Saturday, December 6, 2008
Digger Makes It All The Way To The "New York Times"
Richard Sandomir is a veteran writer and handles the sports media beat for the New York Times. Click here to read his story about our friend Digger and the plans Fox Sports has to grow the Digger franchise.
Here are some brief excerpts:
Digger’s evolution took a grand leap after Fox’s NASCAR season as Chairman David Hill developed the gopher’s back story, as if this were a commonplace task for TV sports executives. Digger was one of the “woodland folk,” as Hill wrote, initially terrified by the sudden creation of NASCAR tracks, but who, with the badgers, prairie dogs, rabbits and beavers, came to love the spectacle.
Hill’s Life of Digger is now expanding beyond cameo spots in the corner of the Fox screen to six two-minute episodes during Fox’s prerace program in the 2009 season. Digger lives comfortably beneath the Talladega Superspeedway in an apartment filled with NASCAR mementoes and a widescreen TV.
Digger’s life is rounded out with, among others, a girlfriend, Annie, (named for Hill’s daughter) and an archenemy, Lumpy Wheels, a badger security officer (inspired by Humpy Wheeler, the former president of Lowe’s Motor Speedway, with a personality like Barney Fife’s).
The revelation that Hill is going to feature Digger as a stand-alone animated character during the NASCAR on Fox pre-race shows is perhaps the most interesting piece of information in that excerpt.
On one hand, it is easy to understand that Hill is trying to create something to appeal to the youngsters who watch the races. On the other hand, Digger has become the most invasive sports television presence in recent memory as the Fox Director uses him endlessly.
The insertion of Digger under yellow or once on a restart is bearable. Unfortunately, as fans can attest from the 2008 NASCAR on Fox season, Digger became the story and took attention away from the flow of the race and the action on the track. As we documented this season, Digger often got more airtime than teams running in the top ten.
If Hill can work to establish how and when Digger is used in the coverage the results can perhaps be tipped in the positive manner that he intended. If he lets the Fox Director use Digger without restrictions, the results with the adult NASCAR fans are going to continue to be negative. One thing is for sure, we will all be seeing quite a bit more of Digger in 2009. That is, if fans choose to tune-in.
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