Monday, March 31, 2008

Baseball Blues Hit "NASCAR Now"


It was somewhat ironic that Brent Musburger was the play-by-play announcer on the opening day Chicago Cubs game on ESPN2. Musburger's appearances on NASCAR programs in 2007 were memorable for many reasons.

The focus of each week on NASCAR Now has become the "Big Monday" show that the network calls the roundtable. They assemble three panelists to join Allen Bestwick for a full hour of conversation about NASCAR topics. The program airs at either 5:30 or 6PM Eastern Time.

On this Monday, Major League Baseball and NASCAR Now had a manifest destiny that would ruin the plans of many East Coast NASCAR fans. After two rain delays, the Cubs game began again and quickly swallowed-up the edition of Baseball Tonight that was scheduled for 5PM.

As the scoreless game began to approach the 6PM hour, it became clear that all the effort of the network to prepare the "Big Monday" show was about to be scuttled. On a nasty and rainy day in Chicago, the play was sloppy and the game was boring.

This week, NASCAR Now was simply loaded for bear. Panelist Johnny Benson had moved his way through the Truck Series race on Saturday only to be spun on the last lap by an over-enthusiastic Kyle Busch. This prompted some post-race festivities between pit crews that NASCAR settled quickly. This would be the first opportunity to see Benson on-camera, as the NASCAR on Fox crew chose not to interview him during the post-race coverage.

Also along for the ride was Mike Wallace. In a surprise move, Wallace flew to Bristol, CT on Saturday night after the Truck race and co-hosted the Sunday morning edition of NASCAR Now with Ryan Burr. Later, Wallace appeared on ESPNEWS to talk about the race and help the anchors interpret the live post-race comments from the Infield Media Center.

Monday morning, Wallace was on the First Take program talking NASCAR. With all this as a warm-up and the fact his daughter Chrissy had finished in the top twenty in the Truck race, Wallace was going to have a lot to talk about.

The journalist on the panel was Mike Massaro, ESPN's most veteran NASCAR reporter. Massaro has a long history in the sport, and certainly was going to have some views on the news topics of the weekend, including "Part-Gate" and the return of Hendrick Motorsports.

As NASCAR fans began tuning-in, the clock went past the 6PM hour and Brent Musburger continued to talk baseball. Musburger never even took fifteen seconds to do a "scene set" for NASCAR fans and explain what was going on. At least the graphics department inserted a crawl that indicated NASCAR Now was coming up next.

There was wall-to-wall baseball on ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNEWS. It was opening day and this was the featured sport. There was, however, one place where baseball was not on-the-air.

Over on the ESPN Classic network the 6PM hour featured two editions of Stump the Schwab. Howie Schwab was the original ESPN "stats and research" guy and has a ton of sports knowledge. While Howie is a great guy, both of these programs were re-runs.

Last season, when NASCAR programming was being pushed around by live stick-and-ball sports, the company took the bold step of putting live racing on ESPN Classic. As with everything there were drawbacks. The size of the network is smaller and the TiVo's and DVR's did not know to switch networks, so video recorders missed the racing.

The one thing this move did for NASCAR fans was to show them that ESPN understands the sport and their passion for it. The company took positive action to try and get whatever they could on-the-air for the fans and it was appreciated.

Monday at 6PM, it might have been appreciated if NASCAR Now was switched to ESPN Classic. At least the viewers tuning-in at that time could have been sent to that network and seen the program they had intended to watch. The earliest re-air of the Monday program was actually Tuesday at 1AM Eastern Time.

The Cubs game finally ended at about 6:54PM, and most TV viewers thought that an abbreviated version of Baseball Tonight would serve as the "bridge" to the next live baseball game at 7PM.

Instead, the crew of NASCAR Now appeared from the studio and tried to make use of this shortened program time. Bestwick led a review of the Martinsville Cup race and a preview of the Texas event next weekend. The panelists sounded great together, and NASCAR fans were reminded of just how far this program has come since February.

For baseball fans, this must have been an interesting moment when four NASCAR types appeared for six minutes between live games to talk about a NASCAR race that aired on Fox. Perhaps, by that point Baseball Tonight would have been a better choice.

The Daly Planet, along with lots of NASCAR fans, will record the 1AM version of this program and then offer some comments on Tuesday about the show. What a shame that after a big weekend of racing and a great line-up of talent, the reality of ESPN's extensive live sports line-up became apparent once again.

It should be interesting to see if the Tuesday evening version of this show includes any of the content from Monday's missing episode. For fans who do not record programs, this might be the only way to see what we all missed when the baseball blues hit NASCAR Now.

The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Simply click on the COMMENTS button below and follow the easy instructions. The rules for posting are on the right side of the main page, and thanks again for stopping by.

29 comments:

AMS fan said...

Now I know why I don't try to or plan to watch ESPN unless the actual race is on. The other network may have its shortfalls but even on a bad day they are more consistant than ESPN. At least I know where I was at 8:00 pm.

stricklinfan82 said...

I'm not going to bash ESPN like I have in the past when NASCAR programming has been pre-empted for other live sporting events.

The reason I won't bash them is because this was caused by mother nature. Two long rain-delays forced this game to be delayed far past their scheduled 5:00 off-air time. This wasn't a case of scheduling a Nationwide broadcast to start 3 hours after the start of a college football game or two hours after the start of a men's tennis match, like ESPN did last year far too often. They allowed a 1-hour buffer between the end of the game and the start of NASCAR Now. We NASCAR fans just got unlucky with an unforseen amount of rain delays, no fault of ESPN's here.

On the other hand it sure would have been nice to move NASCAR Now to ESPN Classic in this instance. I'm very disappointed in their decision not to pre-empt Stump the Schwab re-airs for NASCAR Now. That's two weeks in a row ESPN Classic was not used as a NASCAR-overflow network like it was last year. First it was Nashville Nationwide qualifying, and now today. It sure would have been nice to pre-empt 2004 billiards and 2000 bowling last week and it sure would have been nice to pre-empt Stump the Schwab today.

If you're going to use ESPN Classic for NASCAR some of the time, why not use it all of the time?

Erik said...

ESPN Classic isn't just for NASCAR. It is for any live sporting event that needs to get bumped, and I feel it should be reserved for this purpose. Moving all the news shows such as Baseball Tonight, NBA Fastbreak, NFL Live, NASCAR Now, etc. would set a very bad precedent and create a scheduling nightmare. You would need ESPN Classic 2 and ESPN Classic 3 to handle it all.

Anonymous said...

"There was wall-to-wall baseball on ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNEWS. It was opening day and this was the featured sport."

Actually, a live SportsCenter was supposed to be on ESPN and was moved to ESPN News because of live baseball on ESPN. That wasn't a regular ESPN News broadcast, that was the flagship program Sportscenter. So even it got bumped to another network; ESPN ran the new location of Sportscenter on the ticker at the bottom of the game.

Erik makes an interesting point I hadn't thought about; perhaps ESPN News should be the location for news shows like NASCAR Now and others of that kind that get bumped like Sportscenter did, and ESPN Classic should be reserved for live events.

Anonymous said...

I'm a rabid Nascar fan, but I'm already getting frustrated with the same ol',same ol'. ESPN shouldn't be covering Nascar. I got tired of going through the "channel dance" last year togther with incompetant hosts. This year, we've already had a full plate of weather delays,blown tires,too hard tires,and hot headed drivers. Nascar should give ESPN its money back and let Speed cover the sport.

Anonymous said...

I agree that the weather played a huge part in the schedule conflict at ESPN. But for years and even present day ESPN has really dropped the ball on NASCAR coverage. However ABC ESPNs parent company is hidious to watch. The anouncers are terrible to say the least and border on incompitent. It is obvious most of them have any car knowledge or any racing knowledge. Rusty, Andy and Tim have knowledge but lack the chemistry that makes them interesting. Adding Dale Jarrett may help. ABC / ESPN You want a good broadcast team for your networks..... beg SPEED to loan you Kenny, Jimmy and John. Along with their pit reporters... they are knowledgeable and entertaining. I could watch them for every race. ESPN and ABC just don't get it.... we don't care who hits a homerun or makes a great basket when we are watching the race. We just want to watch the race. I understand commercials most fans get it. I just makes my blood boil when I miss a wreck or great pass that happend when so and so is up to bat trying to hit his nine millonth home run. Then we see the same guy on the morning news hitting the same homerun and defending himself from fedral indictements on purgery from illegal drug use. I watch the race with ten to fifteen guys on sunday...... And we have deep talks about coverage of the race. FOX does a great job .... sure they have commercials... but we watch RACING... not highlites from another sport. ABC ditch the sport update with Robin... we don't care about updates.

Anonymous said...

It would be interesting to know what discussions are going on about how much money they spent to create the Monday show and how much more important it is this season.

JD

March 31, 2008 8:01 PM

The roundtable hour features a significant amount of pre-production and both ESPN and the NASCAR Media Group contribute content.

This has been a big change for ESPN, and it has been a big hit for them as well.

JD

March 31, 2008 8:49 PM
*********************************
I deal in facts and numbers, not perception. If NASCAR Now is currently a more viewed show on Monday than it was last year, then I want to see the ratings and amount of viewers watching.

Surely if NASCAR Now is showing a substantial jump in viewership and ratings compared to 2007, ESPN would want other media and fans to know about it so they would make sure to watch, right? If the show is a hit, it makes no sense to hide that or not promote it. For instance, I've seen no mention of the content or personalities on NN in USA Today's Sports Television columns since the announcement of the new staff in late January. I've seen no mention of a ratings jump.

And according to Sports Business Journal, another ESPN show, Baseball Tonight, is getting a promotional campaign on the network. Is NN getting that? I'm not trying to put NN down, I just won't believe that the viewership has grown and it is a network priority until I see some numbers.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Erik,

When there is no live event that needs to "overflow" to ESPN Classic, what is the problem with moving a show like NASCAR Now?

It can always be bumped from Classic by a live event. The reason SC was moved to ESPNEWS is because the show is news-oriented and not sport-specific.

As I mentioned to you before, the network is already struggling with other quality shows like PTI that could use an additional East Coast primetime airing. It should be interesting to see how and when ESPN steps-up and uses the ESPN Classic pathway for real program distribution.

JD

Speedcouch said...

I don't watch NASCAR Now live, so image my disappointment when I went into the Tivo to watch it around 9:00 last night and had to fast-forward through 30-40 minutes of baseball. Only to get an abreveated version of NN. I did set the Tivo to record the reair at 1am, so hopefully ,that wasn't affected by baseball.

I was excited to see Johnny Benson on the show, so I'm looking forward to watching the recording when I get home tonight.

FYI, I just saw on an audio-visual site that ESPN News went HD on Sunday and both Dish and DirecTV are suppose to pick it up soon. That's good news for any racing that might get shifted over there later this year.

Anonymous said...

Anon @ 7:54 AM

Yeah - let SPEED cover everything. They would never preempt Cup practice for something like a car auction...

Anonymous said...

I'm a baseball fan AND a racing fan (the two are not mutually exclusive) and while it was disappointing to not see NN at 6 PM (also disappointing that the Cubs lost) I could understand it. It's Opening Day, after all. It's frustrating but other sports have to coexist and there are not enough channels for them all. We do not get ESPN Classic or ESPN News.

Tripp said...

ESPN did give NN their full measure of time early Tuesday and those who TiVod it were treated to a more laid back show than we've come to expect this year. That had primarily to do with the personalities on the panel. Mike Wallace, who's not afflicted with the same hyper nature as his younger brother, paired well with the ever-placid Johnny Benson to recap the action in Martinsville.

Allen Bestwick deftly guided the discussion on the weekend's activities, while Mike, Johnny and Mike Masarro filled in the details with the expertise and good humor that we've come to expect from this show.

What struck me about this show is that with JB on the panel I was constantly hearkening back to the old Inside Winston Cup show. It made me wonder if the program planners at ESPN every actually thought, "Hey, we've got Allen now. Let's bring back IWC?" I'm rather slow so it took me a while to come up with that thought, but I wouldn't be surprised if it went down like that.

Turning back to the panel, while Mike Wallace jumps right into any discussion he's part of, Johnny is more reserved. To get him involved, AB on at least one occasion specifically turned to JB and asked for his views. Johnny might be a little too passive for this type of show which is unfortunate because his thoughts are often interesting and insightful, as those who've heard him on Sirius radio's old "Driver's Seat" show can recall.

All told, the "way-to-early-in-the-morning" edition of NASCAR Now delivered more of what fans have come to expect from this show. And that's a good thing

Matt said...

I just finished watching the show and thought it was great. There was some humor, but interesting conversation as well. And of course Allen is excellent as host.

As far as it being delayed to the morning, I understand. I completely agree with stricklinfan, there was nothing that really could have been done in my opinion.

I had DVR'd the original scheduling, but came to the blog just to see some comments. Fortunately, I saw the updates (thanks JD) and taped the 1am show instead.

drh277 said...

JD, I know you already reviewed the Truck race but I wanted to know if you recieved any complaints from the upstate NY area. With 8 laps to go the race ( I think it might have been 3:00pm ) swithced to the show that was suppose to start at that time. It did not start back up until the winner was doing his victory burn out. I was not at all amused and my 5 year old daughter could not explain it to me either.

Daly Planet Editor said...

drh,

If your local Fox TV station switched to a recorded program before the conclusion of a live network event, it certainly is worth a call to the station.

The General Manager might not even know that happened unless you point it out. With all the current automation used at local stations, it could have been that the operator on duty did not over-ride a scheduled switch.

Either way, the rule is that you never interrupt a network sports event in-progress. The NASCAR package is a "must carry" for the Fox affiliates.

Good luck with the call.

JD

Newracefan said...

I'm OK with what ESPN did on Monday, bummed that I had to wait til Tuesday for AB and the guys but OK. I have NN on series recording so I got the 1am screening too. The only way all this could have come out badly is if it started late and ran over into the next timeslot and I wasn't home to add the next slot as a buffer. Vacation may be problematic. I am not sure if I like the idea of a switch to ESPN Classic (which I do not have), I understand the concept that I wouldn't have seen it anyway but I also would not have gotten that 6 minutes just before 7pm which was different that the 1am airing. The 1am show was great by the way. JB took the high road but he made his point.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
stricklinfan82 said...

Another great Monday Night NASCAR Now. The roundtable continues to be an excellent format and they never seem to miss a relevant topic that came from the weekend's racing, regardless of how controversial that topic may have been.

It continues to be great to hear new soundbites from drivers, owners, crew chiefs, etc. and not just a replay of the same interviews we saw on the original race broadcast or on Sportscenter.

And finally it was great to hear Johnny Benson's side of the pit-road "fight" with his crew and Kyle Busch. On Fox Kyle Busch made it sound like he was the innocent victim in the situation and Benson's crew just ran at him to pick a fight for the in-track incident. It was nice to hear the explanation the crew initially only gave Kyle an innocent but sarcasitic round of applause and only after Kyle flipped them off did the crew members react violently towards Kyle. JB definitely handled this whole situation with class, both Saturday and on this program. The other driver involved in that incident could certainly learn a lot from how a true profressional like Mr. Benson handled himself.

It sure is nice to have one Monday night program that ties up all of the loose ends from the weekend's happenings.

Ken-Michigan said...

This "home depot garage set" they are using for Monday's NASCAR NOW show is getting to me.

The monday show with Bestwick is fantastic and ESPN should treat the show similar to the "other" similar shows affiliated with NFL / MLB, etc.

This "roundtable" monday show NEEDS a desk. It doesnt need a race car, quarts of oil, an air compressor and some hokey Daytona poster on the wall.

Would Chris Berman put up with a "locker room set" on the NFL shows? I just cant picture Berman and crew doing a show with shoes, rolls of athletic tape and jock straps hanging in a locker behind them.

Providing a better set for this "best in breed" NASCAR show would elevate it and give it more of an ESPN Production look.

Anonymous said...

I recorded the 01:00 showing of NASCAR Now and watched it this morning while eating breakfast. As someone who used to love INC, I must say NN has it all over the Speed show. I will continue to record TWIN, but NN has become my favorite racing review show.

SophiaZ123 said...

ken mich

I fell asleep watching the show but will finish watching the tape tonight.

I also noticed the background more last night. Were the chairs closer to the junk and that's why they were noticed more?

But I agree, NNow needs to clean up the garage as it's a classy show on Monday and the guys on there deserve better. Funny it never bothered me before until last night and when I saw a guy mention it, I thought I would throw in my two cents.

Can't wait to hear JB's side and 'the rest of the story.' when I finish the tape.

:)

Anonymous said...

A woman shows up three innings late to a baseball game and turns to the guy sitting next to her and asks for the score. He says it's scoreless. "Oh good," she says, "I haven't missed anything."

A baseball fan gets that joke. "Scoreless" does not necessarily mean boring in baseball. Mr. Daly, I would expect a little more respect from someone writing about a sport, whose main criticism is that "they just drive around in circles." By your standard, networks should also be allowed to truncate boring, rain-delayed races to get to the news on time.

You can make your point without the cheap shots.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 4:29PM,

Did you see the rain-soaked game?

The pitchers had trouble even staying on the mound. The homerun was great, and your point is well-taken. I hope you understand mine.

JD

Dot said...

I taped NN in the afternoon to watch later. It wasn't on. Good thing I live on the left side of the country, I got to watch the repeat @ 10pm. I hate to say it, but this show is better than TWIN.
BRING BACK SCHRADER.
I agree with Ken-Michigan, they do need a desk. This would work for Brad if he forgets his pants.

Erik said...

Mr. Daly,
I just feel there will be plenty of angry folks if NASCAR Now gets bumped to Classic, and bumped off the air completely if Classic is needed to see the start of a synchronized swimming competition because a field hockey match ran long.

I do agree ESPN has quite a few options available for Classic. Re-airing its original shows a couple of hours later, making it easier for people that work during the day can see them is one option.

Another one is simply stick to the status quo of airing American Gladiator reruns, and sporting events from ESPN's vast archives.

With DVRs becoming more prevelant, the time a show airs is not as important, except when the circumstances are that the show is unable to air at all in its original scheduled time.

ESPN does need to noodle on this one for awhile. The best option likely would be the one which gets Classic into the lowest programming tier and into the most homes as possible.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Erik,

If ESPN just bit the bullet and made a commitment to turn ESPN Classic into ESPN3 it would turn-out for the best.

Right now, they do not want to program an entire 24 hour network and spend the money to build the infrastructure that is needed to support such an effort.

This would be a great network for outdoor things like BASS, for NASCAR, and for scheduled third network live event overflow.

With the newly merged IRL, look for them to expand their schedule for next season and to demand a weekly show on ESPN as part of their TV contract.

If Bruton buys the NHRA, look for that company to do exactly the same thing.

Lot of things shaking in motorsports TV land these days.

JD

Anonymous said...

JD, I really would appreciate it if you would quit trying to "push" ESPN Classic. It is not an option for a great many of us and I resent that you think it is the panacea for all ESPN NASCAR programming problems.

DB1

Daly Planet Editor said...

DB1,

The problem on the table is that ESPN has so much programming they cannot handle the capacity with two networks.

A good case in point is Texas this weekend. No Nationwide Series practices and no Nationwide Series qualifying. All we get is the race.

If ESPN Classic gets changed to ESPN3 it would eventually become basic and sit on your cable dial right alongside ESPN and ESPN2.

It would just provide another pipeline into your home for sports product. Hopefully, part of that product would be re-airs of the NASCAR races that the NASCAR Media Group could sell to ESPN.

As SPEED continues to shift away from NASCAR on Monday through Thursday ESPN has a real opportunity to finally make that dying network (ESPN Classic) useful again.

Thanks for your comment.

JD

Anonymous said...

Many cable companies moved ESPN Classic to higher digital cable tiers or paid sports tiers within the past two years. It's not going to be that easy to switch it back as ESPN3 - because other cable channels replaced ESPN Classic on basic in those systems.

*IF* ESPN3 gets a slot on basic cable (and again ESPNU and ESPNNEWS are not, so assuming ESPN3 would go to basic is risky) it will take quite some time for it to happen, likely involving the move of another channel. If ESPN tries to charge cable companies a premium for ESPN3 like the NFL Network has attempted to do, it won't make it off digital or be added to the cable companies that don't have Classic at all (and there are quite a few of those.)