Wednesday, September 2, 2009

NASCAR on ESPN. Changing My Tune A Little

If you are a frequent reader of this site, you know that I have been critical to some extent of virtually all of the networks which broadcast NASCAR races. For years, I preferred FOX to other networks, but I, along with apparently a ton of other fans, was glad when FOX handed over the broadcasts to TNT. I think "Digger" did it to me. Cute is just fine, at least for a while, but the great minds behind the broadcasts at FOX might want to remember that too much of just about anything is usually not a good thing. Remember Barney the Dinosaur? I rest my case.

When my step daughter was growing up, I wanted to wrap myself with explosives and blow myself up in close proximity to that purple twerp. That act probably wouldn't have brought me any parent of the year awards, but I'm pretty sure I would have been a hero to many other parents, none the less.

Every network that brings us NASCAR racing has its strengths as well as weaknesses. What I perceive to be a strength or weakness is of course a matter of opinion. Personally, I like Darrell Waltrip and the homespun wit that he brings to the FOX broadcasts. Many fans can't stand Old DW. I understand. I appreciate Kyle Petty and Wally Dallenbach on TNT, mostly because I feel that they both tell it like it is, and won't hesitate to be brutally honest in their opinions.

ESPN brings what I consider to be two solid personalities in the racing world, Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree. Dale Jarrett is obviously a chip off the old block, following in his father Ned's footsteps not only as a racing champion, but a great broadcaster as well. Andy brings a wealth of experience not only as a winning crew chief, but as an owner to the booth as well.

I suppose my biggest problem lately with ESPN's broadcasts is the play by play man, Dr. Jerry Punch. It's not that I don't like Dr. Punch, because I do. I feel he simply does not fit into the role of play by play announcer comfortably.

Dr. Jerry Punch is one of the best NASCAR pit reporters ever, in my opinion. Dr. Jerry ranks right up there with Dick Berggren, who performs pit reporting duties for FOX. In my opinion, Jerry and Dick are the very best of the best when it comes to bringing us stories from pit road and the garage.

I do want to commend ESPN for the job they do overall when it comes to bringing us the Nationwide and Cup races. Think about it this way: Of the 3 networks that broadcast the races, only ESPN is the one network totally committed to sports. If you turn on ESPN any time of the day or night, you will see everything from NFL and NCAA football to dart contests. I never even knew what curling was until I caught a show explaining it on ESPN late one night.

What I'm trying to say is that ESPN covers virtually every sport under the sun, or the moon, which ever the case may be. If you think about the enormity of such an undertaking, it's easier to give ESPN a little wiggle room when it comes to providing a flawless or perfect broadcast, week after week. By the way, neither FOX nor TNT put on a flawless or perfect broadcast either. ESPN is experimenting with some new camera angles for in-car, or maybe on-car cameras. The results are somewhat baffling at times, but it provides a new perspective for fans who want to see as much as they can. I applaud the network for trying new things. Experimentation is never a bad thing when it comes to bringing the fans something new and exciting to see. Sometimes trying a new thing might be a waste of time, or it might be copied by the other networks next year. If that happens, you know you did something right as a broadcaster.

All in all, ESPN is the best network for sports, period. If you can't find your sport on ESPN, nobody plays it or watches it. ESPN strives to be the best broadcaster of NASCAR racing, and given a little time, they probably will be. I'm just gateful that we now can watch each and every race that NASCAR puts on. It wasn't that long ago that we only got abreviated versions of the action, and rarely got to see any Nationwide or Truck racing at all. NASCAR on TV has come a long way in the last 10 years.

ESPN, keep up the good fight. You're getting better, from a fan's point of view, a race at a time.

My only suggestion is this: Marty Reid is a good play by play man. Please try putting him in the driver's seat a little more often.

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