Monday, March 3, 2008
ESPN Continues To Shuffle The Monday Night Deck
Targeting the one hour Monday NASCAR Now show, the ESPN executives took a chance and made a big change. It has paid-off in spades.
The series introduced a roundtable format that gathers four NASCAR on ESPN personalities and lets them talk. This week, Ray Evernham joined host Allen Bestwick, Boris Said and Mike Massaro.
Mixed with highlights and soundbites from the track, the conversation flows from topic-to-topic. It is an interesting change of pace that comes at a time when NASCAR fans have already seen the highlights, and want more information and perspective.
Boris Said has been a regular on this program, and continues to be the free spirit that this program has needed to turn loose. Sometimes a bit outrageous, Said has been a vocal advocate for the "little guy" in the sport and relates well to the other ESPN personalities including regular hosts Ryan Burr and Nicole Manske.
All the hard work of Mike Massaro has been rewarded with an active role on this panel. Massaro has the true perspective of a veteran reporter, and he is not afraid to challenge the statements of the other panelists on almost any topic. While he was not chosen to be a co-host, his role as a pit reporter continues on the entire NASCAR on ESPN package.
The interesting personality on the horizon is Ray Evernham. How and why he suddenly showed-up as a member of the ESPN team has never really been explained. Evernham has a very good presence on TV, and he could easily slip into an analyst role for the network in the future. This season, he will be working on NASCAR Now as well as contributing to other programs like SportsCenter and also ESPNEWS.
While he is still active as a team owner, Evernham has been careful to steer away from even casual conversation about his GEM cars. He contributes from a veteran perspective and often took the lead in the conversations throughout the show. While fans have lots of strong feelings about him, ESPN has made it clear that Evernham is here to stay. It should be interesting to see if his role changes in 2009.
At about the halfway point of the show, there is an extended video piece that recaps all kinds of happenings at the track from practice through the final race. It is a wonderful feature that allows a break from the studio conversation, and gives fans the kind of behind-the-scenes peek they used to enjoy on some former NASCAR TV series. Getting this footage "turned around" and edited is no easy task.
Bestwick has been a breath of fresh air for ESPN, and this program gives viewers the opportunity to see ESPN personalities in an informal setting where they can speak freely on a wide variety of topics. Perhaps, ESPN may someday choose to allow the panel to take questions from fans and expand the conversation outside the studio.
The NASCAR Media Group provides a lot of footage and support for all the NASCAR-related TV programs, and NASCAR Now is no exception. The wonderfully edited video piece featured in each Monday show has become a favorite, and really begs for a NASCAR Now year-in-review program in November.
ESPN has hit on a recipe for success, and should get credit for making the changes needed to create a Monday wrap-up show that fans can finally enjoy.
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