Monday, May 18, 2009
Bigger Not Always Better For All-Star TV Coverage
It is all around us and has been a part of our society for a long time. Bigger is better. Larger burgers, bigger pizzas and the super big-gulp. The biggest pick-up truck with the most towing power pulling a nice big boat.
Over in sports TV land, bigger has been a theme for a long time as well. The Super Bowl TV coverage runs all day long. SportsCenter is repeated on ESPN every morning and afternoon for hours. The 24 hour world of cable TV sports is available on several channels.
Three years ago, the TV coverage of the All-Star race was expanded by SPEED. This year, the pre-race show came on-air at 4PM. The wrap-up show was scheduled to end at midnight. That's a lot of TV around a non-points race with a limited field.
RaceDay tried to fill three hours, but it was a bit rough at times. John Roberts, Jimmy Spencer and Kenny Wallace did their act on the SPEED Stage, but that trio ran out of content after about an hour and then looked and sounded like three guys completely out of gas. Humidity and hype took a toll on this group.
Wendy Venturini and Hermie Sadler once again teamed-up to provide the real content of this program. From Venturini's "Real Deal" with a flip-flop clad eventual winner Tony Stewart to Sadler giving the Coke-sipping drivers a hard time, this duo has been very important to SPEED all season long.
Rutledge Wood is still figuring out who to be and how to present himself on national TV. A solid job of interviewing the notoriously difficult Kevin Costner mixed with an aimless wander through the infield concert crowd to reinforce this issue. SPEED has bounced this on-air personality around more than almost any other. Someone this popular with the drivers and teams should be presented as more than a just a clown.
The burnout contest was a mess. Judges who had no clue, rules that made no sense and drivers who tried to be as polite as possible in their remarks about this thirty minute TV filler. Even with a charity attached, it did not make for compelling TV.
Once again, no NACAR fans appeared on SPEED. The very people keeping the sport in business appear to be nothing more than background scenery to the network. Try as they might to say fans have a meaning, there is virtually no fan input on these SPEED TV shows.
RaceDay brought along a lot of fluff and every single piece was needed to make the three-hour show work. By the end, it was almost a relief to get to yet another thirty minutes of pre-race programming. This time, the big guns came out.
It was Krista Voda and a smiling Jeff Hammond who joined viewers inside the Hollywood Hotel to set-up the evening. Voda really has a knack for hosting these types of programs and it showed. Hammond was without Darrell Waltrip and he certainly took the opportunity to shine. No goofy jokes and no personal references, just good racing commentary from someone who has been there.
The NASCAR on Fox crew handled the race. Mike Joy has been down this road before and once again kept things in order. The pit reporters were muted because of the format, but the interviews and updates were on target. What was not on target was Waltrip's perspective on Kyle Busch.
Larry McReynolds offers great technical updates and treats every team equally. As the feature race progressed, Waltrip's singular enthusiasm for Busch was simply out of place. It came at the expense of the other teams and drivers in the race.
It certainly is his right to offer his view of things as he sees it, but that viewpoint now seems to involve a fascination with the young driver. TDP spoke about this last year as the Fox portion of the season wound-down. Waltrip's screaming during the All-Star race just reinforced this view.
As usual, SPEED made great pictures and sound. HD video works well under the LMS lights and the network offered four additional cameras to fans at the NASCAR.com website. All-Star Buddy worked well and was a reminder of just how much fun the full RaceBuddy service will be during the TNT portion of the season.
It certainly was lucky that NASCAR brought back the final ten lap sprint or this season's All-Star night would have been remembered as rather bland. Nothing beats a feel-good story in NASCAR and Stewart delivered down the stretch.
Perhaps, the last couple of laps of exciting racing will be what many fans remember, but for those who watched eight hours of NASCAR TV on Saturday, there was a whole lot of fluff mixed-in with a smattering of actual racing.
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