Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Five Days To Change


What a mess. The original idea back in 2007 that ESPN was going to come in and set the world on fire with the final seventeen Sprint Cup Series races of the season has long since been buried.

The overnight TV ratings for Martinsville were down from last year. The television package on the Cup side may be at an all-time low. It's easy to blame that on Jimmie Johnson, NFL football or Major League Baseball. Unfortunately, that is the reality of the TV landscape at this time of year. It's no surprise to anyone.

If something is not working in a sports competition, change is coming. Quarterbacks are replaced, crew chiefs are switched, pitchers are pulled. We all know the drill.

The single biggest problem this season in ESPN's Sprint Cup Series telecasts has been the complete lack of change. You know it. I know it. NASCAR knows it. ESPN knows it.

There they are, the same guys saying the same things in the TV booth. Meanwhile, the Director shows the same in-car cameras and tight shots until we are all screaming for mercy and totally confused. The Jerry Punch monotone tells us the car numbers, names and hometowns of the twelve Chasers as if we have just landed from Mars.

Tim Brewer points at the very same pieces of the very same car and tells us yet again what a tire, shock or brake is supposed to do. The pit reporters ask the same simple questions to the same tired crew chiefs over-and-over again. How do you feel? How does that make you feel? How does that really make you feel?

Every once and a while, a burst of energy is provided by the three frustrated men trapped in the Infield Pit Studio. They tell us once again that the race is not over, anything can happen. That the Chase is not over, anything can happen. They tell us to get pumped up for this restart right now!

Then, in an instant, it is back to the monotone, the confusion and the NASCAR on ESPN cycle begins again.

Full-screen pictures show random green flag pitstops while the race continues out of sight. Announcers jump from pit to pit without any point of reference, pitstop timing or knowledge of team strategy. TV stays on pit road and lets the field cycle through while the race is raging but never shown.

A big accident brings silence from the play-by-play announcer and stammering attempts to fill-in from the analysts. Car numbers and names fill the air with absolutely no indication of what happened, where it happened or why it happened. Where NASCAR on ESPN is concerned, replays tell the tale.

Caution flag pitstops bring a half-hearted attempt at showing the top three drivers in a split-screen mode. Ultimately, the Director leaves to focus on Jimmie Johnson and the race off pit road comes down to where the #48 car fits into the line-up.

In a three or four hour television presentation there is no storytelling. Even with outstanding HD pictures, veteran fans may never see their driver once during the entire telecast. He may not be in the Chase, he may not be in the lead or he may not be named Johnson.

Cars zooming up through the pack are never identified. New teams suddenly pop-up in the top ten without ever having been mentioned. Issues on pit stops are never reported, unless they involve the #48 team. Then, multiple replays with timing breakdowns are shown overtop of live racing to see exactly which nut on which wheel fell on the ground and who was to blame.

Talladega is ESPN's last hope to salvage anything from this season. The natural excitement of the racing is provided without charge by the field. The spectacular pictures are provided by the track. The energy is provided by one of the best crowds anywhere in professional sports. ESPN need to bring only one thing. That is change.

Just like the non-Chase teams have already started to make major changes with an eye toward next season, ESPN must do the same. The boring, disjointed and non-fan friendly TV coverage must change. New faces, new production approaches and effective management behind-the-scenes are the only things that will right this tailspin.

Make no mistake, this is a disaster. ESPN's college football has been going strong. SportsCenter with Hannah Storm has reinvigorated the ESPN mornings. Monday Night Football has finally hit on a good combination. NASCAR Now has been a top-notch studio show all season long. Even the Indy 500 was fun to watch. The NASCAR races stick out like a sore thumb.

ESPN has five days to get together and decide how to change things at Talladega. There is no other choice. If this race falls apart like Martinsville, the TV viewers are not coming back. There are simply too many other sports TV options.

Just as the new pitcher has to get the out, the new crew chief has to get the win and the new quarterback has to score a touchdown, the ESPN team has to bring back NASCAR's alienated fans to win this game.

The NASCAR Countdown show hits ABC on Sunday at noon ET. The green flag falls at 1:19PM. It should be interesting.

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

81 comments:

Anonymous said...

I can't disagree with anything you said, you have pretty accurately cataloged a laundry list of major problems. But your headline is misleading. Five days to change? There is no change coming. ESPN ain't going to change anything this weekend or after. Maybe next season they will make a change (unlikely - all these problems were in place last season as well, especially the booth) but this season they aren't going to make a change.

Anonymous said...

I question where you say "ESPN knows it." I don't doubt that some people who are employed by ESPN "know it", but I don't think ESPN knows it. I don't think they have any idea there is a problem, let alone on the scale as you have identified.

No, we all know it, but ESPN doesn't.

Anonymous said...

Setting this sort of ultimatum (five days from now or else) is kinda silly. After all, it's been this bad now for more than a few years, I don't see how one weekend will be such a decisive event with either ratings or the product delivered.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Easy. It's never been this bad.

Talladega is the most exciting race remaining and the fans who stick this one out are going to go to the NFL and MLB if TV ruins it.

What other choice does ESPN have?

peggyann said...

OK, I was in college in the 60's. Can we have some kind of demonstration or picket something or--organize a boycott of the sponsors...

Anonymous said...

Talladega is pretty hard to mess up. The director can fall asleep and the cameras can follow the pack pretty easily.

I think everything you said is 100% accurate, but is there a reason you feel as though something will happen now? Obviously, something SHOULD happen now, but do you honestly think it will? I know you know ESPN talent and crew and obviously your opinion resonates at least somewhat at ESPN... but do you really think there will be any change at all? I don't. I think they will keep Jerry Punch there forever because I think in their minds he does a great job ("their minds" being the decision makers).

JD, do you really think they will change?

Dot said...

The problem with BSPN imo is they have no plan B.

When the GF pit stops were going on, it was in the script to show them full screen because that's what they do under yellow. Funny, we can watch live every lugnut be put on but, every track incident is on replay.

I don't know what could help this weekend's broadcast. If the promos mean anything, BSPN was showing non Dega crash highlights for the Dega race.

Daly Planet Editor said...

I do have faith that change will come. This year, it just can't wait until the off-season. It can't.

Talladega is easily affected by extended in-car cameras that might give "cool views" but lose the racing perspective for the viewer.

The stories of who lags behind, who charges to the front and why are also easy to miss. Team orders and group pit stops are key.

Ultimately, if ESPN sits around and waits for "the big one" again, they will have made one final critical mistake in this very difficult season.

JD

Anonymous said...

Talladega is an easy track to cover but if ESPN/ABC blows this one too then something is really really wrong.
Now, are ESPN/ABC really going to make a change? I doubt it because we were talking about these same problems last year and we didn't see any change. In fact, it got worse.
Just like what Anon 12:14 AM said,
I also don't think that ESPN knows it.

Gymmie said...

Very true Dot :(. And in case you weren't sure Captain Obvious will be along to identify that lugnut for you! Or tell you what that thingie is that moves the car up and down!

It's truly a shame that they play this script every.single.week!

Short of wrecking or blowing up you wouldn't know that 90% of the field was out there!

And then if they manage to get in the top 10 they're tripping over themselves to say something about them because they have no clue!

Then they leave the air barely mentioning them nor giving them a 30 second interview!

I don't get why they can't see how lost the viewers are or if they do they don't give a darn!

And will someone tell them to LOOK OUT THE WINDOW! The majority of the time something didn't "just happen" it had been building for laps and then finally it happened.

Dot said...

@ Gymmie, ditto your window comment.

Tom said...

Hi, all,
I won't be looking at Sunday's Cup race a whole lot because I'm already heading to Las Vegas for the NHRA event, which I absolutely believe will provide far better ESPN2 coverage ON TAPE than they do on ESPN/ABC LIVE.

I'll be looking in on the blog periodically. I'm praying not only for a miracle that will slice at the 48's lead in the points, but that somehow the ESPN/ABC folk will give us a quality broadcast.

I'm not holding my breath.

Sophia said...

My fave track will be ruined.

Due to in car cams/bumper cams/tight shots.

Are they at Bristol? Dega? Prague. meh, I will be listening to MRN.

I've ZERO FAITH in the BSPN PU TV camera direction. It ain't gonna change this week or ever.

The end. :-(

p.s. I think it's been bad for years! nothing new

Richard in N.C. said...

Maybe? things might be different if the bulk of the mainstream media had not constantly provided cover for EESPN by constantly blaming the apparent drop-off in interest on the COT, the Chase, and/or the excitement of JJ. I find it curious that when EESPN's handling of NASCAR broadcasts is criticized in the media it is never, ever cited as even a possible, contributing factor for the ratings decline. I guess it is easier (safer?) to criticize NASCAR than EESPN? Maybe we could take up a collection for binoculars for the guys in the booth?

Anonymous said...

they should make a trade with speed channel. in a first ever ....espn trades their on-air people and behind the scenes people to speed for their truck on-air people and behind the scenes people. espn could also throw in some cash to speed channel because they will need it when nobody watches the trucks.

Sally said...

ESPN has decvided that the ONLY 'story' on the track for the final 10 races is the chase drivers, and especially JJ. While the fans have exhibited an apathy for the format, the media seems to think that, if they drub us over the head with it long enough and loud enough, the fans will capitulate and be thrilled with their coverage of 10 cars or less. Showing off their HD cameras is fruitless of no one is watching. With their inability to cover the races in a coherent fashion, they are rapidly losing what audience they have left. Since ESPN appears to have no one in charge that has any clue as to how to cover a race and show the actual racing, I don't hold out much hope that anything will change. It's easier to blame 'ignorant fans' for not appreciating what they show than to change it.

Todd Crane said...

JD you know they ain't gonna change! Between the COT NA$CAR's phony caution flags, their total lack of listening to old time fans, and Jerry Punch, what more can they do to turn people off? Leave them alone, when the new contract comes up for new bids, maybe NA$CAR will get the message. It's just not worth the effort for me as an old time fan to listen to Punch. Because it's the most exciting track I will watch, but with the volume turned off. OMG I was at the first 'Dega race...my my how things have changed!

majorshouse said...

I would like to think that it is going to change, but it's not and at this point, AB, Rusty and Brad would be a welcome change. ESPN has never listened to the fans like NASCAR has not listened to the fans because most of us hate the chase as well. I would love to see something happen, but don't look for it and the problem is not the chase or the 48 it is the horrendous coverage that the four letter network chooses to give to us.

Jim said...

The Talladega "big one" better include the #48 or ESPN will miss it.
I agree with every point you make, JD. I also agree with the fans who say nothing's going to change.
ESPN is looking down its corporate nose at NASCAR and all NASCAR fans.

Anonymous said...

Talladega will NOT be the MOST EXCITING race of the Chase until the last 15 or 20 laps. Cars will ride around single file which will make the broadcast even harder for the folks to describe to the viewers as that is what they already struggle with when the racing is decent. Luckily we have the Speed guys for both practices on Friday which is where you will see the best "racing" all weekend in my opinion...

Vicky D said...

I'm afraid ESPN will not change. I would love to see the "B" gang in the booth for Sunday's cup race just to see if they can provide a different atmosphere to the broadcast and we can compare them. Marty, Randy & Rusty would liven it up, I'm sure. I've heard Marty on the NW telecasts hollering about something going on at a different part of the track so the director can point a camera to it. Those 3 actually look out the window and see the race progressing and being proactive can see several laps ahead of the action. The "A" group is re-active and doesn't worry about stuff that happened 2 laps previously, but at 'dega that's important. I hope next year the NW series has their own production/on air gang for us and next year at this time, we won't be writing these same comments!

Garry said...

The sad thing about Talledega though, is that in the past networks had no choice but to show "field fillers" running right next to the 24, 48, 20, 11, etc. But the last two years some numbskull in the directors' chair decided, "Wouldn't it be funny if we went to an in car camera that only shows one car outside the windshield?" "Wouldn't it be funny if we still zoomed in on the 48 as if we were at California, and there are no other cars around him?" Sad folks, but yes, they have done that the last two years. So although I agree with JD, and anticipate change, I'm not holding my breath.Talledega should be a shining example as to show the world what exciting stock car racing can be.The only saving grace will be, and I'm not being mean, is an engine failure or wreck that puts the 48 out in the first ten laps.Hopefully we can have an exciting race... Well, the race will be exciting, but the broadcast will mirror paint drying.

Ken said...

I think the poor coverage is doing far more harm that NA$CAR realizes. Other than the occasional mention of Kyle Busch or Montoya, sponsors are wasting their money if they don't sponsor a Hendrick or Hendrick supplied team. All of the other teams and drivers are ignored. If the sponsors are not shown on TV and there are few potential fans in the stands, what reason do they have to spend the money for sponsorship?

How do you follow your favorite driver if he is not one of the broadcdast chosen ones with the frequent driver and sponsorship changes? Dr.Punch's habit of identifying cars by number might be because he doesn't know who is driving the cars and it sure doesn't help the fans follow their driver.

glenc1 said...

I hate plate racing anyways, so I'll probably have the PIP on during the football game so I'll know when the big one happens but will be doing other things in the meantime. In this case, probably nothing they would do would make me like it anyways, although covering the whole field would be something...nah, won't happen. I can watch just the last 20 laps and get the gist of it anyways.

Anonymous said...
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Beating A Dead Horse said...

Sadly, folks, the only way you will see the racing at Talladega is to drive down I-20 to Exit 168 or Exit 173 and turn on County Road 399 to the speedway parking lot, scale the grandstands and have a seat. ESPN on ABC is far too busy with their storytelling agenda to document any racing action, much to their own detriment. There will be no changes to the modus operandi, and yes, I am using that phrase in its criminal sense because what is foisted off on us every racing weekend is a crime. We will see full-screen trivia during green flag racing at every available opportunity.

What ESPN on ABC historically has done to us every weekend since the onset of the new television contract will be done to us once again. Nothing short of a coup d'├ętat at Sportsgeek Central in Bristol, CT and the subsequent mass firings will change their weltanschauung, and that, as well as the enabling apathy in Daytona Beach is the tragedy in this situation.

bevo said...

Very well put JD, you've summarized the situation perfectly. The other problem is the lack of the larger NASCAR media to say that the Emperor has no clothes. It is such a small incestuous group of people and they refuse to hold ESPN accountable. Instead they ridicule the fans who voice their displeasure.

Do yourself a favor and sign up for a free trial of Sirius and listen to 128 during the week. Every host will stand firmly behind the assertion that every race was fantastic. They know because they were at the track. The elephant in the room is the fact that we were not at the track so we couldn't see the passing or the incidents. We have to rely on the tv coverage for our impression of the racing. Instead of addressing the fact that ESPN is doing a horrible job they have Tim Brewer come on and babble about whatever or act like Jamie Little has some kind of insight about Cup racing.

Instead they join their print buddies and tell the Emperor what beautiful work his tailors have done while we stand by dumbfounded at the sight.

Ritchie said...

I would like to think that it will change, however they did keep Dennis Miller on Monday Night football for an entire season.

I really don't think ESPN likes to admit when things are going bad.

I do agree that a change needs to be made at the Play-by-Play position. I think a lot of the other issues will seem to be less of a big deal. Remember, we complained a lot about Fox, but Mike Joy makes the race as a whole enjoyable despite the other annoyances.

GinaV24 said...

thank goodness I was at Martinsville -- I saw the WHOLE race and I enjoyed it. The racing action was AWESOME and I'm so sorry that people at home didn't get to see it. I had set the DVR to record but after experiencing the ESPN doldrums for this season and last season, well, I probably won't watch it. I figure that Johnson has this chase sewn up too no matter what happens at Talladega, so I really no longer have a reason to watch - I did as long as I thought my favorite might still have a chance, but I think that's done now. He and Knaus will probably use the "run in the back and stay out of trouble" strategy (why not after all?) until near the end of the race and the race will be dull and boring unless there is another "big one" which is what ALL the announcers secretly WANT to happen. I don't like the Dega crapshoot race anyway and if ESPN does its usual in car and bumper cam crap, it won't give us a full picture at home anyway.

JD, I appreciate that you think ESPN will actually make a change within this season, but I don't believe it. Maybe and that's a big maybe in my mind, after the season ends, but I'm not holding my breath waiting for it.

Anonymous said...

It's easy to blame that on Jimmie Johnson, NFL football or Major League Baseball. Unfortunately, that is the reality of the TV landscape at this time of year. It's no surprise to anyone.


Where is your proof to back up that statement? You have none.

Big Jon Medek said...

If you flew in from another planet and read opinions about NASCAR coverage, you would think that the ratings were great until ESPN took over, then they dropped by a ton! I don't think that is what happened. That either means that either all TV coverage is bad or that ESPN is not that much worse than the rest. If fans REALLY want to get network coverage to change, a boycott of a race that causes ratings to drop by at least 50% is required. If that doesn't happen it may mean that only a very small portion of the fan base is making all the noise (a lot like politics). If you want real change ... quit talking and do something. Raging fans (with good reason) should organize a boycott or get over it and quit this incessant whining about ESPN.

50 yr. fan said...

I think part of the race direction
is to include additional sponsor
time for the camera. Why else would
they show an in-car camera from
someone who is at the back of the
field? Even a non-Nascar person
would be able to recognize and
cover most of the action.

Wonder how they manage to catch
all the particpants on an NFL play?

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 10:18AM,

Not really sure what you are asking. During this portion of the Chase, both the NFL and MLB are still in progress.

In addition, Mr. Johnson and company have been in this same position of dominance since this TV contract began.

These are the obstacles that the ESPN team must overcome to make their assignment succeed.

Since the NFL started this season, the Sunday afternoon NASCAR races have once again taken a dive in the ratings.

The focus of this column is that now in the third season of this TV contract, ESPN must change or fail.

No longer are the hardcore NASCAR fans who were attracted by the tough drivers and the car brands staying loyal. Now, we have the COT and smiling corporate spokesman who are married to smiling pretty women.

The question is what can TV do to keep the remaining audience and attract new fans for this big Talladega race?

That is the topic we are discussing here today. Love to have your views on the matter.

JD

Anonymous said...

Thank goodness DirecTV has figured it out and provides us with audio from MRN or PRN. It doesn't fix all of the problems but at least I don't have to listen to Dr. Punch struggle in a situation he doesn't belong. I hope we get the changes our sport deserves but I have my doubts.

darcie said...

I think ESPN treats their Nascar telecast as if it were "Nascar for Dummies". They seem to have the opinion that most of their viewers are new to the sport and don't have the capability to understand the nuances. So, that's why we're treated to the same old, same old. You get the same talking points race after race. You hear the same boring tech explanations week after week.

Another problem is that they're enamored with their technology. They sure do love their tech center, their bumper cams , their in race reporter and their in car cams. They just don't realize that we don't need all their fancy stuff. We want the race, all the racing and not just the chasers. Let the race speak for itself.

bevo said...

@Big Jon- plenty of us are doing something - when I switch the channel on my Tivo it registers in the ratings.

Anonymous said...

Its not TV's job to generate popularity for a sport. That is up to the sport itself. What NASCAR has failed to do is hang onto the new fan.

Anonymous said...

And to add on a bit more, I don't think the casual fan cares either way on who or how the broadcasts are produced. If they flip on over and watch the Cowboys or Patriots, its not because the broadcast is bad, the NFL product is simply better.

Dave said...

Aside from all the gadgetry ESPN uses during the race, the wife and I frequently wonder if we're watching the same race they are.

On Sunday, Mark Martin passed Tony Stewart... we all watched it on TV. Immediately, Punch comes up and says "and there's the 14 moving in on the 5"

No, Dr. Punch doesn't know who's driving most of the cars, he's not even watching the monitors and keeping up with what he's talking about.... play-by-play, indeed.

hotaru-raganbaby_6 said...

I've given up on this joke of a network.

And since 'dega scares me, I'll not be paying attention to the Cup race. Hate this track (despite the fact a certain favorite driver of mine tends to do well there :D).

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Back in the 80s and early-90s, I LIVED for Sundays...or whatever day Cup raced. Unless the house was on fire or someone was bleeding to death, I wasn't moving from the couch. And, it was a treat to catch a Busch race. Remember that series? The one where drivers showcased their talents to advance to the Cup Series. Today, it's just a way for Cup drivers to make a couple of extra bucks and more exposure for their sponsors. Now, I only watch IF I'm bored or tired. Did I mention my favorite driver is going for four straight championships? Yet, even that doesn't pull me to the TV.

Some of this disinterest comes from the racing on the track and NASCAR's boneheaded decisions. However, much of it comes from the networks' ridiculous coverage. I've worked in the TV biz for over 25 years. So, maybe I'm a little more critical than the "average" fan. The apparent problems have been discussed in various forums and articles.

Overall, these broadcasters are over-playing things that aren't that necessary while neglecting more pertinent action or story lines. Add to that, most of the new "talent"...and I use that word loosely in some instances...are former drivers or crew chiefs. Yeah, they DO have something to offer. Many times it's just excessive. How about bringing in TRUE journalists/reporters who aren't afraid of tackling a subject? Jimmy Spencer isn't the answer. I'm tired of all of the kissing up. We fans aren't THAT stupid to think everything is fantastic. The networks' narrow mindset has driven away longtime fans like myself.

Ron Fox
Philipsburg, PA

ri88girl said...

Talladega is my very favorite racetrack. I would love for ESPN to make a change for this race and Homestead.

They could gracefully say that Jerry Punch is under the weather. Due to all the flu flying around the garage, no one would question it. In his place put ANY qualified, real PXP man in the booth. Same thing at Homestead.

I don't think there is a chance in Hades ESPN will make a full scale change this late in the season; but they can manufacture a way to give the fans a good ending to the year for themselves and NASCAR. Meanwhile, still saving face for whomever it is that finds it so necessary.

GinaV24 said...

"Anonymous said...
Its not TV's job to generate popularity for a sport. That is up to the sport itself. What NASCAR has failed to do is hang onto the new fan.

October 27, 2009 12:36 PM"

You are partly right. I agree that a big reason I've become more of a "casual" fan is because the racing doesn't excite me like it did due to the ugly car and the cookie cutter tracks, along with the "chase". Remember though this is what Brian France wanted -- to attract the casual fan -- unfortunately he did it at the expense of losing the "diehards". Yep, killed the diehards, now the casuals aren't interested so the sport is screwed.

I do think that the poor broadcasting by both Fox and ESPN has contributed to fans turning off or at least to other methods of getting their NASCAR information via radio or internet. I don't tune in to hear the heavy bias and unprofessionalism that Fox has showed and ESPN's desire to stick with whatever their "script" is for the day is a total turnoff. TV is all about pictures - MRN paints that picture with words better than the camera is showing it to the fans at home.

Photojosh said...

ESPN isn't going to change anything. They and NASCAR simply don't care. The checks are cashed and the money spent. If NASCAR can't even get it together to make Turner give us something other than cartoons running around a fake track online, how are they going to force the "worldwide leader" to do anything?

Being a football fan as well as a NASCAR fan, I usually love this time of the year. I get a full sunday of good stuff every week to watch or listen to. But the past few weeks I haven't even bothered to watch the whole race on DVR. It's so boring that not even fast forward can save it. I just watch the interesting parts on one of the monday wrap up shows and call it a week.

If I happen to be somewhere that I can listen to the MRN broadcast for the whole race, I'll do that. But honestly, I'm surprised to be the one saying that NASCAR has lost me as a viewer right in the middle of what should be the most interesting time of year.

I'm disgusted.

Beating A Dead Horse said...

Paraphrased from a blog post written by Orson Swindle about ESPN in 2005:

While not strictly a NASCAR issue, we all as sports fans consort with the many-armed devil that is Disney/ESPN/ABC in our attempt to digest as much sports in the precious time we’re allowed each season. And in doing so–either in watching the races, searching for highlights, or zoning out after downing five beers in front of the television–you will come across much, much, much to dislike. Actually, we thought of many things we don’t like.

Synergy. Promo the races you have the rights to while barely mentioning the big races on in other places, no matter how important they might be. Push your product over THE RACE. Vile corporate entertainment thinking that yields little but viewer disgust.

Sportstainment! This umbrella concept of the idea that sports isn’t entertainment all by itself. Consider them pieces of evidence in one long indictment of Disney’s attempt to force ESPN into becoming the story, not the medium.

WHOOSH. Fox shares some blame here, but we’ll still fault ESPN for jumping on the bandwagon by putting sound effects to every gesture.

For a long time NASCAR existed as a fiefdom apart from the Sportstainmenttastic! world of ESPN–pleasantly stodgy, frills-free coverage of a sport that allowed you to soak in the atmosphere of each race through the screen. Old pieces of redneck jerky–retired racers who were pulled out of a hat at random by marketing schmucks in New York who were like, “Okay, people. Red state sport—we need us some edgy country!” Total, horrid, absolute garbage soiling the last show we watch on the network.

Making the story, not reporting it. Two words: Ron Hornaday

Represents the worst of Northeastern mediacentric sportscasting.

They steal stories from places such as Fox Sports and others, then claim that one of their own reported it first. Also, the fact that they have incredibly annoying man crushes all the time, such as Jimmy Johnson or Lebron or the Celtics or Kyle Busch.

ESPN is garbage because each talking head passes himself off as an expert, when not all of them know jack about the issues they claim to be experts on.

Zieke said...

Gina, You are right. Martinsville is one track I really enjoyed in the past. You can see everything, and not have to rely on someone telling a story about JJ. I don't mind JJ at all. He is a tried and true racer, and despite ESPN's making him about the only game in town, that's not JJ's fault. And yes folks, the Chase is really over, even if JJ finishes 40th at Talledega, he will win the big prize. Wonder what TV would do if JJ rode around in the back for 185 laps. We might get an interview with Jeremy somewhere in the grandstand. Or maybe a week-old documentary on the Martinsville hotdog.

saltsburgtrojanfan said...

Photojosh you hit the nail on the head bro. It has been said by many people, including me, that neither ESPN nor NA$CAR cares about the fans only the money. I am surprised that NASCAR can go right to hell over the past decade. Moving into markets that do not support NASCAR and having little leverage in TV.

Thank you for your comment photojosh, that is the truth

Anonymous said...

How is it that KyB can get a new CC before the year is out but, BSPN can't change out JP?

@ri88, I'd believe the flu story.

Dot @ work

Ken-Michigan said...

Here's a thought that should be given some attention.....

All of the "southern" voices we here on NASCAR programs / races are not appealing to the rest of America. Think about it, these networks are trying to gain an audience from coast to coast and border to border, the "southern drawl" is an automatic turn off to many viewers.

Sure, at one time this WAS a southeastern sport, but that was 30 years ago. NASCAR & the networks seem to think that it should "sound" that way.

ESPN has all 3 booth announcers from the same freakin' home town in North Carloina in Punch, Jarrett & Petree, not to mention Brewer. It's time to break them up.

FOX / SPEED has McReynolds, Hammond & Waltrip. It's fine if your broadcasting to the Carolina's and Tennessee only, but you're dealing with the entire country.

Look at the CHASE Contenders this year... how many are from the "southeast" ?? Surprising isn't it ? Hamlin & Vickers.... 2 of 12 are from the southeast.

You have drivers in the CHASE from other parts of the country & the networks feel that they have to use announcers from the south, this is NOT appealing to other parts of the country.

Is there a reason that Joy, Squire, Bestwick, Reid, Rick Allen seem to be thought of as some of the best in the business ? Are they "more" appealing to a larger demographic ?

Is this a subject that hurts peoples feelings ?.... it's not intended to, but if I'm choosing the on air talent for these shows, I have to take into consideration what my show sounds like to portions of the country other than JUST the southeast.

Vince said...

ESPN admit they were wrong and make a change now?? JD you crack me up! I've got a better chance of hitting the lottery than ESPN admitting they've made a mistake and changing anything before the end of the season.

ESPN is just too plain full of themselves. From the top on down. No you won't see any major changes until after the season is over. And I'm not sure we'll even see any major changes after the season is over.

What ESPN needs to do is just start over. Can the whole broadcast crew. On camera and off camera. Keep AB and Andy. They are the only two I trust to tell me what is really going on at the track. The rest are just following the ESPN script for the race. Until ESPN and FOX stop trying to create story lines for every race the quality of the coverage will continue to suck. LET THE RACE TELL THE STORY EVERY WEEK! Geez what a bunch of numbskulls.

OK, I feel better now that I've got that out. But seriously, ESPN admit they are wrong and make a change now? I'll drop a load in my drawers!!

OT - Time to get the booze and get ready for the 'dega drinking game. Every time we hear "the big one" mentioned this weekend, take a drink of your favorite beverage. You'll probably be plowed before the race even starts if you watch all the prerace shows.

Vince said...

Oh yeah, another thing. I've been to most of the tracks in the southeast and the races at Talladega are some of the most exciting I've ever been to along with Daytona. But you'd never know it by watching on tv.

Anonymous said...

@ Ken-Michigan, you don't like the way Larry Mac says Joo-ly?

I'm kidding. I think the southern accents are endearing. Most of the time I don't even notice.

The problem still lies with BSPN & NASCAR. Once they realize this, things may get better for the fans.

Dot

Sophia said...

Vince

I SECOND ur comment we've all a better chance at winning the lottery than ESPN CHANGING and giving us BETTER RACE VIEWS, wide angles/info.

Sad, ain't it?

Anonymous said...

An open letter from Jerry Punch:

Dear NASCAR fans,

I am going to ruin NASCAR and there is nothing you can do about it. I will not stop until each one of you begs for Digger to return. Until that time, I will continue to tell you Mark Martin is 50 and Jimmie Johnson drives the 48. You may think you already know those two facts, but you don't - and it is my job to make you remember.

Sincerely,

Dr. Jerry Punch

PS Denny Hamlin is from Virginia, and don't you forget it - there will be a test!

Delenn said...

I firmly believe some people in ESPN know it. However, those in charge do not.

Perhaps we should use Punch decide the lottery numbers..... (7 - number of times he says Mark is 50. 28 - the number of times he mentions 'the 48' etc)

Tripp said...

Please let me know if anything changes. I won't be watching. In fact I have removed all the ESPN and ABC channels from my TiVo's list of channels I get. No chance of me watching any of their coverage by accident.

BTW... I have to drive down to the NYC area soon. I could stop in Bristol and picket ESPN for an hour if you think it would help.

Richard in N.C. said...

EESPN is a prime example of the downside of a virtual monopoly, like GM 30 or so years ago or CNN was in the 1980's and early 90's. When it comes to sports, there is virtually no competition for what EESPN provides, so they can pretty much dish up whatever they want. If you don't like it, watch the alternative for sports - oops, there is virtually none. In addition, the Evil Empire has a virtually locked in source of revenue from millions of people who don't care what EESPN does - i.e., those millions of cable users who subscribe to expanded cable but do not watch EESPN. Let's see, millions of payers who don't care about the product or its quality + fanatics (aka fans) who have almost no alternative source for what the crave + the knowledge that you know all there is to know about sports broadcasting = EESPN, aka the World Wide Leper in Sports. You don't need to be good if you're perfect.

Rod Serling's been here. Word Verification = nedione.

Anonymous said...

All the folks at ESPN really need to do is go back and watch some of their own NASCAR coverage from the 80's and 90's when Bob Jenkins, Ned Jarrett and Benny Parsons were in the booth. Jerry Punch was a great pit reporter, one of the best ever. But he isn't very good at play by play. The best play by play announcer ever, Bob Jenkins, could probably be hired back. I'd bet that the best color analyst ever, Buddy Baker, could be hired as well. Dale Jarrett does a good job and Jerry Punch would probably still be a great pit reporter. It all seems so simple to me. Oh, and get rid of about 90% of the graphics and other junk.

Cotton

David said...

I dont ask for the world. Just show the battles, give some passionate play by play, triple split pit stops, and show the cars crossing the finish line.

The truck series nails it every single week with SPEED. I get ESPN wants their own image but what they are doing isn't working for me or the many folks I have talked to. Several people call the racing boring, I call it a direct result of ESPN's coverage. They have been focused on such a narrow piece of the field that they have missed a ton of great racing throughout the field. Hell, you could fixate a camera on Montoya and Mears and SEE that there is great racing out there as of late, but instead we hang around the top 3 and wonder why people are crowning Jimmie the champ.

Even ESPN seems worn out which is a shame.

By all reasonable consideration, Hornaday has all but sealed up the Truck Championship but you don't hear SPEED crowing Ron the champ just yet. There is still a ton of drama as it surrounds Crafton, Sauter, Skinner and the rest of the gang. Because the priority is the RACE, NOT the Championship.

I guess that focus has been lost in the Cup Series.

Anonymous said...

Mr Daly

This may,at first,appear to be slightly off-subject-but stay with me.
Recently, ESPN was forced to air its dirty laundry when they fired one of their on-air baseball talent and a female production assistant after the salacious details of sexcapades and stalking were revealed. Other web-news-blogs have posts from folks claiming to be former espn employees. The stories are rife with details of senior management gone wild, lack of oversight and worse, lack of accountability.
I can't help but now firmly believe that the execs at ESPN really do (or did, until last week) believe that they were above it all-meaning that they would do what the hell they please, and viewers be dammed, because they answered to no one. They could screw around on the road and in the office, intimidate direct reports, extort sex for jobs and so on. So, where do you think the "lowly Daily Planet opinions" would fall in their pecking order of priority?
I think its an indictment that runs directly to the top of the company. I wonder if NASCAR can reassess its relationship with ESPN/ABC based on a moral terpitude clause?

Bray

rich said...

I agree with your thoughts JD but this poor race coverage has continued since the start of ESPN contract and I don't really think that anything will change this week. But we can always hope.
Like others, Talladega is one of my favorite races but I fear the in-car shots will ruin it. ESPN does not understand the sport enough to even try to talk about the strategy and that is a shame because this sport more than any other is all about strategy and personalities.
I agree with the previous poster who said that it will take a huge drop in ratings to get their attention. Turn it off folks. Either watch Directtv Hotpass or listen to MRN radio and paint your own pictures.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Daly, you take a too simplistic view for the drop in ratings. It is not just on ESPN/ABC, they have dropped on Fox and TNT. There are many reasons for this in my view. The biggest perhaps was the death of Dale Sr. Millions of people lost their hero. Secondly, his son has been just horrible and really has no chance of winning despite having the best equipment and operation behind him. Third is Jimmie Johnson's dominance. And while Jimmie is a terrific driver and man, he is boring!!! Fourth and this really hasn't change over the years but society has...the races are too long and boring. That leads me to the fifth reason, the COT has led to boring races. No one can pass with these cars. So to lay it all at the feet of ESPN is simplistic and possibly vindictive on your part.

Let's hope NASCAR can give Dale Jr the big plate this weekend. Maybe he can find his way to the front and not crash 3/4 of the way through. Then let's see what happens to the ratings despite what you think of Jerry Punch's call.

MRM4 said...

I know some of the new fans were confused under the old, old TV deal (where the tracks signed their own deals) when a different network had a race each week. But I really wonder if we should go back to that.

It seemed the networks truly competed against each other to have the best announcers, pit reporters, and production out there. Now, the networks have 6-16 races at one time and the only competition is themselves and other sports.

ESPN usually finds a way to ruin every sport they broadcast. I couldn't stand Tony Kornheiser on MNF, yet they hung on to him until he finally got tired of it. While I like Gruden much better, the production team thinks we need to see a replay after nearly every play. It's too much.

I can't say whether ESPN will make any major changes next year. They better or next year will be more of the same.

Ken said...

Maybe ESPN is following the CNN script. CNN went from a commanding lead in cable news to dead last. They were arrogant, biased and thought they would remain on top based on their reputation. ESPN seems to think they can remain on top because of their reputation. I think they will learn a hard lesson that will impact their bottom line. In the early days of ESPN, I watched something on ESPN every day. I now only watch some racing and an occasional college football or basketball game of it not available elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

TNT has fired Bill Webber (according to a Kyle Petty tweet). Why can't ESPN fire people right now? Wait - they have.
I guess they're hanging onto the good doctor because he's one of the few moral, decent people still on camera?

Sophia said...

I saw Kyle's tweet yesterday Weber would sadly not be coming back to TNT...Kyles' words, not mine.

Change in the booth ALONE will not save the telecast.

Jr doing poorly and now having the weight of the NASCAR world on his shoulders is not fair, and was not asked for by him.

Leave him alone. If he is the SOLE PURPOSE for the up & down ratings/popularity, there is still something very wrong with NASCAR as many astute fans/columnist have written. However I do not agree with Hinton that the problem is too much safety. Hinton must enjoy the ESPN broadcast? THAT shocks me.

Until the truck (camera people with nauseating in car/bumper cam abundance) is fixed, I don't care WHO is in the booth. I don't even know why I AM COMPLAINING & writing this yet again.

Seek out your friends houses if you don't have access to MRN.

I was shocked at all the wrecks in the NW races last week, that I saw on TWIN. No access to radio for NW.


p.s. ESPN will not change anything because they are so arrogant and clueless they thing they are doing SWELL! . . . sigh

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

I've been surfing some of the links here...I had no idea what chaos ESPN has been in, in addition to the Phillips business...the NASCAR folks are saintly compared to the rest of their staff...(well...so far as we know...). It sounds to me like the inmates are in charge of the asylum or something. If I were Disney, I'd sure be making heads roll asap. But I fear that NASCAR will remain at the bottom of their list (well, perhaps bowling rates a little lower...) when it comes to improvement.

Richard in N.C. said...

Bray, Ken, and Sophia - Bingo! Right on.

I am biased as I'm a fan of JP, DJ, and Andy and continue to believe the real problem is in the truck, not the booth.

JD, Thank you. I am convinced that EESPN management is above listening to its customers and the mainstream press will almost always cover for them. It is rewarding to have a place to discuss what is going on in an adult fashion. Thank you.

Kenn Fong said...

Anonymous said...
TNT has fired Bill Webber (according to a Kyle Petty tweet).


TNT didn't necessarily fire Bill Weber. His contract might have not been renewed. Kyle Petty did not say he was fired. Here's what he said:

@kylepetty Kyle is Bill Webber still with TNT?...sadly no..

It's a bit more than just semantics.

West Coast Kenny
Alameda, California

David said...

Drop in ratings cannot be attributed to a single thing.

Dale Sr's passing is NOT an excuse because ratings EXPLODED after his death, there are many fans that watch who never saw Sr race ever.

Jr's struggles, HMS's dominance, a sport seeking an identity, a car that drivers cannot or refuse to MAKE work, networks being too concerned with their own version of reality to cover an entire race are all signs of why ratings have dropped.

Lets keep this in mind, the Camping World Truck Series has steadily seen a ratings INCREASE this year as a whole. That is clearly either an indictment on the COT, quality of coverage, or dominance of JJ directly.

I consider it a bit of an fluke situation and expect things to turn when we get to Daytona next year, ESPN has a ton to work on in the off season though.

Like many others I point directly to the production truck and say "You guys are screwing it up for everyone!" and if they get it together they can potentially make Punch shine, or at least minimize the void. JP looks much much worse when his production truck shows as much of a lack of enthusiasm as he does.

All I can say, Kahne spins out at Martinsville and we are STILL speculating asto why that happened. At least thats the way Ray Evernham made it sound yesterday. Isn't he an ESPN employee? Kinda says something doesn't it?

Not asking for perfect, not asking every wish be fullfilled, just wish ESPN would care at least half as much as SPEED and TNT does.

Anonymous said...

Sure, the coverage is terrible, but the product IS the problem. The racing is BORING. And when the idiots in the booth compliment Mark Martin for letting people pass without effort early in the race by saying how smart he is NOT TO RACE, it only proves the point that the idiots in the media that have helped ruin the "sport" just don't get it. The COT is a joke, the racing stinks, the rules are simply ridiculous. Whats needed is less NA$CRAP and more raw racing with danger and speeds above 200mph. Whine all you want about safety, racing is supposed to be a spectacle, not a stick and ball sport. Just ask the owners of the Indy Speedway who are now relegated to putting on a boring "parade" instead of a race every year.

Sophia said...

A fantasy to ponder (since REAL IMMEDIATE IMPROVMENT to ESPN is also a fantasy):

If we could bring back to life and in the booth Dale Sr and Benny Parson's but the CAMERA WORK remained as poor as it is now, would y'all enjoy the race?

My answer is a hell to the naw baby naw.

It's the LACK of pictures NOT telling the real story DOOMING the sport.

Of course the COT needs tweaking (YES I'm glad for the safety factor, etc) but the NWide series will be ruined with their COT if not improved.

Then Truck races will be only one's worth watching. SADLY not everybody gets SPEED on basic cable systems or I bet their ratings would be even better.

Bottom line though, it ain't gonna change because ESPN thinks they are fine.

And aside from JD and maybe one other column that mentions it in passing, NOBODY is addressing the DRECK passing for camera direction.

And do not feed me balogna about HD.

I even emailed the ESPN Ombudsman guy that the camera work is the BOTTOM LINE of unacceptable to me and driven me to MRN.

Their picture painting is better and enjoyable and you don't leave the race in a honked off mood.

:-D

David said...

Annon at 6:42 I could not disagree with you more.

The product is FINE. The product in the top 5-10 isn't what it was 5 or 8 years ago but compared to where it has been in the 60's, 70's and 80's it is MUCH better than its ever been. As for safety, if you don't have drivers living long enough to make it past a race, this sport will fall back into its hole in some corner, called a joke, people will only watch for wrecks and carnage, etc. If that is why you watch, please go away we could do with less fans like that and more people who watch for the competition and appreciate what actually does go into these cars and the race and the intricate details of why the race plays out the way it does.

The COT is not the problem directly, it has its holes on 1.5 mile racetracks that were built to be all purpose facilities including IRL, NASCAR, Etc. Add more short tracks and I guarantee less people will gripe about the racing.

The COT needs some tweeking, it needs some work since it is far from the greatest thing since sliced bread, but as the old car had evolved to its form when it went away, this car will do the same.

Talon64 said...

"I guess they're hanging onto the good doctor because he's one of the few moral, decent people still on camera?

October 28, 2009 10:59 AM"

They should put him in the pits where he's a lot better than where he is now in the booth. I used to like him when he did the IRL but I can't stand him calling the race.

I feel like I'm watching reruns, something needs to be changed.

ri88girl said...

Hey Tripp.

At the end of last year I offered to go sit in front of ESPN in Bristol and stage a hunger strike, I haven't lost any weight since then so if you want to pick me up... I'll do the strikeing while you are in the City. Maybe three days of a fat woman yelling at them day and night to change the booth AND the truck, will force them to give in. It worked for the US military in Nicaragua twenty years ago and believe me I am WAY more annoying than loud rock music! ;)

my veri is firdimb which I take to mean fire 'dim bums!

Anonymous said...

David, I couldn't disagree more. With "fans" like you, no wonder NA$CAR thinks they can get away with an inferior product...cuz you eat it up. Why don't you get a bigger spoon so you can consume more of the lousy product you seem to like so much. No matter what the idiots at ESZPN do, the "sport" is BORING, plain and simple.

Beating A Dead Horse said...

Anon 8:26

I've been to some Cup races since the new car was put on the track and no matter the network the race in person has always been exponentially better than the DVRed broadcast I reviewed when I returned home. I want you to rebut my statement or tell me how I can reconcile what I have witnessed with what you have stated.

Richard in N.C. said...

As a very long-time Petty fan, oh but for the days of the King winning by 4 or 5 laps - Ahhhhhh!

As I recall, 3 years ago many people were complaining about Rusty's constant references to the "dreaded aero-push" too - but aero-push was a real problem. The pre-COT wasn't perfect - and was far more dangerous. I think EESPN's so-called race coverage needs more improvement than the COT, but the COT does need to be worked on.

I feel there has been a real, serious decline in the "quality" of the media. What were some big stories last weekend - JJ's boring, M-ville hotdogs are a strange pink, Jets Q-back eats a hotdog on the bench, and Griese's taco scandal. Does the media have a food fixation? Yes, there definitely is real quality and effort in the media today?

NorCalFan said...

1. Flying roundtrip to Birmingham using frequent flyer miles
2. Staying at Days Inn versus Hyatt to save more $$
3. Renting a car for a week instead of 5 days to get lower rate
4. Sitting in the last row at the top of the grandstands in the tri-oval
5. Watching the race on the edge of my seat in sensory overload—-priceless
6. Watching the Talladega race or any race on ESPN—-absolutely worthless

Just out of curiosity, the DVR is set to record the race so I can compare if I was at the same race as the ESPN broad cast crew. I anticipate more of the same mindboggling, incomprehensible trainwreck of a show the fans have been presented for the past 3 years.