Saturday, August 9, 2008

Road Course Baffles ESPN


It was promoted by infield host Allen Bestwick as a fun afternoon.

There was a wide variety of drivers in the Nationwide Series race from Watkins Glen. The weather was beautiful and the HD pictures from ESPN looked great. Then, the race started.

This was the first road course race since ESPN took over the Sprint Cup telecasts this season. It was Marty Reid and a different TV crew that handled the Montreal Nationwide race one week ago. This time, it was the "A team" of Dr. Jerry Punch, Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree on-the-air.

Bestwick ended the pre-race show and then passed-off to Punch. That moment signaled the beginning of what may have been the worst NASCAR on ESPN telecast of the year. There seemed to be no philosophy or common sense to the coverage. The focus was on the Sprint Cup drivers and not the actual story of the Nationwide Series race.

The early action was exciting, but ESPN kept the TV viewers watching the leaders. Often, the cameras would be catching two-wide racing and passing outside the top ten. To ESPN, it did not matter. They were going to follow the leader and replay anything else that happened. The problem was, a whole lot happened.

Just like last season, by the time this race came around in the afternoon the energy and focus was gone from Punch in the play-by-play role. It was up to Jarrett and Petree to carry the conversation in the booth and interact with the pit road announcers and the Infield Pit Center crew.

When Punch is tired, he asks a lot of questions because he is a reporter at heart. In this race, he often started his sentences with the words "how about" as he repeatedly made-up questions for Jarrett and Petree to answer rather than calling the action on the track.

Silence is something that is normally not heard during a top-level NASCAR race by the fans watching on TV. Saturday at Watkins Glen, silence was everywhere. It came as awkward pauses or when an incident was happening. It came when the camera changed to a different car or when a car that had spun was shown sitting off the track.

As The Daly Planet mentioned in an earlier article, this race was the third live telecast the same on-air crew had done since mid-morning. First-up was Nationwide qualifying and then Happy Hour for the Cup Series. Punch had handled the play-by-play for all three programs. There was no relief pitcher to be called in.

This biggest challenge on a road course is to go back through the field to where the racing is actually happening. Otherwise, TV viewers just watch a parade of the leaders staying nose-to-tail and waiting for the next pit stop. Meanwhile, the real racing may well be going-on just outside the top ten.

In this event, there were many stories that unfolded on pit road. Where the ESPN pit reporters were concerned, this was a complete implosion. Coming off a wonderful Monday episode of NASCAR Now, Jamie Little and Shannon Spake were not in-sync all day long. Several drivers, crew chiefs and even Andy Petree questioned the accuracy of what Little was trying to pass off as fact. Kevin Harvick was a classic.

Late in the race coming back from a commercial, Allen Bestwick took over and coordinated a short strategy session with the announcers. It was like night-and-day when the green flag came out and instead of describing the action, Jerry Punch said "restarts are quite an adventure here."

As the cars got up-to-speed, ESPN interviewed crew chief Todd Parrott and then driver Sam Hornish who was out of the race. Both of these interviews should have waited until the field had at least completed one lap. Viewers had no idea what was going-on as they watched the field scramble while listening to a driver plug his sponsor.

With less than thirty laps remaining, awkward silence was the main contribution of Punch to this telecast. The Producer turned to Bestwick, who lead another long discussion of pit stop strategy and track position. The contrast between the detail-oriented Bestwick and the veteran reporter Punch put could not have been more clear.

With twenty laps to go, Kyle Busch hit Jeff Burton and both cars spun-out. This happened during commercial. Both cars continued and a clearly upset Burton was now tracking down Busch for a pass and possibly some revenge. After replaying the incident, ESPN followed-up by reading a promo for Dancing With The Stars over live action and then transitioned to another commercial.

Andy Petree was the saving grace as he took the strategy lead coming down the stretch. Rusty Wallace and Brad Daugherty were silent as was Tim Brewer. Petree kept the viewers updated as much as he could in the middle of this confusing television coverage.

In the final ten laps, Punch was only able to talk about the top five cars. The only moment where the tenth place car was mentioned was to show viewers it was Joey Logano. Many of the cars in this race were never shown or mentioned once the race began. Stories from earlier in the event like Carl Edwards, Robby Gordon and Kevin Harvick were never updated.

The closing laps were tough to watch. ESPN locked on the top two cars and held onto them. No other cars existed on the race course. The two never passed each other or even touched. With four laps to go, there were suddenly cars shown on the TV screen with engines blowing-up and others were shown spun-out. Punch never even mentioned it.

Marcos Ambrose made his fuel last and won the race. It was only fitting that as the final lap was winding down the caution flag came out and viewers never saw the reason why. Thankfully, the win was a popular one. It cannot, however, make up for a very disjointed effort by the television network covering the event.

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52 comments:

Charlie said...

I listen to the race on the radio and Tv and the radio had a completely different race. The radio announcers were excited all the time.
And again the Tv announcers talk about laps after the half way point as lap 60, 70 and so on but the lap count on the Tv screen is laps to go. What the announcers are talking about pertaining to laps is out of sync with the graphics on the Tv.

stricklinfan82 said...

The numerous issues with today's broadcast were well documented by myself and others in the in-progress post. I'm just going to repeat the same thought I made at the end of the in-progress post:

This same exact television crew will be at this same track tomorrow for a longer race with more cars on the track (no start-and-park) and even more differing strategies than we saw in today's race.

Does anyone have any optimism for a halfway decent broadcast tomorrow considering what we saw today? I, for one, sure can't find a reason to be optimistic after seeing what I saw just now.

Anonymous said...

Great race, IF you either (a) listened to MRN, or (b) knew enough to udnerstand on your own what was going on.

Trying to figure it out by listening to the ESPN guys would have been futile. They (as usual) seem to come from the Harry Carey School of Broadcasting ("Wha--what's happening?!") Jerry Punch has virtually no ideas what's going on unless he can see a reply, and he must not have a roster in front of his, either, because, unless he's talking about a Cup guy, he ends up ust saying the car number.

Move Punch NOW and put Bestwick in his spot. And don't bother to argue "contractual obligations"--I've worked in TV long enough to know that management can ALWAYS find a way to make changes if it wants to.

Anonymous said...

No, tomorrow will be no better, so I've already planned to bring out the radio for PBP. Between that and RaceView, I hope to have some idea who is where and why!

Wisconsin Steve said...

My optimistic view:
Tomorrow can't be much worse.

Anonymous said...

Don't tempt fate!

Wisconsin Steve said...

I know. I may regret that comment.

Lisa Hogan said...

One would think that ESPN would be embarrassed that SPEED absolutely spanks ESPN covering practice, qualifying, and races.

World Wide Leader in Sports, indeed.

Well said, JD.

Thanks again for this site.

Jo said...

My issues with the broadcast are well documented in the other column "in progress"
To sum it up quickly:
1) 1/2 way thru the race I HAD to add MRN to hear the real race, not the flavor of the day & what he was doing. It was a different race completely. it was on track, it was updated & explained. I had enough time to add what was happening & have it show online before Punch & Co ever mentioned it - if they bothered at all.
Thats lack of focus on THE RACE.

2) Doc is really not a PbP, he's a reporter/host, please for the love of all, put him there.

Thanking my Almighty for MRN

3)Stricklin - I have NO optimism at all. Not a drop.

Today was "awful just awful" ( as Greenie on espn radio would say)
There was no excuse for coverage this bad. None.

TNT took alot of fire last year - just like espn did. The difference was TNT listened & changed. And got praise for it - even from me.

The lack of prep, the utter laziness, the sheer gall of
Every
Promo
Save
NA$CAR on track
on Abc to call this "race coverage" is showing me & other fans how much they do not care about NA$CAR or its fans.
Today was totally disrespectful!

Newracefan said...

I was greatly disappointed in the TV coverage for the race and actually resorted to streaming MRN off the internet which is something I have never done before. I thought DJ and AP would do a better job but I think the problem was that they had no direction except when AB gave them some from the infield studio.

This does not make me hopeful for the rest of the Cup series broadcasts. The top 5-10 cars plus some of the stars if they are not in that top 10 are the only cars on the track, not to mention if you are not a star and in the top 10 you'll be ignored until you fall out.

Anonymous said...

The lack of prep

Yes! I was wondering about this the entire race.

They guys in the booth sounded as if they walked in cold and had NO idea who was in which car!

I guess we're expected to do the prep for ourselves, since they won't do it. Of course, they're getting paid for it...

Dot said...

Maybe, just maybe ESPN will see the errors of their ways today and do a better job tomorrow.

Signed,

Pollyanna

Anonymous said...

I tell you what, if NASCAR.com had any question about whether they ought to offer RaceView for NNS, this thread ought to answer it.

Anonymous said...

"Marcos Ambrose made his fuel last and won the race. It was only fitting that as the final lap was winding down the caution flag came out and viewers never saw the reason why"

What??????? They showed the 66 come to a stop live and them after the yellow waved said it was for the 66!

speedangel said...

My audio for the race tomorrow (weather permitting) will most likely be from MRN. Anon 6:07 has a good point about your view of the race if you were listening to MRN or knew enough to keep up on your own. The problem with the latter is the TV team should be doing that for the fans.

My favorite quote from the telecast: "By the way you Denny Hamlin fans, he went the garage awhile back." If they won't keep us up-to-date with Denny Hamlin, fans of most other drivers are screwed.

Also, I read the comments from the other blog for this race, and on the 91 and 92 cars and how they can get drivers like Chris Cook and Michael McDowell to get in their cars, keep this in mind too. Phil Parsons is on the Board of Directors at MWR. Cook has been coaching Reutimann on the road courses and of course McDowell drives for them, so I think it could've been a favor. Plus, Cook even said in his qualifying interview that they don't have the equipment and he was there to do a job.

TexasRaceLady said...

Now that I've stopped chewing steel and spitting horseshoes, maybe I can make a coherent comment.

That was not a telecast --- that was a slaughter carried out on live TV. If it weren't for the leaderboard on NASCAR.com, I'd never have known where anyone was in the field.

I'm not holding out much hope for tomorrow --- and, unfortunately, I have no access to radio. *sigh*

Oh, well, I do have house chores I need to do.

Gymmie said...

Stricklinfan--nope not at all! IF and BIG IF there's a 360 degree turn (heck a 180 would be acceptable over today's mess!) someone will have to come over and revive me because I will absolutely faint!

I would be beyond embarrassed to have my name associated with this excuse of coverage we saw today.

They need to reimburse me for those 3 hours I'll never get back.

JD--btw it's Robby Gordon. If you're a Gordon it's "y" if you're a Reiser or a Loomis it's "ie" ;-). Years ago there was a gal on one of my lists who was a huge Robby fan and if anyone spelled his name wrong she was all over you!

Richard in N.C. said...

Surprising - but now that they've had a practice round...........?

At least fewer ringers and special deals tomorrow - and , being Cup, maybe more predictable tactics, etc.

PammH said...

It was a horrid telecast for sure. It won't be any better tomorrow I'm sure.
trl, if you have access to the internet, you can listen to MRN online FOR FREE!! Email JD for my email addy & I will send it to you.

Daly Planet Editor said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

They showed him run out of gas and pull to the side of the track, this was with 2 laps to go. NASCAR threw the yellow the next lap...I know I saw it live..check your TIVO again

Rick said...

JD Said:

That moment signaled the beginning of what may be the worst NASCAR on ESPN telecast of the year.

I think you give them too much credit JD, of course they can screw one up worse if they really try. ;)

This announce crew just puts me to sleep. I think the Dancing With The Stars promo woke me up near the end of the race.

Got to get the radio out for tomorrow, ESPN still just doesn't get it.

kbaskins said...

JD, they showed the 66 pulling off the track, out of gas, about a lap before. It was a considerable amount of time between "Wrecky" (as my husband and I like to call him) and the yellow flag.

--KarenB

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 6:36PM,

With two laps to go, Wallace pulled over next to the barrier after apparently running out of gas. It looked like there was no problem with him remaining there for another lap.

Punch mentioned it as the leader went by. It was over a full lap later that the caution came out as Ambrose finished his final lap.

I make the point because Ambrose actually passed the stopped car on the final lap with no problem.

Thank you for letting me clear that up.

JD

PammH said...

Wow!!! Randy just called out the networks crappy coverage on Tradin' Paint!! And him & Kyle were yelling at each other! Good TV!

Anonymous said...

Wow, just watched Robin Pemberton (on Tradin' Paint) go off on Kyle petty for complaing that races are too long--Penberton said better TV coverage of the races, where they didn't just cover the top-10 cars, would make the races a lot more interesting.

He's right.

Daly Planet Editor said...

There is a new post up for the 7PM Craftsman Truck Series race on SPEED.

Thanks,

JD

Anonymous said...

Whoops, I meant Randy, not Robin!

Daly Planet Editor said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sophia said...

Right on JD.

Thanks for the site is all I can say.
Also ESPN's ego is showing ...give us AB..we DESERVE BETTER than

What more can one say about today's coverage??


P.s. Pemberton on TP saying to show more racing in the back. Kyle P said the radio guys are talking crap on the radio. WOW...I thought we all liked MRN for telling more information,

But it fits in to TODAY's race. QUIT TALKING ABOUT THE TOP 5-7 guys!!

Sophia said...

I went out of the room for dinner and FORGOT TP...had wrong tv's on $@*$&@*$& but came in in TIME to see the talk about crappy coverage and several of us posted at the same time about it.

Go Randy. He said MRN covered the entire races better and Kyle P called radio guys talking crap? Could not believe it. Kyle has no clue how to improve a race either..some DO NEEED SHORTENED as well, I agree.


But much happened TODAY and my MRN station was playing country music...sigh. They should be on tomorrow and get them in the house if the weather holds up..station had issues and seems stronger again...radio that is.

bevo said...

TexasRaceLady said...

Now that I've stopped chewing steel and spitting horseshoes, maybe I can make a coherent comment.

That was not a telecast --- that was a slaughter carried out on live TV.


My favorite post of the year!

There seems to be a severe lack of vision at the top of the production ladder at ESPN with NASCAR. Has the economy caused cut backs on staff or is there a loss of veteran people?

Anonymous said...

I don't expect JP and AB to switch jobs tomorrow, like they should, but with rain likely we'll probably hear more from AB and less from JP. We can always hope.

Anonymous said...

I was greatly disappointed in the TV coverage for the race and actually resorted to streaming MRN off the internet which is something I have never done before.
---


ME TOO! I love MRN on Sirius when I am driving, but this time had to go there during this race. They really should work out a deal where they offer MRN as an alternate audio on some of these HD broadcasts. That would be an awesome combo.

Vicky D said...

I heard that yelling on TP on their broadcast yesterday I thought KP was incorrect complaining about it, because Pemberton said the telecasts need to show the guys in the back and even mentioned Kyle being there most of the time in most of the races. Wouldn't KP want that? I can get my nephew to show someone on ESPN how to spot for the telecasts he does a good job for the Cleveland Browns broadcasts!

red said...

well, that was an unmitigated disaster. there were no redeeming qualities in that mess at all.

now i'm faced with a decision: watch cup on sunday or not? i won't sit thru such an unprofessional broadcast again and i have been given no reason to expect that the cup race will be handled any differently.

in my opinion, the posters here have given espn plenty of valid feedback and suggestions for improving the coverage for tomorrow's race. if there is someone who is willing to take control and take the feedback that's been provided here and act on it, we have an outside chance of having a good broadcast.

if not, there will be blood in the aisles. remember espn: olympics coverage will be sharp and crisp and exciting on sunday. how about your coverage of watkins glen? are you up for it?

(and while we're at it: i really don't care how long the various "professionals" have been at work today and i'm fed up with that being offered as some sort of explanation for the sloppy work done today. this is their job and if putting in a 12-14 hour day is more than they can handle, they should join the rest of us in the real world: in retail, 12 hour days have become the norm for salaried staff. no sympathy from this corner -- sorry.)

Anonymous said...

I think that the race broadcast today was horrendous and they definitely need to bring AB bac k instead of Jerry Punch and I also hate that I missed Trading Paint tonight because pimberton is absolutely correct.

Bill H said...

Now I feel justified in not watching the race and instead playing Wii. Way To Go Espn!

"Dancing with stars... sheesh!"

BillWebz

Sophia said...

Pemberton is INDEED correct.

Is this NOT one of the main gripes of fans the last many years (Well, before the whole COT deal !!)

Tell us more about the back of the pack and mid pack.

Now, somebody has the guts to ADMIT THE TRUTH..and as the movie commercial once said "You can't handle the truth" since Kyle cannot. I was stunned Kyle did not see this as an issue.

Granted many think the races should be shortened as well (least at some tracks) And not to honk off the west coasters, I have family that live there) but later starting times, more cautions, more commercials and such make the races go later into the day. And with poor commentary on tv, mind numbing !

So to sit there 4 hrs to hear about the same 10 drivers, just isn't very interesting.

Least on TNT we got quickly spoiled with RBuddy.

With access to races on radio the guys paint a better picture of the race in our heads and give more info. BUT they are starting to do things that annoy some like interviews during the green flag and celeb drop ins.

Still, today's race could've been saved with commentators who had acted like they had been there before and knew the drivers AND the car numbers.

Don't they have a list of this in front of them???

If the weather is nice outside, I may not consider sitting through these guys again. WHY???

Shall ESPN shake magic dust to improve things by the Cup race? Methinks not.

And I can come here AFTER the race, read the comments and from savvy online taskers/sirius radio folks, LEARN MORE ABOUT THE RACE than if I sat and watched it.

So maybe I will stick in a tape and do other things. Read here, and then either watch certain parts of the race or the highlights on Speed Report and VL.

SHame ESPN is handling the last part of the season.

It's deja vu all over again. :(

kang said...

I do not have a problem with J.Punchs lack of excitement calling races.However I do want JP to know what he is talking about.Today he was lost for the entire race.DJ and AP spend most of their time correcting the lead announcer!Thank God they do. I watch the time interval,alot more than most folks.It was operated very well today.Having said that fundamental change is needed,and we all agree where.

Matt said...

While I agree ESPn did an awful job covering actual racing during the race and Doc was just once again totally unable to keep with the action, I would like to defend ESPN on two points. First, they can't help it if the leaders spin while they are in commercial-that's just dumb, bad luck. Second, since this is network TV we will see more promos in race than normal, and I'm sure they have to be shown at certain times, so I'm not going to get that upset about that either. Those are minor issues compared to Jerry and the camera work.

Lou said...

Read all the comments. Watched the first couple of laps, Looks like I did not miss much. Shame.

Told family that I was going to watch cup race live today. Just may record it, and enjoy my birthday activities that they have planned.

red said...August 9, 2008 10:09 PM , thanks, in general I agree, well written.

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

The reason I won't defend ESPN/ABC for the promos and all the commercials where they miss spins, passes, etc. is that I've seen the SAME EXACT NETWORK show uninterrupted soccer action during both the World Cup and more recently during Euro 2008 where the only breaks they took or promos they seemed to show were before, during, and after the game.

As a viewer, I/we shouldn't settle for things that we do not want to see during a race or during green flag racing, regardless of whether it's just "what they always do".

Finally, I guess the promos or other things that we nitpick wouldn't be as bad if the rest of the coverage was solid. But since that was lacking, every little error or negative really stands out even more.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Adam T. Martin said...

"After replaying the incident, ESPN followed-up by reading a promo for Dancing With The Stars over live action and then transitioned to another commercial."

Seriously, when will networks stop hawking there shows during sports telecasts? It is annoying.

Like a poster said earlier, somebody get Dr. Punch a nurse. He is trying hard but he just runs out of steam.

Glad that Marcos Ambrose won, but clearly this was not ESPN/ABC's improved effort from last year.

Anonymous said...

I was more impressed by the coverage on Speed of the truck race than I ever was of the race on ABC this afternoon. Even though I cannot stand to hear Michael Waltrip open his mouth, the action was exciting and you could tell that the enitre broadcast team was not just watching their monitors, but were trying hard to watch the action from all over the track and just not the front few. It made for exciting television and really wish that the Cup race would be on Speed this afternoon with the truck crew calling the action.

Anonymous said...

Jamie Little must not have been watching the race, she asked the 59 crew chief why Marcos didn't pass Boris...


Because he was leading and didn't need too!!!!! Guess somebody wasn't paying attention?

Anonymous said...

ESPN could care less what NASCAR fans think about them, they think ALL the fans are a bunch of uneducated rednecks!

"World Wide Leader of HYPE"

Anonymous said...

I can't help but wonder if ESPN is blatantly ignoring things like wrecks, guys who end up out of the race for other reasons, etc. in order to present a neat, tidy package to viewers? That they are trying to portray the race as perfect where nothing goes wrong and everyone is happy all the time??

Anonymous said...

Anon @ August 10, 2008 11:53 AM - Jamie asked the 59's crew chief what it was like having Boris on Marcos' tail that last lap or so ... And the CC responded that Marcos was behind Boris ...



Let's see -

Associated Press had an error in one of their wire pix - They had a pic of Marcos Ambrose "racing" through the inner-loop with a white car that was missing its hood & part of the front bumper ... They said it was Mike Bliss' car ... Sorry AP, it was Wheeler Boys in the 01 car (The same car that had gotten dumped into a wall earlier in the race by Jeff Burton) ...


2006 Dayton 500 - NBC made it look and sound like the problems between Tony Stewart & Matt Kenseth were ALL the fault of Stewart ... BUT, if one listened to MRN, they would know that Matt had started the problems ... When Jeff Hammond went to John Darby the following week to ask why Stewart wasn't penalized more than he was, Darby told him "There's MORE to the story" ... Hammond didn't know what the "more to the story" was as he only watched the race on tv & wasn't listening to MRN ...


My point - EVERY media outlet that covers NASCAR has problems with their coverage ... NOBODY is perfect ... There will be problems with the media coverage at every race ...


The only reason that MRN / PRN / Indy Radio do better than the tv networks is because they have reporters ALL OVER THE TRACK ... And the coverage rotates with the reporters as the cars go around the track ...

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the reply, Jamie or Jamie's agent...