Saturday, October 10, 2009

ESPN Stumbles Into Sunday


Jeff Gordon is very smooth on TV. He is a popular talk-show guest and has even hosted national TV shows like Regis and Kelly. On this Saturday afternoon, however, Gordon was clearly uncomfortable.

He was seated in the Infield Pit Studio of ESPN and all six of the on-air announcers were taking turns asking him questions during the Nationwide Series race. Gordon had stopped by to promote the documentary film called Together: The Hendrick Motorsports Story. A one-hour preview of the full-length DVD airs Sunday on ABC before the Sprint Cup Series telecast.

Gordon was not uncomfortable talking about the film, his season or even his painful back. What made him squirm was the fact that one of the best Nationwide Series races of the season was unfolding out on the track and clearly no one from the NASCAR on ESPN crew gave a damn.

As the TV team peppered him with ridiculous questions, Gordon would often interrupt them to get excited about the action on the track. He repeatedly pushed the focus away from himself and back onto the high-speed racing. This veteran of both NASCAR and the media knew something was very wrong.

Dale Jarrett cheerily asked Gordon about his aching back as the three and four-wide action continued out the infield window at almost 200 mph. Allen Bestwick promoted the ABC airing of the documentary as Gordon nervously glanced at the TV monitor. He was the only one watching the race.

Ultimately, Gordon actually apologized to the ESPN2 viewers for interrupting the race telecast to promote the TV special. He was a gentleman the entire time, even when put on the spot to criticize fellow competitors. In the end, he departed while ESPN thanked him profusely and then went to another commercial break. In the meantime, the race was raging.

What ESPN should do is apologize to NASCAR fans for the entire Saturday telecast. Instead of another Busch vs. Edwards stinker, the dynamics of this event played out to make it one of the best races of the season in all three national series. That apparently was not in the ESPN script.

From the drop of the green flag the producer and director hopped randomly around to cars that seemed to be running closely together. Quickly, the silent ticker at the top of the screen was the only thing allowing viewers to understand who was where. Unfortunately, it could not tell them why.

Steven Wallace and another car got a penalty on a restart. It was never followed up until he magically appeared in the final laps having spent the entire race coming back through the field. Driver Michael Annett was never even mentioned until ESPN discovered he was running in the top ten toward the finish.

The TV chaos in this race was over the top. Marty Reid desperately tried to reset the top five or six cars before restarts. He was never allowed enough time to do more with all the ESPN and ABC promos. Allen Bestwick tried to put things in order when he did an infield recap, but it was almost always too late.

This telecast relied on replays to tell the story to the viewers because the production team missed almost everything on the track from the opening lap through the finish. The final lap was a NASCAR TV disaster that should live for a long time on YouTube. Smoking cars with bent sheet metal, super-tight camera shots and totally confused announcers made for a fitting end to a three hour NASCAR TV disaster.

After the cool down lap, ESPN chose to follow Steven Wallace down pit road because he was supposed to be angry and possibly going to fight. Instead, he got out and walked off slowly. Away from the ESPN cameras and without a second of coverage, winner Joey Logano's father ran to the Biffle car and apparently made his feelings known about an in-race altercation.

Fans were later advised that Mr. Logano had his full-time NASCAR "hard card" immediately pulled by NASCAR. Despite the fact four pit reporters were present, none of this was relayed to fans. Mr. Logano now gets to stand in line and apply for a paper credential for the remaining races.

ESPN's wonderful NASCAR Now series will set the stage for the Sunday coverage from Fontana with a 10AM preview show. Mike Massaro and Boris Said will no doubt recap these issues and more. Marty Smith and Angelique Chengelis will report from the track.

Then the very same producer and director will present the Sprint Cup Series race beginning at 2:30PM with the pre-race show. Race coverage starts at 3:15PM with Jerry Punch, Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree. Tim Brewer will be in the Tech Garage. Shannon Spake, Jamie Little, Vince Welch and Dave Burns will be on pit road.

All these guys can do is shake off the bad Saturday telecast and try to learn for Sunday. Wideshots are mandatory on this track when the pack is running two and three wide for laps at a time. The stories of both the race and the Chase will make this challenge even more difficult.

This is big time sports television and the third season of NASCAR coverage on the ESPN family of networks. Fans have seen both Fox and TNT make changes to their coverage while ESPN continues to flounder. Making a commitment to the fans for solid coverage on Sunday would do a lot toward fixing the ongoing production problems. Green flag is scheduled for 3:31PM ET.

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.

50 comments:

Sophia said...

I only had the sound on a couple minutes as I watched IRL race. I did hear Jeff apologize for not answering as he was watching some good racing on the track. ESPN's booth couldn't have cared less and continued the insipid questions.

Then my sister stopped by as the race was wrapping up the final laps. Glad Joey won after the licking he took from Biffle (no black flag for rough driving? no call to the hauler?)

I see no difference between the problems today and all the other previous CLUELESS BROADCASTS from ESPN.

They don't care. Really, they don't. Lather, rinse, repeat.

IRL had an unexpected finish. But only ONE car crossed the finished line...sigh...just like FOX/ABC peeps often do...

I'm glad racing season is almost over. It truly does no good to gripe anymore, JD though I appreciate your persistance in the ongoing dreck telecasts.

:(

How many weeks until TNT comes back?

Vicky D said...

JD, you nailed it. Also, we saw TB showing us how a driver gets out and another driver gets in. What a waste of time that was. Lots of action we never saw live and had to watch it on replay. Remember there weren't many fans at the track either. Very disappointing broadcast and I thought Marty was trying to help it but kept on being beaten down by the guys in the production truck. Maybe tomorrow's race telecast will be better.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps ESPN should hire Jeff Gordon when he retires from driving. At least he recognizes good racing when he sees it. ESPN's current crew is clueless.

Anonymous said...

I'll be honest, I used to tune in to Nationwide races last year just to see how bad ESPN could bungle the coverage. Now?

I never bothered to watch or even record and FF through the race. The only thing I did was come here, read through the TDP comments "as they happened" and later watched the 2-3 highlights I needed to see. All the while, I was watching World Cup qualifying soccer and college football and didn't care less about the race.

How's that for ya, Nascar? Do you care?

Anonymous said...

i'm in shock!!! that was great race...at california!!! can you believe it? hope tomorrow is just as good......and i hope the producer for abc/espn gets stuck in traffic and misses the race.

i can't say anything that hasn't been said already about the horrible coverage abc/espn continues to fumble through.
BUT...WHAT HAPPENED ON THE FINAL LAP??? i still don't know!!! from the little i saw it looked pretty exciting.

one thing that would really help tomorrow's race would be to put allen bestwick as PxP announcer.

mike in louisiana

Sophia said...

Anon 11:15

no. NASCAR does NOT care or else they would NOT allow the SICKENING camera direction spoil the race, again and again, week after week, year after year.

Those of us with MRN access have just seriously given up on the tv 'coverage' (sic)

If ever a contract needed to be broken, this is it. Give half the year to TNT. They play nice and would allow SPEED to share the quals/practices.

bevo said...

Hate to say this but I'm glad I missed the race today after reading your summary JD. I would have been fuming. In all of my years following motor sports I can't believe I'm actually ready for a season to end and it's all due to ESPN.

Just imagine how different things would be if TNT had the last half of the season instead.

Vince said...

I usually watch practice, qualifying, and the races on the weekend. This weekend so far I haven't watched 5 minutes of any of the coverage by Speed or ESPN. I'm tired of the Chase hype in Cup and ESPN's endless infomercial during qualifying and the Nationwide race. I watched the Barrett-Jackson auto auction. I'd rather watch fat rich guys by some really cool cars than the crap that ESPN/ABC are showing us now. Who ever directs and produces both the Cup and Nationwide races needs to get canned.

Tomorrow I'll be doing my usual. DVR'n the race and watching football. I'll catch the race later when I get a chance. ESPN/ABC has finally chased this long time fan away, at least till Fox and TNT take over next year.

Anonymous said...

When this race started I thought it was going to be one of the most boring races but boy was I wrong. Turned out to be one of the best racing in california.
Now the TV coverage side of things wasn't great. What is with ESPN obsession with tight shots. It just makes me sick. Are they allergic to wide shots? I mean look at TNT they have some of the best camera directing ever. I also didn't understand why the director chose to stay with Joey logano drivng away from Vickers while there were four wide racing and smoking cars at the back.
Marty Reid was a plus though and he tried. Is there hope for tomorrow's race? Nope

Sophia said...

bevo

wow. we posted at the same time and both mentioned TNT taking over last half of the season...sigh.

we can dream right? cause that's all it is... a PIPE DREAM

Gymmie said...

Today was a complete embarrassment! Poor Jeff :(. I would be embarrassed to have my name on these broadcasts!

So many unanswered questions. Was there something on E3 that couldn't have been preempted to provide some sort of closure?

Why do we have to rely on Twitter to tell us the things that BSPN should be telling us?

Tom said...

Slightly unrelated element, but very funny - in a dark, sad way, if ESPN picks up on it...
While watching tonight's San Jose-Minnesota NHL game on Comcast Sports Net California, the starting lineups were introduced using - I kid you not - POP-UP HEADS!
I laughed because I immediately thought of the idiotic flying heads ESPN loves to use at the finish.

Anonymous said...

All these guys can do is shake off the bad Saturday telecast and try to learn for Sunday

It will never happen because they simply do not even know that they did a bad broadcast on Saturday. I bet they think it was fine.

RobFromToronto said...

In the past..iwas definately not a jeff gordon fan..but over the eyars..he's become less of a fasle cardboard scripted twit and alot mroe human..so i enjoyed his visit to the booth..although..his voice is nasally and not comfortable to listen to..as for the race..well..i watch on tv..and join in a nascar chat site online during race so i get a sorta crowd feeling...there were about 390 of us there during this race.
When the phantom caution for debris came out that allowed kyle to get out and denny to get in without losing a lap..there were 390 gasps of..your kidding right?.
it was the most blatant insulting nascar manipulation i've ever seen..when 390 of us come to the exact conclusion at the same time..i know i'm not being paranoid.it literally ruined the race for all of us..the only saving grace was the raceend craziness..while i despise crashes and dont much like folks that root for crashes..this is one time..our chat room en masse cheered denny's wreck as it destroyed nascar's carefully planned machinations.ok..am off my angry soapbox now..Nascar..a message..fans arent as dumb as you assume..and we arent lemmings..alot of us are leaving and its of your own doing..shame on you!
the last 30 laps..dispelled "boring fontana" as they were edge of the seat nail biter..
the announcing team when JG wasnt present as a fresh voice..was particularly annoying this time..rusty and brad just dont have it..i'm sorry..but they have got to go..Rusty is the most insipid inane "analyst" i've ever witnessed in a sporting event..and brad has just become too over the top to the point of being a clown.
i truely dont get it..espn/abc etc..have the resources to get the best people for the job..they surely know the fans hold them in disdain currently and are turning away..do they enjoy tossing money away?..come on guys..listen to the folks you basically work for ...the fans..without us..noone buys yer sponsors goods and noone watches...and you are out of work..its that easy!

Anonymous said...

Let me say up front that the Nationwide race was fantastic and Jeff Gordon showed a lot of insight calling the race. I really like Andy and DJ, but they really blew it Saturday. They're always reluctant to place blame on anyone. I laughed out loud when DJ said that maybe that little idiot Biffle 'misjudged' it a bit. Jordon said, "I think he misjudged it a LOT"! Yes, much too much coverage of Wrecker Wallace, but I've gotten used to that with Espn. Where was the Biffle interview and trip to the trailer debate? Whatever happened prior to putting Lagano in the fence, there's no excuse for what Biffle did. Hamlin showed a lot of class for calling out what a jerk Kesolwski continues to be.

BToS JD said...

Constant raceday frustration with ESPN's NASCAR race coverage has killed my urge to comment. Suffice to say, "It sucks!"

Darren said...

It's simple, folks.

College football is here.

NFL football is here.

ESPN is wetting-their-pants desprate.

Desprate networks do stupid, ill advised things hoping to catch a ratings getter (4 time Cup champ during historically boring Nationwide race, for example).

Until the folks in charge learn it's about the racing and not about gimmicks, gophers, bells and whistles...we'll see more of the same.

50 yr. fan said...

I can't take another day of ESPeeN
like yesterday! Not only was the
racing coverage terrible, they had
to short the post race interviews
for football scores that you can
get on 10 other channels.

The Panthers are at home today and
I'm going to the game where they
don't have "water bottle cautions".


don't have water bottle cautions.

Rockin Rich said...

This is off topic, but I didn't see an opportunity to post it earlier.

I agree with most posters here that Speed does pretty good job of showing qualifying and practices. However, I was really surprised at how the handled the Out-Of-Top-35 group at the end. Max Papis has his a great run, (best ever?), but all they showed was the celebration afterward.

Again, they almost always do a great job. I just wanted to post this so they know that this BSPN-like incident was noticed.

Rockin Rich said...

Second comment:

I have mostly given up posting about BSPN. It just isn't worth getting my knickers knotted when it is very unlikely we will see any change until next year. If, that is, we see any substantial change at all.

Although, clearly, Dr. Punch is not in the best role to showcase his talents, (and I feel he is very talented, and dedicated), I think that the primary problem is the broadcasting philosophy and principles of the BSPN management.

This philosophy apparently is fairly consistent across the spectrum of BSPN broadcasting from what I read. I don't believe it make a lot of difference who the broadcasting "personalities" are. As long as the presentation is being scripted as it is now, the results, and viewer frustrations will remain.

I know that BSPN tends to do whatever changes they do decide to make during the off season. I also have seen that mostly these changes are personnel or technical gimmicks. I just don't see any of these typical changes having much of an effect on improving the broadcast quality unless they involve the producers, directors, and changing the underlying philosophy of how to present the events. How likely is THAT to happen????

JD, do you have any inkling of what, if any, changes may be under consideration for the off season?

Labbie said...

I've been trying to decide whether a bunch of monkeys in ESPN's truck randomly hitting the controls could do a better job or if ESPN currently employs a bunch of monkeys in the truck randomly hitting the controls.

Mïk said...

RobfromToronto-
That's in French, right? Maybe a cup o'joe before ya post.

Anon@5:48-
Hamlin's griping is sour grapes. It's always somebody else's doing him wrong. Brad races like the Sr. did. No-holds-barred, and willing to tale names.

As the the coverage, the Gordon interview was an embarrassment even if it wasn't in the middle of the best California race in years. I don't get WHY the ticker isn't on the screen the minute they come back from commercial? Poor Marty is breathlessly trying to name as many as possible before the restart, when we could see it easily if they put it up at once. Resetting the field at the restart ought to be a fundamental, but the networks (ALL of them!) have dropped it in the dirt.

DL said...

My first reaction was, "Why on earth is Jeff Gordon being interviewed during a NNS race?!"
Rather than apologize for not answering stupid questions, he should've just pointed out the window and said, "I'm trying to watch the great race outside. Aren't you supposed to be talking about that?"
I'd love to see Jeff get hired as a booth guy after he retires but here's the thing: he'll be told by ESPN to follow the script and not the race. And even more than Rusty, I'd like to think he'd tell them, 'screw you'.
It was the best NNS race since ORP, and noone got to see it on TV.
And I'll bet Kyle Busch never gets out of a car again no matter how bad he feels.

Anonymous said...

By the way, JD, the overnight replay advertised on ESPN2? I got 2 hours of NHRA reruns followed by the rebroadcast of GA Tech vs FL State. No NASCAR.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Why not take a moment and drop ESPN a note on that subject at ESPN.com's comment page?

Ken said...

I wonder how NA$CAR and ESPN plan to get new fans. The old fans are dying off or leaving in disgust. The current TV coverage does not make anyone want to attend a race or watch it on TV. A lousy race is a lousy race regardless of how well it is telecast and a good race like yesterday appears lousy with a poor telecast.

My daughters and sons-in-law can't understand how I can stand to watch the racing as it appears on TV. It is clear that they will never be NA$CAR fans even though they are racing fans.

Michael said...

The folks at ESPN have come to think that their Network is more important than the sports they are covering.

Geeze said...

Just so I understand, by all account's here, this was possibly the worst race broadcast ever, and drove everyone nut's. But you want people to contact ESPN and complain about them not showing it again?

glenc1 said...

Like so many, I'm tempted to say, it's all been said before. Because it has. I know Gordon keeps saying he has no ambition to do TV, but it would be a shame if he didn't (by the time he'd be ready, maybe we could hoist DW out of the booth...most of the time he's okay, but Jeff would be a lot more relevant.)

Anyways, I found myself thinking, they had planned all their footage for the Denny/Brad feud, but too bad they had no footage of whatever Logano did to Biffle last week. He's got to learn that people race you like you race them...I bet Biffle got a scolding anyways, but I think NASCAR expects this is going to happen as people establish themselves.

Shame on ESPN for not showing us the debris on the cautions, or if there wasn't any, at least admitting they couldn't see it. I loved Marty being honest about the crowd and the S&P cars. They were almost giggling about the water bottle caution ('better safe than sorry' even though they sounded like they didn't buy it either....)

Daly Planet Editor said...

Geeze, many W Coast folks were going to watch that re-air.

The TV production is still horrible, but a fan is a fan.

How about your thoughts on the topic we are discussing today?

JD

matriarch said...

Anonymous said "Hamlin showed a lot of class for calling out what a jerk Kesolwski continues to be." Obviously you don't know the meaning of class. Brad didn't threaten, talk about or touch Denny Dumb Butt all night and yet he is obviously in Hamlin's head. Good!

Buschseries61 said...

Yesterday was a failure, no excuses. I am going to miss the first hour of the Cup race due to plans. Normally I would record the part I missed on the DVR, but after yesterday's garbage I have no plans to waste 1 hour of my time watching everything but the race.

JD - Did you see the SNL skit last night about ESPN? A much needed bash at the network for their constant promos & clueless announcers. Gave me a good laugh.

itsonlyrockandroll said...

I wont waste band width. Marty Reed
jabber Jarrett and handy Andy at the controls...what would anybody
expect .. other than a talk jabber
fest with no sense of timing or taste or anything.
I know you will be happy : See yawl in February.

Charlie said...

I recorded the Nationwide race and watched it later last night. I did not read any comments on the Daly Planet before watching the race. To me this was a Tv productions Dream Race. What production team would not want to televise this race. Action all over the track, every lap, from start to finish.

I found Espn trying to follow a script and that this race was getting in their way. Espn wanted to make this race a soap opera. Who dislikes who. Kyle Busch is sick was a big story for them. How to get out of a car was a biggie to. (tech center had to show us this, under green racing.) Espn was forced to show racing. They had no idea how to handle it. The script said to talk about this or that on Lap such and such and the heck with the real racing.

To bad Espn did not just follow the race and let the stories play out. I think it was one of the best races in a long time if you were at the race but for the Tv viewer it was ok.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...
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gatemac said...

You guys are in the same boat as we drag racing fans are. We get scheduled coverage times for events that are pre-empted by baseball,poker ,college football(etc). Racing last hight was supposed to be on at 11:00pm and finally aired at 1:50am. Good luck on getting ESPN to care. They know we will watch coverage whenever they air it. I still like NASCAR but don`t watch it as much because of the poor quality of coverage.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon, just drop the profanity and your comments on this topic are welcome.

We have folks of all ages and families that blog with us.

Thanks,

JD

red said...

it's looking like young mr busch may have to get out of the car again today: for a racer like him to give up a seat twice in a weekend, he must be feeling seriously lousy. hope he gets better soon!

guess that means another tech center piece on "how a driver switch occurs during a race."

sigh.

Beating A Dead Horse said...

Referencing yesterday's Nationwide race: I would have liked to burst into the production truck at the 2/3ds point of the broadcast with Jimmy's dipstick and wear out all of those clueless people that were responsible for what showed up on my television. I struggled to buy a nice large HD tv and I pay for Directv just to have this garbage shoveled at me every weekend? I don't think I can stand much more of this for one year. Today's broadcast may set the tone of my tv viewing for the rest of the year. If ESPN tanks again today, it'll be football, baseball and basketball the rest of the year-chase or no chase. Dang, people, just how much worse can the broadcasts be? Keep watching, and we will soon see.

Once upon a time, about three decades ago, there were only football, baseball, basketball and hockey to be seen on sports tv. Until the old ESPN (henceforth to be called TOESPN) began broadcasting motor racing, those were the only sporting events worth viewing. Well, folks, it is thirty years later and circumstances have come full circle, have they not?

Skeet said...

JD, I'm not easily confused, but I watch NASCAR racing, so I guess I am. Windy just said that the new TV times are Eastern and Central times of 1pm. Do they mean that Central times will get the race 1 hour later on replay?

Karen

red said...

ahhh, man, i miss ricky hendrick. i just . . . miss him.

(watching "together" right now. so tough to see film and photos of him, knowing how it ends.)

Gymmie said...

@DL--If he did that oh how classic would that be!

@B61--I'll have to look for that clip :)

Daly Planet Editor said...

The new post is up for comments on the Sprint Cup Series race from Fontana on ABC.

Thanks,

JD

Newracefan said...

DVRing and saving Together for later. Maybe Monday before TWIN and new Speed show so I don't need tissues for the entire day. Watching that and then my drivers possibly having a bad day, not to mention ESPN something might get broken. I had just starting watching Nascar when we lost Ricky and I still think of him everytime I see a backwards cap. Will buy the DVR too.

Gymmie said...

@red--I still remember the banquet that year with TNT having the camera on Mr. Hendrick when they got to the plane crash. And showing him just a mess crying and his heart breaking over the footage and again reminder of the loss of his baby boy. It was so sickening! That was so heartbreaking. It felt like the camera was on him forever!

Patrick said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
red said...

@gymmie the way the company handled the entire tragedy and the aftermath earned my respect and i haven't changed my opinion to this day.

but as i said to jd on twitter: my heart hurts. it might have been so different, so very different.

Patrick said...

I'm a little late to this party, but I was PIP the IRL finale and NNW race. My thoughts on the NNW broadcast with Jeff Gordon can be summed up as a repeat of:
ESPN Sunday Night Baseball (8/16/09)
New York Yankees
Boston Red Sox
Luis Tiant

Search the nypost.com article entitled "ESPN Destroying Live Game Telecasts"

RobFromToronto said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.