The Frontstretch: Couch Potato Tuesday: Diminishing Skills Doomed Reid by Phil Allaway -- Monday September 30, 2013

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Couch Potato Tuesday: Diminishing Skills Doomed Reid

Phil Allaway · Monday September 30, 2013

 

Hello, race fans. Welcome back to Couch Potato Tuesday, where we cover race telecasts and talk about their highs and lows. This past weekend, the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series were in action at Dover International Speedway. Meanwhile, the Camping World Truck Series traveled all the way to Las Vegas for a one-day, standalone show.

Marty Reid no longer works at ESPN, effective immediately. The veteran, with 30+ years experience at the network had his contract terminated.

Before we start, we have ESPN news. Marty Reid is out at the network, effective immediately. Up until Kentucky, Marty Reid was the play-by-play commentator for ESPN’s IZOD IndyCar Series coverage and part-time play-by-play man for Nationwide Series races (typically standalone events and those occurring during the Chase).

Multiple members of the media sought responses from ESPN. A spokesman stated that Reid is no longer a part of ESPN and that the network “has gone in a different direction.” Reid’s bio has also been removed from ESPN’s Media Zone website.

My guess is that while Reid’s performance at Kentucky may have been the final straw, there was plenty of evidence showing that he just didn’t seem to have it anymore, most notably last year’s screw-up of the names of his colleagues prior to the Indiana 250. Plenty of Reid’s issues have been painstakingly documented on YouTube. In fact, that’s what comes up when you search for Reid.

I’m reminded of a press conference back in 1993 for Bernie Kosar. He was the starting quarterback of the original Cleveland Browns; then, he was suddenly cut midseason. The head coach’s reasoning at the time was “diminishing skills, “and that head coach was a younger, but still grouchy Bill Belichick. Well, I think we have another example of diminishing skills with Reid. Not even Buford T. Justice’s seniority could save him.

I can add that ESPN didn’t make the move immediately after the Kentucky screw-up. Every Monday, the network sends out a press release that advertises their motorsports coverage for the upcoming week (race telecasts, NASCAR Now, etc.). That release still had Reid calling Saturday’s race. The release also included a link, shortened for tweeting purposes. However, the version I have no longer exists. The release was later updated to eliminate mention of Reid. Evidently, the network had a change of heart after the original press release was put out.

Reid worked with ESPN off and on since 1982. Reid worked on Winston Cup telecasts as a pit reporter at least as far back as 1987, specializing in sports cars and off-road coverage. He founded Championship Off-Road Racing (CORR) in 1998, which immediately supplanted SODA and became the premiere short course off-road series in the United States. Reid also commentated on the series’ races, which were aired on ESPN networks in the early years. In the late 1990s, Reid was the voice of Craftsman Truck Series races on ESPN networks until Dr. Jerry Punch took over the role. He also worked on NHRA telecasts.

Allen Bestwick, who called Saturday’s 5-Hour Energy 200 at Dover, will call the remaining Nationwide Series races for the rest of 2013. While ESPN’s IndyCar responsibilities are over for 2013, ESPN will announce a Reid replacement in the broadcast booth for next year’s IndyCar races at some point in the future.

While the move will put more of the work burden on Bestwick’s shoulders, I have no doubt that he can handle it. I’m a little more intrigued about what’s going to happen for the IndyCar races on ABC next year. Who gets that slot? If they’re going to promote from their existing IndyCar on-air team, then it’s Vince Welch’s to lose. Based on his previous work in the booth for Nationwide races, I don’t think my readers would like that all that much. However, Welch has over 15 years of experience covering IndyCar with ESPN and FOX Sports Net. If not Welch, then it is a toss-up. ESPN might be forced to look outside the company. Either way, we wish Reid luck with his future endeavors… whatever they might be.

Smith’s 350

On Saturday night, the Camping World Truck Series made their annual trek out to Las Vegas for a 350 kilometer sprint. FOX Sports 1 was there to cover the race, but did their issues from Kentucky follow?

I’ll fully admit, I did not expect the Army – Louisiana Tech game to encroach on the Setup. Ultimately, the game went 40 minutes long and pushed the entire Setup to FOX Sports 2. It bites. Luckily, it appears that NASCAR held up the start of the race in order for the event to start on FOX Sports 1. We’ll start there.

Last week, I talked a fair amount about audio visual issues with the telecast from Kentucky. Those issues unfortunately continued in Las Vegas. I need you guys to help me out here. It’s not because I didn’t see the race, but because I need someone to vouch for what I’m dealing with.

I think Time Warner Cable (my provider) is probably responsible for 20 percent of the issues I had, but I think the rest are on FOX Sports 1. I had some rather serious sound issues that lasted for a couple of segments of the race. I would describe it as if a speaker blew and put out some nasty feedback. That could be any number of issues. Perhaps some debris struck one of those clear, semi-circular pieces of equipment and screwed it up. Maybe there was an issue in one of the production trucks. I don’t know, but it made part of the race hard to watch.

I also had some feed cutouts and outright audio drops during the telecast. Just not good all around. If all of these problems are on FOX Sports 1, then I hope they can get them fixed soon.

Post-race coverage was screwy. Since the event ran up against FOX Sports Live, someone made an incredibly stupid decision to cut away from Timothy Peters in Victory Lane for a brief FOX Sports Live segment that included highlights of the race you just watched before cutting back to Ray Dunlap for Peters’ Victory Lane interview. Seriously… you guys could have waited a couple of minutes, ended at-track coverage and made your flagship show less disjointed. What the deuce? It’s nowhere near as bad as how SPEED screwed over John Wes Townley back in February, but still pretty bad.

Sad thing is, the issues I mentioned above really killed my enjoyment of an otherwise pretty good telecast. We saw a good amount of racing for position and a good amount of enthusiasm out of the broadcast booth. The telecast was fairly inclusive in what got shown. For the most part, that’s what I want to see. It’s a shame that the technical issues overshadowed a good booth performance.

5-Hour Energy 200

On Saturday afternoon, the Nationwide Series returned to Dover for their second visit of the year. Joey Logano spanked the field, but got busted in post-race technical inspection (more to come on that later this week). How did ESPN do under unusual circumstances? Let’s take a look.

Football once again reared its ugly head with the West Virginia-Oklahoma State game running long by over a half-hour. That bites. It’s even worse knowing that ESPN didn’t even schedule NASCAR Countdown at all. So that they did not miss the start of the race, ESPN chose to move coverage over to ESPN Classic, a move that they hadn’t made in quite a while. Carriage of ESPN Classic is down significantly from where it was in 2007, so a lot of viewers likely couldn’t see it. I’m sorry. That just bites, but the hands were tied (again).

ESPN conducted four quick driver interviews prior to the opening ceremonies. This was more than likely the original plan had the coverage started on ESPN. Interestingly, no reference was made to Reid’s dismissal from ESPN on the telecast. Since Bestwick is used to working with Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree in the booth over the past few years, the transition was seamless.

Ultimately, the first 26 laps of the race aired exclusive to ESPN Classic. The West Virginia-Oklahoma State game was long by 37 minutes. Ouch. Not unprecedented since I’ve been writing this column, but ouch. The ESPN Classic move was a surprise. Recent years have seen this circumstance result in pre-race coverage on ESPNEWS.

Due to the early caution flags, most of the coverage was dedicated to the various pit strategies. There really wasn’t all that much coverage of actual battles. We saw a couple early on, then nothing. It seems like ESPN has something against showing battles between drivers off the lead lap. With Logano whooping as much tail as he did, I don’t think you can abide by that. We were treated to Bestwick and the rest of the booth talking about fuel mileage and trying to make the race seem exciting when it really wasn’t. I feel like there had to be something out there that was better than what we saw.

With the race running quite short (it was not run at record pace, but not far off it), there was a good amount of post-race coverage. There were seven post-race interviews, plus checks of the unofficial results and point standings. Finally, the booth added some post-race analysis before ESPN left the air.

AAA 400

On Sunday, the Sprint Cup Series returned to Dover for another 400-mile affair. Jimmie Johnson won it once again, while Dover continued its pedestrian nature that we’ve become accustomed to over the past few years. How did ESPN handle the race? Let’s take a look.

The relationship between crew chief Dave Rogers and driver Kyle Busch was studied in-depth during Sunday’s ESPN pre-race show.

The primary feature of Countdown was an interesting piece on Kyle Busch. Dave Burns gathered Busch and crew chief Dave Rogers together, then had them write down a number of things that Busch has changed this year. Interestingly enough, they both wrote the same thing. Rogers explained that Busch has seemingly calmed himself down in the race car this season. As a result, Busch can give better feedback to Rogers, who in turn can make the car better. A significant part of the piece was also dedicated to Busch’s drive to win, which is prodigious. That doesn’t necessarily surprise me.

What did surprise me was all the talk about religion and Busch’s belief in God. Granted, Busch drives for Joe Gibbs, who is very open about his religious beliefs, and has had I Am Second, a ministry, featured prominently on his car. But I cannot remember Busch talking at length about his beliefs. That made this feature stand out.

Another brief piece talked about Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s road to racing. Earnhardt Jr. talked about how he had always wanted to race as a youngster, but then realized that it wasn’t going to be a cakewalk. The Intimidator wasn’t the kind of the man to just shower Earnhardt Jr. with the best of everything, so Earnhardt Jr. was doing it on the cheap. He was competitive, but not the greatest. It wasn’t explicitly mentioned here, but I believe that he was referring to his time driving late models in the Carolinas.

He stated that Godfather Tony Eury, Sr. convinced his father to put him in a Nationwide car in 1997 after they announced Steve Park’s move to Cup. Earnhardt Jr. thought it was a joke at the time. However, he has grown into his role in the 16 years since then. I thought that this piece was an interesting look at the beginnings of Earnhardt Jr.’s career. In this era of “rich kids” buying rides and influence, Earnhardt Jr.’s rise to the top, despite a famous father, was quite tempered. His own dad had to be convinced to give him a ride.

During the race itself, there was a high focus on the Chasers. Everything seemed to be predicated around one of the Chasers (and really, one of a group of four or five of them) winning the race. Much of the coverage built towards that.

There was really a dearth of coverage of racing for position. I know that we had long green-flag runs on Sunday. However, that’s not necessarily an excuse for just showing us single cars for most of the day. There has to be something out there. I’m not a moron. Dover International Speedway is a one-mile oval where laps in the race take 23-24 seconds. There’s typically something going on with 38 or so cars on the track.

ESPN did make use of the Gyro Cam that FOX extensively promoted during the race, but they didn’t draw all that much attention to it. However, what little we saw of the camera in Clint Bowyer’s car proves that it is available from BSI for all of NASCAR’s TV partners to use. FOX is just the only one to emphasize it.

Post-race coverage was fairly brief. ESPN brought viewers five post-race driver interviews, plus an interview with the winning car owner (Rick Hendrick). In addition, there was a check of the all-important points before ESPN left the air.

I came out of Sunday’s race with an empty feeling. There could have been more to Sunday’s telecast than what we got. ESPN needs to make a bigger effort to cover action for position, even if it doesn’t involve Chasers. Simple as that. I’m sure this Chase is hurting the sport, but everyone is blind to it.

That’s all for this week. Next weekend, the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series will each be in action at Kansas Speedway. They’ll be joined by the ARCA Racing Series, which will hold their season finale. Meanwhile, the IZOD IndyCar Series finally returns from their month-long break for the final doubleheader of the season in Houston. Here’s your listings.

Tuesday, October 1
Time Telecast Network
12:00 PM – 1:00 PM NASCAR RaceHub FOX Sports 1

Wednesday, October 2
Time Telecast Network
2:00 AM – 2:30 AM NASCAR Now ESPN2
12:00 PM – 1:00 PM NASCAR RaceHub FOX Sports 1
1:00 – 2:00 PM K&N Pro Series East North American Power 100 FOX Sports 1*/

Thursday, October 3
Time Telecast Network
2:00 AM – 2:30 AM NASCAR Now ESPN2
11:00 AM – 11:30 AM NASCAR RaceHub FOX Sports 1?

Friday, October 4
Time Telecast Network
1:00 AM – 2:30 AM Formula One Grand Prix of Korea Free Practice No. 2 NBC Sports Network
2:00 – 2:30 AM NASCAR Now ESPN2
11:30 AM – 12:30 PM NASCAR RaceHub FOX Sports 1
12:30 – 2:00 PM Sprint Cup Series Practice No. 1 FOX Sports 1
2:00 – 3:30 PM Nationwide Series Practice No. 1 FOX Sports 1
3:30 – 5:00 PM Nationwide Series Happy Hour FOX Sports 1
~3:35 – 5:05 PM American Le Mans Series Qualifying ESPN3.com$
5:00 – 6:30 PM Sprint Cup Series Qualifying ESPN2
7:00 – 8:00 PM Izod IndyCar Series Qualifying NBC Sports Network*/
8:30 – 10:30 PM ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards Kansas Lottery 98.9 FOX Sports 1

Saturday, October 5
Time Telecast Network
1:00 AM – 2:30 AM Formula One Grand Prix of Korea Qualifying NBC Sports Network
11:00 AM – 12:00 PM Sprint Cup Series Practice No. 2 FOX Sports 2
12:00 – 1:30 PM Nationwide Series Qualifying FOX Sports 2
1:30 – 3:00 PM Sprint Cup Series Happy Hour FOX Sports 2
2:00 – 5:15 PM American Le Mans Series Oak Tree Grand Prix at VIR ESPN3.com$
3:00 – 6:00 PM Izod IndyCar Series Shell Grand Prix of Houston, Race 1 NBC Sports Network
3:30 – 6:30 PM Nationwide Series Kansas Lottery 300 ESPN

Sunday, October 7
Time Telecast Network
1:30 AM – 2:00 AM F1 Countdown NBC Sports Network
2:00 – 4:00 AM Formula One Grand Prix of Korea NBC Sports Network
4:00 – 4:30 AM F1 Extra NBC Sports Network
10:00 – 11:00 AM NASCAR RaceDay Fueled by Sunoco FOX Sports 1
1:00 PM – 2:00 PM NASCAR Countdown ESPN
1:00 – 4:00 PM Izod IndyCar Series Shell Grand Prix of Houston, Race 2 NBC Sports Network
2:00 – 5:30 PM Sprint Cup Series Hollywood Casino 400 ESPN
3:00 – 5:00 PM Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge: Lime Rock Street Tuner Race FOX Sports 1*/
4:00 – 5:00 PM Firestone Indy Lights: Houston NBC Sports Network*
5:00 – 7:00 PM Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge: Lime Rock Grand Sport Race FOX Sports 1*/
7:00 – 7:30 PM NASCAR Victory Lane FOX Sports 1
11:00 PM – 12:00 AM NASCAR Now, Post-Race ESPN2

*- Tape Delayed
/- Highlighted Coverage
$- Available via password-protected online streaming. Check with your internet service provider and/or programming provider for availability.

A couple of notes before I continue. I have the K&N Pro Series East broadcast from New Hampshire listed for Wednesday at 1:00 PM. That is what the listing on FOX Sports 1’s website says. It actually does not jive with what NASCAR has on their Home Tracks website, though that caters to their regional series. NASCAR Home Tracks lists 11:30 AM on Friday as the air time, which is currently covered by an episode of NASCAR RaceHub.

Also, like last weekend, there is no NASCAR Countdown prior to the Nationwide race. ESPN’s Noon college football game is Maryland-Florida State. It is scheduled for three hours, with College Football Scoreboard scheduled for 3:00 PM. We’ll assume that it’s not happening. I don’t know why ESPN insists that a college football game can finish in a three-hour window because everyone knows that they can’t, including their competitors.

I will cover the Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Izod IndyCar Series telecasts for next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday here at Frontstretch. For the next two weeks in the Annex, I’ll be covering FOX Sports’ coverage from Lime Rock, with some surprises. For example, I make a very brief appearance on the actual broadcast (yeah, it’s one of those blink and you miss it kind of things). This week, I’ll have the Rolex Series’ feature race of Championship Weekend presented by BMW. For October 10th, I’ll have coverage of the two Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge races, with bonus information (the stuff you’ll miss from FOX Sports’ editing to fit the races into two-hour windows).

If you have a gripe with me, or just want to say something about my critique, feel free to post in the comments below, or contact me through the email address provided on the website in my bio. Also, if you want to “like” me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter, please click on the appropriate icons below. Finally, if you would like to contact any of the TV partners personally with an issue regarding their TV coverage from last weekend, please click on the following links:

FOX Sports 1 and 2
ESPN

Note: If you’d like to contact the NBC Sports Network about their coverage of Formula One and/or the Izod IndyCar Series, unfortunately, you’re out of luck. The contact page on their website legitimately cannot be found. Hopefully, they get that fixed right and proper soon.

As always, if you choose to contact the network by email, do so in a courteous manner. Network representatives are far more likely to respond to emails that ask questions politely rather than ones full of rants and vitriol.

Contact Phil Allaway

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phil h
10/01/2013 01:30 AM
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ESPN should bring Bob Jenkins back for IndyCar telecasts’. I know he announced some IndyCar last year.

Sully
10/01/2013 02:39 AM
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How in goodness name can they single him out when all their Nascar “personalities” are overly hyper in the most false way possible acting like airhead poodles..you know who you are Nicole and Danielle and the men of the group the premier Nascar butt kissers…come on. Sad.

Phil Allaway
10/01/2013 06:28 AM
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Phil H, while I wouldn’t be opposed to ESPN getting Jenkins to replace Reid on IndyCar telecasts, Jenkins officially retired at the end of last year. At the time, he did it to care for his wife, Pam. Pam has since died, but I don’t foresee Jenkins coming back.

Also, I didn’t write about it in the article, but perhaps, ESPN might give Jamie Little a tryout in the IndyCar booth. My main issue is that she has very little booth experience. I don’t know how she would adjust to the surroundings. I’m interested to find out, though.

Bill B
10/01/2013 06:55 AM
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“I’m sure this Chase is hurting the sport, but everyone is blind to it.”

You left off “except for the fans” at the end of that sentence Phil.

DoninAjax
10/01/2013 08:58 AM
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You can add “and Brian” to “except for the fans.”

Richard
10/01/2013 10:47 AM
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I gave the coverage of the race a D because the side by side is a joke. Race coverage is about 1/4 of the screen, not exactly side by side.

jerseygirl
10/01/2013 11:09 AM
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Reid had done a pretty poor job of covering NASCAR now for a while, maybe this was just the last straw, so to speak.

I can’t say since I didn’t watch the race. I got home, turned on the TV and there was a football game. I tried the various other ESPN channels, didn’t see it, didn’t see anything about where it might be, so I went off and did other things. Doesn’t really sound like I missed much anyway. I didn’t vote on the race coverage sinice I didn’t watch any of it and we went to Dover on Sunday. At least what racing there was, I got to see w/o depending on the TV.

I no longer watch the truck races. Until Mikey is out of the booth, that will remain my choice. If I remember, I might turn on the radio feed through my computer, but that’s only if I remember.

I refuse to “chase” the races all over channel list. Remember when the first tv contract was signed? One of the statements made was “you won’t have to wonder where the race is”. Well, that’s long gone and so are a lot of fans.

I’m sorry from the perspective that I never like to see a person lose their job, but man, Reid had gotten really bad at it. I can’t say that Vince Welch would be my choice as a replacement, but whatever.

Trevor Lahey
10/01/2013 12:51 PM
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I haven’t had any audio visual issues w/ the truck race. I don’t have time warner, so they could be the problem.

Alex
10/01/2013 02:02 PM
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The easy answer for IndyCar for the portion stuck on ABCis Bob Varsha. He’s the best remaining out there who happens to have an extensive open wheel background but I don’t know if he’s still under contract with Fox.

Marty Reid would’ve been best served sticking to the NHRA telecasts where he was superior to Paul Page.

Phil Allaway
10/02/2013 01:31 AM
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Alex, as far as I know, Varsha is still under contract with FOX Sports to do sports car racing and the Barrett-Jackson Auctions. However, FOX Sports did let him sub on NBC Sports Network’s F1 telecasts for a few weeks this year in place of Leigh Diffey. It’s feasible, especially since ESPN (via ABC) only has the rights to something like 5 weekends of racing. The questions here would be whether or not Varsha wants to do it, and whether the 2014 IndyCar schedule would conflict with his Tudor USCC duties.

Unfortunately, I can’t answer either one of those questions. The IndyCar schedule for 2014 isn’t out yet. If it mirrors this year (and it won’t, since Baltimore’s gone), then it could easily happen since there would be maybe one conflict at best. However, I have no clue if Varsha would do it if asked.