Sunday, July 20, 2008

Delays At Gateway Make It A Long Night For Punch


ESPN closed the Infield Pit Center for the weekend and sent Allen Bestwick and Brad Daugherty off on vacation. All Jerry Punch and the ESPN crew at Gateway would have to do is host one little Nationwide Series race without them. What a task that turned-out to be.

It was Dave Burns expanding his pit reporter duties and stepping-in as the semi-host of the pre-race show. Burns has come a long way in his TV career and has recently started doing feature reports for ESPN2's NASCAR Now. This was another new assignment that he handled quite well. Burns directed traffic early-on before handing-off to Punch in the broadcast booth.

The "big boys" were on hand for the network as both Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree were well-rested and ready to make the long run to the end of the season in November. Petree comes alive when he is with Jarrett and the duo was informative and confident in their comments and analysis throughout the race.

Jerry Punch is working hard to figure-out how to add excitement to a telecast that sometimes may not be exciting. Punch is very loud on the ESPN network promos and he enjoys introducing pre-recorded features. Going to commercial break is apparently very exciting and his volume rises quickly.

What really has not changed is his confusion when something happens on the racetrack. Several big accidents, including one that caused an extended red flag elicited nothing more than partial phrases and terms like "oh" and "ah" to sum-up the action. Jarrett and Petree are quick to jump-in and help, but the damage is done.

When Punch gets nervous or put on-the-spot, catch phrases like "young man" and "sails it into the corner" come out over-and-over again. Carl Edwards once again became a "young man" as he crossed the finish line to win at Gateway. Punch was like a starting pitcher in the ninth inning, out of gas and in need of some relief.

Standing in front of Punch are seventeen of the highest-profile Sprint Cup races of the season. That load is going to be heaped upon his existing Nationwide Series commitment for the rest of the year. ESPN is also adding practice and qualifying sessions for both series, as well as making Punch appear on the weekend editions of NASCAR Now. Talk about needing a relief pitcher.

ESPN was admittedly short-staffed at Gateway. Jamie Little and Tim Brewer were also on vacation. Little was missed as the three pit reporters scurried about to fill time during the extended red flag. Brewer's fill-in DJ Copp did a good job, but was not used as much as he could have been in the red flag and caution periods.

There is no doubt that the ESPN crew is going to walk away from Gateway needing a hot shower and a good night's sleep. They only have a couple of days to relax before coverage from The Brickyard begins next Friday. After that day, there will be little rest until Homestead in November. Seventeen straight weeks on the road will put anyone to the test.

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35 comments:

SallyB said...

They weren't the only ones that ran out of steam. I nodded off before then end of the race. Starting a race at 9:30 EDT makes it very difficult to survive to the checkered flag is you're not on the west coast. Yes, AB would be a better choice for the booth, but I have so much respect for Dr. Punch that I guess I can live with his stumbles. DJ and Andy Petree are great. Overall, I prefer the 'low key' approach that TNT and ESPN use, rather than the overly excited (usually over nothing) hard sell tactics of Fox.

Vicky D said...

Well last year during the dual broadcasts JP sounded really tired I'm sure it'll be the same this year. Can't ESPN & Nascar have Nationwide Series only tv crews? It would help with the identity of this series, I think.

Anonymous said...

Punch is clearly not the right man for the job, but ESPN doesn't seem to understand this.

The problem with relying on people's "respect" for Punch is that, if he keeps performing like this, eventually, the audience will lose that respect.

Anonymous said...
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Lisa Hogan said...

Well said, JD.

I think that the majority of fans like Jerry Punch. It has been said since day one that he is just in the wrong job.

Put Bestwick in the play-by-play position and put Punch in the infield studio.

The situation now is just painful for this viewer. It is only going to get worse. Leaving Punch in that position is no longer a case of the people in charge being unaware, it has become cruel.

Anonymous said...

Diane said....

Bring back TNT! Yikes! It is so painful listening to Dr. P. Was it Jason Leffler or Mike Bliss in the 11 car. Oh..that's right it was Jason Keller! My husband and had running joke about it every time we saw the 11.

As much as I love DJ...he needs to slow down a bit. But rather too fast than too slow. Like Andy P. I think DJ & AP struggle a bit propping up Dr. P. DJC has a future in TV when he stops crewing. I love everything he does.

I am hopin ESPN does what it did last year and sends out survey after the last race about the different announcers. Wish it was sooner.

Anonymous said...

Hey JD - just curious....since you had such a love affair with TNT and blew the trumpet of how they were setting NASCAR Broadcasting on its ear with the greatest things since slice bread.....

.....and since your continued dislike for anything FOX......

.....explain to the 15 readers how come Chicago was the lowest rated NASCAR broadcast of the year. For that matter.....other then one spike....on one race....TNT's rating really sucked..

FOX ratings were up....which I know just had to kill you.....

So how do you explain the TNT Titanic?

Again, just curious....

Anonymous said...

It's pretty simple Anon at 3:21pm...TNT put on a much higher quality broadcast in its' 6-week stint than Fox did or ESPN will probably do. They had much better camera work/direction, tried one race without commercials, had high quality analysis between Dallenbach/Petty, and provided an online resource that allowed us to see the entire race from a variety of angles that we could not see unless we were actually at the race.

They were not perfect, and there were things that we could be critical about (Larry Mac's magic trick, little post race coverage, overpromotion of "Coke Zero" to name a few), but the good definitely outweighed the bad.

Fox gave us Digger and his cam, refused to show the cars cross the finish line and had DW going on-and-on about Kyle Busch. ESPN, though they deserve a fair chance, has yet to show that they can get away from last year's debacle...and it hasn't had a good lead-in with Jerry Punch struggling in an all-important role as play-by-play announcer.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Yea, what he/she said!

Anonymous said...

Anon 3:31 is right: It is true that TNT's ratings for the Chicagoland race were downright awful. A 23 percent drop from the same race last year and those ratings were a big decrease from previous years!

I don't care if it was Saturday night vs. Sunday afternoon, the ratings shouldn't have decreased that much. The Daytona night race did just fine (even with last year's ratings). Maybe Larry's magic trick had more effect than we thought in viewers turning off their sets - for good.

I think we're going to see what we saw last year: FOX races have OK ratings (they had a slight increase this year), then the TNT and ESPN portions of the Cup schedule decline in ratings or remain flat. IMO there is no reason the Brickyard should be on ESPN next Sunday - it should be on ABC.

For whatever reason - maybe because it's a channel that's easy to get to or remember - more people prefer to watch races on FOX than TNT or ESPN.

Badboy said...

Sorry, but for my money, the Fox coverage is the BEST, hands down - the combination of entertainment and information is absolutely the best among all the networks, it's just plain fun.....

Newracefan said...

I just watched the NW race today and it wasn't too bad but then I was DVRing thru commercials and already knew the outcome. DJ and AP are what kept the race together for me, I didn't see JP as a pit reporter but I respect what others say about his abilities in that role and saw some of the rain delay coverage a few weeks back so I know he can do some things well. PBP is not one of them. I do not think ESPN will switch AB and JP no matter how much we complain, at least not this year. I may continue to watch the races this way for NW. Won't work for Cup because I NEED to listen to my drivers scanner so I watch it live. To the poster who said Fox is better than TNT, I agree about Mike Joy and Larry Mac in the booth, I like DW too but sometimes he does go over the top but what makes TNT better is their camera work (and by this I mean the director). Wider angles and we see the racing and the finish. Rating were definately related to Sat night in the summer VS Sun. I only saw half the race myself and I would have been able to watch all if it was Sun.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree that DW on FOX goes over the top with Kyle Busch, but when you are winning the races on almost a weekly basis between the top 3 series in the sport - that is the driver they are going to talk about. You have earned the right to be talked about when you are winning as much as he is (and that is coming from a Harvick fan that isn't much of a Busch fan period). That is just the way it is. I agree that TNT has a little bit better camera work than FOX does, but FOX still gives us the best coverage in my opinion. When it comes to JP and his tired attitude, I had to give up by lap 21 last night ... it was making me more tired to listen to him since he was so tired.

Deven said...

I personally really like Mart Reid, from the IRL. Every time he does a Nationwide race, I really enjoy it. He is one of the best lead commentators that many have never heard. I also enjoyed the Weber and Dallenbach duo for the Le Mans race on NBC today. I thought they continued the excellent relationship they have in the Sprint Cup booth.

Diane Mc said...

I absolutely agree with anon 3:42. You got it exactly right. TNT gives us the best race coverage by a mile. When Fox is doing the coverage, I can only listen to the clowns for about an hour. Then I have to turn on the radio to hear the rest of the race. And ESPN with JP isn't much better. Wish they would let Jerry do the NNS races and put Bestwick in the booth for Cup. Allen, Wally & Kyle would be a joy to listen to.

Adam T. Martin said...

Dr. Punch must be trying his heart out with this announcing but he is simply in the wrong position.

Put Allen Bestwick or Bob Jenkins as play by play and put the good Dr. Punch in the pits.

Delenn said...

JD, have you specifically asked those in charge of ESPN about switching JP and AB? I would love to know what reason they give for not doing so.

Daly Planet Editor said...

delenn,

The topic is not on the agenda for ESPN. The way they have approached problems on-the-air in the past is by not admitting anything is wrong during the season and then changing exactly what was pointed-out during the off-season.

Jerry is going to get his second season of Sprint Cup races, but if he gets lost at Indy like he did last year it is going to be a long seventeen races for ESPN.

No other network puts one play-by-play announcer on the practices, qualifying and races of both the Nationwide and Cup Series.

We saw Steve Byrnes trade-off with Mike Joy and Bill Weber during the first part of the season on Fox and TNT.

ESPN is a closed society and will not share announcers with others. Marty Reid is the only sub as Allen Bestwick is fulltime in the Infield for both the NNS and Cup.

As you may know, Reid is the IRL announcer and the NHRA guys are still sore he left them and they got Paul Page.

Lurking in the shadows is Bob Jenkins, who currently voices the IRL support series for ESPN2 and has been doing a great job.

I hope Jerry does well and it works out, but this is going to be his last shot at it IMHO.

JD

alex said...

Is it possible that JP has a clause in his contract that says he will be PBP announcer and cannot be removed from that position?

I can't imagine that ESPN is blind to these obvious issues.

Daly Planet Editor said...

alex,

Its a lot different at the top level. You just do not switch someone in the middle of the season. There are tons of marketing materials, promotional items and other things from pictures to Internet pages that have already been designed for this team.

The schedules were set before the season and everyone knows what they are supposed to do. It will be the Punch, Jarrett and Petree team this season riding-out the season.

JD

bevo said...

JD,

Bob Jenkins is also doing IRL races on radio.

Anonymous said...

When someone mentioned ratings getting worse later in the season, maybe we should also take a look at the quality of product that Nascar is putting out as opposed to laying the blame on any TV station. In all honesty, I hate admitting that I spend 4 hours devoted to a race only to find that I could have skipped the first 3.5 hours and came back to see the green/white checker every time, or to see a car get out front and pull away within seconds because of "clear air" and the problem with restarts and lapped cars getting in the way of cars 2,3,4 and so on.

I also wondered...when are the ratings compiled for a race; at the beginning of a race at 6pm, during the race at 8pm, or at the end of the race at 10pm?

Also, does the fact that FOX is antenna channel (CBS, NBC, ABC, WGN, FOX, etc.) have an effect on ratings as opposed to cable channels like TNT and ESPN?

Daly Planet Editor said...

Ratings are supposedly taken as the program is in-progress and show either up or down totals as the event goes on.

I have my own opinion about the validity of TV ratings in a multi-tasking environment where PIP and computer activity is never even taken into account.

Ratings are different for broadcast and cable networks because of the size of the universe they serve (another touchy issue) and the way they distribute programming by time.

JD

Anonymous said...
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Richard in N.C. said...

I believe deservedly that Weber and declining ratings (viewership) are synonomous. I sure do wish there was a TV place for Eli Gold.

Anonymous said...

It's too bad this blog wasn't around during the last tv contract when Benny was in the booth with AB & Wally vs Weber & Wally ... As great as Benny was when the races were on ESPN / CBS in the old days, he wasn't the same when they went to TNT & NBC ... Not much different than how people talk about Dr Punch ... I'm not talking ill of the dead, I'm just saying the chemistry was different when he was with AB vs Weber ... And now Weber is much different with Kyle Petty & Wally ...

During the last tv contract, the best broadcasts that NBC/TNT had were the standalone Busch races with Wally in the booth either with AB or Ralph Shaheen ...


I like Dr Punch and I think he's doing a good job ... Why can't the alleged problem be the director / producer & what they're feeding into the ears of the people in the booth & on pit road ?? They can't be completely blameless for any problems ...



JD - Has anyone tried going to the top cop at Disney ... Robert Iger ... to get him to straighten things out with the ABC /ESPN coverage??? Ultimately, it's his job to answer to any & all problems that surround the company that he's the CEO of ...



I've basically given up complaining about the coverage on the tv ... I'm remembering the olden days when we didn't have tv coverage of ALL of the races / practices / qualifying sessions ... and we had to be happy with what Jim McKay would bring us on the "Wide World of Sports" ...



Just out of curiosity ... Were people complaining because Fox decided to air the German Grand Prix yesterday on a tape delay??

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 9:04AM,

I could not disagree with you more about BP. Dallenbach has zero credibility in the NASCAR garage and this season even less. While he is a pleasant and fun on-air commentator, it was only Kyle that saved that crew from disaster.

The PXP guy does not get info fed to him during the race, he calls the action on the track. What he gets is info on where the TV coverage is going to go.

For example, to a replay, to commercial, to the infield, to a pit reporter. It is up to the PXP announcer to think of the words to describe the event to millions of fans, that is why the position is so tough.

Mr. Iger has nothing to do with this coverage. Rich Feinberg has been working hard as the VP of Motorsports to straighten things out, and this has been a very good year for ESPN on many fronts.

Fox delayed the German Grand Prix because broadcast television is limited to the dayparts where they can show live sporting events and expect station clearance.

If you would like to voice your displeasure, go to SPEEDtv.com and click on the "boards" button at the top.

Thanks,

JD

chase said...

Hi John! Dr. Punch has got to go - it's high time. Andy and DJ are stellar and all they need would be AB to stick it to the other networks -- maybe the idea posted above about getting Robert Iger to look at this seriously might be just what 'the doctor ordered'. Jerry P. was great but his 'tiredness' comes through each of his broadcasts and frankly, I don't know how he's going to make it til the end of this season. ESPN has got to make a change and now before it all goes to pieces -- thankfully, Andy and DJ will save it for ESPN but a big change has got to be made. DJ Copp was great but as you said, his on-air time should have been greater. He's interesting, his content was very interesting and his excitement and dedication palpable. Thanks John! Let's hope something happens and soon!

Brian said...

I have nothing wrong with Dr. Punch, and I hope he stays with this stuff, but the PBP position definitely isn't the place to be for him... much like you all have said.

I know I couldn't stand watching races this year if they left things the same with Punch and Rusty in the booth. Now that we have Andy and DJ in the booth, they have clicked very well this whole year, and no doubt are the ones that save the broadcasts all the time... similar to how Kyle Petty has saved TNT many times.

Other than Punch in the wrong spot, ESPN does have a lot of positive things going for them. Their production team has been commendable all year, and I'm sure they'll continue to be.

We've been saying it for two years already, swap AB and JP. So far we haven't seen much to make that a reality.

AB has been long deserving to get back in that role, man... listening to AB with Andy and DJ would be something really neat to listen to. If only it could happen.

Also... with Marty Reid, I really enjoy listening to him. He does an excellent job every race he's done with the Nationwide stuff, and he's excellent with the Indycar Series. He just has a way of going about things, and he does an incredible job. If we had "two" broadcast teams, obviously AB for the PBP position in Cup would be awesome, then Marty the PBP position for Nationwide.

Sadly, none of these things will probably happen. I don't think AB will get the chance because he seems to get screwed over all the time. Marty Reid, because he has other commitments on ESPN, but he is definitely a commendable person.

Lou, from NY said...

Sometimes I think this will be an ongoing story each and every week. I agree that there may not be any changes til next season.

Anonymous said...

Boo hiss to ESPN for not using DJ Copp more during the broadcast!

Dr. Punch seems like a nice guy, but puts me to sleep. I had to watch the last hour of the race the following day.

Mary

Gymmie said...

For example, to a replay, to commercial, to the infield, to a pit reporter. It is up to the PXP announcer to think of the words to describe the event to millions of fans, that is why the position is so tough.

Agreed...which is why I love Allen and Mike :). They could be describing watching paint dry and make it fun and interesting with their "radio" touch :).

Ken-Michigan said...

As much as I'd like to give compliments on the recent ESPN telecasts of NASCAR, I find it hard to do...so I wont gripe, just to gripe. I've given my comments on the the current ESPN play by play guy in the past.

People want to compare some of the TV play by play people, and I have come up with a rather easy explanation.

Mike Joy = Play by Play
Allen Bestwick = Play by Play
Paul Page = Play by Play
Jerry Punch = Emergency Room Doctor

Someone please send a nurse to Bristol, CT.

Anonymous said...

ESPN has one of the best .... Allen Bestwick ....
They need to put him back in the booth where he belongs.

Anonymous said...

Please, someone remember Ricky Craven. He can explain and talk intelligently with out jumping up and down.