The explosion of an “F-bomb” at last Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 in Sonoma, Calif. is a prime example of what seemed like a brilliant idea at the time go horribly awry.
The idea was to have Kyle Petty be part of the TNT race broadcast team, not from the booth, but actually while he competed in the race itself. Brilliant! So far, so good. This could be really cool. However, not long into the broadcast, a few problems began to manifest themselves.
Initially, due to some technical gremlins, booth announcers Wally Dallenbach and Bill Weber were having some difficulty establishing contact with racer/analyst Petty. At one point, once contact was made, they broke in and surprised Kyle while he was leading the team in a pre-race prayer. Oops!
But after the initial awkwardness, breaking in on the team prayer could seem like a great thing as far as ratings go. After all, Petty is one of the most respected men in the garage. Petty leading his team in prayer is great for the “wholesome family atmosphere” of NASCAR, despite the dirty little secret of “moonshine running, Confederate flag-waving rebels” of NASCAR’s origins that Brian France is so desperately ashamed of. Again, so far, so good! Amen! Let us race.
However, as the old saying goes, “No good deed shall go unpunished.”
And so it would be in this case.
On just the second lap, in what is lovingly referred to as turn 11, Satan, momentarily inhabiting the body of Matt Kenseth, attempted to go on the inside of Petty in an effort to nullify the “wholesome family atmosphere” that Saint Kyle’s prayer had started. The resulting spin of Petty, Kenseth and innocent bystander Marc Goossens served as just the beginning of the devil’s dastardly scheme.
Meanwhile, in the booth, the highly esteemed Dallenbach surmised that Petty had no idea that Satan had, in fact, been on the inside going into the turn and TNT technicians, suddenly remembering that Petty was an integral part of the broadcast team, were more than happy to show a replay from inside Kyle’s car in an attempt to prove Dallenbach’s summation correct.
The results were nothing short of horrifying.
As the world watched, from as near as Kyle’s viewpoint could be shown by TNT technology, a quick glimpse of the No. 17 could be seen inching up to Kyle’s car. A sickening crunch and one squeal later, the “F-bomb” was detonated… clearly in Saint Kyle’s voice.
“What the f@#$ [was]?”
Well, so much for wholesome family atmosphere! It was at this point that the “F-bomb” squad snipped the wrong wire.
Following the detonation, there was not, as some other publications have cited, an immediate apology by Wonder Analyst (wonder why he’s still on the air) Bill Weber, “for that language.” What did follow was about 10 whole seconds of “dead air!” 10 seconds of dead air that allowed the viewer to realize that “Yes! That is what I thought I just heard!” The devil’s work had been done. Truly, it was a technician’s worst nightmare.
Now, I realize that it is easy to think of these things in hindsight, but true broadcast “professionals” are supposed to be able to think quickly to cover up, or at least lessen, the effects that unforeseen deviations from the scripted plan bring about. I’d like to think that I (or more accurately, I’d like you to think that I) would have handled the situation in the following manner.
Wally Dallenbach: “Let’s take a look at the view from Kyle’s camera inside the car.”
(Crunch! Screech!) “What the f@#%?”
Jeff Meyer: “Well, it is a little early in the race, but like Kyle said, let’s ‘Cue the Duck’! After an accident like that, a little AFLAC may be just what we all need. Good call, Kyle!”
I realize that that may not be the perfect response, but anything would have been better that the 10 seconds of dead air, during which you could almost hear Wally and Bill thinking “Oh S@%t!”
In all reality, though, the entire incident should never have happened. The “F-bomb” was NOT detonated by Kyle on live television; it was detonated by TNT during a REPLAY that should have been checked before airing. Bad move, TNT… bad move.
Stay off the wall, (but be prepared to duck!)
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