The view from my couch

Broadcast Odds & Ends
by Cheryl Lauer
November 6, 2006

These are a few observations I've had about race broadcasts over the last month.

SPEED Coverage of the Toyota All-Star Shootout
I know these broadcasts were a few weeks ago, but I really wanted to comment on them anyway. Mike Joy and Dick Berggren did a very good job as commentators, as did Ralph Sheheen and Jim Tretow in the pits. These guys had obviously done their homework to find out a lot of background about the drivers in the Autozone Elite Division and Grand National East and West Divisions. Unfortunately, neither the announcers nor the production group at SPEED made much of an effort to promote a non-profit group who were featured on several of the competitors cars: The National Center for Missing Adults. The announcers mentioned the worthy cause several times, but the director didn't really focus on the hoods of the cars featuring missing people. The whole point of the drivers featuring the pictures was to help viewers become familiar with the organization and see the pictures of several missing adults. SPEED didn't even bother to show the hood of one of the race winners on Friday night: Eddy McKean. They did do a close-up of the hood of the winner of the second of the Elite Races, but that's all. I guess I just find it disappointing that SPEED couldn't do a better job of promoting a non-profit organization. It's not like these were sponsors who weren't paying for commercial time on the network...Or was it??? For those who are interested in the teams that featured pictures of the missing adults, please check out this flyer.

My other major complaint was the really poor camera coverage during the two-night event. Several times, the announcers would tell us about an incident or close racing on the track and it would take an eternity for the director to switch the camera shot to cover the action. During one of the shorter delays, I counted and it took seven seconds to get the shot switched to the incident the announcers were describing. This is just inexcusable! I'm not sure who made up the SPEED production crew for this broadcast, but if SPEED wants to cover the event, they need to do a better job of it. If not, perhaps, they could let HD.Net cover this event, since they provided excellent coverage of many of the regular season races for these divisions.

Cut Down on the Caffeine!
Okay, this is not the first time I've mentioned my total incomprehension of why the powers that be at SPEED feel they had to add Michael Waltrip to their Craftsman Truck Series coverage. Or why they obviously don't feel Rick Allen and Phil Parsons do a good enough job in the booth. Trust me, I've not heard any race fans say they enjoy Michael Waltrip's involvement in these broadcasts. On the contrary, every viewer I've heard from on the subject thinks he ruins the broadcasts with his constant promotion of his driver, his manufacturer, and his sponsors. Even if I could get beyond this blatant self-promotion, I can't get beyond the frenzied tone that Waltrip uses during the broadcasts. I know he probably thinks he's adding excitement to the races, but frankly he's driving me away from them! Friday's race from Texas is a perfect example. Waltrip's frenzied tone becomes contagious and causes the normally calm and cool, Phil Parsons, to become frenzied as well. What the viewers at home end up with is a competition between who's going to outdo the other in trying to create more excitement through their hype. Honestly, I just had to turn the race off because I could not stand it anymore! This has happened way too often since Waltrip joined the SPEED booth. I either end up listening to the audio from MRN radio or simply recording the race, so I can fast-forward through the more manic parts the next day.

And recently, someone at SPEED thinks it cute to have a graphic of how often Waltrip "plugs" one of his sponsors. Do the people in charge of these broadcasts think racing is so boring that viewers need these silly graphics and manic coverage to keep them interested? I guess I'm just old school in that things like this have actually driven me away from what used to be the best series in NASCAR. When I do watch, I find myself, yelling "Take a breath once and a while, Michael!" or "Cut down on the caffeine!"

Later Start Times
Yes, most fans knew that NBC had demanded later start times during their portion of the Cup season this year. But what we didn't realize was that races wouldn't be starting until sometime after 3:00 p.m. eastern. Not only does this make it an interminable wait for race fans, but these late start times seem to have caused several other "unintended consequences" for the drivers and teams. Last week's Atlanta race is a perfect example. The race started so late in the afternoon that the drivers were looking directly into the setting sun for a portion of the race. If we fans are bored waiting for the race to start in order to accommodate TV, imagine how the drivers feel? Not only do they have to sit around and wait until late afternoon to begin their race, but they have to deal with not being able to see going into the turns in the late afternoon. In at least one case, the sun glare contributed to an accident because a driver had a problem and slowed and the guy behind him couldn't see him because of the sun. Yesterday at Texas, the race ran so late, that NBC moved their post-race coverage to the cable network, CNBC. I am fortunate enough to have this channel, but I have to wonder how many fans were unable to see the post-race interviews with the winner and others because NBC had to switch to their football pre-game show due to the late race start?

In addition to these types of things, what about the fans who attend the races in person? Did NBC or NASCAR even consider that many of them end up trying to get out of the track after 7 or 8 p.m. and head home, only to arrive in the wee hours of the morning? Not every fan has the luxury of taking an extra vacation day to travel home on Monday morning. But TV and NASCAR don't seem to care about them. And what about the police and safety people who have to stay at the track later as well? I'm sure the police in charge of traffic control don't like having their day extended several hours just to accommodate TV. But NBC obviously got their way in wanting to have the race as a doubleheader to their new Sunday Night Football coverage. I read an article last week about how NASCAR claims to be a "family" sport, and the author asked the question - then why are the races now interfering with Sunday family dinners? Great point! I know my internal clock is all messed up by the late starting and ending times of the races these days. What ever happened to Sun-"day" racing for NASCAR? Not Sunday night...

The Budweiser Cup?
As always, I'm sure I may incur the wrath of the so-called "Red Army," but why did NBC insist on the inordinate amount of coverage of Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and the Budweiser car yesterday at Texas? Yes, we got the point he wasn't feeling well and then had problems on the track. Yes, he and his team battled back from adversity to post a great finish. But does the camera have to stay glued on the Budweiser car so much of the time and do the announcers have to tell us every five minutes about what is going on with the driver? I think there were 42 other cars on the track, but yesterday, I wasn't sure. Did I miss something or did Budweiser become the series sponsor?

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