Open letter to ESPN

RE: NASCAR race coverage

To whom it may concern:

We need to talk about the quality of your coverage of the Nationwide series and Sprint Cup series race broadcasts. I can sum the broadcasts up in one word: POOR. You really need to improve the quality of the broadcasts. You are managing to piss off loyal NASCAR fans. They are turning the tv off and finding other means of following the races.

And believe me, there are numerous sources for race coverage out there on the internet: MRN/PRN coverage, Twitter, numerous racing blogs and message boards, just to name a few. I myself have not yet turned the tv off, but I have the volume so low that I barely pay attention. I listen to the MRN/PRN broadcast online as well as in-car audio. I also follow numerous NASCAR reporters on Twitter (who are actually tweeting from the race track) and visit The Dale Earnhardt Jr Pit Stop and The Daly Planet during the races. I receive more information from these sources than I do from the ESPN coverage.

I know that I am not the only person who feels this way about your coverage. I see numerous people on Twitter and the websites I mentioned above expressing their “displeasure” with the coverage race after race. There are numerous aspects of the coverage that people are discussing. I agree with the majority of them. There are way too many to discuss here, but I’ll give you a sampling of the most disturbing to me (in no particular order).

  • Neglecting to reset the field after pit stops. You are consistently going to commercial after pit stops during a caution flag have been completed BEFORE resetting the field. The ticker doesn’t appear onscreen until the green flag drops. That is so completely unacceptable. I want to know who is running where BEFORE they go back to racing.
  • Pit stops under green. For some reason, you insist on showing green flag pit stops full screen, focusing on a single driver. Do you not realize that there is still racing going on on the track? How hard is it to put 2 windows onscreen: one of the pit stop and the other focusing on the racing that is still going on?
  • Pits stops under caution. There is rarely a pit stop cycle under caution where you don’t break away from the “triple pits” to show a single car’s stop as the cars are coming to the end of pit road. Stop doing that for crying out loud. The viewers lose all focus as to the cars coming out of the pits. The order out of the pits is an important thing you know. Jeez.
  • Zooming in on a single car. There are so many times during a race that you are zoomed in so close on a single car that I can damn near see the driver inside the car. And numerous times, these zoomed in shots are of a car that is all alone on the track. Again, the viewers lose focus of the “big picture”. While you are zoomed in to the leader who has a 5 second lead, we’re missing passes for position elsewhere in the field. What gives?
  • Spastic camera work. I’m talking about zooming in and out and switching between different camera angles in quick succession. You rarely stick with a wide shot of cars that are racing for position. There have been several times that you’ve had a wide shot of one driver setting up another for a pass, and then when the driver is beginning his pass, you switch to a zoomed in shot elsewhere in the field and we miss the pass altogether.
  • Ignoring “Start & Park” cars. I do give Marty Reid props … he does call out the ‘start & park’ drivers during the Nationwide races. But as for the Sprint Cup races, the ‘start & park’ drivers are completely ignored.
  • Ignoring racing for position deep in the field. You need to remember that there are 43 cars on the track during the races. I don’t care if they’re not passing for the lead, I still want to see the passes that are farther back in the field. Sometimes the best racing on the track is for 18th or 20th positions. Please show it to us.
  • Forgetting about the rest of the field once the leader takes the checkered flag. I want to see ALL of the drivers cross the finish line at the end of the race. There are some good passes for position at the finish. So stop zooming in on the leader after he crosses the line.
  • The pre-race show. I want to see more interviews with drivers during the pre-race show. Don’t show so many taped/pre-produced segments. The drivers and how they think their cars are going to handle for the race are more important to me that seeing some taped segment with Brad Daughtery that is basically a commercial for Bush’s beans.
  • Showing anything at full screen during green flag racing. Nothing, I repeat NOTHING, should be shown at full screen during green flag racing expect for the racing itself. If you want to show a replay or a car going to the garage or a crew chief on the pit box or a “tech garage” segment, do it in a small secondary box on the screen with the green flag racing in a large box on the screen. Green flag racing is more important than anything else you think you need to show us.
  • Too many in-car shots. As with the spastic camera work, showing too many in-car shots lead the viewers to lose focus of the “big picture”. You can show an in-car shot every now and again if it is important to the situation. Stop showing them just because you can.
  • The ticker. The ticker should ALWAYS show the interval behind the leader. And the ticker should NEVER show the ‘points as of now’ during the race. For crying out loud, the race isn’t going to end now so that information is irrelevant.

I could continue, but you get the idea. All of these items are things that can easily be resolved. But you continue to do things the way that you want. I think you really need to start listening to the fans. If the fans quit watching, you’re going to lose money. Advertisers aren’t going to spend money with you because no one will see their ads. And no matter what you think, without the fans you are irrelevant. Without fans, there is no reason to even have a race. The fans are what bring the advertisers to you. Think about that for a while, why don’t you.

Think long and hard about things. Start giving a damn about what the fans think. Who knows, making changes that the fans suggest might even bring you more money. A race broadcast that the fans are actually excited about can bring more advertisers to the table because they know more people will see their ads. Hmmm … never thought about that, did you?

If things continue as they have been, pretty soon no one will even bother to watch the tv coverage. The MRN/PRN broadcasts have more energy and provide a more complete coverage of the action, and they have to rely on explaining things rather than showing the cars on the track. The radio broadcasts together with the numerous online sources have practically made YOUR coverage obsolete. [BTW … the other networks don’t seem to have the same issues that you do, so what’s your excuse?]

I just thought I’d give you a chance to fix things before I wrote you off completely. But then again, who am I kidding. You don’t give a damn about the fans. You’re going to continue to show whatever the hell that you want. But in the end, that’s gonna bite you in the ass. I can’t wait for that day to come. I’ll be grinning ear to ear. :razz2:

Sincerely,
A NASCAR fan who’s ready to give up on ESPN

Comments

nothap'n says:

Awesome post. I am a loyal TDP reader/poster and Nascar fan and LOVE every word of your article. If that doesn’t serve as a thesis for what is wrong with ESPN’s nascar coverage, I don’t know what will.

Thank you,
A Brown

Delenn says:

Well said Becky. ESPN’s poor coverage is driving fans away.
START LISTENING ESPN.
You forgot to mention Jerry Punch, who, whilst he was the best pit lane reporter ever, now has the distinction of qualifying for the worst Nascar play-by-play announcer ever. Put him on pit road or in the infield studio, put Bestwick in the booth. He knows how to do PxP and how to run a booth.

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