Sunday, July 5, 2009

NASCAR Coverage On ESPN At A Crossroads


The ingredients were in place, the weather was great and the driver line-up was solid. It was time for the much anticipated Nationwide Series race from Daytona.

NASCAR had given ESPN a bonus by installing the new double-file restart rule and there was little doubt that it was going to change the dynamic of the event.

Rusty Wallace is over in the UK at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. So, Allen Bestwick was joined by Dale Jarrett and Brad Daugherty in the infield pit studio. Daugherty's excitement for this race was infectious.

Bestwick recapped the rain-delayed qualifying and set-up the race in his usual professional style. Then, he passed the telecast to Dr. Jerry Punch. It was clear from that moment that something was very wrong.

Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree have teamed-up this season to become one of the most enjoyable and informative pairs of NASCAR analysts on TV. The respect these two have for each other is evident. Jarrett presents the driver's point of view and Petree is right on target with his crew chief perspective.

Unfortunately, these two have become very good at something else. Friday night in Daytona they were once again put in the position of supplying any shred of excitement that the ESPN TV viewers would experience during the Nationwide Series coverage.

NASCAR fans have watched this sport since February. They know the car numbers, the driver's names and their hometowns. They can see what lap it is and who is leading from the on-screen graphics. They know what racetrack it is and that this is the Nationwide Series. Essentially, this is the extent of the information provided by Punch during the entire race.

In earlier years, Punch was a vibrant and excitable pit reporter who took the NASCAR world by storm with his personality and honest on-air presence. Years later, he began the transition back to NASCAR from college sports with a tremendous job of hosting a defining TV series. Ultimate NASCAR was a wonderful way for ESPN to step back into the sport.

Now, ESPN is in the third year of hosting the Nationwide Series coverage and about to begin another seventeen race stretch of Sprint Cup telecasts. Punch has served as the anchor and face of this coverage since the new TV package started in 2007.

The Nationwide Series cars were bouncing all over the track and rarely single-file from the start of the event. Punch never raised his voice above a monotone except leading to commercial break or reading an ESPN promo. Crashes and incidents occurred on the track and there was the now familiar response from Punch. Silence.

Petree urged a driver to exit a flaming car and Jarrett called out the action on the track as the only constant from Punch was deep sighs and repetitive factual information. Toward the end of the race, Jarrett and Petree just took over the broadcast. Punch had finally sunk to his lowest point in this entire NASCAR TV saga. He was invisible.

There is no bigger mystery in the NASCAR TV package than the complete failure of Punch in this high-profile role. We have written about it, talked about it on radio shows and fielded thousands of emails and website comments on this topic.

Over the last three years, ESPN has bravely changed all the announcers on the daily NASCAR Now show. In the field, they moved Bestwick to host of the infield studio and then asked Wallace to join him there. ESPN added Jarrett full-time and then signed Ray Evernham as a utility player. This season, the network has smartly kept Ricky Craven as a regular in the studio. This is not a company that is afraid to make changes when they are needed.

There is little doubt that eventually Punch may be considered for a nomination to the NASCAR Hall of Fame. In the 1980's he helped to shape the public's knowledge of this sport on TV. NASCAR was very different then. Being a pit road TV reporter meant hot, dirty and dangerous times for Punch. Sometimes, his medical skills were called into play. Wallace will be the first to say Punch cleared his airway after a practice crash had rendered him unconscious. Literally, Punch saved his life.

Now, someone needs to throw a lifeline to Punch and give him a hand. If the problem is physical, mental or emotional it should not make a difference. Something is fundamentally wrong and it needs attention. This is not the same man we have all known for decades in our homes through ESPN.

The ESPN Producer can figure out why they missed interviewing so many drivers involved in accidents. He can stop the in-car camera views after double-file restarts. Maybe, he can even ban Jamie Little and Shannon Spake from using the words "how do you feel about that" ever again on television. But, something else also needs his attention.

It's time to sort-out what is wrong with the good doctor and let us all breathe a sigh of relief when the problem is solved. Whatever it is and however it is dealt with can be private and totally confidential. It just has to happen.

TDP welcomes your comments on this issue. 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.

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71 comments:

Anonymous said...

I don't understand why ESPN is being so intransigent on this issue.

Look around, guys, the viewer sentiment (Remember them? The viewers?) is running at least 10 to 1 against keeping Punch in the booth.

Unless ESPN is trying to play a childish game of "We can do whatever we want," there's no reason he ought to stay.

Punch is miserable at this job. During the July 3 NNS race, he obviously didn't know who was in what car, couldn't explain what was happening, or even the rules. It's simply embarrassing.

And it isn't just the viewers' problem--Petree was paying so little attention to Punch that he sometimes repeated things Punch had just said.

He is not improving, and he will do no better during the Cup races.

Sophia said...

Sorry JD

I do NOT agree they can do something about all the in car cams doing DFR.

DAYTONA was a perfect opportunity to bring us a great race and they failed miserably. why? because they chose to push buttons and show random excessive incar cams.

Even if Dr. Punch were replaced, the broadcast would still be horrible imo.
Yes he needs to be utilized elsewhere but as long as we are CLUELESS to what's going on and lose total perspective of the ACTION, ESPN is zero to me.

I could not tell if we were at Daytona or Bristol with the tight shots and stuff.

As far as Jerry, we've had the same gripes on him and NOTHING has changed there either.

But folks are fed up and NOT watching. I only watched tonight due to it being Daytona, only to get aggravated.

MANY are unhappy with this booth's lack of chemistry, but between that and the DREADFUL camera work, NASCAR needs to stop blaming the ECONOMY for reasons folks are not watching.
Mike Helton needs to try watching the race from HIS COUCH.

Yes I know ESPN has the "CONTRACT" but I am flabbergasted at NASCAR for ALLOWING horrible coverage. Double File Restarts are NOTHING with in car/bumper cams.

I am livid over the coverage tonight and sad to see the HORRIBLE camera work glossed over just to talk about the Dr. again.
I am not doubting there is a problem with him by any means.

I am TIRED of him shouting out car numbers with no names. HELLO do they not have a list of who is in what car? I don't know everybody in NW and neither do the broadcasters if they are Carl and Kyle and other big names.

and AND two fires tonight and JP voice does not show excitement/concern. I was STUNNED by his lack of response! If the man is tired, or in poor health, please let us know.

I DREAD the Brickyard with this bunch..and get Stevie Wonder to direct the cameras...I promise he could NOT do a worse job than the butchering camera work of Daytona.

Karen said...

I DREAD the Brickyard with this bunch..and get Stevie Wonder to direct the cameras...I promise he could NOT do a worse job than the butchering camera work of Daytona.

Now, Sophia, that's hilarious. Wish I'd have thought of it.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Keep in mind all the changes they have already made and the fact that ESPN has many pieces of the puzzle in place.

Just maybe needs some re-aligning to get it right. Remember, we watched TNT do that and it worked.

JD

Jimbacca said...

The pressure of being the man might be getting to punch. He was a great pit reporter. For some reason it's not translating to the booth. But like presented above. Does it really matter on the announcing when the cameras appear to be on a different planet?

Not sure who's call it was but they completely blew the hit on pitroad of waltrip. Instead they were determined to finish the pit report.

They completely missed some cars getting destroyed and no explanation. Did a meteorite hit them and they magically had the front end fold up? Who knows because no camera caught it and there was no recap.

Hell, I caught more of the wrecks in that fluff clip they put up during their commercials to clip show back to commercial part.

Andy and Dale attempted to save the show. But even their great interaction can't help the fact that the cameras weren't showing what they were seeing. It got bad when Andy was calling out the accidents and eventually the camera would catch up.

ESPN would have had better luck following Fox's coverage. But they are following TnT which is going to make them look like complete clowns.

Here's a tip. Cover the race like the trucks and TnT do. Yes both have short comings but no where near the amount of Fox or ESPN. Which is sad because ESPN was the leader like their tagline says.

Opening up all the lines to have everyone talk on restarts is just plain stupid. Dumb. I have no idea who thinks that is cool. I can't mute it fast enough.

But much like everything else in Nascar. Fox you dont like the coverage deal with it. Nascar you don't like the COT deal with it. Well seems people aren't putting up with dealing with it. They are just moving on.

Hopefully ESPN can correct their shortcomings and get back on track. They have the talent. They just need to utilize it correctly.

stricklinfan82 said...

3 years in and ESPN is still a complete train wreck, plain and simple.

This weekend was yet another case of "same old, same old". One practice session was completely blacked out on TV. While most of the go-or-go-homers were on the track qualifying ESPN was focused on full-screen video packages, full-screen stat displays, full-screen interviews, full screen shots of drivers standing around on pit road, and in one case a full-screen shot of a pit reporter prodding a driver to "bust a move" while the production truck was playing dance music. While the final 2 go-or-go-homers were qualifying ESPN had long since abandoned coverage of qualifying and left the critical moments of deciding the pole position and who would miss the field an "Internet only, in text form only exclusive".

When the green flag finally dropped the viewers were left with no clue as to what was going on thanks to grossly inadequate production truck decisions. But for a couple brief minutes in the middle of the race the scoring crawl had no intervals. Viewers had no clue who was out, behind the wall, laps down, out of the lead draft, or otherwise. When passing and crashes were happening the viewers missed it all because the director was focused on roof cams, bumper cams, or ground level cameras.

Can you imagine the outrage if an ESPN Monday Night Football game was shot primarily from players' helmet-cams or rear-end cameras? That's exactly the equivalent of what this NASCAR production truck did covering this race. Those in-car camera shots can give great up-close action shots when used on instant replays, just like the football player helmet or rear-end cameras would. But it's completely nonsensical to shoot live action primarily from those obstructed view cameras.

It's just a couple more weeks before the ESPN disaster hits the Cup Series for a third consecutive year. Once again Cup practice sessions will be go completely untelevised (ironically in some instances at the expense of NASCAR-themed shows like NASCAR Now), NASCAR fans will have to wait 4, 5, 6, or even more hours for 1999-esque late-night tape-delayed Cup Happy Hour coverage, qualifying and practicing Cup racecars will become background noise to excessive amounts of complete nonsense, and the Cup race coverage will be dominated by pre-determined scripts and inadequate race production decisions.

The true shame in all this is that somewhere in the background there must be completely oblivious corporate suits and behind-the-scenes people that actually high-five and celebrate a "job well done" each week after bringing these debacles into our living rooms. I'm sure that there must be a good amount of people at ESPN that work very hard and truly do care about this sport and are equally as unhappy as the fans are about the product their network is producing. It's just a shame that from the outside looking in there don't appear to be enough of them in important decision-making positions to force any sort of major positive change in NASCAR coverage philosophy.

David said...

Stricklin, you know what's sad. When ESPN had the NASCAR package in the late 90's, Qualifying, 2nd round qualifying and Happy Hour were actually carried live and ON ESPN!!!

Yet what do we get now?! A mess.

I didn't follow along with you guys as I was on talking with a few other friends while the race was playing out. But I was watching. Yet again Punch had a struggle.

Yet again not only the truck, but the guys in the booth missed near wrecks. I can't fault Andy and DJ since this track is so big you can only see so much out the window. But still, just a mess as a whole. Morgan Shepherd got into someone on pit road and there was no replay. Not even a word said about it.

Back to basics. Sorry, but Tim Brewer has no use to me on a race broadcast. Their whole "tech garage" concept needs to die a quick death. If they can't integrate it in without using full screen or even majority screen packages, or wait until a caution then get rid of it.

Still my biggest pet peeve, why do we need DEAD SPACE on a PIP?!?!?!?!??!

This really REALLY REALLYYYYY irks the heck out of me!!!! Its simple, go back to basics. I dont care if it looks "retro" or "dated" because quite honestly it worked. It doesnt have any use to me if its "hip" or "cool" if its functionality blows.

Main action on main screen, secondary action in a smaller box ontop of that main screen. Its simple.

Other than that, as usual Stricklin is my hero.

Sicklajoie said...

Face it, unless Punch does something of Weber-esque proportions, he's going to be ESPN's play by play guy for the rest of the season.
It rots, but it's reality.

majorshouse said...

I really wish that Ricky Craven were in the booth with Andy and DJ, now that would make a winning combination. Jerry was great as a pit reporter, but I saw the same old hum drum stuff last night watching the race and he did not even get excited when Andy and DJ did and there is just something wrong with that.

AllenParsonsProject said...

ESPN blew it by not putting Bob Jenkins back in that role.

How about Rick Allen?

bryanh said...

I don't know if AB would want to, but he and JP need to switch roles.
When JP said Mike Wallace was involved in an accident, and he was not even in the race, I knew he was lost. It is sad, because like most of you, I like the guy.

R_CFan said...

@majorshouse RC would be a perfect fit, either for the pre-race show or in the booth doing play by play. RC is rock solid with facts, information and delivery.

Punch might be able to redeem himself if he returns as a pit road reporter, if anything the hustle and bustle on pit road might keep him awake during the race.

Camera calls, I'd like to have a camera mounted in the truck just see what heck is going on in there. Are they even watching the race or is it a wild party full of hookers and beer?

Anonymous said...

More senseless Dr. Jerry Punch bashing, just what I expect from TDP. Your rants are getting rather old and tiresome while still being completely disconnected from reality.

Is anyone watching Wimbledon right now? Those play by play announcers don't constantly run their mouths with meaningless drivel like you expect DJP to do. They don't need to do it. They let the action on the court do the talking.

I prefer a play by play announcer that respects the audience knowledge of the sport and doesn't attempt to manufacture excitement like a cheap TV pitchman.

This isn't a radio play by play. We can see the TV screen just fine. If you want a radio play by play, by all means turn on the radio. Though by their nature, they should be completely different.

I prefer DJP above all the loud mouths on Fox.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 10:26AM,

Bashing? Did you read the column? Punch is one of the most respected NASCAR TV personalities in the history of the sport.

Are you really trying to compare 42 cars at Daytona to tennis at Wimbledon?

Glad you mentioned radio. A common email to us is that fans put on Sirius, MRN or PRN and mute the ESPN broadcast for exactly the problem you mentioned.

Listening to Barney Hall and guys like Dave Moody describing the high-speed action at Daytona and then hearing Punch struggle with anything more than car numers and driver names really drives this point home.

IMHO the questions for ESPN are what is wrong and how can we solve it before the Brickyard?

JD

Anonymous said...

I think Jerry Punch is awful - an absolute embarrassment to both NASCAR and broadcasting in general. He quite simply is not up to the job.

But I feel it goes a little below the belt when people start to suggest maybe he is having emotional or medical problems. That just seems really unfair.

Bottom line: the guy is not wired to be a play-by-play announcer. It is a job that requires an intense level of multi-tasking, a fine-tuned broadcasting style, and an ability to put action into words. It's very difficult. Punch can't do it. That's been established. But I feel it is intensely humiliating and insulting to him to suggest that he is having an emotional or mental problem.

Listen, the guy can't do the job. Hey, I can't fly a plane - it doesn't mean I have mental problems. I could probably take flying lessons for five years and still not be able to fly -- with all the controls and variables it is simply too much for me to take in and execute.

I think it's the same with Jerry Punch - he just can't do the job. So let's stop guessing about if he has a major personal problem and simply call it what it is: not cut out for the job. No excuses, no hidden reason, just not cut out for the job.

Anonymous said...

Here is Jerry Punch calling Wimbledon:

"And there's a forehand from Serena Williams. There's Venus Williams. And now hitting, there's Serena Williams. There's the #2 seed, Venus Williams, across the court from her sister, Serena Williams. We've got a real battle here as Serena Williams and Venus Williams are going at it. There's Serena Williams. And Venus Williams hits the ball."

Anonymous said...

JD,
Are you trying to compare a radio broadcast to a television broadcast? A TV broadcast actually has pictures. Amazing, isn't it? Its the TV pictures that carry the story. This is totally unlike radio. In that case, yes, its the announcers voice.

For a TV play by play announcer to assume the viewer does not comprehend the action going on the track is flat out disrespectful. A TV viewer knows the action on the track may be hot. It doesn't take a TV play by play announcer to tell that to me.

If you think a TV play by play announcer should sound exactly like a radio play by play announcer, you lack some basic understanding of what the roles and responsiblities actually are for the different technologies.

Anonymous said...

The play-by-play announcer on TV must call the action. He can't just sit there silently when interesting developments occur. And if it's TV and we can see what's going on the screen, then why does Punch need to CONSTANTLY CALL OUT CAR NUMBERS AND LITTLE ELSE?

A teenager could sit in the booth and say "There's the 48 of Jimmie Johnson". I mean seriously, if by the time Punch takes over the Chase, if fans don't yet know that the three-time champion of the sport drives the 48, then I don't see how reminding them every two minutes for three straight hours is going to help

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 10:52PM,

I did not compare a radio broadcast to a TV broadcast of a NASCAR race.

Relayed the fact that fans are muting the ESPN coverage because of Punch and listening to the radio.

Why? Because of the total lack of emotion and excitement from ESPN.

This is a three year problem for ESPN and they have changed everything but the kitchen sink.

After Daytona, it should be interesting to see if something else changes.

JD

Mary said...

Very simple to me just put AB in the booth and JP back in the pits where he did a good job.

What could be so difficult - sigh

Jojaye said...

Strick & Jimbacca said it well, as did Sophia.

Allow me to add my voice to the chorus of DJP fans who KNOW he is in the wrong job. The most painful part in this was sitting through him now doing PbP, & remembering how excellent he was back in the day as a pit road reporter.

Unlike Annon who does not get what is being said, as this is not tennis, the PbP needs to inform viewers & at the very least know who is in what car, since the cameras can not be expected to cover ever inch of Daytona. Imagine if an announcer kept calling Nadal by other names.

Now on to the messy toy box. Too many toys, and a child becomes overwhelmed. And a production truck with too many toys, ditto. Used sparingly bumper cams & what not would enhance the experience. Unfortunately no restraint was used last night. Sophia was spot on when she stated she could not tell what track the race was at. Neither could I, based on all the side shots from roof cams, bumper cams, driver cams, cams showing nothing of the race itself.

Wide shots of packs,bunches or herds of cars please. There was passing and drafting happening last night - we at home didn't get to see it. I will give ESPN credit for coming back early from commercial 1 time to cover on track action.So the truck does know how to cover race action. They just chose not to.

Intervals, times behind leader or whatever 4letters wishes to call it. We had the bottom ticker crawl giving us more info on baseball games than the ticker on top gave us about the LIVE sporting event on screen. That needs to change.

To ESPN - your obstinate refusal to fix problems and make changes everyone else can see, that fans are howling mad about & your numbers are sinking like lead weights in a pool mystifies me no end. Let me assure you, as a fan, I will not watch bad coverage of the sport I love,period. I have to many other things in life that wear on me, frustrate me that I can not change. The lousy production you offered last night I can change -very easily. I have other options for getting race info, & I will use them extensively during your portion of the race season.

Dot said...

I don't want to be redundant so I'll just ditto Strick's and dear Sophia's comments.

One would think that JP knows about the comments about him. If so, why hasn't he improved?

JP should cover golf.

Regarding the coverage on the track. Was it Bring Your Kid To Work Night and the kids were running the controls? "Hey Dad, what do these buttons do?"

Between JP & the production truck, there's no hope for us at Indy.

Veri word: defuct.

Anonymous said...

The last two weeks, the contrast has been as clear as it could ever possibly be for the ESPN telecasts.

Based on the TV announcing, you would think the Nationwide series had a more thrilling event at Loudon than at Daytona.

Think about that - more excitement at Loudon than Daytona.

JD pondered last week if that race in New Hampshire on ABC was an audition for Marty Reid, I think now we all hope so.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Everybody has the right to an opinion and to express it here.

We like to discuss and follow-up, that is what has made us different from the other post-and-run sites.

Welcome to all.

JD

Sophia said...

@Dot

Oh my! those veri words can be timely at times but I've not had one like that!:)

Glad a few others are outraged at the camera work as well. As I have said before a clueless booth with GREAT WIDE SHOTS of camera work can go along way to showing us what is happening.

On RADIO they explain the action we can not see.

SADLY if you watched last nights race the TV viewers could NOT SEE!

and I know who the cup numbers are of huge names and many in NW. HOWEVER I do not know all the numbers iN NW nor does anybody else. How about just calling out the NAME in the car that wrecks INSTEAD of the number.

Somebody asked if there was a party in the booth which answers my question re: HORRIBLE, RANDOM camera work.

They were playing pin the tale on the Donkey..and to whomever got stuck, pushed a button for random camera to show on screen.

For those of you with those GIANT TV screens the size of my Honda, DO YOU ENJOY BUMPER CAMS taking up all the space on a 5 foot tv??

Just askin'?

West Coast Diane said...

To the anon regarding radio vs tv announcing. Maybe we wouldn't notice as much...IF we had outstanding camera work with wide shots and quick reactions to observations by DJ and AP. IF we had coverage of the race through out the field not just the top cars and the same drivers over and over.

We are not looking for manufactured excitement. DJ and AP were able to show an elevated level of concern/reaction to 2 cars on fire. As a fan, if seeing those cars on fire don't get you yelling at the TV for the safety crews to show up or the driver to get out, I don't know what would. Why wouldn't the pxp guy show more emotion, just as a human reaction. Someone once mentioned here that maybe it's Dr. P's medical background in the emergency room. Definitely need a calm, methodical person in those situations.

Some how TNT seems to provide that level of excitement with their booth. Even FOX with their flaws have the same level of excitement (when not hawking stuff).

I truly do not think any NASCAR higher ups ever watch the coverage after the fact to see what they are getting for their money. If they did, I am sure they would agree with us and demand some changes.

If ratings were up, maybe we all could be dismissed as just a bunch of complainers. One would think with the economy hurting more people would be watching TV. If anything the ratings should be up during down times.

It would be nice with all the negative stuff going on in the world, if we could just escape for a few hours and watch a race without yelling at the TV to "just show the racing".

cazare delta said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
50 yr. fan said...

I'll bet the director is one of
those tailgaters from the highway.
He can only focus on one car instead of showing 15.

Anonymous said...

Yes I know ESPN has the "CONTRACT" but I am flabbergasted at NASCAR for ALLOWING horrible coverage.

There's very little NASCAR can do about it.

They don't have control of how ESPN broadcasts a race.

Anonymous said...


"And there's a forehand from Serena Williams. There's Venus Williams. And now hitting, there's Serena Williams. There's the #2 seed, Venus Williams, across the court from her sister, Serena Williams. We've got a real battle here as Serena Williams and Venus Williams are going at it. There's Serena Williams. And Venus Williams hits the ball."


"Serena sails into the backcourt."

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Vicky D said...

Mary, we have been begging ESPN to switch JP and AB. Like they say on one of my favorite shows - How Hard Can It Be??? But they know better than us I guess. Doc did a great studio show during a rain delay last year. That's his best stuff and he's great at it. I also like Marty Reid a lot too. Strick is my hero too.

Ken said...

Regarding TV vs Radio announcing, it should be different if the action on the track is shown. However, you need a radio type of announcing on TV because the camera work and directing is so bad you can't tell what is going on on the track. The race you hear on the radio is far more exciting than the race you see on TV.

NA$CAR should have spelled out minimum broadcast standards when they signed contracts for the broadcast rights. They apparently just took the money and ran.

Jack from PA said...

Last night was just another chapter in the Jerry Punch PXP saga. It is clear that he does not belong in the booth. We all know that, and unfortunately it is not going to change, at least that's what it seems like.

JD, I know you have connections with probably everyone in NASCAR TV Land, have you ever asked anyone at ESPN why a change has not been made? I say this not to take a jab at the Doctor. I was one of the fans who loved him as a pit reporter, and a change of job for him to the pits or a studio host would be just what the doctor ordered (no pun intended).

It just hurts me to watch a broadcast and listen to him call out names of drivers who didn't even make the race. Especially from someone who has been in the sport for decades and should be on the ball with stuff like that.

But like everyone else has said, the lack of good producing and providing good camera angles is not helping much, either.

I'm sorry to sound like such a rookie when it comes to a TV production, but is the producer in attendance at the races weekly? If I recall, David Hill rarely visits a race and he is a big shot at FOX. Once again, I apologize for sounding so novice with these matters.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Jack,

You don't just wave a magic wand and make a change. Punch is under contract and this season a big change was made.

Marty Reid is being brought in to handle the Nationwide races so Punch does not have to double-up on both series.

Reid may have an expanding role if we see him start to call the practice and qualifying sessions that ESPN will being to handle here in three weeks.

This is a man's full-time career we are speaking about including high-profile public relations appearances and TV network marketing.

When Marty Reid handled the play-by-play on a recent live Nationwide Series race on ESPN2, I think it showed them all how exciting and fired-up the coverage should be.

Reid and Bestwick would be a powerful one-two punch for ESPN. We will keep an eye on this situation. One thing is for sure, the Chase this season is perhaps more critical to the sport than ever before.

ESPN has that burden and must come through.

JD

Dot said...

@ JD,

"Reid and Bestwick would be a powerful one-two punch for ESPN."

A little play on words?

Anonymous said...

All the "media" that cover NA$CAR are the worst excuse for media in sports. They are simply suckups to the kingdom. I love it when they tell us how great the racing is or how great the COT is!

Anonymous said...

To me, its just another example of ESPN arrogance. They think they're too smart, too slick and too damn big to be wrong
so screw you, fans. We're ESPN dammit, and we'll dictate what makes good coverage

Bill said...

Listening to MRN Radio you can almost close your eyes and have Dave Moody paint a picture of the action in Turn 2 for you.

I knew the ESPN coverage last night was bad as I watched it live, but it was even worse on ESPN Classic a few minutes ago. Is there a rule you show NO emotion just because it is TV?

With all due respect to Jerry Punch - the broadcast booth does not fit his style. He sounds like he is on a giant-sized Xanax XR.

I know the Pit Studio would appear to be a demotion for Punch, but ESPN needs some excitement from their main guy in the booth.

Listening to Allen Bestwick call the last lap of Dale Earnhardt Jr's 2001 July Daytona win on NASCAR Now this morning should be the only proof "the powers that be" at ESPN need to see a change is needed sooner than later.

Speedcouch said...

I agree with the anonymous poster who points out that this site really has it in for Dr. Punch. I had no problem with his work on Friday night. As the other poster said, I don't want an announcer interjecting fake excitement. Either the racing is exciting and can stand on it's own or it's not. The announce booth forcing excitement is an insult to the viewers.

The problems last night were in the production truck. To me, it seemed like putting the race on the "mothership" of ESPN was a really big mistake. A commercial after only 5 laps and then stupid sports desks and highlights of other sports in the middle of green flag racing. Too many prolonged in-car and bumper shots. Why do the "new" networks insist on sucking the excitement out of restrictorplate races by going to these shots so often? Viewers want to see the outside viewer when cars are running so close and 3 or more wide.

At one point late in the race, the commercial breaks were absurd!

I also agree with the poster who pointed out how much screen is wasted with the split-screen shots. Also, why on earth do we need to reduce the picture of racing to show crew chiefs in a split screen?

Personally, I think viewers/fans should be more concerned by these things instead on the constant dumping on Dr. Punch.

Sophia said...

AAnonymous said quoting me...

Yes I know ESPN has the "CONTRACT" but I am flabbergasted at NASCAR for ALLOWING horrible coverage.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
There's very little NASCAR can do about it.

They don't have control of how ESPN broadcasts a race.

July 4, 2009 12:39 PM

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Well Mr. Anon 1239
I KNOW that is the alleged word they've no control,which PROVES NASCAR does not care. Suddenly they are see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil of the broadcast and PRETEND all is well?

Because If they cared, don't you think it's common sense to have parameters at WHAT is shown at the race track DURING THE RACE? To help sponsors, ratings, viewers stay interested?

They wanna know why ratings are down? Watch some Fox & ESPN races with the PUTRID camera work.

The end.

A booth of Einsteins on NASCAR racing, calling, and memorized driver names/car numbers does not do zilch if the camera is showing a GIANT bumper cam or in car cam, and another in car cam on my screen, wide shot, back to roof cam, back to bumper cam, back to wide shot.

The NOISE difference between those cameras is just a jolting as the screwed up camera work.

The fact NASCAR IS SO FAR REMOVED FROM CONTROL as to HOW the races APPEAR IN OUR LIVING ROOMS??????????


Think about the insanity of that philosophy everybody.

Seriously.

I wish the IRL ran every week, I would watch them...they need the ratings and their drivers speak their minds about problems in that series.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Speedcouch,

I respect your opinion, but think that "constant dumping" on Punch is an off-base comment.

There have been three seasons of struggle for this network with NASCAR coverage. Last season was dreadful and changes were made.

If the Daytona coverage had been good from a production sense, it would have included inspired commentary as well as better directing.

Fox's Mike Joy often directs from the booth by helping the guys in the TV truck with the activity on the track. TNT's Petty and Dallenbach often point out what they want to see and let the truck follow.

Leadership comes from the play-by-play person and that is what is so puzzling about this situation.

I enjoyed working with Punch in the 1980's, enjoyed him on the college football sidelines in the next decade and was ready to watch him lead ESPN's new NASCAR coverage in 2007.

Now, here we are in 2009 still having the same dicsussion. IMHO Great TV personality, wrong on-air role.

Don't think sharing an opinion is "constant dumping" on anyone.

JD

Anonymous said...

Maybe he is suffering from depression and doesn't realize it.

He's too much of an asset to the sport. I sure do hope that whatever it is, the Doctor gets back to tip-top form soon.

Jean in Georgia said...

My point of view is that ESPN does not value the NASCAR viewer as much as it does those viewers of other sports. Or perhaps they see us as one large hulking mass incapable of discerning good coverage from poor (or in many cases, incapable of using words like "discerning").

Unless there's a significant ratings drop, they're not going to admit there's a problem and fix it.

I'm a fan of Dr. Punch in the pits, but I fear he's been way out of his comfort zone in the booth.

Anonymous said...

Because If they cared, don't you think it's common sense to have parameters at WHAT is shown at the race track DURING THE RACE? To help sponsors, ratings, viewers stay interested?

No. Broadcasting does not work that way.

NASCAR, nor any other sport, does not get to tell the company which buys the rights to broadcast a sport how it can do so.

MLB, for examples, does not tell Fox what camera angles to use or how to shoot a game.

These companies pay a great deal of money for the right to air sporting events, and there is no way they are going to do so and then allow the sport's executives to tell them how to broadcast that game.

Anonymous said...

I had no problem with his work on Friday night. As the other poster said, I don't want an announcer interjecting fake excitement.

You have "no problem" with play-by-play that consists of a man stating the car number and driver currently appearing on the screen?

You believe a man who doesn't know (and thus can't articulate) the rules of the sport he is covering is doing a good job?

You think that the role of a PxP man is stop talking when something major happens, forcing his co-workers to say anything to fill in the gap?

You're happy with race announcer who, when he sees a car crushed into a cube on his screen, is capable of saying only, "The driver is out of the car"?

See, my standards for a play-by-play announcer are higher than that.

Heck, *I* can do all that myself.

I guarantee you, a network-level PxP guy who exhibited those same qualities in an NBA game or NFL game would be laughed out of the booth.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 3:11PM,

Well, it's kind of a cooperative effort like most sports TV broadcasts.

Networks and sanctioning bodies work together to establish guidelines that work for both.

Could be commercial formats, which announcers are being used or even where the cameras can be located.

NASCAR has traditionally had a "hands off" approach because the coverage is not interrupted unless there is a caution flag.

Camera positions and logistics for NASCAR are handled by the NASCAR Media Group. Most of the tech and camera folks are freelance.

The core of the network coverage is the announcers and the production team in the truck.

As we have said many times, it is fascinating to see three different TV networks show the same Sprint Cup Series events in three very different ways.

In the end, it's all one big cooperative effort but ESPN did pay the fee and enjoys being in the driver's seat for this TV coverage.

JD

Ryan said...

Damn JD, I am glad you didn't pack it up like you said you were going to at the beginning of the year.....Thanks for sticking around and keeping this blog going.....It is both entertaining and intellectual....Kudos on a great job this year....

GinaV24 said...

I just don't get it. When I tuned in to the race and realized it was Punch in the booth for the PXP I almost turned it off. I have no idea why he's "lost" it other than this just isn't his niche.

ESPN's refusal to address this issue feels a lot like David Hill's response to the fan's complaints of "tough". Well, yeah, it is tough. Tough to tune into a race when the PXP announcer can't do the job. They are about to take over sprint cup to the end of the year and unless I hear of a change, I won't be watching. I'll follow the race using the radio and computer but I will NOT subject myself to a live telecast that is so poorly done.

The fans have been discussing this problem now for several years with no changes made. So, since a definition of insanity is doing the same thing over expecting a different result, call me crazy, but I'm going to vote with my remote and TUNE OUT of ESPN's broadcast.

Newracefan said...

We've been saying this for 3 years, I'm getting tired. The radio is ready when we get to ESPN for the cup races. Unfortunately that won't fix the wasted space boxes and poor choice of excessive tight and car camera shots. Sad.

Anonymous said...

I think NASCAR is just glad to have ESPN locked in and covering the entire Nationwide Series. The racing is not exactly the best lately. ESPN does need to make some personnel changes - particularly - JP who has outlived his better days and is not a great play by play guy. How about in the fall when ESPN battles college football once again?

Vince said...

For those of you that think we are dumping on Punch, have you even read any of the posts? Or are you having a comprehension problem? We like the good Doctor. He's just in the wrong job. He was great in the pits or hosting one of the slick productions about NASAR. He's just not a PxP guy.

I don't get why ESPN/ABC/Disney paid vast amounts of money for the rights to broadcast their part of the NASCAR schedule, to waste it on a production like we got last night. That was embarassing. This is their third year of the contract and they still don't get it. Go back, watch and listen to some of the races YOU produced back in the 80's & 90's with Bob, Ned and Benny. THAT is what we the fans want to see and hear.

I'm not very optomistic about ESPN/ABC/Disney making any changes in their coverage once they start with the Cup races. They are too arrogant and could care less what we think. After all they are the worldwide leader blah blah blah, right?! BS

I'll be using the MUTE button and listening to the races on MRN/PRN.

Jack from PA said...

JD,

I was in no way of saying ESPN should fire Doc. He has several talents, but unfortunately none of them involve PXP. I'd love to see him still have a role with the races, just in a different role.

Your comments on leadership are right on. I'm sick of hearing DJ and Andy lead the broadcasts.

Anonymous said...

I think the problem with Dr. Punch is mainly on this site . As someone who has been in racing all my life I have many friends in and around racing. They all enjoy Dr. Punch and ESPN's racing coverage as well as the TNT coverage. It's the FOX folly of over dramatizing and trying to create false excitement that is not real.Watching practice on SPEED was like having a root canal with Jeff Hammond and Larry.Larry does not belong in the booth and why pick on Jerry Punch when Jeff Hammond has no business on TV.Use Larry like TNT does and either help Jeff Hammond improve his skills or replace him.As far as Jerry Punch, DW, with all of his issues make the good doctor look like an allstar broadcaster.

Vince said...

Anon@4:50,

The point you're missing is that DW, Jeff and Larry are color guys. Not the PxP guy. Big difference.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 4:50PM,

He is an all-star TV broadcaster. Did you read the column and comments?

JD

Richard in N.C. said...

I am biased because I have watched JP since the early EESPN days and enjoy what he has to say - and I do not know him personally. However, as valuable a resource as he is, I do believe he is in the wrong slot. I would love to see him do NASCAR Now during the week, preferably from Charlotte.

I do think EESPN has bigger problems than JP in the booth and I believe JP does a better job than the excessively biased Skip Bayless, Call-in Cowherd, or Ed Hinton. I'd rather hear JP call a race than anything those 3 have to say.

I do wonder whether 1 reason JP is still in the booth is because the rest of the so-called NASCAR media covers for EESPN and JP. As I recall the reporting about declining ratings dropped way off last season once EESPN took over the Cup races and I don't recall this season's articles about declining Cup TV ratings pointing out the ratings for EESPN N-wide broadcasts. I found it intriguing last fall that the southern based NASCAR media blamed NASCAR for the Phoenix race switch from ABC, while the media north of MD rightly blamed ABC and EESPN.

GinaV24 said...

It's interesting how many of the Anon's (one or many who can tell) seem totally miss the point. Makes you wonder who the poster is.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with the poster(s) who say this is beginning to be a JP-hate fest. He's in the job, no one at ESPN seemingly cares how he's doing, and the fans don't get a vote. It's time to stop flogging this horse. Honestly, it's getting embarrassing. I don't like the job he's doing, but I'm not going to continue to denigrate him.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 11:32PM,

If you can find any hating in my comments that call him a future NASCAR Hall of Fame member and one of the best TV personalities in NASCAR, please point them out.

JD

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

I think the problem a lot of people have with Daly Planet's comments on Jerry Punch are these read-between-the-line accusations that something is wrong with Jerry Punch, the man. For example:

Now, someone needs to throw a lifeline to Punch and give him a hand. If the problem is physical, mental or emotional it should not make a difference. Something is fundamentally wrong and it needs attention.

and

It's time to sort-out what is wrong with the good doctor and let us all breathe a sigh of relief when the problem is solved. Whatever it is and however it is dealt with can be private and totally confidential. It just has to happen.

I really don't get this -- unless you have some inside information you don't feel right in sharing -- because it goes beyond "Jerry Punch isn't good at his job" and gets into "Jerry Punch is deteriorating as person." It's very weird, and this column is not the first time you have done this.

Do you know something about Jerry Punch's condition? Because it seems like you are hinting at some other reason for his performance other than he isn't a good play-by-play guy.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 1:38AM,

How can you take simply being worried about someone you respect as an accusation?

One thing I noticed from your comment was that you are having the same struggle we are. You are also unable to figure out what is going on.

So, welcome to the club. If you have some suggestions of why this can't be solved, we would be happy to hear them.

JD

Rockin Rich said...

I am jumping in late on this, and this comment would fit in the New TV Standard article as well.

Point on NASCAR not controlling TV broadcasting content: The very first telecast FOX did in 2001 demonstrated that NASCAR indeed can control what is said or shown. My memory is a little hazy after 8 years, but there was a dustup when FOX didn't show some associated graphics with certain cars if those cars' sponsors hadn't bought advertising on the broadcast. Bill France Jr. himself stepped in and said that wasn't acceptable. FOX quickly changed their presentation. There is a history of NASCAR exerting control of how their "product", (as the Daytona suits like to say now), is presented.

Granted, the language of the new contracts may speak to this in restricting NASCAR, but I don't know what is in those contracts.

The other point to take away from this is the demonstration of the difference in leadership, (and competence?), exhibited by today's Daytona Beach suits.

Sad!

Anonymous said...

I'm late getting to this party, but have to stake a claim on some space anyway.

JD, it might very well be that Dr. Punch has a medical problem - could be physical or mental. There are several of my friends who are currently being treated for depression - the medication they're taking causes them to hesitate before they speak - like they're thinking very hard first. It seems to me that Dr. Punch is doing what is most comfortable for him - stating the car number and sometimes the driver's name. That doesn't require any further thinking on his part. Perhaps the "excitement" we hear when he's going to commercial is because he's READING the intro and again doesn't need to form his own thoughts and words.

I'm not being mean, I'm not putting the man down, I'm just saying that he acts as many of my friends do - and they CAN'T help it. Like you, I'm hoping he can get some help soon - if he reads your column and our comments, it can't make him feel very good about himself or his situation.

Okay, down off my soapbox now...

SrRaceFan

Richard in N.C. said...

I am convinced that JP is talented and exceptionally knowledgeable, but I believe his talents are being wasted in the wrong slot.

My understanding for years has been that he chose to stay with EESPN when it lost the NASCAR contract - and I wonder whether giving him the PXP slot is misplaced loyalty to him for his loyalty to EESPN.

Earlier this year I saw Mike Joy on FOX or SPEED saying that the FOX crew calls the race primarily by standing and watching out the window. All the in progress pictures I have seen of the ESPN crew in action appeared to me to show them watching monitors. I wonder whether part of JP's problem could be that he is required by ESPN to focus on the camera shots of the action rather than actually watching the track?

Smiff_99 said...

I find the whole Dr. JP saga mystifying.

If I remember correctly, from the mid to late 90's, Punch did PxP on Busch and ARCA races with KP and BP in the booth and those were great races to listen to.

Punch CAN be a good PxP guy....so what's the deal? I say the whole health idea is the best possible explanation, cause we all know how much Dr. Punch loves and enjoys the sport. So it MUST be some sort of underlying circumstance that's brought about this decline in the Dr's performance.

I say if he can handle it physically, put him back in the pits. That's where his star truly shined. Call him 'Lead Pit Reporter' or something, make him feel a little less like he's being demoted and more like he's 'going home'.

I hope he and ESPN figure something out.

P.S.- To all you Daly Planeteers who hate the coverage so much and are going to stop watching altogether, know this: IF WE ALL STOP WATCHING AND MAKE THE RATINGS EVEN WORSE, THEN WHEN THE NEXT TV DEAL GOES DOWN, WE'LL BE STUCK WATCHING NASCAR ON VS. OR SOME OTHER GOD-AWFUL NO-NAME NETWORK THAT'S ONLY AVAILABLE THROUGH EXTRA PRICEY CABLE PACKAGE ADD-ONS.

P.S.S.-I apologize for yelling.

ONE LAST THING: Major props go out to TNT for hitting it out of the park Saturday night.

Hey JD- Is there a snowball's chance in hell TNT could score all 36 races when the contracts come up again?

Anonymous said...

I think some of the criticism of DJP is warranted because he does seems at times in a rut during the race.

I place a good portion of the problem with the truck.

Some have stated that NASCAR controls the way a race is covered, camera placement etc,

Think about this, That camera guy in the Snorkel lift way out in turn 2 has his camera pointed at and following the action, if the guys pushing the buttons in the truck CHOOSE not to show what he's looking at, how is that the broadcast booth or even NASCAR's fault?

Does the production truck need a NASCAR "minder"? You know, "show that", "Don't show that!"

I don't think so.

Sometimes people are just in the wrong position. If we all look at ourselves and our careers, we have all been in the wrong job at one point or another, I know I have.

I've been with the same company for nearly 20 years, I kicked around several positions until I found the right place to be in, one that plays to my strengths and weaknesses. In my case as with DJP, I left one position to move on to another one I and others "thought" would be great. It wasn't.

I came back to the position I'm in now within the company and everyone involved couldn't be happier.

It was a major ego hit to me, but in the long run, everyone is happy and in the long run it was the best decision for everyone.

It's hard to say "this isn't right for me". Sometimes someone else has to say it before the realization sinks in.

I used to wait for DJP to appear on my TV outside of the Care Center to report on a drivers condition, DJP is an ER MD, I knew when he reported a drivers condition I was getting the right information from a very knowledgeable source.

I WANT him on my broadcasts, just not in his current PxP position.

Dave in Milwaukee

Anonymous said...

ESPN's loyality is hurting them in their coverage. Punch was offered several jobs after ESPN lost the rights following the 2000 season. But he opted to stay for work in college football and basketball and hoped ESPN got NASCAR again.

I think Dr. Punch is a nice man. It's rare to hear him speak a critical word. He appears weekly on a Knoxville, TN sports station where I live. He is genuine. But he's a boring play-by-play person.

If ESPN wants to right the ship, they should move Punch to the studio host role and move Bestwick to the booth. It makes sense. But will ESPN do it or remain loyal to someone who was loyal to then even though it keeps them from having a better product?

RPM said...

I like Dr. Jerry Punch, he is an excellent reporter. But the lead announcer role just does not suit him.

BWBarefoot said...

Another disappointing showing for ESPN on Friday night.

I was struck by two of Sophia's comments:
*The lack of driver identification reminds me of when "reality TV" shows blur the faces of background people in the scenes. So isn't it logical to believe that ESPN would also blur sponsor logos if they could do it?
*About accidents: I remember seeing a high-diving show at Sea World in California. Just before the dive, the crowd was asked not to applaud the diver until his head had surfaced and he was breathing after the dive. That's because the participants were well aware of the potential danger. Why doesn't Dr. Punch feel the same way? Or if he does, why not express it better on the race broadcast?