Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Frontstretch.com Story Link To ESPN Column

Lots of email means we need to make something available, in this case it is a link. Click here for Phil Allaway's recent column on the ESPN TV crew.

Phil has been writing a weekly TV column for Frontstretch.com this season and has been doing a very good job of talking about the coverage of all three of NASCAR's top series.

In this column, Phil takes a tour of the Watkins Glen TV compound and gets some behind-the-scenes information and interviews with some of the ESPN team.

There is an opportunity to leave comments directly on the Frontstretch website, but we are also going to open TDP for comments on the topics contained within the column. We have been discussing many of them for three seasons now and Phil's column gives some additional insight into the mindset of several on-air and production personalities.

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 and thanks to Phil for making the column available through his hard work.


Charlie said...

Interesting article.
Jerry Punch was told to tone it down when doing PbP.
Wide shots are not used as much because a tight shot shows off HD better.

I think I read the article correctly.

Delenn said...

Good article from Phil. I encourage everyone to read it. Quotes from the article are in italics.

Of course, I know what you’re thinking … what about the other cars that make up a 43-car field? Do they get researched? No. The reasoning given to me by Spake is that the network didn’t plan on covering those other teams unless something notable occurs (wrecks, blown engine, unusually good run, etc.). This can help partially explain why some teams are ignored during the races, as the information needed is not always readily at their disposal.
Well, that confirms it is deliberate then. Not criticism of Spake and co if that is what they are ordered.

Meanwhile, in the play-by-play production booth, covering the Cup race proves a whole different animal altogether. At one point in the past, it may have been possible for booth commentators to actually look out the window of the press box and point out things that aren’t on screen. Those days are long over. Most of the time, the commentators are looking at multiple monitors that show different cameras outside just so that they can stay on task with production.
Now Phil, who fed you that line? Fox manage to look out of the window. TNT manage it. Do ESPN have to do this because *gasp* the booth guys can't rely on the truck keeping up with what they are talking about.

Also, during my sitdown interview I asked Dr. Punch about the concerns that I’ve had (as well as others this season) about a perceived lack of enthusiasm. Jerry countered (respectfully) that he is very enthusiastic about NASCAR and the broadcasts. However, during a routine production evaluation of his work, ESPN brass felt that he was too enthusiastic on-air and basically told him to tone it down. That toning down, in my opinion, has now basically resulted in the de-emphasizing of Dr. Punch in favor of emphasizing Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree, leaving the less emotional Dr. Punch in the booth that we know of today. Now, many of you readers might not believe this, or might even accuse me of believing a blatant lie. Did I think this was true at the time? I thought he was truthful… but I was skeptical.
*boggle* Are they for real? Too enthusiastic. I've never heard him too enthusiastic, even during the good years.

However, both Dr. Punch and Allen Bestwick stated to me in their interviews that they had a lot of faith in the TV executives that basically control their jobs.
Glad someone has faith. I sure don't.

Meanwhile, Dr. Punch does not see himself as the best play-by-play man out there. But he certainly doesn’t see himself as the worst; and instead of worrying about comparing himself to others, he’s just happy that he gets the chance to do it every week. “I’m living my dream,” was a running theme he told me multiple times over the course of the interview, thankful for the opportunity
ok. He isn't the worst, but I am sad to say he is not far off. My dream is to get Bestwick in the booth. He should consider himself very lucky.

I asked Mr. Shiftan why there seemed to be an emphasis on tight shots, and he replied that the tight shots helped to show off all of the HD goodies (all cameras are HD cameras).
Argh. SHOW THE RACE, NOT YOUR TOYS!!!!!!! TNT manage it.

All this goes to show. Any number of talented people doing the right things and working hard, can be screwed up by one or two getting it wrong.

rich said...

Wow JD, I am totally bummed after reading this very informative article. As I have suspected, the problem starts at the top.
If you have not clicked on this link yet, you must do so now.

Vicky D said...

Ok so that's why we barely hear three words on the drivers running 20th - 30th the pit reporters don't know anything about them. Also, the pre-taped segments are in the bag a week or two ahead of time so they have to broadcast them. No wonder ESPN's telecasts are a nightmare. Did anyone see the survey of your favorite on-air personality in that article. AB is winning hands down. But I also thought Shannon's picture was great.

TexasRaceLady said...

I think the 2 points I really choked on were the admission that not all cars are researched, and that tight shots let ESPN show off their HD toys.

And asking JP to tone it down? Please, be real.

Methinks someone drank the ESPN KoolAid while visiting the TV compound.

Anonymous said...

Well it's good to know now that we cannot blame Jerry Punch and the pit reporters for how they carry out their roles in the ESPN telecasts. Now it's clear that the ESPN brass are at fault for some of this foolishness.

Sophia said...

WOW! I'm with Texas RL.

We had heard about the tight shows "showing off HD".

WHO CARES? It's like watching a baseball game with close up of gloves, shoes and bats but no action.

This is why I hate ESPN.

CLUELESS as to how to SHOW us a RACE.

most disappointing

storkjrc@gmail.com said...

What interesting article! I think those answers should quell half the complaints I see on TDP.

As far as only researching half the field. Do you think other broadcasts (i.e. NFL, MLB and NBA) do in depth research on benchwarmers and second stringers? I don't think so. How much more do we need to know about Paul Menard and Robby Gordon anyway.

Great article that gave good insight into the broadcast.

Anonymous said...

Well, I think this explains why ESPN's broadcasts are so poor.

Doesn't explain why they keep ignoring the requests of the viewers, though.

ESPN clearly wants you to know that they know best, despite the fact that you are the person they are supposed to be trying to attract.

So if they're doing things you don't like--tough. You're supposed to like them--because ESPN says so.

Anonymous said...

A great article! Certainly told me some things I didn't know.

How do you show up to a race planning to only cover half of the field? It is like broadcasting a baseball game and only planning to show 5 players bat on each team. I don't need to know the history of 20 other drivers in the field, I can look that up myself if I want. I want to know where the 43 cars are, how they are handling, where the best battle is & pit strategy. The fact that half the field is planned to be ignored certainly does not welcome new teams and sponsors into the sport.

The brass on top are clearly clueless. They should be locked in a room & listen to the broadcast. Jerry Punch sounds dull and uninterested. It isn't like he is Michael Waltrip, there was no need to tone him down at all.

Showing tight shots just to show off their HD toys? This has clearly sent me a message they are NOT here to broadcast a race. They are more focused on using all their goodies than the sport they are supposed to be covering. They have lost grip of the basics. We are attacked with gimmicks: tech center, radio transmissions, sponsored in-car cameras, pre-taped segments under green, endless tight shots, backseat drivers, floating heads, & music commercial bumpers. I miss just watching a race, watching the best battle on the track & hearing the sound of the cars.

I am done with ESPN for the season. Just radio coverage for me, so I can find out information about my driver because he is purposely ignored by ESPN. It is sad this network is ruining the reputation of some on-air personalities. I have given up, the brass do not care.

West Coast Diane said...

This morning, after reading the first couple of paragraphs, I was so incensed and ticked off, I didn't finish reading and immediately sent an email to JD.

Obviously I didn't get to the "we use tight shots because it looks good in HD" comment.

I had said: "Based on the article I doubt if we will ever get anything but the "same ol'" from ESPN. We can only hope they fix the camera work at least".

Guess not.

Regarding only covering 24 teams.
Totally puts things in perspective. Wow...zero research on half of the teams. No wonder we get absolutely nothing but the same drivel about the same teams on ESPN. Sad.

Personally I think DW, Larry Mac, Jeff H know most all, if not all, of the teams, their people and their history in the sport, short or long. They make it their job to do so. This is what adds to the FOX broadcast, (Digger notwithstanding). That goes for Kyle Petty on TNT who has the same approach with his natural enthusiasm and passion for the sport coupled with his knowledge and sense of history because he's been around the sport since he was born.

I am totally bummed. ESPN management sounds like most of our politicans who think they know better than the people they serve.

West Coast Diane said...

Oh...also didn't read the part about JP being asked to tone it down. Tone what down?

Are we sure it's not April 1st and this is an April Fools day article?

Did they put Xanax in JP's decaf to make sure he kept it "toned" down?

These people are clueless and their approach to broadcasting a race is truly idiotic.

(Maybe this is why Marty Reid isn't on more races...it doesn't appear he is always following the script).

David said...

Great article! Definitely got a great glimpse into the making of a race broadcast, but it also answers alot of questions.

The pit reporter thing is a weak excuse for me. Yes, it is ALOT of homework, but if you have a grouping of drivers in your section, nothing prohibits you from going over before the race, asking some questions and taking some notes. Please. Also, this is for the pit reporters, the booth is not under that same restriction so it does not explain why the booth ignores them

The tight shot excuse, total crap. NOT ALL OF US HAVE HD!!!! Therefore your "goodies" are wasted upon me. Wide shots are good, hell if its HD then wouldnt the wide shot look even better anyways?!

I guess they want you to feel like your standing right next to the racetrack like the photogs did back in the 50's and 60's at Daytona and such...

JP being told to tone it down was a surprise. JD, you might need to re-verify the enthusiasm from 2007 to now because I am skeptical. Where JP was in 2000 to now though is clearly noticed by me however.

I hate the new HD onboards though. Always have.

Anonymous said...

HOLY MOLY! They told Jerry Punch to "tone it down".

I am starting to have a new appreciation for Dave Hill. Compared to the "brass" as ESPN, him and Digger look like geniuses!

Sophia said...


you bring up good points on HD but then even if one HAS HD, and a giant TV, who wants a bumper cam/zoomcam/in car cam shot on a 60 inch screen?? or even 30 inch?? for 40% of the racing?

We are STILL CHEATED out of the race.

This ESPN article is NOT going to win friends.
Just explains the EGO of BSPN. :(

Just when we thought they couldn't get any stupider, this article appears.

I'm so depressed we don't have access to MRN for ALL the races.

er, PRN this weekend I know.

Dot said...

@ Charlie, I read it that way too.

Just how many fans watch on HD? I was thisclose to buying one. I lost my job so I didn't. Can't they show wide shots if they wanted to?

At least we know now that there is a script. I think BSPN should be a little more flexible.

Really? JP had to turn down the enthusiasm? The least he could do is find a happy medium. Since he is living his dream, my guess is that he'll be back in the booth next year.

@ Vicky, per the votes, so far it's AB & DJ. Poor Tim got 0.

PammH said...

Excellent article & it expalins ALOT of the problems we encounter every Sunday. Altho, I find it impossible to believe that Doc & everyone else actually watches the replays of the races! Surely, they can see how incredibly bad the broadcasts are..but I guess not, because we still get crap every wk.

darbar said...

This was a very eye opening article. While it answers a few questions, it still leaves a many more unanswered. OK, Spake and company only research a few teams, but that doesn't explain their constant inane questions to every driver they interview. It's common knowledge that many of the top level drivers have very little patience for Little, Spake and the rest. You can almost see the roll of the eyes whenever Spake or Little ask Stewart or Earnhardt a question. And it's obvious Montoya has little patience for the ESPN pit crew.

I'm sorry, but I have a hard time believing that Punch was told to turn it down. Why haven't they done that with some of their other broadcasters who are way over the top. Lee Corso, Steven A Smith and Dick Vitale are blatant examples three who are so loud and obnoxious and should have been told a long time ago to tone it down.

Stuff the HD love affair, ESPN. While I totally believe they do the close up shots of the cars just to show the sponsors, I'm wondering if this is at the behest of Nascar. And, I would like to point out to the numbskulls at ESPN that all 43 cars have sponsors that are important to each team and deserve equal exposure.

I've said this before and I'll say it again. ESPN, we don't need your gimmicks, technology or silly explanations from your tech center. LET THE RACING TELL THE STORY !! That's not too much to ask, is it?

Preacher said...

Nice article that answers or explains the reason for many of our complaints. It still doesn't take away the need to change some things. We want to see a race, not just portions of cars and disjointed coverage.
What am I thinking! I just remembered that ESPN/ABC are owned by Disney. Everything has to be a story with a planned script that delivers a planned happy ending.
One problem! This is a live event that can not be controlled. This is not Snow White or some other scripted story. Why could Benny Parsons and Ned Jarrett show us what the race was doing without the "script." They wanted us to see and enjoy the race. Not give us a preplanned and unyielding story.
Please just give us our racing back. We have seen it can be done!

glenc1 said...

I'll just add my 'now I get it' comments. Apparently *I* know more about the other teams than the pit reporters do....and they wonder why we lose sponsors....

I will say, since ESPN took over the Glen, I have noticed more equipment trucks, they even gave them a special area in which to park. About them watching by monitor--in the case of the Glen; that would be true, but shouldn't be true of an oval.

Only a third of the US has HD (and as the economy has tanked, my guess is a lot of people who did have it have dropped their service.) That part infuriated me, I'm in the other 66%. So we get crappy shots for the minority of HD folks. Great...

Richard in N.C. said...

The F1 race from Spa this past weekend had some high aerial shots that were absolutely fantastic and gave you a very real feel of how fast the cars were traveling. I find the F1 camera mix far superior to what EESPN does for racing.

David said...

DW can look out the window and find trouble that the monitor is NOT showing. Why can't ESPN do that.

To say that is not true anymore is insulting all of our intelligences

50 yr. fan said...

Connecticut Yankees still acting
like carpetbaggers saying they
know whats best for us.

Anonymous said...

Agreed, interesting article.

Very disappointing but&#32not surprising. Show off the toys and ignore the REASON folks were tuning in, in the first place!

"Wreck in turn 2!"

"That's nice, but look at how nice Sponsor XYZ looks in this TIGHT shot on this car. The fan who just spent half their yearly income on that new HD TV is going to love this shot!"

@Vicky--Yup I voted for Allen. No love yet for Tim. Maybe if his segments were actually educational he'd find some love.

@West Coast Diane--agreed! The Fox boyz do their homework and know "the rest of the story" story on many.

I'm also still floored by the alleged toning down of JP. Makes no sense! If true, then why is he "allowed" to get enthusiastic during promos and commercial breaks?

tom in dayton said...

I believe this column from Phil Allaway points out so many of the problems we've encountered as viewers of ESPN's broadcasts not only in NASCAR but also in other sports offerings on that network.
In view of this, I'd really like to see us here tone down our criticism of the on-air talent, especially Dr. Jerry, unless it's really warranted and instead take issue with those people making the decisions affecting the overall content of each broadcast.
It seems to me that we also can make complaints about ESPN's coverage to the individual teams(through the email links available on their websites) and let them foward those complaints to the NASCAR brass. We can also complain to the corporate sponsors of those neglected teams and get a real effort going!
An article like this exposes how ESPN puts these broadcasts together. Armed with this knowledge allows us to redirect our anger and displeasure to the more proper sources in order to bring about some change.
Besides, Dr. Jerry, AB, DJ and the rest are good people, however miscast in their on-air roles. They do what they're directed to do or else they are out! Lets shift the complaints towards the proper miscreants...

Anonymous said...

They told Jerry Punch to tone it down?

That is like telling Larry McReynolds his on-air grammar is too formal!

Anonymous said...

I think 'The Onion' is running ESPN now. Stay tuned for NASCAR on Disney. Goofy, I say, just goofy. Allaway nailed it on flaunting the HD cameras. Basing your camera direction on the fact you have HD cameras is insane. Ignoring the race while you flaunt your HD cameras is priceless.

I liked the carpetbagger remark. Explains the suits of the on-air guys.

Vicky D said...

As of 7:55 PM the survey is showing poor TB doesn't have any votes although AB is way ahead of everyone else.

Anonymous said...

Man, best article I have ever read. Well like I have said before, ESPN does things their way and no wonder why their telecast has been bad.

Richard in N.C. said...

At some point EESPN realized that they had reinvented sports broadcasting and, like Rome after it invented modern civilization, it has pretty much been downhill ever since

Daly Planet Editor said...

Great comments. I just want to make sure and offer my opinion on Jerry Punch once again for those who are new to TDP.

Once some of the heavyweight drivers and owners in the sport get to the Hall of Fame, Jerry needs to be on the next list.

In the 1980's, long before Disney and gimmicks and HD, a moonlighting Dr. Punch was busting his rear end to get to every ESPN race, researching everyone on pit road and adding a presence for the NASCAR viewers that helped to shape the history of this sport on TV.

Punch's voice-over of the Ultimate NASCAR TV series (now on DVD) was a great way for ESPN to start their coverage back in 2007.

Instead of letting four analysts call a race, all ESPN had to do was flip Punch and Allen Bestwick for one Nationwide Series race to see how the on-air dynamic would change.

During rain delays on Friday and Saturdays, Punch has hosted from the Infield Pit Studio and been the "Jerry of old." His memories and stories would much better serve ESPN in a infield host position that having to provide lap-by-lap information during a four hour race.

I respect Punch personally and professionally, but believe he is being put in the wrong role by the current ESPN Motorsports management team.



TexasRaceLady said...

JD, I'm in 100% agreement with you about Jerry Punch.

For years, he was the voice of NASCAR to me. I could count on him getting the story, and then giving me the story in terms that I could understand.

I'll never forget when Ricky Rudd won Martinsville. Jerry said that he was going to quit reporting and be the doctor in Victory Lane because Ricky was in such distress.

That's the Jerry Punch I remember and love.

Not this new incarnation.

Anonymous said...

They told Doc to tone it down !?? from what?

Ummm...interesting, I'm a bit dizzy from the overload of happy spin.

The rest I can't put in here - JD would ban me, & I'll watch again after espn the www is gone. About Daytona 500 sounds right.

Newracefan said...

I understand, I don't agree or like it but I understand. Now if we could just get ESPN to realize that some of their decisions are flawed and change them I might actually only be frustrated with how my drivers are doing instead of the TV coverage of the race.

Dot said...

Regarding the coverage of, or lack of the other 30 teams. BSPN should highlight an Odd Wad or two every week. This would be one way for them to get exposure. Nothing elaborate, just a little back story. They could ignore the S&Ps.

Hey, they could do this on the Countdown show instead of rerunning NN segments from the week before.

@ JD Thank you for the link to the Frontstretch article. You know, I've seen TDP mentioned over there too.

Steve L. said...

Good Grief, I've never read such rubbish! We're not fools, we just want to see some good TV racing!

If they want to have a "Bells and whistles" show, do it outside of race time.

Tone down what?

Good grief!

Anonymous said...

JD, that's a very diplomatic way of saying he is a HORRIBLE PLAY BY PLAY ANNOUNCER.

Hey, who can dispute that Magic Johnson was a Hall of Fame legend? Put him behind the mic and it was an abomination! Dennis Miller is one of the top comics and broadcasters in the country, with fine skills honed over years on live TV, but put him in the booth and he was a complete and total waste.

I don't think you need to offer a caveat that the guy was great in other areas to just say he is horrible in his current role. Downright horrible.

Karen said...

Does Allaway always have such a long column? I thought I'd never get through it. JD, why don't you link the live blog of the Talladega race in 2007 and let us see what our comments were then of JP and his PxP abilities?

And, honestly, did anyone expect the employees to say anything bad about ESPN? I'm sure they're all thankful to have a job, a darned good one, I might add.

Karen said...

Well, I found it myself. In-race comments of Talladega race on 10/6/07 and JD's recap on 10/7/07. What a hoot!!

KoHoSo said...

From the article, bold type added for what I want to emphasize...

I asked Mr. Shiftan why there seemed to be an emphasis on tight shots, and he replied that the tight shots helped to show off all of the HD goodies (all cameras are HD cameras). Additionally, in the past it’s important to note these options didn’t exist, forcing natural usage of wide shots from roof cams wherever there was action on the race track because it was pretty much all the network had to work with.

Thus, I now gather that this is ESPN logic...

Up until now, I did not own a shotgun. Now that I have one, I shoot it at anything that comes down the street. :-s

Lesley said...

Given up on this site! Sorry JD.. Your Delete button has lost you respect and cred...Good luck anyway!!Long time Race Fan...

Anonymous said...

About the close up HD shots; I have a 60" plasma TV and I HATE the close ups! HD is great, but I want to see all of the race. I remember when sports were changing over to HD. One of the best things about it was you were able to see much more of the track ( and therefore more racing ) because of the switch from 4:3 to 16:9 aspect ratios. Now all we get is close up roof-cam, bumper-cam, ect. You would've thought that the "shiny new toy" syndrome would be over by now.
Pete on Van. Isle

Anonymous said...

....Lesley said...
Given up on this site! Sorry JD.. Your Delete button has lost you respect and cred...Good luck anyway!!Long time Race Fan...

Are you finally going away this time? We keep hoping...

Daly Planet Editor said...


If you review this comments section, there are no deletions for profanity, hateful speech or off-topic comments.

If you have an issue about something from the past, please feel free to drop me an email directly rather than using this comments section for your own agenda.

Thank you.


Anonymous said...

ESPN should finally give what JD and his Kool Aid drinking followers want. Just have one single handheld, standard definition camera about two thirds the way up the grandstands in the front strech.

No zooming in, just trying to follow as many cars you can on the track, like you were sitting there live at the race.

That is their idea of an ideal production, plenty of wide shots there.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 11:12AM,

Did you watch the TNT broadcasts?

They did not seem to have a problem handling the fact that HD and NASCAR can mix.

If you think for one second that we are going to be happy with single car shots from the ESPN guys because that makes HD "look cool," you better think again.

Things need to change in Atlanta in a very big (or should I say wide) way.


David said...

JD, I've given up hope ESPN will "get with the program"

I'll keep posting and watching what I can but come Sunday, I have work at the same time the race starts, so unless weather moves in or the race takes an abnormally long time and I catch the end of the race.

Honestly, if the rest of the program wasn't such and epic failure, from the information being given by the booth and reporters, to JP's ability to call a race at Bristol when 2 cars crash right in front of him and he totally misses it, then wide shots won't fix what is clearly an issues at the direct top.

Maybe we are the loud minority. Maybe most fans really don't care about the overall coverage of a race because their driver runs in the top 10 week in and week out so they couldnt be the wiser, but there is no shortage of criticism from not only fans but no less than 2 media websites disputing that accusation made by people going to bat for said network.

Watch a TNT race, watch a Truck Series race, quality race telecasts can be done. Heck FOX a few years back was the gold standard for all the partners since 2001 until they got lost in commercialism.

Was willing to skip work this Sunday, then I thought about it and thought about it...I need the hours more than the aggravation of trying to follow ESPN's "vision"

Daly Planet Editor said...


You are not in the minority, you have just found a place to express your feelings.

Try this on ESPN.com and it gets wiped clean in a moment.

Try it on NASCAR.com and no one cares because the site is a mess.

We have been focused and respectful of all the NASCAR TV partners for three seasons.

We have seen tremendous changes, with ESPN leading the way in that change. Don't forget all the changes they made in the last off season.

I expect we will see some substantial changes in front of and behind the camera for next year.


David said...

Thanks JD for this forum to express our thoughts.

I just say maybe because some folks want to say this is not an issue.

I really hope ESPN does get it together. They have an all-star cast in the making, they just have to have someone leading the herd that has the vision to put it all together which is the only thing lacking.

Producer/directer get my ire. JP and company are just caught in the crossfire.