The view from my couch

NASCAR on Fox - A Mid-Year Report

by Larry Staton
June 30, 2003

Well, race fans they've let me loose again. I can't believe this bunch is that easy. Course there's something in the Constitution of the United States about freedom of speech, so maybe they feel a legal obligation. Or maybe they really are that easy. Oh well, regardless they're going to allow me to run my mouth one more time. As I was sitting at the table sipping on my coffee, listening to my wife fussing in the kitchen, I was contemplating and reflecting over the first half of the season. FOX is gone and NBC is about to lead us onward and upward, well onward anyway, into the remainder of the racing year.

This caused me to put my brain into the search mode and to think back to the weeks leading up to the Daytona 500. Now I don't know about you, but after the New Year's celebration had started to fade, I was ready to go racing. I didn't need anybody to get me enthused. However, FOX kept putting forth all of their hype and by the time the season rolled around, I was more than ready. Although skeptical, I was still hoping that FOX had re-evaluated their broadcasting techniques and style. Boy was I disappointed.

It was at this point I kept asking myself - what's wrong with this picture? You have two professional broadcasters in Mike Joy and Chris Myers. They, along with an excellent supporting cast, should make for an extremely good race broadcast. Darrell Waltrip with his racing experience can put you inside the car without any question. Larry McReynolds in the booth and Jeff Hammond on the ground can explain the technical aspects of the race and do a good job of it. So why, after a race broadcast, do I feel like I missed the race? Then it dawned on me. DUH! What you've been watching is a show. An orchestrated variety show set to a racing theme. With the leaders of the race playing the lead roles and everyone else as the supporting cast. With the plot of the show being fairly simple and straightforward, it allows FOX to control the script with very little depth and hardly any interaction among the supporting players. That is until one of the supporting players decides that he wants to increase the size of his role by doing a spin or running head long into the side of the stage. I realize that the script is improvisational, but still orchestrated nonetheless. FOX with their toys, advertisements, and all of the other junk they can cram onto the screen during the race, has taken the viewer on a controlled ride. And believe me, they figured out how to crowd and control the screen with everything but the race. Ted Mack would have been proud.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, "When I turn on a race, I want to see the race." You do see flashes of what could be, but they lack consistency as they so fondly put it. This points to one fact. FOX in it's infinite wisdom has taken it upon themselves to try and create an entertainment package that treats the race as a family entertainment show, rather than what it is. You will even hear some of the drivers refer to it as "The Show".

Part of the responsibility for this type of broadcasting falls on some of us race fans. I know, I know, you don't want to hear it, but if you've watched the races at all, you've seen the commercials with Kurt Busch and Kevin Harvick. If you haven't, you've just proven my point. They show up in someone's living room complaining about the TV viewer missing an exciting part of the race. Unfortunately, that's the way some of you are and the broadcasting companies know it. So to compensate for your inattentiveness, they treat you like you've just tuned in. That's the reason a lot of the depth is left out of the broadcast. So, shame on you. I'm not taking up for the their attitude, just stating facts.

So with the aforementioned in mind, where do we point the blame? Who do we hold responsible for the travesty that they so willingly call race broadcasting? Well, like I said earlier, we the race fans are partially to blame. We tune in weekly for our dose of NASCAR according to FOX and really don't complain much. Unfortunately for the newer viewer, you may not realize how off-center the broadcast is and the only answer for that is to view other races and do some comparison-shopping.

The other aspect is the greed of FOX. We've all heard the rumors of how FOX tried to intimidate the sponsors into buying airtime in exchange for showing their cars during the race. Well, maybe the rumors are more fact than we wanted to believe. You must admit that we did have a tendency to see and hear about certain drivers more than others, regardless of their position on the track. Along the same vain, the points leader was barely mentioned in some of the races this year.

So I've said my piece. If you're satisfied with the coverage that you been receiving, then may you go blissfully forward and peace be with you. If you're not, then you owe it to yourself to at least complain. Make it known to FOX what you would like to see and where you feel they have erred.

Now we look forward and see what ride NBC takes us on. Let's at least hope they are a little more fan sensitive. Have a good one and keep on racin'.

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