence was fine, and her TV skills were fine. Why not let her use them? With Allen Bestwick not yet joining the NASCAR Now team, Manske is the face that people wanted to see. We saw far too less of it on Thursday.

While the ESPN News coverage ran in the afternoon, Burr returned and hosted another fast-paced and interesting edition of NASCAR Now at 6PM. It featured Rusty Wallace and Boris Said speaking from Victory Lane in Daytona, and used several of the Media Day interviews. That is where he shines.

NASCAR Now will break-out the hour edition on Monday, with Allen Bestwick making his debut as a co-host. Burr will continue to host until then, and as the season begins both Manske and Burr will be moving out to the tracks to add reporting for the show on the weekends.

That should add yet another chapter to this very interesting NASCAR Now adventure for 2008.

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


SophiaZ123 said...

Well thanks for telling me what I missed as I finally got annoyed with the Shaq and other updates and disjointedness of the show. I am sorry I missed Waltrips interview.

It is indeed bizarre that Manske could not have interviewed the drivers live as opposed to speaking to Burr?

I did not bother with NN but am glad I missed that show as well.

I was busy having fun watching stuff on SPEED. It appears ESPN is frustrating fans already. I was finished with them by 1.20 after muting it a good 30 minutes for the Shaq conference.

And all the junk on the somebody else said this should have been on ESPU 1 or 2.

Thanks for sitting thru the show to give us the details. I could not stomach it

Anonymous said...

ESPN still does not get it. The studio should be in Charolette. Media day should have all been live interviews.


Anonymous said...

I appreciate your balanced look at the program.

Mike Massaro was very good in his role today and showed a slight touch of humor and an appealing personality to go along with his knowledge of NASCAR as he sat at the anchor desk with Ryan. It was good to see a different side than the sometimes overbearing pit reporter side we saw last season. He really should have been used more in this situation today.

The earpiece driver interviews with Bristol instead of Nicole or Rusty onsite were definitely overused.

The main issue on here (and on SPEED) was that the questions were rote and repetitive. Dale Junior looked like he was going to keel over by the time SPEED got to him, he was very subdued and looked tired and was slow to answer questions at the end, like he had to collect his thoughts. I can't blame him.

No sense of entertainment or enjoyment in the ESPN show at all. The SPEED show was a little lighter but not much - most of the non-NASCAR talk was Dilner talking about sprint cars with Kahne and Stewart, so it was still racing. Or asking if Ashley Judd was there. Same old questions.

Tripp said...

Didn't catch the ESPN Media Day show, but did see NN. Firstly, I don't see how ESPN could have done as good a job as Speed did with their canned coverage. Robert and Dilner on stage with Venturini roaming the floor. That's coverage. And the Speed crew's good humor even got Smoke to crack a smile.

As to NN, it's better but still not good. Particularly annoying was the interview Burr did with Rusty. Mr. Wallace either doesn't get it or just can't speak intelligently on camera.

With all the good coverage Speed provides, I don't think there's room for anything ESPN has that will fit into my viewing schedule.

darbar said...

I much preferred the coverage that Speed provided for Media Day. I like that their announcers were right there at the event, unlike Burr who was in a studio. I liked that the drivers sat with the guys from Speed. It just gave their production a much more polished look. I do have one negative---why don't they take the time and interview guys who aren't the biggest stars in the sport? Why can't we see drivers who might not be the Chase guys. After all, they have sponsors to make happy, they work just as hard as the stars, but they are always ignored.

Anonymous said...

ESPN left the event for the Shaq presser fo 40 minutes, despite the fact that it was on another ESPN channel and a crawl could have alerted viewers who care to go see that.

Then they ate up 10 minutes of every half-hour with "news updates" which contained the same stories each time.

Nope, this network doesn't care about NASCAR. It can't even do a good job at pretending to care.

SPEED's evening roundup was a lot better and more informative.

And no one on it made the inane and irrelevant comment to Michael Waltrip that he "sounds like Forrest Gump."

bigd7801 said...

I cannot beleive Nascar is is taking this ESPN crap laying down. I am a 20+ year fan of this sport and I want to see faces I know covering it. I was so excited that ESPN was going to have 3 hours of media day coverage..What a let down. Espn has a minimum of 3 additional channels that could have covered tha Shaq aanouncement but nooooooooooo---they look at Nascar as a hillbilly sport and deserves to be pre-empted. BULL&*^%.I am so over ESPN. I will watch NN with AB but other than that I will stick with Speed------they are dedicated to our sport..Screw ESPN..

Ron P. said...

Wow, sorry I missed this one.... I was too busy watching SPEED's coverage, And I am man enough to admit the Rutledge Show waasn't as bas as i expected, but he did manage to annoy the crap out of me. Now back on topic:

I feel bad for the "Real" Race Announcers at ESPN. This can't be easy for them either.


chase said...

Once again, ESPN has screwed it up completely -- and here I was hoping that they had time over the off-season to get their act together - NOT. I am not interested in having people in Bristol, CT interview drivers via satellite -- I want NOW LIVE and where the drivers are (God knows they had people down there - not remote interviews. Ryan, for better or for worse, has left an ugly taste in my mouth and I am sorry that I will not be watching much ESPN unless I absolutely have to. They should have started the new season off with a bang - utilize the talent they have, i.e., Allan B. and keep totally away from CT - how difficult would it be for ESPN to have studios in the C'lotte area? Not difficult at all. On the upside, I thoroughly enjoyed the Speed coverage - now THAT type of coverage - LIVE - is what fans want to see. I don't blame Jr., et al for being laconic - what an unbelievably bad way to get off the ground in 2008. It appears that ESPN still does not have a clue in the world - sorry ESPN - you blew it once again!

earl06 said...

ESPN really needs to move their NASCAR staff to Charlotte and separate them from the stick-and-ball goons. There is nothing interesting, relevant or unique about their coverage.

I know he tries, but Ryan Burr comes off as an ignorant twerp. The longer they go with him hosting NN, the more chance they have of alienating potential viewers. Who starts the season with the third-string guy for the first 5 shows?

Massaro was excellent yesterday, although underutilized.

Rusty came on for a minute just to reinforce the fact that he has no business being on my television screen.

Nicole Manske showed a lot more than the "Barbie" persona she had on SPEED.

So far, ESPN has shown little or no improvement over last season.

Komoman said...

You can lead the horse to water, but clearly the horse is too darned stubborn to drink! I didn't see either network's coverage, but it sounds like the Bristol folks still insist on using THEIR people rather than those silly NASCAR people. Clearly their stick & ball guys are better sports hosts & reporters, right? *sigh*

SrRaceFan said...

Gee, JD, can't find anything on your site about the Shootout show on SPEED yesterday. Am sure plenty of fans watched it - and am wondering if they were as bored as I was and as the drivers appeared to be. Kenny Wallace might be great in some formats, but opening beer bottles and questioning the drivers was not his forte. And he took up so much time on the first few drivers, everyone else got short shrift. IMO it was just one boring show and hopefully not what SPEED is going to give us for the rest of the season!

Geez said...

JD, I to, remember Mike Massaro doing interviews through a chain link fence. :)

I would agree with your take on this show. Manske and Massaro were way underused. I do think that the news conference and the news breaks were a very big deal. I couldn't believe my eyes. It was really a slap in the face of NASCAR and it's fans.

Anonymous said...

Ryan Burr is a professional and he's good at the mechanics of moving the show along, but it's becoming very obvious he doesn't know a whole lot about NASCAR. And like it's been pointed out, it's inexcusable to run so many of the big interviews through Bristol instead of taking advantage of all the talent right there on sight in Daytona.

It's also a complete joke that ESPN can't set up a studio in Charlotte and make it the home of Nascar Now. The show and their commitement to not only NASCAR, but it's fans, would be much better coming directly from the home base of racing.

Anonymous said...

I thought the Shootout show was fun, as usual.

But who the heck decided that a show over which SPEED has complete control should just run as long as they felt like going?

It ended at seven minutes after the hour!

SeekSpeed said...

I found the ESPN coverage almost unwatchable. Most annoying was all the other crap they kept feeding us. I can understand breaking away for an important impromptu news conference, but did we need to have the exact same stories (often word for word) repeated every 20 minutes? I think not.

Then there is Ryan Burr. I can't stand that guy. His questions are amateurish and repetitive. The question, "What would it mean to win the Daytona 500?" should NEVER be asked. It's a ridiculously stupid question. Then there's the repetition... What will it take to run better than last year? What will it take to win the Daytona 500? What will it take to finish higher in the Chase?

UGH. Just horrible. Credit to Manske and Massaro, they were good but couldn't save this show from a slow agonizing death.

Geez said...

"What would it mean to win the Daytona 500?" should NEVER be asked.

In bristol,on the wall just outside the studio there is a dart board. Each number references a stock, and silly question on a chart next to the dart board. Ryan threw his darts and viola. :)

Geez said...

Oh, and the dart board for Daytona got lost in shipping, so Nicole actually had to "talk" to the whom ever she was interviewing, and tailor her questions to the particular driver she was talking to.

What a mess.:):)

stricklinfan82 said...

This show had no business airing on ESPNNEWS. It should have aired on ESPN2 so it wouldn't be interruped by "breaking news". I don't blame them for covering the Shaq press conference or for the hourly updates on the Roger Clemens situation, because that is the purpose of ESPNNEWS. ESPNNEWS is not supposed to be used for a 3-hour NASCAR Now Special! It's a shame the First Take re-air and whatever other old repeat programming was airing on ESPN2 couldn't be pre-empted for this program.

Nicole Manske did a fantastic job. Her interviews were very relaxed and the drivers seemed very comfortable talking to her. She also seems to know her stuff and didn't seem out of place at all.

I said this all last year and during the off-season when the NASCAR Now hosts for '08 were announced and I'm going to re-iterate it again. Ryan Burr should not be hosting NASCAR Now. He's fine reading a script and voicing over highlights (afterall, that is his "day job" on ESPNNEWS) but is absolutely terrible at interviewing drivers. We've already seen it with the previous days' NASCAR Now interviews (Bobby Allison, Dale Jarrett, Ned Jarrett, etc.), and all of his Media Day interviews were terrible. Every question was "your best Daytona 500 finish is _____, what do you have to do to change that this year?" or "your best finish in the Chase is _______, how do you plan on making that better?". Thank goodness they finally let Mike Massaro ask a question or two to a couple of the drivers. Massaro should have asked all of the questions if ESPN insisted on using the "via satellite" route for the interviews instead of using their on-site personalities to conduct the interviews.

JD, I know you've praised Burr a lot but I personally don't see how he's any different from Erik Kuselias or Doug Banks. He reads a teleprompter and asks scripted questions to a bunch of people he doesn't know about a bunch of subjects he knows nothing about. This is the same thing we killed Kuselias and Banks for last year. I don't think being "fast-paced" is enough to make him the right host of this show. I would prefer someone that actually has some credibility and knows the sport and the people in it.

jersey_dan said...

i tried taping this show; so that i could have an informed comment today; however i forgot that it was on espnn and i recorded espn2 instead; my fault, but still...gggrrr!

Anyhow, after reading jd's comments, and those from everyone else, i have to say that i no longer regret missing the show. i would have only been able to sit through a few minutes before turning it off in disgust. besides, my main reason for taping was to see how nicole and rusty meshed, and apparently they weren't on screen together long enough to make an informed opinion.

i agree with most of the posters here; espn simply doesn't seem to get it, for whatever reason. conducting interviews from CT when they have people right on site, please!!

i also dislike ryan, and for the same reasons others have stated; in nutshell, he doesn't know nascar, period. so he was almost doomed from the start.

now, i love AB, i think he's one of the best in the business, but i don't think even he can save this sinking ship. yes, i'll watch on monday, just in case, but i don't have much hope. having a different host, even AB, without more substantive and meaningful changes to the format isn't going to cut it. i actually feel sorry for Allen, i just hope he's being very well compensated!

i did give them another chance after last year, but i'm afraid espn has lost me as a viewer too (unless AB comes up with a miracle).

Geez said...

I thought that the few shows that AB hosted last season were much better. Good even. It was almost like AB had some input to the content.

Maybe JD can tell us if he would have had an input.

GinaV24 said...

Wow, sounds like it wasn't worth spending 3 hours watching, so the fact that I set up the DVR for ESPN2 not ESPNN wasn't so bad after all. ESPN is just doing the same old, same old, with a new host that we don't hate as much as Klueless, but who apparently IS as clueless. Sounds like unless AB can save the day for NN, there won't be much point in watching. Guess that ESPN wasn't really listening after all -- or maybe it's just their arrogance that makes them think that NASCAR fans will watch ANYTHING as long as it's related to NASCAR. They would be wrong in that assumption.

Anonymous said...

Does anybody else here think that Ryan Burr looks like Herman Munster(check-out the haircut)? He also has the same monotone voice as Herman, I just can't watch him!

Chuck said...

I turned the tv to the ESPN coverage but I was also tuned to Sirius 128 where the Morning Drive & Tradin' Paint held their shows live in the Media Center. I quickly lost interest in the TV coverage. The interviews that Poole/Bagman & Chocolate/Post did were incredibly entertaining. They would end up getting multiple drivers on air at once as the 'lines' jammed and we ha the pleasure of really 'seeing the personality of the drivers. The producers played a clip of Bagman's call of the 07 Daytona Finish as Harvick came on. The Harvick was razzing him about calling Martin as the winner, generally cutting up. We had a great interaction as Eliott Sadler and Bill Elliott were on and Sadler asks Bill "when did you win last, wasn't sometime in the 60's" in obvious good natured kidding. Those of us listening to this coverage enjoyed 8 hours of non-stop entertaining coverage. Almost every driver in the series made it to the mike. And the best part was not a single presence really came off as an "interview".. no stupid scripted questions, etc. but instead was like listening in on a conversation.

Let me tell you, just as so many of us talked to about last season, Sirius/MRN gets the job right. They use nothing but guys who are true NASCAR veterans and it makes a HUGE difference in the product they put on air.

Anonymous said...

There has obviously been some serious staffing changes this year on NN. At least last year the topics were good, although the host was not. There were some not-so-great shows but for the most part it seemed that they were on the right track, especially during the last part of the season. I started to really enjoy watching the show. What is going on this year? The shows are completely different and don't seem to make any sense. The folks at ESPN really need to go back to the good thing that they had going at the end of last year before they lose viewers once again.