Monday, May 4, 2009

Almost All The Pieces In Place For ESPN


The Friday night Nationwide Series race in Richmond provided Rusty Wallace an opportunity to move from the infield back to the broadcast booth as lead analyst Dale Jarrett had the weekend off.

Wallace has been consistent this season with his approach to TV and his excitement for racing is clear. Joined by Andy Petree on the commentary team, Wallace was pumped-up to call a race again and it showed.

Petree and Jarrett have become one of the top duos in NASCAR TV because of their complementary relationship. They respect each other and often find that listening is the key to continuing a good on-air conversation. That element continues to be a struggle for Wallace.

While Petree tried to provide substantial help from his perspective as both a crew chief and owner, it was Wallace who often spoke over top of Petree and kept portions of the telecast off-balance. It was clear Wallace was speaking with honest enthusiasm, but as ESPN viewers found in 2007, that does not spell success on TV.

The casualties of Wallace and his continual conversation were substantial. Brad Daugherty and Greg Biffle could not get a word in edgewise from the Infield Pit Studio and were able to get airtime only when prompted by infield host Allen Bestwick.

Unlike Jarrett, Wallace did not go out of his way to continually include the infield personalities as the racing unfolded. Also silenced was Tim Brewer in the Tech Garage. Despite winning an Emmy recently for technical innovation, in this race the expandable trailer could have been left in the hotel parking lot.

The reality of this situation is that none of it is really Wallace's fault.

Normally, this type of problem would have been sorted-out on the air by a professional play-by-play (PXP) announcer. The "TV traffic cop" would have stepped-in and made sure that every member of the broadcast team got a fair share of the on-air exposure. Now in his third season, this is still not a challenge that Jerry Punch has mastered.

If an ESPN announcer struggled on a PXP assignment involving the NFL, college football or Major League Baseball like Punch has with NASCAR, he would have long since been replaced.

It is hard for veteran fans to watch someone who has valuable skills and a wealth of knowledge about NASCAR being forced into an on-air role that simply is not working. Regardless of who is involved in the changes, there is absolutely no doubt after Friday night that Punch needs to be moved before the Sprint Cup coverage begins for ESPN and ABC.

The Punch monotone never changes. Incidents, accidents or even great racing will not raise the excitement level one notch. As TDP has noted many times, he is unable to speak spontaneously as action on the track unfolds, especially accidents. This was again the case in Richmond.

ESPN has been able to get by despite this issue because Jarrett jumps into the PXP role on a regular basis. Often, it sounds like Jarrett is the PXP announcer, Petree is his analyst and Punch is a reporter in the booth.

With Jarrett gone this weekend, the true role of the PXP announcer was returned to Punch who reacted as usual. There was no excitement, no vivid descriptions of the action and no relating to the TV viewer directly as a partner in the telecast.

Instead, there was the constant identification of drivers, car numbers and the recent histories of the cars on the screen. The only real excitement Punch could muster was when he read promos or led the network to a TV commercial break.

The ESPN team has so many pieces of the puzzle in place. The changes over the last several years have almost all been tremendously positive. There should not be a need for fans watching TV to listen to the radio broadcast of the race. The same level of information and excitement should be offered by the TV announcers.

Perhaps, one more shuffle in the ESPN line-up may ultimately result in the right people in the right places and a big shift in the current TV rating momentum for both the sport and the network.

TDP welcomes comments from readers. Just click on the comments button below to leave your opinion on this topic. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting.

Thank you for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

37 comments:

Photojosh said...

Here's a typical Punch "play call" (insert monotone here) "The...uh...number __ just slid into the uh number __. Looks like the caution is coming out for the __ time. (insert excitement) This week on ESPN, sunday night baseball will rock your socks off as the Dodgers play the yankees".

What's stupid is that ESPN HAS THE PIECES. They just won't put them in place. Many of us have been saying this for two years, move Punch to the infield studio and give Bestwick the play-by-play roll.

It's just sad that ESPN refuses to see that both men are in jobs that don't let them shine to their fullest. It's a real shame that I am growing more and more annoyed each week with a guy like Punch who has so much experience and history. He should be respected for all that he's done. But I just can't stop myself from thinking "this guy sucks" because he's just that bad as a PxP announcer.

bevo said...

ESPN should take a page from the Versus play book and put JP in the same role that Jack Arute fills for IRL races.

Anonymous said...

I was happy they left the Tech center out for most of the race. They normally do a tech center report under the green flag, which is annoying. I don't need to be told what an air duct is or what brake rotors are. I already know and just want to watch a race.

Newracefan said...

Rusty didn't annoy me as much as usual but he kept competing with Andy and that's who was saying what I wanted to know. JP I'm tired of saying the same thing every race. I found it interesting that when I watched the replay on the Speed stuff from friday, they started with TV had to cut it in the middle and use the radio call and then back to TV. Kind of telling right there.

Jack from PA said...

JD, I think by now it's obvious that ESPN will not do the necessary change that needs to happen in order for their broadcasts to liven up.

I've said this since JP first entered the NASCAR booth in '07--he is a fantastic pit reporter, and is likely a good studio host for a race broadcast, but PxP is not his cup of tea. We all know this, and we all know how good Allen is at pumping excitement into broadcasts.

Even Marty Reid does his share of adding another element to a broadcast. His job at Nashville was very enjoyable. My only problem with him is that he calls the finish where the leader has a 1.5 second lead as if he is a fender in front of the 2nd place driver. Nothing major, however.

I doubt ESPN will make the change before July when ESPN takes over. The last two years all changes have been announced months in advance. But if it takes us persistent fans to keep talking to make the change happen, I'm more than willing to play their game.

Vicky D said...

I don't think ESPN will ever change their on-air team if they haven't done it by now. Even during the race broadcast of Indy Cars sometimes Jan Beekus jumps in over Bob Jenkins but Bob lets him make his point because Jan usually mentions something very important. They make a very good team. Why can't ESPN do that for the NW races. I like Marty Reid a lot I feel he adds to the telecast, but I don't see any changes coming soon. Too bad. And I've said this before, I think TB is showing us his jewelry instead of parts on the race car!

red said...

ok, i just switched on trackside and have twice heard the mispronounciation of keselowski's name twice in under 5 minutes. if anyone in the speed production truck is online, PLEASE get to the guys and tell them "it kez-low-ski": the middle "e" is silent! (and while you're at it, how about working on "hendrick," not "hendricks"?)

and larry mac just declared "we're in the entertainment business and that race at talladega was entertaining." funny, i thought it was about the racing . . .

i randomly try pre-race or trackside or whatever, just to see if it's any better but i'm done. off to do something else today unti race time. catch up with everyone then!

bevo said...

red-

It hasn't been about the racing for a long time unfortunately. Add Steve Post on MRN to the Brad K memo.

Dot said...

What does JP have on whoever put him in the booth?

I didn't miss not seeing the Tech Center. That segment belongs in the long drawn out pre race show.

Regarding Brad K. He needs to start fining the announcers who mispronounce his name and donate it charity. Same thing with Rick H. MarcOs Ambrose is called MarcUs. It's not like these names are hard to pronounce. I remember when Juan Pablo Montoya came on the scene. He asked to be called Juan Montoya. Did they listen? NO. We call him Juablo. No disrespect, it just sounds funny.

Speaking of names. My roommates' name is Dan. Much shorter to type in the future.

Anonymous said...

JD,
You need to get over whatever personal issues you have with JP. It is obvious from your countless number of posts personally bashing him you have lost all your objectivity in this matter. There are many different styles to do PXP that don't involve constantly running your mouth.

You are very unprofessional.

Ziggy said...

Yikes !!!!
I just woke up this morning from a dream that had both Rusty & Mikey W in the broadcast booth together !
JP never got a word in edgewise. Maybe that's another solution ??
just kidding

Seriously, it got to the point that I lowered the volume.
Jerry needs to go back to the pits.

Photojosh said...

@anon 12:46

It isn't that Punch should run his mouth, it's that when he talks, he doesn't ever say anything.

Two years into this and he still can't bother to memorize the driver/number combos. So all we ever hear is "the ___ car into the ____ car". He never gets excited or sounds like he's having any fun, except when he reads promos. Never has any insight or real information to contribute. And in fact, if it weren't for JD reminding us of Punch's long history in the sport, it would be hard to guess that he had any interest in nascar at all.

You may hate hearing about over and over, but that doesn't change the fact that Punch just isn't very good as a play by play man in nascar.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 12:46PM,

The format of this blog is that I offer an opinion on a NASCAR TV issue and then allow others to chime-in with their opinions.

The easy way out is to yell at me for what I posted rather than do your own thinking and offer some original comments.

Richmond offered good commentary, outstanding personalities in the infield and strong pit reporting.

ESPN made great pictures and sound. The Nationwide guys contributed good racing.

As the headline noted, almost all the pieces are in place for ESPN. In my opinion, Punch is in the wrong role.

Nothing was exciting, nothing was explained and with Jarrett gone often nothing was said.

Silence may be great for entertainment programming, but not for NASCAR. From Ken Squier to Rick Allen, selling the excitement of this sport is key to TV broadcasting.

As we have said many times and repeated in this column, Punch is an esteemed member of the NASCAR community and his roles on TV as both reporter and show host have been nothing short of outstanding.

Why ESPN continues to put him in this uncomfortable position is unclear.

If you would care to return and offer some original comments on this issue, please feel free to do so.

Thanks, I hope this helped with some of the topics you mentioned.

JD

Anonymous said...

Without strong play-by-play (Punch) it doesn't matter if you have Ned Jarrett and the ghost of Bill France Sr. in the booth with him, it will just never work.

Jerry Punch is just so bad, and these Nationwide races are like a preview for how bad The Chase will be. "Coming soon to a screen near you - the most boring show you'll ever be forced to watch!"

Richard in N.C. said...

JD- I have become convinced that the top of the heap at the Evil Empire is the host, not the lead PXP announcer - e.g., Chris Berman.
Thus, I believe in EESPN-ese it would be a step back for Allen B to move to the booth.

You don't think it could be possible that the grand master plan is for DJ to become the lead PXP as soon as he becomes more experienced and comfortable in the role?

As far as NASCAR broadcasting goes I think Dr. P is and can be a very valuable piece of the puzzle - if put in the right slot.

Dot said...

@ Richard NC, I like your thought about DJ as the PXP guy. Maybe, just maybe.....

tele said...

Ok, how about switching Bestwick and Punch? Although watching the IRL on VS, I wouldn't mind getting Bob Jenkins back.
Actually, I think the best would be Jenkins, DJ in his Dad's role, and Dallenback to be Benny.
I'm interested to see what comments that brings.

bevo said...

No one on this blog has ever personally bashed Dr Punch, in fact we have all gone out of our way to praise his past performance in the pits and his relationships with many of the crews and drivers in the sport. This is about his performance, nothing more.

majorshouse said...

I could see DJ as the play by play analyst and that could be what they are doing, but please give us something that is pleasureable to listen to and that does not include Rusty Wallace or Michael Waltrip.

Vicky D said...

Tele - we have made suggestions about bringing Bob Jenkins back to Nascar's broadcasts but I don't think that is going to happen. Also, for anon previously, last year during a rain delay Doc shone in the studio doing interviews and heading the tv crew. That's where his best work is and most of us want him back there. I don't see DJ doing the PXP.

Anonymous said...

I've always cringed when Rusty says "Tell-adega" instead of Talladega. Must be a Wallace thing, they all do it.

As much as I dislike Rusty in the booth, he did bring excitement in his voice and you could tell he wasn't watching the monitor. If the announcers are just going to watch the monitors, they could do that from anywhere. No need to even be at the racetrack.....

Steve L.

Anonymous said...

When are you going to see that NASCAR, Fox, and ESPN are not going to listen to any of your suggestions because they do not care about the fans at all they only care about making themselves richer.

sbaker17 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Dot said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Silence may be great for entertainment programming, but not for NASCARThat is your own personal opinion. Nothing gets on my nerves more than the loudmouths that end up in the SPEED and Fox booths.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 4;53PM,

One of the reasons that this blog is popular is because of the feedback and reaction from the TV networks.

SPEED, ESPN, Fox and TNT have all been tremendously helpful with inside TV information, scheduling updates and quick responses to inquiries.

The new kid of the NASCAR block is ESPN. They have changed pit road reporters, infield hosts, analysts and studio hosts over the last two seasons.

Almost all those issues had been raised, discussed and then applauded right here.

This sports has seen TNN, WTBS, Prime Network, CBS and NBC go through the revolving TV door.

Fans of the sport understand that TV deals and networks come and go. What we can hope for is that the efforts of the current TV networks live up to the expectations of the fans on each and every outing.

We will be here to make sure that happens.

JD

haus20 said...

Green flag is scheduled for about 80 minutes from now...does it look as if there will be a delay due to this rain?

haus20 said...

huge upset in the Derby - great race!

Karen said...

haus20 said ...

huge upset in the Derby - great race!

That's what I've been watching, too. Great jockey, too.

haus20 said...

well, the good news is that after today we should be able to move on from the Talledega wreck...


Pre-race on speed due to ballgame going long

Sophia said...

DIGGER!

off for a bit..back later peeps.

TTYL

midasmicah said...

Wow! what a surprise. nas$car starting a race under yellow. And another surprise. Let's run the race at night when the weather was good all day. Once again we might get half a race. And then they wonder hy a lot of us are partially tuning out. Or as in a friend of mine, totally tuning out.

Photojosh said...

Tuning out?

Nah, not me. You'll have to beat me away from NASCAR with a stick. Still the best sporting show in the USA.

There's lots to complain about wish was better, but I still love NASCAR and I still love watching it. I don't see that changing until it gets as boring as IRL or F1, and we're a long way from that sort of thing.

Andrew S. said...

I've said it before and I'll say it again and again..... Bestwick, Petree and Schrader in the booth. Dump Wallace, Daugherty and Brewer. Put Shannon and Jarrett in the trailer and put Punch back on pitroad

Anonymous said...

I'm a big NASCAR fan...watch all the series and in my opinion, Wallace shouldn't even be on the air! I spend half of the race shaking my head at some of the comments coming out of his mouth..and the inaccuracies he spouts. I think Jarrett and Petrie are great. Punch I ignore...boring!

alex said...

ESPN must be seeing something we aren't, because clearly they do not see any urgency in making a change.

Anonymous said...

Daly, u r way too critical of Rusty. I don't notice this at all. Rusty calls a good race. Works for me. I find DJ to be less interesting but still good.