Monday, November 14, 2011

Race Wrap: ESPN in Phoenix

The rain cleared out, the sun began to shine and the Chase was tight. It turned out to be a very nice day for a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series telecast from Phoenix.

Nicole Briscoe led Brad Daugherty and Rusty Wallace through a pre-race show that featured three themes. They were the Chase, this race and Kyle Busch. The Chase got plenty of attention, the track condition was reviewed and finally both studio analysts gave their opinion on the Busch situation. It was interesting.

Allen Bestwick, Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree were in the TV booth. These three had plenty of action in the early going with accidents and incidents happening constantly on track. The early coverage was wide, informative and on target.

Shortly after halfway, ESPN returned to "hyper-tight" coverage where the announcers simply talk about the racing as if they are watching from home. Rarely did Bestwick call a lap like an announcer. Rather, he introduced topics that Jarrett and Petree then discussed.

Camera shots were changed to the single and double-car coverage that quickly lost any on-track perspective fans watching on TV had from earlier coverage. ESPN has a script and they went back to it. Despite flashes of groups of cars racing hard, the TV coverage went back to the leaders and the two top Chasers.

The booth announcers showed flashes of personalities and opinions when Brian Vickers wrecked Matt Kenseth on camera. It just so happened that the ESPN script had been focused on Kenseth at that time. This was the only outspoken moment of the race for Jarrett and Petree.

In this telecast, there were often five graphic bars and tickers on the screen offering all kinds of information for TV viewers. Sports scores, a NASCAR ticker, Chase points and race status were all on the screen at the same time. It had that CNBC feel when the stock markets are open.

Down the stretch, the TV team was just as out of gas as the cars. The event ended with an understated Bestwick talking in a monotone as Kasey Kahne won the race. For the final few segments, coverage consisted of single shots of the leader coupled with side-by-side video boxes of the crew chief.

Instead of slamming action on a single-groove track, it was a non-Chaser taking the race and the top two Chasers finishing second and third. Luckily, Kahne is a popular driver who is moving to a top team next season. It might have been the last time we ever see a Red Bull car win a race.

What ESPN misses is perspective. One comment on the live blog said it was the best race we never saw. Simply isolating on a car or two at a time removes any sense of speed, excitement or real racing action. It's just a shame that TV simply will not widen out, go to the best racing on the track and tell the stories of all the teams equally. That familiar refrain has fallen by the wayside once again.

This post will serve to host your comments about the TV coverage of the Sprint Cup Series race from PIR on ESPN. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button. As always, thank you for taking the time to stop by and add your views.


w17scott said...

Mr Editor -
As I said several times this season, ESPN missed another good race ...par for the course in he previous 15 Cup races for the Kenseth-Vickers set-to, Kenseth was noticeably slowing on the track ...yesterday, Sadler's in-car audio at the time let us know he too, slowed entering turn 3 ...could both have been avoided? ...yes, but as was the case in the NNS race the following car took no such action ...only one more week of the virtually unwatchable ESPN broadcast audio/video script much for attracting fans (keeping, too) to the sport ...NASCAR, you got what you're getting paid for at the expense of losing long-time fans of the sport and failure to attract new fans

Roland said...

Too much clutter on screen. Too many commercials. Too many bad interviews by Jamie Little. Awful broadcast.

OSBORNK said...

I sat down this afternoon to see a good race but I never saw one. I know it was there but it simply was not shown on TV. I was happy to see Kasey win but the booth was clearly not. When a non-chaser messes up their script, they have a difficult time handling it.

I've gotten so tired of ESPN and their scripted telecasts, I'm looking forward to a break. I am concerned that ESPN will renew their contract and we will have to suffer through their poor telecasts for another eternity.

I don't care who wins the manipulated "Championship". The Chase changes the way drivers drive and teams plan. I want to see the drivers race to win every week rather than "having a good points day" like we have now. I thought Dale Sr. said it perfectly when he said 2nd place is the first loser.

Buschseries61 said...

I thought ESPN did a great job laps 1-200 and the final 30 laps. They looked for the racing, found it and covered some bumping and sideways cars along the way.

Sometimes the convsersational style ESPN likes to use caused some problems, missing action on the track or just boring viewers.

ESPN did a good job watching Stewart and Edwards make their stops. I'm not sure how Kahne managed to gain so much time on pit road though.

No complaints on the call of the finish or the shot of the finishing cars.

On to Homestead for the finale, hope ESPN doesn't overload the graphics like last year. Hopefully Marty kept the 'final nail in the coffin' metaphor with him as well.

GinaV24 said...

Extemely Pointless Spending my sunday afternoon trying to follow a race this way.

What a total waste of time.

NASCAR sold out their product and the fans with the TV contract.

I'm just waiting for the season to end so I can see whether my guy will stay in the top 10 in points to be on stage in Las Vegas - other than that, the farce that is the chase is of no interest to me either.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Shannon Spake asked Tony Stewart about the possible tension building between himself and Edwards in the post-race news conference in the media center.

"ESPN loves to try and built that crap between everybody. The total drama network for sure. Everyone who works there."


Sally said...

I just don't understand how ESPN, who was at one time, responsible for setting the bar for race coverage, can fali so miserably now. I end up feeling as if I have been watching 3 or 4 hors of qualifying, as I seldom see more than 1 or 2 cars in a shot. I'm sure there are cars racing each other, passing going on, but I'm not allowed to see it. The other problem is their slavish fascination with 'the chase'. My favorite driver doesn' change for the final 10 races. I'm not really concerned with who wins the 'mini title'...I want to see the race as near as possible to sitting in the stands. I know what that's like, since I've attended several, and I can assure you it isn't anything like I'm allowed to see on TV. ESPN and Fox have managed to suck all the excitement out of Nascar for me. I'ts really a shame that they are so willing to make themselves look so inept week after week. I'm ready for a break...which may end up being permanent.

Vicky D said...

Good column, JD. I just don't understand all the numbers on the tv screen we didn't need to see where TS & CE were on track and how many points between each other! Disappointed with MK's finish too sorry I had to add that. Can't wait til next week and the time off and get away from ESPN for awhile.

Michael Stoffel said...

After all the fawning coverage of Tony all day, ESPN didn't even have a timer on his last pit stop.
Of course the lapdogs of ESPN didn't comment on Burton getting the call from Chevy to move over and let Tony by at the end.
They also should have been more outspoken against Vickers and his actions. I hope he's replaced next week by Cole Whitt.

SD80MAC said...

A really good post-race show on Sirius/XM NASCAR! ESPN PHBBBBTTTTTHHHH!!!!

Anonymous said...

I dodn't need or care about football scores when i'am watching a race.

sbaker17 said...

Sally said...
I just don't(snip)now. I end up feeling as if I have been watching 3 or 4 hors of qualifying

Sally. That would be hours ;)

Anonymous said...

One real good thing about this telecast was that we did'nt hear any Waltrips. Gotta love that much.

GinaV24 said...

Leave it to Tony to say exactly what he thinks. No love lost still between ESPN and the driver of the 14.

Rockin Rich said...

I don't usually see the BSPN pre-race. However, I did catch the "repartee" between Brad and Crusty. I couldn't believe Brad kept insisting that Kyle Busch was a "clean racer". Apparently no one else on the set could either. It was fun to watch.

KoHoSo said...

I was a little under the weather today so I have just now "watched" the race through my Twitter timeline. After seeing so many of the same old comments regarding the coverage, I offer my twist on the old philosophical question.

If racing happens out on the track but the television partner refuses to show it, does it really exist?

Tex said...

Bristol Connecticut is sooo happy that their driver/anchor Cousin Carl is in the hunt to win the championship.

What you want to bet they will feature him on all the ESPN platforms this upcoming week?
We'll see his magazine covers, his 6 pack and how his fitness really gives him the edge in every race.

As a matter of fact, hes larger than his owner. Larger than any Ford driver. They refer to him as the driver of the 99 car.

Really? We didnt know. Cause we been hit over the head for so long that we were brain dead when it was mentioned over the air for the ten millioninth time.

It's gonna be a long, long week and if Carl wins...lord help us all.

The race production today was typical HSPN...Hype sports network!

By the way...good job Kasey!

Tracy D said...

I've tuned ESPN out. MRN is my choice these days. Makes me sad, but I know ESPN isn't showing what the fans see from the bleachers.

I try to watch the few last laps on TV, as I did today, but the announcers are being drowned out by the track noise. So who cares what they're saying? Awful audio, awful camera work.

Zetona said...

I just hope and pray that ESPN will cover Homestead next week like they covered early parts of this race. The racing at Homestead has been fantastic recently, and it would be a horrendous disservice to the track and the sport to zoom in on the championship contenders and miss the three-wide action behind them.

Anonymous said...

It was another great day to do other things besides wasting my time with espn's "tv" "race" coverage. Does nascar care? MC

Anonymous said...

Wow JD
Did not hear that comment from Smoke aimed at Shannon Spake and her "SpitCenter" line of non-journalistic questioning.

Good for Tony


Vicky D said...

I could really tell that ESPN's script for this race was for Tony to win and get another championship. However, if Cousin Carl is Bristol's man why wouldn't they want him to win instead. Truly something I felt so much of the race was dedicated to the two winning chase guys, so many others were ignored (again and again and again). That's why I don't like this chase format.

Zieke said...

I am still a race fan, and, as long as there are no Waldrips involved I can watch, despite the very questionable coverage of ESPN. It's too bad that Larry Mac is not used more, as I believe he prepares better than anyone else.

Anonymous said...

I didn't watch the race and never felt tempted to turn it on. I spent the afternoon doing outside work getting ready for another Michigan winter. After reading the comments at TDP, I have no regrets. I don't feel like I missed anything.

I am a long time fan that ESPN has finally worn out. I just don't care about their broadcasts any more. I now get all of my NASCAR information from sources other than the live TV broadcast.

Tony Stewart's comment shows that at least part of the sport's participants hold ESPN in contempt. Stewart is apparently upset enough that he was willing to express an honest opinion in spite of NASCAR's policy of "Speak No Evil". I wonder if ESPN realizes or cares about the bad feelings they generate in the sport's participants and veteran fans.

I assume ESPN is trying to draw in casual fans and new fans. I cannot imagine how a new or casual fan would find anything in an ESPN broadcast to hold their interest. The things that drew me in and held my interest for decades has been systematically exculuded from today's broadcasts.

My regard for Fox broadcasts is about the same. I hope they both disappear under the next contract.

Anonymous said...

The Espn TV broadcast was great for those who were solely fixated on Tony and Carl. Whoever is responsible for the tracker at the top of the screen should be shot! They'd scroll through the top 10-12 then delete it for commercials,other graphics,etc. At the end, they just had the running order,but not the interval. Its obvious that those in the Production truck are clueless. For the first half of the race, I expected the three guys in the booth to propose marriage to Tony Stewart the way they were fawning over him. I have no idea why Espn or anyone would pay Crusty,Nicole and Brad for their 'contributions'. They're totally useless. Was anyone foolish enough to expect an interview with Vickers? Naw! Why would they do something stupid like that? Let's get the last race behind us. This has truly been a painful season for many of us. I'm still amazed that they're able to fill half the seats. I'm not sure I'd go again if the tickets were free. AB didn't know it, but he made a strong case for doing away with The Chase. He gave 2-3 examples (Harvick,Gordon,Kenseth) where freak incidents eliminated drivers from contention. Anyone taking courses in Statistics knows that the larger the sample 'n' (more than 10 races), the less effect variability has on the outcome. The Chase should go.

Anonymous said...

I like Tony but I wish he wouldn't be so short with the media. Of course these reporters are looking for a story. It's their job. His loose lips reference a girlfriend and then he gets mad when pressed about it? Come on Tony. Besides, they gotta be bored as the rest of us with what passes for racing anymore. This sport is practically on life support and drama creating questions are like the chest compressions trying to keep the patient alive and relevent. I never thought Tony was stupid, but after these many years in the business of entertaining fans and trying to attract eyes for his sponsors logos he would EMBRACE the people who are more than willing to give him publicity, not make it his job to boorishly castigate the media. I've been wondering all year what NASCAR/ESPN/FOX could do to make the product more interesting and keep people talking and all I keep coming back to is TMZ type gossip. Tony verbally sparring with Carl is infinitely more interesting than Coke saving polar bears. More people will click on a story about Kurt Busch's divorce than will read about the *yawn* latest new paint scheme. If you under-estimate how shallow the fans interest is in racing, just watch the comments following any National Anthem. They're far more concerned with who had their hands over their hearts, who didn't remove their hats or who looked distracted during the prayer.

sue said...

I'm so darn tired of the tight shots and little timing on the scolls. Fine example was towards the end of yesterdays race the announcers mentioned that Carl was catching up to Kasey with just a couple of laps left. The scoll just listed the position and no timing so we didn't know how much the margin was. That coupled with the fact that the camera was on Kasey's car alone you couldn't see if Carl was in fact closing in.

Hopefully espn can now let go of the Kyle Busch story and concentrate on the chase contenders. They are both unusual characters with Carl wearing the white hat (thanks to his pr) while Tony wears the black hat.

Yeppers Tony is right however when he talks about espn and drama. Just watch sports center and you'll see what Tony's talking about.

Anonymous said...

I absolutely love Tony and hope he pulls it off, BUT dang it - there were more than just 2 drivers in that race. Why can't we see and hear about them all??? I have occasion to listen to races on Sirius/XM and those "tell" me so much more that it does not matter if I am not seeing them on the track. I know what is happening and who is where. Why can't tv be that way? I hate the chase and the way the tv broadcasters just zero in on certain drivers and stories and definitely have their favorites that they try to push on us.

Thank you.
GA Red

Anonymous said...

I cannot watch Speed's Victory Lane any longer. Kenny Wallace is just so obnoxious.

tonybct said...

I've said it before in this forum, and I know I'm in the minority, but I'll still take ESPN and all their faults, than listen to the Waltrip(FOX)network

Daly Planet Editor said...

Tony, everyone is welcome to their opinions on this site. I make sure it is that way. Thanks for yours.

Anonymous said...

My biggest complaint: PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE stop showing that B-roll clip where Tony pulls up on pit road and Carl leans into his window to say something to him. Oh my, they must have showed that clip 100 times during the preshow and race. If I see it again, I'm going to be ill.

Vicky D said...

I think we could have gotten better coverage at Phoenix when Randy LaJoie, Timmy Fedewa, Steve Grissom & Frank Kimmel were rubbering in the track last week than what we saw on Sunday. It might have been more fun to watch too!