Editor’s Note: This column is the final in a three-part series Matt’s writing about the pending return of NBC to covering the sport full-time. Check out the first two parts below!
But now on to matters that could start your new relationship with NASCAR fans off on a bad note… and on your very first date no less! The Fourth of July doesn’t fall on a Saturday very often, but this year it does. Wow, there’s nothing like the Firecracker 400 on the Fourth of July itself! (Like it always was up until 1987) But wait a second. You guys asked to have the race moved to Sunday night? What in the blue hell well you thinking? Oh, but some of our affiliates show fireworks on the Fourth of July. And I bet most of your affiliates that do suffer pretty horrible ratings as a result. Watching fireworks on TV is like watching a videotape of someone else having sex with your girlfriend. It’s be a lot more fun to get out there and do it youself live. So you moved the race to Sunday night? What planet are you schedulers from? With the Fourth being on a Saturday this year everyone I know has Friday off, not Monday.
While you’re broadcasting your first NASCAR race of 2015, countless hundreds of thousands of potential viewers are going to be fighting traffic on their way home from the shore (that’s what we call the beach in these parts) or the mountains. (I don’t know what folks who can’t be down the shore or up in the mountains with 90 minutes like we can do on holiday weekends. Probably they fix their combines or something.) And even for folks who elect to stay home for the weekend, most of them will have to be at work Monday. A Sunday night race? Nope. It just isn’t done, or it is but it shouldn’t be. Here’s a little tip about Florida, summertime, the weather, and holiday weekends. Traditionally the race was run early in the day, I forget exactly what time, but they were out there and racing by 11. That spared the fans the brutal Florida late-day heat, spared the drivers the strong likelihood of evening thunderstorms after a sultry, humid, Florida afternoon, and let everyone pack up and hit the beach by two. Bill France Sr. wasn’t a stupid man, which leaves open the question of how his grandson got to be a congenital idiot.
After Daytona, your coverage of NASCAR racing heads off to the barren electronic wastelands that lay beyond basic cable, NBCSN. We’re here to talk NASCAR, but let me tell you why I already have a grudge against NBCSN. In addition to being a race fan I’m a huge fan of old muscle cars and hot rods. NBCSN took over coverage of the Mecum Muscle Cars and More auctions from Velocity, and since then they’ve screwed up everything possible. The announcing crew remains the same and they’re all great. It’s not too hard to train a camera on a car that’s being pushed onto stage as opposed to 43 of them zipping by in a pack like racing. But Mecum Auction fans were used to multiple blocks of coverage of our auctions, sometimes beyond 40 hours worth of airtime for the biggies like Indy and Kissimmee, not two hours on a Thursday afternoon and maybe a few 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. tape-delayed segments. If you’re not going to cover those auctions properly, then by all means send them to a network that will. (The same goes for your NASCAR coverage of course.)
But your second race will at least give you a shot at redeeming yourself from the Fourth of July scheduling faux-paux. (I mean in addition to somehow working Sandy (Fourth of July Asbury Park) into the musical montage for the event.) Dig through that pile of memos on the desk postmarked Daytona Beach and you’ll find one about a new aerodynamic package that will debut at Kentucky. It’s a bit confusing because it was supposed to be the 2016 rules package and have a test run at the non-points All-Star Race, but it didn’t, then someone from NASCAR said the 2016 rules package might be the same 2015 rules package, but the drivers sat down for a chat with NASCAR officials and pretty much asked them, “WTF? Are you kidding?”
Talk about walking into the parking garage of the Watergate to get your parking stub validated and stumbling onto an inept bunch of RNC burglars. Yep, here’s your chance to earn your chops as NASCAR electronic journalists rather than quasi-celebrity endorsers. During and after the race, my guess is one of three scenarios will play out A) the racing will be much better, B) The racing is still truly horrid. C) Shrug; well, it couldn’t get any worse so maybe this might work given a little time. Report honestly. You don’t want to be remembered as the folks who reported G. Gordon Liddy said they were just delivering pizzas to a resident.
I’m not sure why you’d pay so much money for a property like NASCAR and then consign coverage to a network a lot of people don’t get. If you were thinking enraged NASCAR fans were going to call their cable companies to demand that NBCSN be added, you’re living in the past. People, by and large, are already enraged with their cable companies anyway. In fact the three entities that Americans are perpetually pissed off at these days are their cable companies, terrorists and the oil companies. It’s hard to find anyone with a nice thing to say about any of them. Yeah, some cable companies do offer NBCSN but usually only as on “Upper Tier” sports programming option. Lady, I don’t watch sports. I watch stock car racing! Do you really think people are going to shell out extra money for the channel? Here’s the straight scoop. Everyone I know is looking to cut their ties to cable to lower the costs to a minimum. Is NASCAR’s next TV deal with Hulu? The Bristol Night Race is going to be on NBCSN? I guess it’s like my dad used to tell me, “I bought you into this world and I can take you out of it.” Cable TV bought NASCAR to America and now ya’ll seem intent on killing it off. It’s like one of those ancient questions one of my philosopher friends used to pose: Is it better to have loved and lost or to have never loved at all and have placed a strip of duct tape over your license plates the first night you met her, pulled on a ski mask, waited until she stepped off the curb, floored it and run the b…. But I digress. He’s in treatment now. No worries.
A few more points. I see your broadcast team will be made up of Rick Allen, Jeff Burton and Steve Letarte. Before every race you need to sit the three of them down and have them recite a mantra “I am not the show. The drivers are the show. I’m just here to tell folks about the show and I could be replace by a holograph in about half a heartbeat.” That’ll inoculate them against the dreaded “DW Syndrome.” In fact, the three of them need to learn to listen to each other in the booth, another habit sadly lacking at FOX. Get one of those mechanical monkey with cymbals toys that scare the piss out of everyone, myself included. When one commentator catches another going off topic or prattling on just to hear the sound of his own voice he would then turn on the monkey and let that clanging be a warning to his booth-mate it was time to throw his jaw in neutral and put his brain in overdrive. Whoever gets the most clangs in a broadcast has to bring the monkey home for the week and sleep with it on his nightstand.
I’m surprised by the call to put Rick Allen in the booth, but hopefully he’ll do OK. I knew NBC has been looking someplace to send Brian Williams and I had my fears. And while you’re at it, could you send someone with a reputation as a straight-shooter to lead the pit reporters. I haven’t seen much of Dave DeSpain lately. Once, just once I’d like to have a pit reporter tell a driver “We can read who your sponsors are off your clown suit. Do you have an even somewhat intelligent answer to the question or should I go talk to someone else with a room-temperature IQ?”
Well that ought to be enough to get you started with, anyway. Action Items: Watch those tapes, order the monkey, and practice the mantra. Oh, and give whatever programming genius decided to air the Firecracker on a Sunday night a demotion to the mailroom before he does something else grievously boneheaded.
I’m sure the rest of my Tuesday Tea Club will have some additional suggestions for you in the comments section below. Just keep a fire extinguisher by the keyboard when you read them. I fear some of them can get a bit caustic at times. It’s the heat lately, that and the fact I haven’t tossed them an ace cub reporter to gnaw on lately. But I don’t want you to think about me that way. I’m just trying to be helpful because I’m your Internet Pal. Like any pal would, I’ll get back in touch time to time to see how you’re doing, or perhaps let you know how you’re doing. Hopefully ours can remain a cordial relationship but when it comes to bad race coverage someone needs to put a foot down, and I am that foot.
Your Internet Pal,
About the author
Matt joined Frontstretch in 2007 after a decade of race-writing, paired with the first generation of racing internet sites like RaceComm and Racing One. Now semi-retired, he submits occasional special features while his retrospectives on drivers like Alan Kulwicki, Davey Allison, and other fallen NASCAR legends pop up every summer on Frontstretch. A motorcycle nut, look for the closest open road near you and you can catch him on the Harley during those bright, summer days in his beloved Pennsylvania.
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