Tuesday, September 1, 2009
No Marty Reid In Atlanta For ESPN
This year ESPN added TV veteran Marty Reid to its NASCAR line-up for the portion of the season when the network is televising both the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series. Reid's new role was to handle the play-by-play announcing for the Nationwide Series races.
Reid has worked for ESPN in a variety of roles, including the IRL and NHRA events. He has a long history in off-road racing and has also been a pit reporter. Joining Reid to handle the Nationwide Series races was Randy LaJoie, who was closely associated with the series when it existed under the Busch sponsorship.
The third man in the booth was Rusty Wallace. This gave Wallace an opportunity to speak about a series in which he was directly involved. Wallace owns a two-car team that includes his colorful son Steven as one of the drivers.
This new combination worked very well for ESPN as the trio put together several enjoyable telecasts. LaJoie kept Wallace in check with his sense of humor and Reid added the excitement that so many of the ESPN NASCAR races have been lacking.
Since then, ESPN has shuffled the Nationwide Series lineup several times. This included a one-time experiment the network called "Backseat Drivers." During the recent race in Michigan, ESPN's NASCAR analysts were put in a position of handling the live telecast without a play-by-play announcer.
Dale Jarrett, Andy Petree, Rusty Wallace and Ray Evernham were left alone in the booth without a trained television professional to handle the lap-by-lap information and direct the on-air traffic. Jarrett did his best to maintain control with an assist from Allen Bestwick who was located in the Infield Pit Studio.
Click here to read the comments offered by fans nationwide about the "Backseat Drivers" telecast. The telecast was rough not only for the analysts in the booth, but also for the TV director.
Without a play-by-play announcer adding the excitement and detailing what was going on, it was certainly tough to choose what pictures to show to the TV viewers at home. The director began by cutting away from the live flyover by a restored B-17 bomber to show Kyle Busch kissing his girlfriend. Things only went downhill from there.
Essentially, the MIS Nationwide Series telecast consisted of Dale Jarrett trying with all his might to fill the play-by-play role while Allen Bestwick appeared after the commercials to straighten things out for viewers. If this was ESPN's way of letting Jarrett audition for a new role, it certainly was the Nationwide Series that took it on the chin in the process.
Monday, ESPN advised the media that this one-time only experiment is now going to be repeated at the Nationwide Series race in Atlanta. Jarrett, Wallace, Petree and Evernham will once again be watching the action while telling stories about their past histories in racing. There will be no play-by-play announcer.
"Backseat Drivers" is now being referred to as a "television concept." The original idea grew from an ESPN executive who enjoyed hearing the analysts tell stories away from the track and thought perhaps that feel could be replicated during a live race telecast.
While ESPN paid the money to televise the races and can approach them any way it chooses, the real losers here are the Nationwide Series teams. ESPN has televised the series since February. The "Backseat Drivers" concept would have been better served if it was done much earlier in the season.
There are only ten races remaining in the Nationwide Series for 2009. Atlanta means primetime TV exposure for the teams under the lights on a Saturday night. ESPN's expressed interest with this format is to "give viewers the experience of sitting at home and watching the race with NASCAR experts."
Unfortunately, that eliminates the information and excitement provided by the play-by-play announcer. Try as he might, Jarrett does not have the TV training of an Allen Bestwick or Marty Reid. With the high speeds and fast-paced action of the Atlanta Motor Speedway, this experiment may send fans to the PRN or SiriusXM radio coverage of the race to get what the "Backseat Drivers" simply cannot deliver.
TDP welcomes your opinions on this topic. To add your comment, just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly site, please keep that in mind when posting. Thank you for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.