The view from my couch

NBC Coverage of the GM/UAW Quality 500
by Larry Staton
October 13, 2003

Well group, I'm back. I told you I'm just like a bad check. I just keep showing up at the most inopportune times. Well this time I caught Cheryl not looking and snuck into the web site. Actually she and Lou went to the race at Lowe's and would you believe wouldn't let me use their house. I promised not to leave crumbs on the Speed Couch, but I don't think she trusts me.

When last we talked I had given my mid-year report on FOX's performance and was critical of their insistence that we, the average race fan, needed to be constantly barraged with interruptions and clichés during their broadcast. I also lamented, and alluded to the fact that this was totally unnecessary. I just don't feel they us the credit we all deserve. Too much junk. Well now it's NBC's turn in the barrel per se.

The question still remains have we gained anything? With all of the technology available today, you would think that the broadcasts would have gotten better. Have they? I'll give them a yes and a no vote on that issue. Even though I prefer the NBC format to that of FOX, the producers are still forced to try and stuff 10 pounds of junk into a 5-pound bag. And as we all know, that just doesn't work too well. They consistently prove this with the number of commercials that seem to take priority over the race. I will give them credit though; they are getting better at using some of their new toys to show the action.

With all of that said, let's look at what happened Saturday night. Mother Nature had not been too cooperative most of the week and rain pushed everything back. With the threat of rain in the forecast, NASCAR decided to up the start time for the race. This, along with the tribute to Dale Earnhardt and Jeff Gordon as part of the ongoing Legends Victory Lap Tribute, the abbreviated pre-race show didn't give us too much insight.

With the first 60 laps being rather mundane and almost everyone playing follow the leader, Allen and the boys had some time. I'll give them credit for trying to catch us up on some of the happenings in the field. They did their first Through the Field segment early in the race and I appreciated that.

The coverage of the first set of pit stops under the green seemed a little more sporadic than normal. A little disorganized may be the better term. They seemed to be a little out of sync on who was covering whom. After the pit stops had cycled, Jimmie Johnson was back at the front, running strong and lapping cars. I felt they didn't do a real good job of keeping track of whom he was lapping. Unless you kept an eye on the running ticker at the top of the screen, his progress through the field wasn't well documented other than someone mentioning how many cars were left on the lead lap. I didn't even realize Derrick Cope had taken his car behind the wall until Benny Parsons mentioned he was back on the track with no explanation as to why he went behind the wall. This is where I have a problem with some of the things that happen. I realize keeping up with 43 cars, drivers, and crews can be a real task, but when someone leaves the track, an explanation would be nice.

The first caution came at lap 86 when Kurt Busch's car didn't seem to like the line he was running and spun. The in-car shots of him shifting gears and trying to gain control of the car were excellent. It gave a real insight into how good some of these drivers are. The pit stops under the ensuing caution and the race off pit road were covered in normal fashion, with them picking up on the fact that Rusty had speeded on pit road.

The next 63 laps of green flag racing including the green flag pit stops were the normal NBC fare that we've gotten used to. At lap 160, Elliott Sadler takes the first of two spins for the night when he and Mike Skinner get together and Skinner hits the wall. Now this is where the commercials took over the broadcast. With the caution, came commercial after commercial under the pretense of being able to show a lot of green flag racing after the fact, if you call minutes of green flag racing a lot. Remember the 10 pounds of stuff in the 5-pound bag; well this is where it really showed up. It seems like from this point and through the clean-up from Elliott Sadler's second wreck with Todd Bodine, they had a real commercial fest.

After the restart the telecast was back to normal or as close as they can get. The coverage of Newman's short pitting and fuel mileage strategy along with Tony and the gang trying to run him down was pretty good.

I just felt that this was not one of NBC's better broadcasts. They seemed rushed at times and not quite on top of their game. They spent too much time covering some of the cars out of the lead and didn't mention some of the others. The Through the Field segments were their saving grace. If it hadn't been for those particular parts of the broadcast, I feel the broadcast would have been very partisan. Then at the end they just disappeared. It's really a shame that time schedules play such a big part of how they conduct post race interviews, etc. At some point they're going to have to learn that no sporting event goes according to some prewritten script. I wonder what they would have done had NASCAR not decided to start the race early or there were more cautions than there were? This has always been one of my contentions with motor sports. Had we been watching a ball game and it went into extra innings or overtime, they would have stayed with the game. It always seems though that if a race runs over, they either send you to a different station, or in the case of the post race, just stop.

Now, one thing needs to be mentioned here. Many times when we get irritated with the broadcasts, we have a tendency to make it appear as though the whole thing is one big lump and for our part, don't break it down to areas of responsibility. Although the announcers, producers, and the rest of the broadcast team do their job well, sometimes the show just doesn't come off the way we think it should. This is where NASCAR and the networks need to be taken to task. I firmly believe their interference with the broadcast crews, from the standpoint of selling too much advertising, program format, and scheduling, create situations that are almost impossible to handle. Now that's not to say that all of the blame is theirs, but they sure know how to get in the way.

Well that's all I've got. Keep racing and enjoy as life as much as you can. For you know not, what tomorrow brings.

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