Bad Reception

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Somewhere Paul Page has to be smiling to himself.

The veteran announcer, who had been the "voice" of the Indianapolis 500 for more than 25 years, wasn't in the booth this year for ABC's telecast of "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing."

Mr. Page must be thanking his lucky stars.

On a day when the 500 was finally brought back to the main stage it had left ten years ago, ABC's telecast wasn't worthy of an off-off-off Broadway production. And if ever an event deserved better television coverage, this year's Indy 500 was it.

It's hard to believe that in this day and age, a television network wouldn't utilize High Definition technology when televising a sporting event the magnitude of the Indianapolis 500. While FOX goes HD with just about every NASCAR race on its schedule, ABC's coverage of the IRL, let alone the 500, doesn't.

The network has the capabilities as HD is used during "Monday Night Football" and assorted NBA playoff games. But for arguably the biggest auto race in the world, ABC opted for the standard analog signal. Strike one.

Maybe it was for the best. With all the gaffes, missed action and just plain bad commentary, seeing it in crisp High Definition detail would have been even more painful.

I counted at least five missed shots of passes for the lead and several late comebacks from commercial break robbing viewers of restarts. And to think how much grief FOX gets on its coverage.

The shoddy camera work and horrendous production values (were they kidding with the "Speed City" promotional bump-ins?) were Emmy Award winning compared to the announcers' work. This team made me long for the return of Sam Posey and Bobby Unser.

Able pit reporters Jack Arute and Dr. Jerry Punch provided solid work, however were caught up in the rah rah spirit that permeated the telecast. It's an insult to viewers when the people announcing at a sporting event have to tell you, several hundred times, what a great event we are watching.

Forget the cheering. Let the pictures and drama and action tell the story.

Arute and Punch though were nothing compared to new lead announcer Todd Harris, calling his first year of Indy Racing League action and who replaced Page for this year's 500.

The first thing you notice about Harris is that he doesn't realize that there is no need to yell every word that comes out of his mouth. Unfortunately Todd, we can hear you.

Harris used more cliches and hyperbole than I thought was humanly possible. The overstatement of comparing Danica Patrick to Sally Ride and Amelia Earhart brought a roar of laughter through the media center.

Good thing Harris had someone by the name of Penn Holderness providing "feature commentary," a nice way to say he tried to act cool while sticking the microphone in the faces of celebrities like Russell Crowe and David Letterman, asking inane and redundant questions.

What a shame. With ratings up 40 percent, the product all these new viewers tuned in to watch was about as inferior as I can remember.

Danica Patrick, Dan Wheldon and the rest of the drivers and teams did their part to provide the storylines and drama that proved to be compelling programming to a very large audience. ABC Sports was the one that drew the black flag.

And if I were Paul Page, I would have sat back and smiled on Sunday night.

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