Nothing But Commercials

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NBC took over the Winston Cup broadcast schedule from FOX this weekend at the track rumored to be somewhere in the Chicago vicinity. There was a notable change from FOX’s broadcast style and some improvements both over FOX and over NBC’s own efforts last year.

But what has the message board crews screaming is the frequency and duration of commercials breaks. Despite perceptions, NBC didn’t run more commercials than FOX had in the first half of the season. They just had more commercial breaks of slightly shorter duration and they were poorly spaced out.

On a more positive note it was great to a vastly slimmed down and grinning Benny Parsons on site. Parsons was a hero of mine when he was driving and he’s made tremendous contributions to the art of racing broadcasting. It’s nice to see he’s taken some positive lifestyle steps so he can continue to contribute to the sport for many years to come.

Another feature I enjoyed, which hasn’t been used since TNN broadcast races, was a full field rundown discussing each car and what was going on with that team’s race. Yes, there are more Jeff Gordon fans than Brett Bodine fans, but Brett has a lot of fans at well and they want to see his car, where he is in relation to the leader and hear what’s going on with the 11 team. The pit reporters were able to gather excellent information about each driver and team. Of course the exercise was somewhat compromised in that the “mugshots” used to show which driver was in which car showed the wrong pilot in three instances. (Kenny Wallace in the 1 car, Joe Nemechek in the 66, and Jerry Nadeau in the 25.) Yes, it was their first race, but that’s just plain sloppy work.

What surprised me about the feature being used at all was the fact the networks are showing each race car again whether the sponsor buys ads or not. That can only help the smaller teams.

There were occasions during the Joliet broadcast when a little rust from their long hiatus was evident in communications between the booth and the pits. For instance Parsons hollered down to Bill Weber in the pits asking what was going on with the 25 car. Weber was clearly caught off guard not having realized that anything had happened to Nemechek and went on to report on a different story as if he hadn’t heard the question.

The ¼ scale car in the booth is a gimmick but was used to good effect. I know on our message board earlier this week a lot of fans didn’t know what the offset track bar bushing Jimmie Johnson was fine for and lost points over was, but Uncle Benny was kind enough to point it out. Yeah, I know what a driveshaft is and what a trailing arm looks like but it’s good information for less hard core fans.

With the Golden Benny, Wally’s Wild Ride, and whatever that nonsense with the pace car was, the pre-race show was too gimmicky, and it looks like all three segments will be weekly installments. But at least Bill Weber asked Mike Helton the questions concerning some hot topics in the sport, though he was a little lax in follow up questions. For instance Weber pointed out 72% of fans responding a poll on NASCAR’s website favored a rule that would have all races end under the green flag. Helton’s response was that NASCAR was happy with the way they handle such situations now. To which my follow up question would have been, “So to the three out of four fans who feel otherwise I guess you’re saying ‘Go pound sand’, huh?” Which is why Mike Helton doesn’t speak to me.

It’s not a life or death topic, but Muppet-gate didn’t earn a mention during the pre-race show or the broadcast itself. Hey, I can only go by my email and the message boards but the issue had a lot of fans up in arms and should have been addressed.

In general all the broadcasters acquitted themselves well without coming off as hams like much of the FOX crew.

It’s a minor point, but I’ve never appreciated the hard-edged heavy metal music NBC chooses to “spice up” their broadcasts with. It often blasts over the surround sound system at unexpected intervals and I’m tired of scraping the cat off the ceiling.

NBC executives issued an interesting mission statement as far as their goals in Winston Cup broadcasts this year. They said they plan to cover more of the sport aspect of stock car racing than the entertainment side, which they implied FOX had focused on. That’s a laudable goal and gives me hope for the second half of the broadcast season, but they can’t cover either aspect of the sport while they are away in commercial.

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