Sunday, February 18, 2007

Fox Sports: Daytona 500

Every season Fox Sports sets the racing chat boards and forums on fire with their chosen NASCAR philosophy of following the leader...literally. This season's Daytona 500 proved to be another example of how this practice leads to missing the racing action and all the excitement that goes with it. Time and time again, the cameras zoomed-in on the single file leaders, even as the pack battled three wide behind them. Welcome back to NASCAR on Fox.

The broadcast network breaks out all the technical toys, including the new High Definition in-car cameras and 3-D animated replays for Daytona, treating the race with the respect it deserves. Unfortunately, even with the quality announcers, a sold-out speedway, and a beautiful day, things began for 2007 as they had ended in 2006.

The group with whom I watched the race continually yelled "No" at the screen when the director instructed the camera to zoom-in once again on the first and second place cars. Fox continues to be baffled by the fact that leading a NASCAR race means very little until the end, and that is especially true of the Daytona 500. Frustration boiled over during the final twenty laps, when the Fox Director melted down into a confusing series of camera angles and in-car shots that proved to be disorienting for both the viewers and the announcers.

The final lap of the race was a well-deserved climax for Fox as the cameras missed the action, the announcers talked over each other, and for a period of several minutes it was impossible for fans at home to have any understanding of what had just happened. The meltdown was complete. Random shots of crashed cars, drivers walking away, other cars on the back stretch, and even one seemingly parked against the pit wall served to confirm how out-of-control this telecast had become. For one last time, Fox Sports had to roll-back replay after replay to explain to the viewers what they had missed. Only, in this case, "they" refers to the NASCAR on Fox production team...the replay kings.