Look, every week we get together and complain. We grumble about the terrible car, rude drivers, annoying animated critters, destroyed TV presentations and boring races. It’s pretty much an endless pit of NASCAR annoyance, isn’t it?
I’ve been thinking… do you think it might just be us? I am the first one to admit that when the race is on, I usually have about three other things crowding out the mesmerizing image of cars parading around a loop. I know DW’s gonna butcher the English language, only to be outdone by Larry Mac. So, I pretty much try not to listen. Besides, what are they gonna tell me? Kyle Busch is leading? Yeah, I can figure that out for myself by squinting at the barely legible ticker running across the top of my apparently antiquated TV set.
And yet, I tune in – only to tune out.
But hey! I can think of a NASCAR broadcast that has stood the test of time and continues to impress week after week. Radio! The Motor Racing Network provides live track action with verve and spunk week after week.
While Sunday’s bumper car demolition derby on steroids, known as the Aaron’s 499 at Talladega, was probably not the best race to run a comparison between the tube and radio, it is what I had to work with. Trapped in the truck, heading down to Washington D.C. for a week of rest and recreation, I was prevented from actually watching the race. I had no choice. Radio was it!
And that was awesome! No, I mean it! I lived, breathed and yelled my way through the race. I could see it all. Why?
The radio makes demands of the commentators that the standard television format allows them to ignore – little things that bring the entire field of competition to you. Each corner that the cars take, a different turn announcer follows the action that occurs in front of them. Multiple lead changes in a lap, side-by-side racing deep in the pack, the car that shouldn’t be there and suddenly is… by coordinating an intense and informative production, the radio broadcast draws the listener to the track.
And it forces you to pay attention.
This is what I mean… maybe it’s really just us. Jaded and expecting nothing new, when I sit down to watch a Cup race on Sunday afternoon, I’m already convinced there’s very little that will happen I haven’t seen before. So why pay attention, except to complain about all the overly used tripe that has nothing whatsoever to do with the actual race?
When I head out to the track, I rarely see a race I don’t love. If I’m not thrilled with the guy leading, I’m allowed to look for another story. My attention and imagination are riveted by the non-stop action and the always new unfolding story before my eyes. This focus is what listening to the radio broadcast demanded from me.
I didn’t have a choice. If I wanted to know who was contending for that win, who survived the second Big One or how Carl Edwards managed to become airborne, I had to pay attention. With no replays, no TiVo, no extra camera angles, I relied wholly upon the announcers to bring the action to me. And it was worth it.
I didn’t have a chance to complain about something lacking in the broadcast… there simply wasn’t time. I was stranded back in the day when NASCAR TV coverage, TrackPass, HotPass or Sprint Fanview didn’t exist. Life and racing was simple.
I listened to an incredible race. My hero wrecked out early. His teammates raced for the win. An unexpected interloper made a last-second push to the front and a rookie stole it all! Spins, bumpin’, bangin’, engines blowing and cars flying into the fence.
Would I have felt the same visceral thrill by watching it on FOX? That is hard to say. My bet is all the excitement would have driven by and then I would have been scrambling for the remote. It’s just not the same.
Next week, I am making a promise to myself. I’m gonna watch the race. Really watch it! If I lose interest… I’ll just turn on the radio. After all, MRN seems to know where all the excitement is.