Monday, October 13, 2008

Tires And TV Proving To Be A Tough Mix


NASCAR certainly did not want the story of The Chase this season to be tires. ESPN certainly did not want to have Goodyear as a consistent storyline in the Chase TV coverage. Unfortunately, Saturday night at LMS did not solve either of these issues.

TV networks walk a fine line where tire failures and Goodyear are concerned. Not only is that company the official tire supplier to NASCAR, but they also advertise on the television coverage. While the tires would be the key issue of the evening, the ESPN on ABC crew had a problem right off the bat. They had to get on TV.

Allen Bestwick and his Infield Pit Studio crew of Brad Daugherty and Rusty Wallace tried to take to the air after the Notre Dame vs. North Carolina college football game ended, but many ABC stations had other ideas.

It was the local news that lots of NASCAR fans saw instead of the Lowe's Motor Speedway. Some ABC affiliates chose to insert local programming and then join the ESPN on ABC coverage at 7:30PM for the race. One ABC station covered the pre-race with a local charity telethon. Another showed college football highlights of the local teams. These ABC stations have proven to be a cagey bunch over the last two seasons where NASCAR coverage is concerned.

Bestwick and company set the table and passed the ball to Dr. Jerry Punch, Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree. There were lots of potential storylines in this event, but it was clear shortly after the green flag flew that tires would be the story once again.

Once the race began to claim victims, ESPN returned to a practice that seems very strange. While AJ Allmendinger was interviewed after his accident, the network then focused on the Chasers who fell-out and left the racers just standing around. There was a parade of drivers out of the race who were never interviewed.

After the Allmendinger interview, ESPN chose to put on the screen a feature called Primetime Pulse. Three video boxes appeared on the screen, with an announcer telling viewers about the college football games in-progress on ESPN and ESPN2. The football game video and the scores appeared live.

Since not all the ABC local stations are owned by ABC, it certainly must have been interesting to some affiliates to have a cable TV promo for the ESPN networks appear on their over-the-air station. As NASCAR fans have found out, several ABC affiliates have rather frosty relations with ESPN in particular. On this night, thankfully no ABC stations left for local news as the race ran a bit long.

As the Carl Edwards mechanical troubles unfolded, the ESPN team all contributed to help keep viewers informed. Bestwick, Massaro, Petree and Tim Brewer all talked from an experienced perspective about the ignition problems as they unfolded. Great pictures from Edwards in-car camera worked to show the helpless Edwards being pushed to pit road.

An interview with Jack Roush by Mike Massaro served to let viewers know what the team had done to get Edwards back on track. Then, as is so often the case with ESPN, Massaro asked one too many questions. "Obviously, this is the last thing you wanted to see happen," said Massaro. "Can you give me some perspective of what this is like with six races remaining (and) a possible title on the line?"

Roush answered in perhaps the best way possible. "I'm sorry Mike I can't understand what you just said." That may have been a blessing in disguise for both parties.

The ESPN pit reporters are once again having a very hard time asking good fundamental questions with the race in-progress. Even Massaro is hooked on this strange emotional kick as if Jack Roush was at his first race and might suddenly break-out in tears.

It was Shannon Spake who drew the key assignment of speaking with Dale Earnhardt Jr. after he fell out of the race. It did not go well. In what may go down as one of the worst interviews in NASCAR history, Spake fell apart on national TV. Here it is:

"Junior, can you tell me what you felt inside the car when that tire failed?" asked Spake.

"Pow...and then it went into the wall. About like every other tire that blows," answered a smiling Junior.

"Was there any indication leading up to the (tire) failure that something was going wrong?" continued Spake.

"I'd have let off! Hell no! I'd have slowed down if I knew the tire was going to blow like that," said Junior now just laughing.

"Can you describe the racing out there tonight?" asked a now flustered Spake.

"Do what?" said Junior puzzled.

"Was it battling that might have led to this tire failure?" Spake asked. The replays had clearly shown Junior alone at the time of the problem.

"No, I was riding. I was taking it way, way easy," answered Junior. "I think everyone else was too. It's a long race and we were all just kind of riding around waiting 'till the end." The look on Earnhardt's face as he walked away was priceless.

As the race settled down with over one hundred laps gone, Bestwick stepped-in to offer a race recap and rundown the drivers from 11th place on back. This works well and has been something used all too infrequently in these long races. One of the best parts of this feature is the electronic graphic that shows the time and distance between the car being discussed and the leader.

Green flag pit stops and then a caution served to mix-up the field right around the halfway mark. Punch and company never reset the field, never indicated which team got the lap back and never reviewed what had happened on the pit stops. The only information offered was the location of The Chasers. It was the beginning of a very confusing time.

The Matt Kenseth accident took out several cars, but the only interview was with Kenseth. TV viewers had now entered "The Chase zone." After the next caution, viewers again saw only where The Chasers were restarting and not the field. ESPN had switched gears and the remainder of the coverage would be Chase oriented.

Some great racing featuring Tony Stewart allowed the Musco track lighting and the outstanding camera placement to be shown-off with cars at top speed and the action intense. This made for great TV pictures and limiting the in-car cameras really helped to show fans what kind of racing this series can put on under the right circumstances.

Less than twenty-five laps later, the wheels started to come off this telecast. Cars began to get involved in incidents and the TV team was a beat behind. Denny Hamlin, Paul Menard, and others appeared to have racing damage but the telecast had other ideas. Taped comments from high-profile drivers like Gordon and Johnson were inserted even as the racing continued.

Stewart's speeding penalty, David Reutimann having pit road problems and other stories just did not make it to air as they happened. Not following Robby Gordon around after his pit stop problems meant going to replay for an incident, again. The network chose to insert the meaningless Monster Moment during green flag racing.

Final pit stops were confusing and ultimately only the racing helped to get things back on track toward the final laps. ESPN's love affair with drama helped viewers who watched the race to see Kim Burton instead of the top ten drivers fight it out to the finish line. This is the first race of the year where ESPN has abandoned the race for hype and drama at the finish. It was the Indy 500 all over again.

This broadcast is remarkable for two things. One, the call of the race on the radio, this time by the PRN Network, was exciting from start to finish. Hearing the announcers call the best racing on the track while watching ESPN focus on the leaders and The Chasers was frustrating. The difference in the agendas of the TV coverage and the radio broadcast could not have been made more clear.

Secondly, there was no series of laps where ESPN generated excitement and made this race thrilling for the fans watching at home. Yes, there were great pictures and sound made by the crew. But, Andy Petree and Dale Jarrett were not hired to inject excitement into these telecasts and yet that is exactly what they are put in the position of doing. Bestwick cannot save these races from the infield.

ESPN is driving fans to the radio and to DirecTV's Hot Pass to find the excitement of racing that makes this sport fun and popular. A variety of announcers including Matt Yocum, Rick Allen, Hermie Sadler and Randy Pemberton were calling this race for other live TV outlets and doing a great job. PRN's Doug Rice and Mark Garrow always concentrate on the racing and the turn and pit reporters on the PRN broadcast never let the intensity slack.

Silence is golden, but not on live TV under green flag racing at the Lowe's Motor Speedway. The chunks of silence on ESPN this season are killing the hard work of the TV crew and leaving the experienced members of the NASCAR on ESPN team shaking their heads.

Next Sunday, NASCAR leaves the college football world and goes head-to-head with the early NFL games on Fox and CBS Sports. The short-track action from Martinsville is quite different from the high-speed excitement of Charlotte. Once again, the ESPN on ABC crew will be asked to step-up and compete with one of the strongest sports properties on TV today. That challenge will play-out at 1PM on Sunday afternoon.

The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Simply click on the COMMENTS button below and follow the easy instructions. The rules for posting are located on the right side of the main page. Thanks for taking the time to stop by.

88 comments:

Anonymous said...

I was so bored just past halfway,that i just turned the set off and went to bed.That is something I have never done before.I dont know how much longer I can hang on.Been an avid fan since 1989.Sad to see it go,but I will not subject myself to this sham much longer.

earl06 said...

JD, the long, awkward silences and general production incompetence are killing my interest in the races. Jerry needs to go. Now. No more excuses, no more, "but he's a good guy, a company man."

I find myself looking forward to Sirius' post-race coverage and other shows during the week to find out what happened in the race. ESPN needs to make a point of leaving the viewers informed, rather than confused about a race before they leave the air. Right now, they're only conveying a very small part of the story.

3bud said...

No doubt that DirecTv HotPass adds a whole lot to their coverage,they give the run down on not just their covered drivers but also chase and non chase drivers. Maybe because ESPN wants to snag the causal fan who may not know who some of the other drivers are, while HotPass figures if you are buying the package you are more ten a causal fan,the problem is that it alienates at least the " hardcore fan" and makes them try to find other ways to enjoy the race. I can't figure why ESPN can't get that if MRN PRN HotPass etc. can. Although credit should be given to DJ & AP in the booth,and AB they try, but can only carry so much.

Grasshopper said...

John,

Great summary.

I laughed my head off when Junior said, "Pow!" I laughed so hard...

I knew that would be fodder for your blog today. That and Jack Roush's interview. I don't often notice everthing you do, John, but wow....was that a bad telecast last night. I do like the Infield Studio guys, corny as they may be. I like them where they are, but the pit reporters and Dr. Punch need to go or be realigned. Yikes!

Poor Dr. Punch...he's just not in his element.

Nothing against having the fair sex in the pits....they just do a poor job.

Come on ESPN...figure it out for next year.

Vicky D said...

JD, you are so right about this broadcast. I can't really say anything more you told it like it is. I wonder if the ratings are down, the same or even gone up since the Chase started. I'm getting sick of them just showing and talking about the chasers. Sick of it!

Dot said...

No matter how much we pick apart the coverage of ESPU/ABCs coverage of the Cup races, nothing will change. One good thing about your column JD is, we can vent and maybe prevent high blood pressure and heart attacks.

Is ESPU/ABC that arrogant to think they are doing a good job? I would be mortified if I was the producer to read the comments here. JP and the feelings twins could learn alot here of what we don't like. Who is telling them to keep up the good work? Wait, I know, that jackass producer.

@ Vicki d, ditto.

Vicky D said...

JD - I also meant to add that according to the Charlotte race page, the race was attended by approximately 160,000 fans.

Daly Planet Editor said...

I think one big thing that is different for ESPN is that they are used to being the only game in town.

That is, they are usually the only TV provider and in many cases ESPN radio is doing the audio broadcast.

In this case, ESPN has four Hot Pass channels manned by fired-up TV pros who are getting good media exposure and two competing radio networks each trying to out-do the other.

I really thought we would have seen Marty Reid or Allen Bestwick step-in and help in the booth, but I guess they are going to ride-out the season with Punch.

Did anyone see the footage of Brian France at the LMS driver's meeting? That was interesting.

JD

Sophia said...

not sure I understood the wording but I did not think the pictures on my tv were that great...too tight of shots and too many VIDEOS over green flag coverage...a stupid replay and a bumper cam or something and we MISSED wrecks live.

Your writing the details of the cringe worthy Shannon/Jr interview made me LAUGH OUT LOUD!! Thanks for that. I do hope to catch that on SReport as I want to see the combo of smiling and shock at the ludicrous questions. "POW"....Jr, you are a nice guy than I am. :)

I am not a fan of Martinsville and now that I can listen online if MRN does not come in, I will be listening.

ESPN RUINED DEGA.

They gave ALMOST a FLAWLESS NW coverage Friday night
(Still no answers on why no commercials for TWO hours?)

But same ol, same ol, Saturday.
and let's not forget the KIM BURTON CAM.

Sheesh...we have this rubbish and then FOX where we NEVER see more than one car cross the line, excess bumper and digger cams, no wide shots.

My interest is dwindling as well.

I am enjoying the ARCA race on tv right now.

Anonymous said...

Mr Daly

There was another subtle yet significant cock-up by Shannon Spake last evening. I wonder if other Daly Planet "orbiters" noticed it?

When Tony Stewart pitted after almost spinning coming into the pits, he re-fired his engine while the right side was up on the jack.
A huge ball of orange flame from unspent fuel erupted next to the crew. Miss Spake, who was "calling " the stop, said "oh,WOW, did you see that fire from the exhaust"???
Obviously, she was calling the stop from a video monitor and not at the 20 pit, because the only way she could have seen the exhaust flame would have been from the camera shot - it would not have been visible from the pit wall side of the track.

More smoke and mirrors from ESPN/ABC rather than truth and substance.

Bray Kroter

stricklinfan82 said...

I just don't get it. As a general rule, when the Nationwide cars are on the track for practice, qualifying, and racing the ESPN production truck does a great job focusing on the on-track action and nothing but the on-track action. The second the Cup cars come on the track though, all the bells and whistles come out of the closet and the on-track action is completely ignored.

This weekend shined a major spotlight on that issue. Nationwide qualifying on ESPN was great. Time-shifted coverage was used, the screen was never filled with full-screen junk, and we got nothing but very focused coverage of the session.

Then came Cup Happy Hour. Full-screen video packages dominated the broadcast. Clint Bowyer had just crashed before ESPN came on the air for joined-in-progress coverage. ESPN responded by running videos of the Regan Smith-Tony Stewart finish at Talladega. Eventually they finally got around to covering Bowyer's situation, but the 50-millionth replay of last week's finish was more important to ESPN. Then Sam Hornish crashed. ESPN responded by running a video on drivers' favorite flavors of ice cream. Eventually they finally got around to covering Hornish's situation, but the debate of vanilla vs. orange sherbet was more important to ESPN.

Then came the Nationwide race. Solid coverage all night. Not once did pre-taped junk cover the screen. The director did a great job searching for the best racing on the track all night long, and we saw the entire field finish. Perhaps ESPN's finest moment covering NASCAR since their return to the sport.

Then came the Cup race. The coverage started well. Lots of bouncing around looking for racing by the director. A.J. Allmendinger fell out and was immediately interviewed. Then the bottom fell out. Pre-taped junk filled the screen the rest of the night, causing viewers to miss on-track passes and the beginnings of incidents. Mike Skinner and Ken Schrader crashed, they were ignored by ESPN. Joe Nemechek hit the wall, not of importance to ESPN. Matt Kenseth, Tony Raines, and Travis Kvapil crashed out together. Chaser Kenseth was immediately interviewed, Kvapil and Raines were ignored by ESPN. Then at the finish, we missed late-race battles for more full-screen sponsored junk that could have been done much earlier under a yellow flag, and we saw almost no one but Jeff Burton cross the finish to end the race. A celebrating Chase pit crew and Chase wife were more important to ESPN.

JD seems to think this lack of focus when Cup cars are on the track can be traced to one thing - "different producer". At Kansas one anon insider agreeed, while another said it wasn't that simple. I don't know what to believe and who is really responsible for this major issue. All I know is there is a glaring problem here that needs fixed immediately. The suits at ESPN need to analyze this situation and determine who or what is at fault causing ESPN's Cup coverage to be a disaster compared to their Nationwide coverage and fix it.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Bray,

Great point. The ESPN pit reporters travel with a group of people in tow.

At a live race, they are easy to spot because the RF (radio frequency) poles that the crew carries to transmit the pictures are quite tall.

They also have a production person and a monitor available so they can show replays to drivers and others who they interview.

Often, the pit reporters are calling the action from outside the specific pit box being discussed.

One great story was Ned Jarrett working as a pit reporter for MRN when one of his assigned cars came into the pits unannounced.

Ned was in the men's room at the time, but never missed a beat. Listened for the car to stop, heard the air guns and then the car sped away. He called the perfect four tires and fuel stop.

Somethings never change.

JD

Sophia said...

JD

I missed Brian France..what did he say or do?? Or not do.

Daly Planet Editor said...

stricklinfan,

The TV compound hosts several networks on a normal weekend as well as DirecTV's Hot Pass.

In each case, the same TV crew performs the technical and engineering tasks to make the telecast work.

Content is controlled by the producer of the program. Be it practice, qualifying or the race the decision-making is up to the producer. Ultimately, the Director just cuts the cameras and intergrates the featured elements the producer requests.

While you see issues with the Cup coverage, ESPN may be quite satisfied from a corporate standpoint. There are a lot of different agendas to be satisfied with the "big boys" that do not come into play with the Nationwide Series.

One of the hardest things in big time TV is making change. Lots of things outside of the small screen are affected from TV contracts to marketing efforts and even promos.

Martinsville will certainly tell the tale of whether or not the mess of Charlotte will lead to change. My guess is probably not.

Sophia,

Stared off into space with no tie or jacket while Helton reviewed the rules.

JD

boyd said...

I was in traveling with the grandkids to visit relatives over 250 miles away, so we listened to the PRN coverage.

The announcers kept it exciting and call the action they saw, apparently by looking at the track, and not a TV monitor.
We arrived with 35 laps to go in the race. I rushed in to watch, and I'll be dog gone if the exciting race I'd been listening to had apparently finished and single cars were running on the track.

I couldn't believe that it was the same race! I was stoked to be able to get in and catch the rest of it, but decided that I'd be better served by going online and just listening to the radio feed.

I don't know what the answer is...well, yes I do. Let's get Red, Sophia, Dot, Stricklinfan and myself in those production trucks and announcers spots and do it

Surely we can't do any worse.

Sophia said...

JD

WOW. It's so obvious Brian is NOT into the racing, just the money.

His family needs to impeach him.

rich said...

JD, a perfect recap from you as usual. If there are emmy nominations for worst pit interview then Shannon will easily win. Dale was about to bust a gut at her questions. If I did not have Hotpass and my laptop the racing would not be worth watching. I watched Hotpass 794 with the 24 audio when he was in contention but kept switching to listen to Larry Mac because I really think that his knowledg shows thru over and over.

Kyle said...

lets face it, ESPN just plain stinks. I can't point out just one problem, because there are several little things that create one big thing. What ESPN needs to do is go back and watch all of the FOX races, then do it exactly like they do. When there is a caution during commercial (for a wreck), break from commercial, explain what happened, show a couple of replays, then go back to commercial, come back for pit stops, back to commercial then come back for the restart. You would have the same amount of commercial time, if not more. And they fans would be happy because all they would miss is the cars going around at 50 mph and hour.

Also, when there is a wreck dont just sit there and go "oooo, awwww!". explain what is going on, get a camera over that ASAP. Don't talk about it for a half hour. ESPN takes forever to show a darn replay, because they talk about if for a half an hour and just show the pace car leading the field around, then show the replay.

Do it like FOX and TNT does. Most NASCAR fans adore Fox, and TNT does a great job.

ESPN needs to give an update of every lead lap car at least. Maybe they should develop something that goes where the bottom line goes, that rolls through every driver and gives what the driver is saying. They could do that while the racing is going on. We don't need the sports scores anyway. if people want the scores, they need to tune to ESPN News or look it up on the internet.

And the fact that we are having all of these tire problems now doesn't help.

Shannon Spake needs to be let go.

Bestwick needs to replace punch in the booth. I think he has earned it. Dale Jarrett does a great job, and Petree is decent as well. DJ and Petree can give insight on the on-track events. They can give both sides of the story.

Bestwick seems to be very knowledgable about the sport, and would be a welcome replacement in the booth.

Vince said...

I'm just happy MRN/PRN broadcasts the races, because I'd have given up on ESPN's coverage long ago without them. I usually watch the race with the sound on low and have MRN/PRN on the radio with an earpiece in one ear. It's amazing the difference in the ESPN call of the race vs the radio call.

I don't know who the Producer of the ESPN telecast is, but he must be a stick and ball guy. He obviously doesn't have a clue about how to cover a race. Also I've read comments about ESPN trying to dumb down the coverage to attract the "casual" fan. I maintain that there is no such thing as a casual fan of racing. Either you love it or you hate it. I don't know any "casual" fans. Do you?

Speaking of the Clueless Twins, Shannon and Jamie. Can we fine them $50 each time one of the uses the words "feel" or "felt" in one of their brain numbingly lame questions? Then at the end of the year we could donate the money to charity. Those two bring a whole new meaning to dumbing down a telecast.

I'm envious of those of you who have DirecTV HotPass. I'm in Michigan and we've got too many trees around my condo to be able to get DirecTV.

JD, you mentioned in your race post something about VS and a stock car series next year. Might you be involved in that endevour?

Anonymous said...

Anybody watching ARCA...As a series they must be hiding their faces....most busch league driving I've seen in a long time...

boyd said...

earl06 said...
JD, the long, awkward silences and general production incompetence are killing my interest in the races. Jerry needs to go. Now. No more excuses, no more, "but he's a good guy, a company man."


I'm sure that Ken Lay was a company man,too.
Maybe ABC/ESPN need to think about how a company man can put a company under.

Vince said...

OH, yeah I forgot to mention JD, I did see Brian France in the background of the drivers meeting shot. He looked like a zombie.

bryan said...

Most NASCAR fans adore Fox, and TNT does a great job.

--

I'm obviously not part of the 'most'. TNT was great. Fox has their own set of issues. I do not adore FOX. I do not adore digger. I do not adore 'boogity'. I do not adore showing only one car finishing the race. I could go on, but the point should be obvious.

glenc1 said...

I noticed Brian too (actually, I thought, that can't be Brian?) He just looked kinda...vague or something. Odd.

I turned on the radio again because, once again, the only way to find out what's happening with non-Chase drivers is to go elsewhere. But I did catch Shannon's exchange...cringe worthy is the apt description.

missouriracefan said...

We love the DirectTV Hotpass because we can watch the race by switching between the covered drivers and see action all over the track - not just what ESPN shows. Unfortunately, during the race last night they chose to show commercials for TNA Wrestling complete with underdressed women's chests. I did not give them money to expose me to that!

Dot said...

@ Boyd, I'm miked and ready to go.
Good analogy about Lay/Punch.

I missed the Brian shot also. He must be so respected by all in NASCAR. Ugh.

Sophia said...

off topic ARCA...it's been a horrible wreckfest...is this how all the races are? I didn't remember this many but KS got eliminated and said too many young drivers trying to act like they are driving for a championship.

I need to get outside again on this gorgeous day.

Who ever said ESPN should be like fox. YIKES!! Excess Bumper Cam express from them as well (though the booth guys are more informative)

AND Fox only shows one car across the line. If they could ALL be like TNT, I PROMISE, there would not be so many bloggers here during a race. At least the last 6 races with Mr. Wells giving us great camera shots.

:)

Anonymous said...

bryan, from another bryan, I agree 100% with you about fox.

TexasRaceLady said...

Right on target as usual, JD.

I keep replaying the interview with DaleJr --- it is priceless. Shannon definitely gets the Emmy for "Most Inane Interview".

DaleJr gets the Emmy for being a true Southern gentleman and not laughing in her face.

ESPeeN is killing my enthusiasm. I'm not a FOX lover, but, right now, Ol' DW sounds pretty good.

Newracefan said...

It's amazing how much ESPN's coverage sucks the enjoyment out of watching a race. If it wasn't for the additional things I utilize during the races I honestly believe I would have given up watching. Although I very much disliked the camera work by Fox I never had a problem with how they called the race (except maybe too many digger referances) and I was always awake and watching. TNT also did an excellent job. I'm just tired of the same thing every week, great Truck race, good NW race and then the big show is such a let down. I won't go in to all the reason they are well documented by others. Thanks JD for giving us a place to vent or many of use, myself included would have exploded by now.

strtswpr11 said...

I watched the Cup race and after hearing the above comments..."Follow the Chasers,,,,Lengthy commercials" sounds like the same things leveled at NBC...not that im aboslving ESPN,, compared even to FOX, which I find the best coverage of stock car racing, but not great coverage, they do a poor job of covering the entire race....I stayed up to watch the F-1 race on SPEED, and once again, for a announcing team that has no control over the cameras. They do a great job. They interact, seem to talklike there isnt a teleprompter in front of theminstead of a track,offer insight when needed and show excitement that seems genuine. In lap 10 last night, after it seemed ol Doc was reading a script he called lap 10 lap 8 as the leaders were crossing the track. A small mistake yes, but its only 10 laps into the race and it seemed as if he was phoning it in. I dont have a answer for how they can fix it...yes I listen to PRN,MRN when I can and Im not going to pay for Hotpass just to hear whats going on when the radios free. If you havent watched a F-1 race try it just to hear the difference in announcing. Varsha.Matchett,Hobbs,and Windsor are the best coverage team we have in the states...BAR NONE

Gymmie said...

@JD--I didn't pay that much attention..so in other words Brian looked as he always does...like he'd rather be elsewhere. I wish he's let his sister take over :(

I missed the race because I fell asleep and read the comments for what to look for. I forgot to back up Mr. Roush's comments but was rolling over Jr.'s! That was hilarious!

I was thinking back to that Nationwide race where they had several "no name" drivers standing around in the background waiting their turn that never came, while TV interviewed the "name" driver.

Sophia said...

strt

SOME race last night and I agree, those SPEED guys are the BEST!! The way they will simultaneously go "Wo" when a car spins, lol...fun.

Next week Bob is going to be in vega and somebody named Diffy (?)is filling in....haven't seen him call a race before...but yea, for guys SO MANY miles away from the actual race I always "FEEL" they are right there and the enthusiasm is genuine.

I still hope to get another look at that Jr interview....Jr's ability to be smiling and laughing after such bitter disappointment...Shannon Spook clueless ( and spooky why/how she keeps that job??) But yea, some of the other pit reporters aren't so swift either. Massaro always manages to take a couple steps back now and then. . .

Hope SPEED REPORT shows Jr and not edited it all up. :)

P.S. Sorry for the word FEEL being used. I promise, I am not channeling one of the Doublemint DWINS (dim twins) Somebody needs to put some ESPN bloopers on you tube...THAT was the worst.

sorry...they may be very nice young ladies but do NOT belong in their position...like obviously many others at ESPN.

INCLUDING the suits micromanaging the CUP events.

bevo said...

ESPN certainly had problems last night when I switched to them from HotPass but for those who think that ESPN will not make changes just think back to last season (or better yet check the achieves here) and notice how many changes they made for this season to correct those issues. As JD has written it's not that simple to make what we might see as easy fixes. I'm by no means an ESPN apologist and I've been one of the harshest critics of their coverage on here but they did show us that they pay attention to our comments so hopefully they'll make the changes for next year.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Just saw Mike Joy is with Dave Despain on Wind Tunnel.

Anonymous said...

Most NASCAR fans adore Fox,

That's because they treat the race itself as something worth watching and don't act as if the fans are idiots.

Jo said...

Amen -JD - Amen. Your column said it best.

I should not have to listen to radio via Net, and watch to get race "coverage". I Do Not want to see WaGs,CC,Pit Crews or Owners at the finish. I want to see all the cars on the Lead Lap cross the start/finish,period.And with PbP calling the race!

I Do Not Want to See pre taped "interviews" which we have seen enough of to last a lifetime, during green flag racing.

Nor do I want the camera to focus completely on 1 car as it drives down pit lane for just a green flag pit stop. As was the case last night where Jeff Gordon & car, and crew were shown exclusively for 2.45 seconds ( thats almost a full commercial break)

That said,some of the camera shots were excellent, the racing under the lights awesome! Even tho' my driver Tony Stewart did not win.
I love racing at night - its just awesome.

The pit road interviews were horrendous as you noted. But the look on Jrs face was priceless!
And Jack could not have showed more class - when asked a really dumb question plead momentary deafness!

After spending the day watching the NFL on 2 different networks, I can tell you what I figured out,
NA$CAR fans are treated like we are unknowing ignorant buffoons, and NFL fans are treated with respect by the networks. No talking down by re-explaining basics, no interrupted plays to hype sports on another channel,
no dingbats on the sidelines (save a coach or 2).

This is NOT the way race fans are treated. And I'm offended. My money is just as spendable & sponsors need to figured it out, and since NASCAR PTB won't maybe the advertisers on the race shows will. (NOT holding my breath, just my nose)

Bill H said...

ANON 1:49

I did the same - went to bed 1/2 way through then checked to see who won in the morning. I did catch the replay on classic today (JD you should note that it is gonna be on). They seemed to do some heavy editing over the night and the race was more tollerable today than it was last night.

Bill H

Anonymous said...

Aside from his comments in Victory Lane, I don't think ESPN has interviewed Tony Stewart even once during the Chase. It's well known that Stewart doesn't love ESPN, but I've never known him to have a media blackout on any one outlet - he always answers questions if the reporter takes the time to show up and ask something reasonable.

But now another week has gone by -- and it isn't just post-race, but also on NASCAR Now when they run all sorts of garage interviews with the drivers -- Stewart is nowhere to be found.

alex said...

Just got home from Charlotte. From reading your recap, I'm glad I was there in person than trying to watch on TV.

If I can try to convince everyone, it really was a good race and nowhere near as boring or awkward as it must have appeared on ESPN.

Gary said...

I was at the Charlotte race and used the PRN broadcast via headphones as my sole source of hearing the race. Wow, what a difference! PRN guys did let various promoter-owners of future Chase races hype their upcoming race. They had some funny times, talking about clean air for Jimmy and how well the leaders were breaking wind, etc.

A few photos are here.
http://picasaweb.google.com/GaryK4GPB/CharlotteOct2008#

The pit crews watch a lot of TV. I stopped and chatted with the crews of several during pre-race and the amount of cameras and LCD displays in each “war-wagon” was short of incredible. Some had multiple cameras on fiberglass poles to record the various pitstops.
They get feeds from NASCAR timing and the broadcast via satellite. They do not seem to get a dedicated feed of their car’s in-car cameras, unless it is part of the actual broadcast.

“Mike” at the #16 pit was most helpful and thought he heard somewhere that the wagons may weigh more than the race car! They even had time to show me how they wire brush each wheel stud hole in the rim, and apply the lug nut adhesive no earlier than 3 hours before race time, during average temps. The lug nuts are painted pink for visibility. They put disk over each week to keep rain off and fans from stealing the lug nuts them after they are cemented in place. This would be a great store story Shannon Jamie, since it was quite low tech, and every pit had several dozen tires.

The Goodyear blimp did not hang around very long; it was a cool, breezy, low ceiling night—but I recall the “boom” of Junior’s tire (heard through the headphones in my Turn 2 seat) seemed to be about the same time the blimp left!

Also, Harvick’s car had a very interesting “wrap” on it and while I was photographing the splitter it dawned on me what a cool place to put a camera some day!

Anonymous said...

JD - I have a question about Jerry Punch and his role at ABC/ESPN.

It seems obvious to all of us that it isn't working out. This blog obviously has a lot of readership in and around NASCAR and the media outlets that produce it. You have criticized Punch harshly (but accurately) all season. You have more than once suggested he should be moved, and I believe even devoted an entire column to a call for his resignation or re-assignment.

My question: Do you get the feeling from your contacts in the sport and in the media, that any of this is sinking in? In other words: do you feel as though you are yelling into an empty cave or has the sound of your fury (and that of the fans) been heard? Do you get the sense the ABC realizes Punch is a problem? Do you get any indication that ABC might make a change? Do you think there is any chance of the Punch-as-lead-PxP situation changing?

I have just rarely seen fans and commentary so united against a media personality. I am just wondering if anyone is actually listening and actually HEARING this?

strtswpr11 said...

sophia....Its Leigh Diffey thatll be calling it next week,,hes done alot of road racing on SPEED. Ive always thought interviews after the drivers get out of the care center are hit and miss at best anyways. Atleast ol Mikey wasnt hurt..otherwise we woulda got the sponsor rundown as he pulls his hat down over his feet. Dont these guys know that baseball hats have very little air movement..which is a cause of hairloss...oh well....and to football only having 2 guys and no one on the sidelines....ummmm there are alot of them asking the same coaches questions.....ie "did you make any adjustments at halftime...seeing that you are down 27-3?" idiocy in sports isnt just for the roundy roundy tv people....

Anonymous said...

I love comparisons. Tonight during the Phillies-Dodgers game, the Dodgers took the lead and Philly started throwing inside to a lot of LA batters. After nearly hitting a Philly batter, the Dodgers got the third out and the inning seemed over.

Only it looked like both bences were clearing.

So announcer Joe Buck (not a fan, btw) kept saying "wait, wait, wait" until the network did not go to commercial and stayed with the 'almost scrum' until it was over.

great production decision, great call by buck, and makes espn/abc look foolish.

Adam T. Martin said...

Nice recap JD. I did feel the wheels fall off this telecast but to be fair, ALL coverage on the rest of the networks (except for Speed) have suffered greatly.

Can we please stop with the pre-taped interviews during green flag? I hate those things as much as the dreaded Fox Digger camera.

Another thing, does every network need a tech center? I find them useless.

"Speaking of the Clueless Twins, Shannon and Jamie. Can we fine them $50 each time one of the uses the words "feel" or "felt" in one of their brain numbingly lame questions? Then at the end of the year we could donate the money to charity. Those two bring a whole new meaning to dumbing down a telecast."

C'mon. Jamie and Shannon are way better than Marty *cough* Snider.

In my opinion, Fox has become cocky, TNT is cheesy and ESPN/ABC are still trying to relearn. Maybe watching some ESPN/ABC telecast's on ESPN Classic or YouTube should help. No?

Sophia said...

I meant to say I have not seen Leigh Diffy in the booth with the F1 guys before...I have come across him doing some of those other races but just watch in bits and pieces. I have seen him on SR.

I did learn politics and inconsistentsy is just as horrible in F1 as in NASCAR...sheesh

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 9:24PM,

The way it works in TV is that there are two groups of people on these big shows.

One is the group that likes the sport and would travel to work regardless of the TV network involved.

The second is the group that is directly attached to ESPN and relies on that group for an income.

ESPN has a VP of Motorsports in Rich Feinberg and he has several senior managers. Until this group tells the line producers and directors to change the tune, nothing is going to happen.

We saw that ESPN just sliced the IRL in half with no mercy or compassion. With the short tracks and the small fields, can the NHRA be far behind? The money problems of that organization are well known.

What ESPN wants is the final ten Chase races. What they have to put up with is the seven Cup races before that and the Nationwide Series.

There are so many millions of dollars tied-up in rights fees, production dollars and talent contracts that change just does not happen quickly. But, when it does it is usually swift.

Doug Banks...gone. Erik Kuselias...gone. Suzy Kolber...gone. Rusty Wallace...moved. Allen Bestwick...moved. Shannon Spake...moved. Ray Evernham...hired. Nicole Manske...hired. That was the off-season last year.

Once things calm down after Homestead, the discussion will take place about who goes where next season.

Free agents include Marty Reid, Vince Welch, Jack Arute and Bob Jenkins. It should be interesting to see how it shakes out.

In the meantime, it is important for us as fans to keep voicing our views. Thanks for the question.

JD

Karen said...

Gary, great pictures.

ttc said...

We saw that ESPN just sliced the IRL in half with no mercy or compassion.

JD: Did NBC show any "mercy or compassion" when they "sliced" NASCAR for the NFL? How about Fox "slicing" the baseball playoffs in half? Business is business!

BTW, I believe that ESPN2 is committed to the NHRA through 2010 or 2011.

Tracy said...

Glad to hear the live race was a ton better than its coverage. Will let you know if the same is true after Martinsville. Yea, we're going to both trucks and Cup. Figure we need to support Martinsville, or it'll lose its Chase date to Kansas for sure. And it's such a cool track...

It's sad that an exciting race dies on TV. And those huge gaps of silence during live air time...I kept wondering who died in the booth.

Anonymous said...

I was finishing off a long drive during this race. I was listening on Sirius to Tony Stewart's channel and was thinking "Man, this is an exciting race!"

I got home not long after Jeff Gordon took the lead, and moved from Sirius in the car to ABC on the big screen. Wow - what a difference! It when from pure excitement and adrenaline to the quiet boring pace of televised golf! I couldn't believe what a difference it was.

DHudson21 said...

Dale Jarrett & Andy Petry make a good team . Rusty Wallace just isn't in tune with it in my opinion . He adds nothing to the experience and he leaves you wondering what it is he's supposed to add . Jerry Punch has a wealth of experience ... In the pits getting the stories behind the scenes he was good at that . Tim Brewer & the tech center has been woefully underused.
ESPN needs a major shakeup behind in the production and the people we see on the television .

Christopher said...

The NY Post has an editorial once a week, I cant remember the day(either Mondays or Sundays) recapping some sports action on TV from the previous week and they always blast ESPN for their poor coverage of everything in sports. And the guy who writes the article says what we know basically that they dont care what they put out on the TV during the show as long as you have the channel set to them and watch because they have everything locked up: every college football game that matters, Monday Night Football, Nascar, Sunday Night Baseball etc...

As a big hockey fan I want the NHL to get games on ESPN so that they can get the coverage they deserve but I dont want to be subject to ESPN at all.

On another note, Goodyear needs to go. Bring us bridgestone or firestone.... Have you ever seen a non puncture tire failure in Indy or F1???

3 out or 4 weeks to Jr is a joke...

Big Henry said...

Wow. Just wow. I didn't think anyone could cover racing so poorly. At least we got to laugh!

As a lifelong motorsports fan and one of NASSCAR since the 80s, I'm sad to "lose" something that I was really fond of. Surprisingly, F1 has become much more competetive in the last few years and the announcing by SPEED's good four-man team is brilliant.

I can no longer put up with the gimmicks, hokum etc that any carrier of NASSCAR puts forth.

Anonymous said...

Did NBC show any "mercy or compassion" when they "sliced" NASCAR for the NFL? How about Fox "slicing" the baseball playoffs in half?

No, they didn't. That doesn't make it right, though.

Anonymous said...

I was photographing the splitter it dawned on me what a cool place to put a camera some day!


See, THERE's the problem.

It's "cool." Just like the rear-view camera.

But wouldn't doesn't help us understand or see the racing.

"Cool" isn't what we need, despite the fact that ESPN thinks the same way.

Anonymous said...

Gary, was this your first race in-person?

Anonymous said...

When you are talking Rusty Wallace you better back off he is one of the best ESPN has they just need to use him a lot more. He has a wealth of information and he sounds so damn good on TV. ESPN has a champion in Rusty Wallace working for them. They need to remember that.

Gary said...

It was my 4th race-in person in 20 years, and first one that I had a pit pass for.
You should have pity on me for sitting through the Jessica Simpson set live, on race track speakers at full throttle. ..."oh, the humanity!!.."

Yes, the coverage needs it's coolness to attract more to the base audience. Ask my grandsons. That splitter cam would be cool at Martinsville, and on the bumpin' at Dega.

As a side note, why are so many anonymous here? ;-)

Anonymous said...

Yes, the coverage needs it's coolness to attract more to the base audience. Ask my grandsons. That splitter cam would be cool at Martinsville, and on the bumpin' at Dega.

Your grandsons aside, most race fans would agree that bumper cameras are a gimmick that actually make it tougher to follow the action on the race track.

Since following the action is the point of watching the race, the fewer gimmicks, the better.

Teach your grandsons what's really important about racing, and they'll soon be frustrated with the limited viewpoint these cameras offer.

Anonymous said...

ESPN has a champion in Rusty Wallace working for them.

Now if he could only express himself on TV, he'd be all set.

daharp111 said...

Was it just us with satilite tv that were having audio difficulties?
Both my neighboor(dish network) and myself(Direct Tv) had the audio coming and going with no mention of technical difficulties finally had to shut it off and listen to the radio

Gary said...

Maybe we could all write to Fox TV and suggest voice actor roles for Doc over in the new show on Fox:

http://www.variety.com/article/VR1117992251.html

Pilot follows dysfunctional NASCAR family

Cameo appearances from Brian?

Anonymous said...

Rusty Wallace???? Give me a break! Every other word out of his mouth is I,I, I....Me,Me,Me.He's been out of the car so long and with no COT experience has become irrelevant other than hyping his kid that scrapes the walls each and every week.

JT said...

I agree the Jr. interview was horrible. Since Jr. has a good sense of humor, I would have asked him, "Since you've got Sunday off, what's your take on the Redskin's- Ram's game?" Drivers must have tongues of steel to bite as they are asked asinine questions time and time again.

GinaV24 said...

All I can say is -- I'm glad I was AT the track and could see the racing. There was lots of exciting racing going on -- it's a shame that ESPN can't figure out how to show it to the fans at home.

I had recorded the race so I could see interviews, etc. since I don't follow it during the race if I'm at the track. After watching it, I was even happier that I had seen it in person -- it was a totally different race on TV than the one I saw.
I was amazed that Massaro asked that stupid question and Spake isn't any better -- what the heck is ESPN thinking?

GinaV24 said...

Bored, vacant stare? Heck, that's Brain's usual expression! And if he didn't have a tie on, then he had nothing to keep his hands busy. No wonder the sport is in disarray.

Daly Planet Editor said...

ttc,

NBC dropped NASCAR for a product that is more suited for broadcast network distribution.

I don't understand why you never comment on the issues with your own personal opinions.

tracy,

Take a lot of pictures, you are going to need those for the memories of Cup at M'ville.

That second date at Kansas is coming fast.

JD

Anonymous said...

Boy , Bob Varsha must have made somebody high up at SPEED very angry . Or he owes someone a great deal of money . Theres no other explanation for him being forced into leaving the F1 broadcast booth next week to go do play by play at an auto auction . Talk about your career flashing before your eyes .
Since all of the networks seem hell bent on showing race fans only certain drivers , i suggest a modified version of the IRL tv format . Split screen , one side will be the insipid interviews , poor camera work , and Jr. High school announcing talent . The other side of the screen will be a long fixed lens focusing on the entire track at all times . Then the fans will be able to actually see whats going on instead of the director showing us only what he thinks is important . If we watch the long lens side , mute the tv , and listen to the MRN or PRN radio broadcast , we.ve got the race covered .

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 12:25PM,

Varsha and Mike Joy are both very much into the classic car scene. They have been handling this for SPEED for some time now.

This Las Vegas date is new, as it normally does not interfere with the other duties of the annoucers.

Good idea for the split screen, maybe we can use two networks and just let fans pick one.

JD

Dave S. said...

First time poster...I agree with almost all the criticism of ESPN's telecast -- especially the pre-taped pieces, inane pit reporters and Punch's punchless PxP. But wonder about the comments about lack of coverage of non-chase drivers.

Would ESPN or Fox air a Pirates game during September pennant races? Will the Lions ever show up on "Sunday Night Football"?

On a national telecast aimed at attracting the most viewers, covering Gilliland in 31st or whatever is not the best use of time. All drivers' position and intervals are shown on the top-of-screen scroll throughout the race, just like the score of the Lions game is scrolled on NFL telecasts.

I'm sure this has been brought up before, and I understand the hard-core fans' frustration, but on this one, it's simply a matter of news judgment during the Chase.

Anonymous said...

The problem is, unlike other sports, non-Chase drivers are in the same race, and have as mcuh chance to win it, as the Chase contenders.

This is one of the fundamental difference between stick-and-ball sports and stock car racing.

It is why those comparisons don't work.

But ESPN doesn't seem to understand the difference. If it doesn't fit their template, they just go ahead as if it did.

Anonymous said...

Bob Varsha must have made somebody high up at SPEED very angry . Or he owes someone a great deal of money . Theres no other explanation for him being forced into leaving the F1 broadcast booth next week to go do play by play at an auto auction . Talk about your career flashing before your eyes .
You make a lot of assumptions about which you have no evidence, don't you?

Varsha's not being punished by this move; he could well have requested it.

Karen said...

Anon said...

When you are talking Rusty Wallace you better back off he is one of the best ESPN has they just need to use him a lot more. He has a wealth of information and he sounds so damn good on TV. ESPN has a champion in Rusty Wallace working for them. They need to remember that.

You must be a third cousin once removed. We better back off? I don't think so.

Anonymous said...

I probably should not comment because I did not watch the race on ABC. When I decided that relevant race information was more important to me than simple entertainment, I shifted to the radio and computer for my race coverage. Based on what I'm reading, I'm ahead of the game. I have not watched ABC since their first race.

Something mysterious happens at the track over the course of the racing weekend. The competent and informative Nationwide production team must be getting kidnapped by aliens and replaced by Elmer Fudd and Bozo the Clown for the Cup show. Were there any UFO sightings in Charlotte recently?

FBU

ttc said...

christopher: You are referring to Phil Mushnick who writes a sports//TV column for the NY Post 2-3 times a week. For me it is a must read although unfortunately Mushnick never comments about motor sports, probably because he is not a fan.

JD: In a nutshell I have gone on the record here for being highly critical of the ESPN booth crew and feel Dr. Jerry Punch should be replaced by Allen Bestwick.

However I think most of the other comments by you and others against ABC//ESPN, fall into the category of "nitpicking." Except for the PxP , I don't see much other differences between the three NASCAR broadcast partners.

Anonymous said...

Except for the PxP , I don't see much other differences between the three NASCAR broadcast partners.


Wow, I never thought I'd read THAT from someone who actually watches and pays attention.

bevo said...

Both Varsha and Joy are HUGE classic car nuts. Listen to Varsha on XM Thursday nights talking F1 and he'll get in some talk about them, he goes to the Monterey event every year. Joy has an immense amount of knowledge about them and always says the auctions are his favorite events he covers.

Dave S. said...

Anon 12:50...point taken on fact that drivers are in same race and that there is a difference from stick/ball sports.

But I think the difference is Granny Smith v. Golden Delicious, not apples vs. oranges. Kahne and Kurt got plenty of coverage in final laps. Martin's hard racing w/Gordon was covered well. Ragan got a couple of shout-outs, I think.

My point is, is there any value in covering a non-chaser in 38th, 7 laps down? Do they really have a chance to win?

Anonymous said...

My point is, is there any value in covering a non-chaser in 38th, 7 laps down? Do they really have a chance to win?

Your exaggeration doesn't reflect reality; ESPN ignores non-chasers in the top-20, on the lead lap. in fact, they routinely skip non-chasers in the top-TEN int heir field rundowns.

The problem is, I don't believe the a broadcast of a Chase race draws many viewers who don't care about NASCAR the rest of the year, so all ESPN is doing is pissing off the fans who DO watch, even if their drivers isn't in the Chase.

Unlike a lot of other sports' "playoffs," those other drivers' fans keep watching precisely because their driver is still in the races.

If you alienate them and they don't watch, the ratings will ultimately go down, as actual fans drop off while casual viewers fail to add a four-hour event to their Sunday TV schedule.

Anonymous said...

Dave:

You're leaving out the fact that Pirates fans in Pittsburg do get to watch their team as every game is broadcast locally. Same thing for Lions fans...while most of the country would get the best matchup at noon, those who fall within the local boundaries still get their local team during the season.

Those sports are much different than Nascar, where all 43 drivers compete in the same event at the same time.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Good discussion, it seems that almost every stick-and-ball analogy has been put to rest here over the last two seasons.

Nothing is more frustrating for a NASCAR fan than tuning-in for coverage of a team/driver only to find them excluded because of a position in a specific race.

That has been the fundamental problem that ESPN has never understood. Sure, someone gets to win the race and that is great. But, the vast majority of the fans tune-in to back and support one or two drivers/teams.

This over-emphasis on The Chasers and the race winner was ridiculous last season and with the LMS race has become ridiculous once again this year.

JD

Anonymous said...

I'm sure glad I went to bed Saturday night instead of staying up and watching all that.

Wonder which driver leads in the "stupid questions asked of him" category this year. I know Junior has fallen victim to Ms. Spake a couple of times. Good thing he was raised to be polite!

Mary

Gymmie said...

@anon 2:32--agreed! We're not complaining that they don't have the camera on Joe Schmoe that last 20 laps of the race who barely received sponsorship this race and is in 38th 7 laps down.

What we *are* complaining about is that we weren't told that what was going on with his car or if we did it was an "oh by the way since we're waiting on the important stuff to queue up again (pretaped crap that should have been shown during the prerace), we'll go ahead and and mention that Joe Schmoe is out of the race or he hit the wall causing substantial damage and is 7 laps down and ignore the fact that we're first mentioning this 2 hours after it happened."

If he was mentioned earlier, it was because he was in an accident with a "name" and then we see them interviewing the "name" with poor Joe Schmoe in the background waiting his turn that never comes. He's standing there going "Even if you don't think I have enough fans to waste 30 seconds of your precious airtime on, can I at least let my mama or my little boy/girl know I'm alright?"

Or the fact that Joe Schmoe is and has been running in the top 10 half of the race and they do a "oh where did HE come from?"

I also agree that the folks watching have been there since February. Sure there may be some channel surfers or those hanging over after football, but very few if any will be around at the end of the race. You'll have these elusive "casual" fans for the Indy 500 or perhaps Daytona but not the Chase or any other race the other 26 weeks.

Dot said...

@ Gymmie 5:17, Ditto.

ronjudi said...

My wife asked a very interesting question. She said how did Burton get to the finish as she hardly saw him all day. My answer is that He is sponsored by AT&T and he races in the SPRINT CUP. Has any body else seen the bias the announcers have.

Zieke said...

I see that Shannon and Jamie are getting alot of criticism for their interviews. Be that as it may, here's the real problem. There are only so many situations that a driver gets into during a race. Does'nt anyone at ESPN have a clue as to what to ask them and can coach those girls as to what should be asked? It looks like ESPN is just saying "okay, you're great looking gals, so just wing it" That is just WRONG, WRONG, and the blame goes to all those mucky mucks that think they have the world by the tail, and don't need to do their jobs!!!

Desmond said...

I have read all your comments and they are so insightful, I have little to add.

I do want to say that I was disappointed at the camera angles chosen at the finish. For most of the season, ESPN/ABC has had a wide shot of most if not all of the lead lap finishers. Instead, we only saw Jeff Burton, the #31 team, and Jeff's wife Kim, who is a favorite of the production staff for some strange reason.

Anyway, thanks to everyone for their comments.