Sunday, July 12, 2009

"Diamond In The Rough" Not Shining On TV


It was 2006 when the details of the new NASCAR TV contract were released. In addition to the final seventeen Sprint Cup Series races, ESPN was going to be televising the entire Nationwide Series beginning in 2007. It was a wonderful opportunity.

ESPN President George Bodenheimer praised the series as a diamond in the rough that would be polished by the single-minded attention of the NASCAR on ESPN production team.

Friday night, TV viewers saw just how polished the coverage of the Nationwide Series has become as ESPN televised the race from Chicagoland Speedway.

It was NASCAR TV pro Allen Bestwick who led his team of Rusty Wallace and Brad Daugherty through the pre-race show. Bestwick used his pit reporters to offer interviews with selected drivers and let Wallace and Daugherty crank-up the enthusiasm. Then, the race coverage began.

At Chicagoland, the field gets strung-out and it is up to the TV network to scan the track for racing and storylines. Right from the start, the production approach was a familiar one. Tight shots of selected Sprint Cup Series drivers were mixed with in-car camera shots to create yet another forgettable telecast.

Quite simply, it feels like ESPN has given up on the Nationwide Series and is patiently awaiting the network's return to the Sprint Cup telecasts. This monochromatic approach is led by Jerry Punch, who once again rattled off car numbers and driver names while leaving any attempt at excitement to analysts Andy Petree and Rusty Wallace.

These telecasts are led by the producer, who instructs the director on how to present the race and then leads the talent through the live event. Quite simply, nothing was shown on the TV screen for the vast majority of the race except camera shots of single cars. There was a lot of zooming on this telecast and none of the cameramen were zooming out.

When the pit reporters took a moment to recap the top ten, it was as if TV viewers were being introduced to teams that they had never seen before and would probably not see again. Where ESPN is concerned, the Nationwide Series is about Sprint Cup drivers and nothing more.

There is a fundamental belief that what TV viewers should be seeing at home the vast majority of the time is what the fans in the stands at the race are watching. It was highly doubtful that fans were cupping their hands around their eyes to watch either Joey Logano, Kyle Busch or Carl Edwards one car at a time.

The "racing perspective" was never established and the stories of all the teams on the track were never told. As TDP has said for the past three seasons, NASCAR races are not about who is leading at lap 50 when there are hundreds of laps and several fuel runs left in the event.

Regardless of the driver names, the Nationwide Series teams all deserve TV coverage and not just a mention in passing. Good racing in the middle of the field is more interesting than single-file cars holding the top five positions. How has this not translated itself to the ESPN production team three years into this TV coverage?

Give credit to Petree and Wallace who tried with all their might to inject some excitement into the race. When they paused in their commentary, however, the emotionless monotone of Punch continually sucked any energy from the telecast. Even two hours into the race, Punch was still offering car numbers, driver names and lap counts.

How can it not have sunk in to ESPN that every Nationwide Series team running the entire race needs an opportunity to be on national television? In a multi-hour event, this should not be a problem. It seems ironic that ESPN took the time to discuss Brad Daugherty's team starting and parking, yet never took the time to show the other teams who entered to actually race.

Two moving sports information tickers, fancy graphics and snappy video bumpers leading into commercial cannot take the place of telling the story on the track. Single car camera shots more suitable to practice coverage can never relate the story of where that car is on the track and what is actually going on in the race.

Next Saturday night at 9PM, ESPN will telecast the Nationwide Series stand-alone race from Gateway International Raceway near St. Louis, MO. It is the final event before ESPN starts coverage of the Sprint Cup Series. The race is in primetime and should have a strong field.

This will be an outstanding opportunity for ESPN to change the superficial coverage of this series and work hard to get the remaining TV viewers to continue watching down the stretch.

Fundamental lessons learned from the TNT coverage this summer include keeping a broader perspective, moving through the field to find the racing and telling the stories of the event as they unfold regardless of the driver's popularity rating.

TDP welcomes your comments on this topic. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Thanks for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

32 comments:

Sophia said...

ESPN always throws away outstanding opportunities to give us what we want.

No Diamond in the Rough. Huge lump of coal.

GREAT camera work of WIDE SHOTS of what is happening on the track, can go a long way to a booth filled with crickets or awkwardness imo.

This has turned into a bad reality show. We need Brian France to say "You're fired." But who am I kidding. He does not care. He has his other interests & the money.

If NASCAR thinks these dreadful broadcasts are NOT contributing to the bad ratings, they are NOT dealing with reality. DW says folks are canceling cable? Most are streamlining cable and watching basic at least. So that excuse is not valid.

NASCAR Chooses to NOT take control of a situation obvious to we the fans for the last year or two.


INDEED good camera work for a glimpse of EACH CAR racing should be mandatory in these troubled times.

Dot said...

Was it Pockrass who was watching at home? If so, I can't wait to read what he thinks if he writes about it.

Tonight's race was bad. I asked earlier if it was the race itself or the coverage? I hope a Planeteer was there or knows someone who was.

I about died when JP said DFR SOS. Good grief. Honestly, what is wrong with that man? Is he purposely kept out of the loop? We fans hate SOS. Dan doesn't usually get as worked up as we do but, even he couldn't believe it.

What is wrong with the morons in the truck? How hard is it to find cars racing each other? Why all the focus on the CUP drivers running single file? JD, I liked your analogy of the fans in the stands cupping their eyes. Too funny.

I am not looking forward to BSPN covering the CUP races. It pains me to say this as I love DJ and AP. My comments are never directed at them. Just at the incompetence around them. No wonder DJ takes so much time off. Some work places call them Mental Health Days.

Gymmie said...

@Dot--yes it was Pockrass. Also a few of the spotters tweeted their disappointment. They thought they were 'missing' something...you know like a RACE vs. the 3 cars that someone thought were the only ones there tonight.

PKM_258 said...

Wht doesn't ESPN have Allen Bestwick as the main guy anyway ?

Jerry Punch is so boring and tries to make everything so dramatic.

It was a very boring coverage of the race.

Paul

Sophia said...

Pockrass told me earlier he thought ESPN broadcast were GOOD! He'd watched them before.

I nearly fell out of bed when I read that comment.

Are we all that picky to WANT the camera work of WIDE SHOTS.

Funny so many of us ask for the same thing and we get more disjointed camera work shoved at us.

Kyle Petty is already saying how much fun he has had with TNT and some saying we wished he was with us the rest of the season.

PAINFUL to witness tonights Snoozefest thanks to CONTINUING horrible camera work.

Oh and the dizzying crawls JD mentioned do not help..but had the TV BEEN WORTH LOOKING AT more often, I would've taped paper at bottom of the screen (I've done that before)

Anonymous said...

Jerry Punch is to NASCAR as:

A) Rain is to an outdoor wedding
B) Rain is the the Daytona 500
C) Rain is to the Wicked Witch of the East
D) All of the above.

Will Bill Weber please call Jerry Punch and tell him how to behave off-track!!!

Vicky D said...

JD, you are right on. But what should we expect it's been this way at ESPN for a long time. I knew we were in trouble when the first driver interviewed in the pre-race show was a cup guy. Do you think Bill Jr. would have allowed this to happen with his beloved Nascar? I don't think so - the old Busch/now NW series was fabulous with great teams that have gone by the wayside. There are former champions sitting at home that could still be driving but we have cup drivers that are highlighted almost the entire race. Plus a bad broadcast. Like I noticed during the race, they keep on saying they have to have cup drivers in the race to bring fans out, but I saw many many empty seats. If Nascar doesn't watch out, they'll have more problems then just with the truck series it'll be straight downhill for the NW too. And Nascar (BF) doesn't seem to notice . . .

Anonymous said...

When over half the field is a lap down by lap 50, I'm not sure there was a lot of "racing" to cover. If you remember Brad and Rusty from the prerace show, they said a lot of these teams are suffering financially. That doesn't make for good "racing" sometimes.

According to the upper crawl, toward the end of the race, the 11th place car was 25 seconds behind the leader. Watching a train would have been more exciting because the cars would have been closer together...

BTW, I find it interesting that the same person produces the Fox and TNT races with such a different outcome. Wonder what the difference is?

bevo said...

I didn't get a chance to watch the race live but I just finished it on my Tivo. I stopped it after lap 130 and deleted it.

The presentation is so bad that I don't think I will watch another Nationwide race this season and unless something dramatic happens with ESPN I doubt I'll watch next season either. ESPN has sucked all of the enjoyment out of the series for me.

SallyB said...

I tried to watch the race last night, but gave up when half the field was a lap down well before half way. I have no interest in watching Cup drivers and teams trampling legitimate Nationwide teams. Even so, it would have been difficult to put any life into a race on this cookie cutter track. As much as the media loves to point out to us ignorant fans that each track has differences, the continue to ignore the fact that the 'races' on these tracks are generally the same. The cars 'race' for about 5 laps after a restart, the field gets so strung out you wonder if they can even see each other, half the fiels goes a lap down early, and whoever gets out front runs away from everyone. Not exactly compelling. Add to that the fact that the coverage insists on covering only the Cup drivers/teams, and the yawns start happening early. Meanwhile, the real Nationwide teams can't find sponsors, and young drivers will never be able to fulfill their promise, because they can't get behind a wheel to get experience. The whole situation is pathetic.

R_CFan said...

Looks like ESPN just mailed in another Nationwide broadcast.I fell asleep just after they did.

No diamond here, just pure cubic zirconia.

TexasRaceLady said...

The one glaring error for me was during one pit stop.

Either Andy or Rusty pointed out the fire on the front brake rotor on the car. Just as the camera was zooming in, SOMEONE SWITCHED TO A HELMET CAM! And all we saw was the ground.

Just turned the TV to something else. I don't even remember what it was.

That is sad.

50 yr, fan said...

Shortly after the restart with 10 to go and the cars bunched, the director went to bumper cam.
Stevie Wonder could do a better job.

Leave Rusty and his "I" experiences at home.

Anonymous said...

The coverage was terrible. It is up to the announcers to watch for racing moments on the track and cover them. No wonder sponsors don't care. Cars get no real coverage unless they have cup drivers or are owned by Rusty or Brad. This should be such an exciting series to watch - but it isn't.

Anonymous said...

i really DONT like espn coverage, I tuned out last night after the 30 lap to go mark because i knew the outcome. you want people to stay to the end people, maybe do post race instead of all the pre race stuff they do. also the "tech" segments drive me up the wall, if I hear about brake bias one more time! when it involves something else i want to know, he talks about parts i have no clue what they do and he doesnt tell you. usually he holds em up so you can see em-good job.

glenc1 said...

I didn't see much of the broadcast, but I will give one specific criticism. Lap TIMES, *please*. If you want to know if the 2nd or 3rd place guys even stand a shot, you need to know how fast they're going in relationship to the leader, especially with the different tire strategies at the end.

Newracefan said...

I watched this race via DVR as I multitasked on the laptop so it was not as painful for me but..... WOW what a mess, all I kept saying is I miss DJ I didn't realize how much of the PXP he was doing.

I am terribly afraid the Cup races will be an even bigger nightmare. Well I've dug up the radio just in case.

How long do we have to talk about this mess before something is done. Even Mikey is complaining about the practice coverage, I guess we need to tie some ESPN and Nascar powers that be to chairs with tapes of this mess (don't forget to tape the eyelids open), I for one can't handle much more. I've already stopped watching NW live, next step, not watch at all.

Jayhawk said...

Have you ever watched ESPN cover a football game? To make me quit watching Monday Night Football, they have to be really horrible and, yes, they are that bad.

Do you think their coverage of Winston Cup (sorry, Nextel Cup) (sorry Sprint Cup) racing is going to be any better than Busch Series (oh drat, Whatever Series) racing?

Anonymous said...

Does anyone ever listen to what Rusty Wallace is saying? He repeats himself with different words in the next sentence and the chosen words are all wrong.

His vocabulary is very limited -- not suited for TV analysis.

Jojaye said...

The coverage of racing is the same as last year & the year before on ESPN - awful,just awful.

Ya know this is boring really, We have been asking the same thing of the networks for 3 years now. Only TNT bothered to give us Fans what we asked for, good racing coverage.

I plan on savoring the last TNT race tonight.
ESPN has exactly 1 race (INDY Brickyard400) to make me want to watch A-N-Y race coverage on their network. Fail & I listen to the radio & turn off the TV.

And I will spend the small fortune to mail (w/stamps) to each advertiser why I will not be seeing their commercials & using their products religiously any more.

I hope France & Co. choke on whatever they spent the ESPN $$$ on.

Sign me disgusted by the worldwideleader

Sophia said...

Jojaye

I second your post!!
It's very hot here but I feel I want to eat or snack on something special to ENJOY this last TNT.

I think this is the last NASCAR race of the season for me. Will keep up in the news or radio when available.

TNT listened to us but ESPN BSPN PU is too arrogant.

Kinda like Fox. Though I LIKE all people in the booth as humans, and it is what it is, it is not working for most of us.

Tonight, as pitiful as this sounds, I feel I will have a PARTY with TNT (and may not blog here much)

My in person friends think I am nuts to be into racing so no dragging them into my fun tonight. :)

Anonymous said...

I watched the race last night i thought doc andy and rusty sounded great. I loved the coverage. It is in my opinion that people only on this blog dislike Doc punch so much. I also think most of these negative thoughts are clearly led by Mr Dalys constant bashing of a great broadcaster Jerry Punch.This will come back to haunt Mr Daly.Many people love Jerry Punch.He is fine in his current role leave him alone Daly.

red said...

(i can hear you now, jd: "don't feel the trolls." but i am SO over this nonsense! delete if you'd like, however: i defer to your decision as site moderator.)

anon@12:38: i'm confident in my adult ability to make my own decisions about things so i *would* have found it more than a bit offensive that your post implies otherwise .

however, as you have decided to post under anon and it appears to be for no other reason than to attempt some sort of "mr daly is a big blue meanie" kind of attack, i can only shake my head and chuckle in amazement. whatever anger you have toward jd is best directed to him one on one and not slopped out on TDP.

i can also recommend a much more careful reading of what's been posted over the past two years about dr punch. to a person, everyone who knows of his body of work has been saddened by this recent assignment and regrets espn not moving him to another post where his talent would shine again. my position on this blog continues to be just that: dr punch belongs in the nascar HOF and i am upset that he struggles with these broadcasts b/c i believe him to be much better than what we're being shown.

as for the quality of last night's broadcast: i have given up on espn n'wide broadcasts completely so i can't address this most recent one specifically. but i gotta say: if you were to make me choose between your comment's veracity and those of my many e-aquaintances on TDP, i'd be standing with the TDP gang. these folks have earned my respect and have stood behind their posts with a nickname that identifies them and links their comments to them in an honest and direct way.

you have done neither.

Tim Robinson said...

ESPN has forgotten how they used to cover NA$CAR. Jerry Punch is an excellent Pit Reporter ( or used to be anyway) and that is where he belongs.

It seems this is simply ESPN paying back Punch for being loyal for all those years, but he is just short of horrible in the booth, IMHO.

AB is far superior as a play-by-play guy and should not be relegated to NA$CAR NOW and pre-race activities. They are completely wasting his talents.

Rarely does something come out of the "Tech Garage" that is actually useful. I suppose there might be interest for newer fans, and I can live with that.

I think Jaime Little, and Shannon Spake do a decent job in the pits, but Dave Burns is, well, ..... (Not sure why I don't care for him, I just don't).

I dread ESPN moving to the Cup series at Indy, because I fear the same types of things that are going on now.

I sincerely hope that they drop that stupid "Full Throttle" on restarts. It is nothing but a jumbled mess of crap, and truly annoying. I have sent numerous emails to ESPN complaining about it, but like my resume, it goes into a black hole!

tks

dawg said...

I thought the racing was great, with not only shots of the leaders, but the pack as well.
I particularly enjoyed the informed commentary. The deapth of knowlage, & enthausim.
Of course I was watching the Tour de France!

Anonymous said...

Man this coverage was horrible. Jerry Punch to me is always reporting instead of calling the action on the track. There were to many tight shots that made the race unwatchable at least for me. I gave up and decided to watch Boxing on Espn2.I hope that we don't get this kind of coverage for the cup series.

Jimbacca said...

So there is an anon to post that Daly is a meanie.

There are some that enjoy the coverage that is presented. If they do post up. Many feel it is inferior.
Many times it has been put on here that Punch is a great reporter. One of the best on pit road. That has never been a question. Ever.

I will give ESPN credit. At least when they do infield studio and some pit reports they leave the camera on the 'action'.
Many of the people that watch this series do so for new people. Who's coming up. Etc. The only time you really hear about the smaller teams is qualifying. In qualifying they talked up the #23 car. Yet wasn't mentioned during the race. Brad did a stand up move by saying he's S&P and why he was doing it. At least he was upfront about his interests.
The incar cameras were often unneeded.
The fact that over half the field is filler hurts the coverage. But the reason half are turning into filler is.. why would a sponsor give money just to only have coverage if
1. the driver crashes
2. maybe get coverage during qualifying.

Erik said...

JD,
My honest opinion here, take it or leave it.

To me ESPN's coverage is like Chili's, Applebee's, or any other of those mass market chain restaruants in terms of quality. They clearly aren't 5-star dining, but the product they put out is reasonably satisfying.

Like those eating establishments, ESPN serves up quite a variety of different things. You get that old saying, "Jack all trades, yet a master of none" Still, my expectations are met most of the time. I don't expect my Rib Eye steak at Chili's to be prepared like it would be at Ruth's Chris.

I've never had any major issues with DJP in the play by play booth. I get more irritated at tech garage segements on all networks that repeat what a spring rubber is seemingly on every race.

If you want 5-star coverage, you need a specialty network. And nowadays, even SPEED has decided to expand their menu with lifestyle programming, much to the demise of their offering.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Thanks Erik, I appreciate that!

50 yr. fan said...

JD,
How about a column on the overblown
technical parts and let's see if
there is anyone in the Free World
who doesn't know what a spring
rubber or brake bias is or cares.
(outside of Tim B and Larry Mc.)

Gymmie said...

@anon 12:38--we're not mind-numbed robots! We're adults (well I think the majority of us are over 18) and can make our own decisions.

We can HEAR with our own ears DJP being monotone and acting as if he's talking about watching paint dry during the race and getting all excited as he's reading a commercial. We can hear the *crickets* when a wreck happens and there's NOTHING from the PXP side until DJ or Mr. Petree steps in. No excitement in the voice to alert us that something happened. Just "a wreck in turn 2....*crickets*" all done as if he were bored to death.

I've fallen asleep on FOX and SPEED and woken up to hear Mike Joy or Rick Allen tell me about a wreck. Their voice lets you know something happened or even if you're in another room, their voice fluctuations get you running back in. I can't say that DJP has caused the same reaction in me.

Anonymous said...

I sent an email to ESPN regarding the inability of their qualifying team to correctly use the words "quick, quicker, quickest". If one more person says "he was third quick" regarding a driver's qualifying or practice speed, I'm going to scream.

Mary
Richmond, VA