Sunday, June 3, 2012
Final Sunday: Taking A TV Timeout
Original column: The man in the picture is Lou Cappi. He was featured in an ESPN photo essay showing people who work in support roles at football games. In the old days, Lou's position was called a "red hat." On the football sidelines, connected to the TV truck, would be a man standing there in a red baseball hat. He would signal to the officials on the field when to hold play for a TV commercial. The red hat made him easy to spot.
Now, orange mittens are all the rage in the NFL and they even come with a snappy logo. Lou crosses his arms when TV needs a commercial break and the officials will stop play after a possession or turnover. It's a system that makes sure the TV advertising revenue is inserted into each game every week.
In addition to the timouts called by each team, TV networks agree in advance with both college conferences and the NFL to a series of commercials that are going to be required in each half or quarter. These are the dreaded TV timeouts. They are much more annoying for those at the game than for the TV viewers.
The ultimate goal of both the referees and the TV networks is to insert the commercial inventory with as little disruption in the flow of the play as possible. Sometimes this is not a problem and the stoppages go almost unnoticed. However, sometimes the orange gloves get crossed just as the home team finally gets a drive going and the crowd reaction is less than favorable.
Needless to say, there are no TV timeouts in NASCAR. In fact, the TV network is not consulted on when to restart the race after an incident. NASCAR does its own thing and TV chases them from green to checkers. Opening the door to TV asking NASCAR to extend a caution flag would not yield good results.
Here at The Daly Planet, I tried to take a TV timeout a while back but readers were persuasive in asking me to continue to provide a place where opinions about various NASCAR TV and media topics could be discussed. Well, that was then and this is now.
I'm crossing the orange gloves and taking a break. The current Sprint Cup Series TV coverage is so frustrating that I am joining others in simply waiting to watch another live race until the TNT coverage begins. It was the last telecast that forced this move.
Here are some comments from veteran fans after Darlington:
Walter: "Since becoming a NASCAR fan in 1958 and attending my first race in 1960, I classify myself as a serious race fan. So I make my comments with a lengthy history and must say that never in 50+ years have I been so disappointed in the product shown by the broadcast partners."
JR: "I think there was a good Sprint Cup race at Darlington, but we didn't get to see or hear it! I've been quiet too long! I found myself yelling at the director for missing passes and showing insignificant shots. DW was totally distracting and usually wrong in (his) various comments. What a disgrace to the sport I love!"
KoHoSo: "I am tired of close-ups that give no sense of what is going on, something that is only fueling the fire that NASCAR is "boring" this year. How can we really judge if the racing is boring if all we see is one or two cars at a time all the time?"
SBaker: "I believe that I have watched every race from Darlington since ESPN began televising auto racing way back when. I even remember the Wide World of Sports attempts at showing the Southern 500. Last Saturday night I had to turn the TV off. Between the poor camera work and the Orators from Owensboro, I just couldn't take it any more."
Last week a firestorm erupted when I republished comments from a 2011 Jeff Gluck article at SBNation that the NASCAR TV networks do not care what fans think about the TV coverage. Gluck repeated his comments to me in a recent Twitter exchange.
"Those words from last year ring true today. The TV networks don't care about fan input and that's my point then and now," tweeted Gluck. "It does need to change, but they don't care what you or I think. They're going to do what they want."
Readers may remember that last year was the year of the fan. The NASCAR Fan Council was lauded as changing the sport for the better. Fan input on social media was actively encouraged. What the fans wanted was the product that NASCAR was going to put on the track.
This year fans are the enemy. Darrell Waltrip called the NASCAR Fan Council and Twitter out for forcing knee-jerk reactions in the sport. He said fans just don't know what they want. NASCAR's Robin Pemberton called fans needy for asking TV to show the debris when a caution flag was thrown. Select media members blamed fans wanting crashes as the reason for negative press about the sport being boring.
To say it is a confusing time to be a NASCAR fan might be the understatement of the year.
Watching Sprint Cup Series races on TV was once a joy. Now it is a burden. What used to bring excitement now brings only frustration. It's not the racing on the track but the fundamental inability to "see" the race on TV and get impartial analysis from the announcers that provides the anger.
The familiar hyper-tight coverage of FOX mixes only two cars on camera with even tighter in-car camera shots. There is no perspective, no chasing the best racing and no updates on stories inside of the race. The Kurt Busch pit road saga confirmed that. It's also become clear that telecast sponsors are given coverage priority. Nothing drove that point home like Danica Patrick and Go Daddy last Saturday night.
FOX paid the money to produce the Sprint Cup Series races through the end of 2014. The network has the total right to present the events on TV as they wish.
What they do not possess is the ability to make me watch the product they produce.
So, I'm taking a Sprint Cup Series TV timeout. Media columns will return next Monday and appear on select weekdays. The TDP Facebook page is being discontinued. The live (#TDP1) race stream on Twitter will end, but the TDP Twitter account (TheDalyPlanet) will continue to be active.
Thanks for your patience, I wish things were different but they simply are not. Happy to have your comments on the topics discussed in this post. Comments may be moderated prior to posting.