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Beside the Rising Tide: Dear NBC… Part III

Editor’s Note: This column is the final in a three-part series Matt’s writing about the pending return of NBC to covering the sport full-time. Check out the first two parts below!

Beside the Rising Tide: Dear NBC… Part I

Beside the Rising Tide: Dear NBC… Part II

But now on to matters that could start your new relationship with NASCAR fans off on a bad note… and on your very first date no less! The Fourth of July doesn’t fall on a Saturday very often, but this year it does. Wow, there’s nothing like the Firecracker 400 on the Fourth of July itself! (Like it always was up until 1987) But wait a second. You guys asked to have the race moved to Sunday night? What in the blue hell well you thinking? Oh, but some of our affiliates show fireworks on the Fourth of July. And I bet most of your affiliates that do suffer pretty horrible ratings as a result. Watching fireworks on TV is like watching a videotape of someone else having sex with your girlfriend. It’s be a lot more fun to get out there and do it youself live. So you moved the race to Sunday night? What planet are you schedulers from? With the Fourth being on a Saturday this year everyone I know has Friday off, not Monday.

While you’re broadcasting your first NASCAR race of 2015, countless hundreds of thousands of potential viewers are going to be fighting traffic on their way home from the shore (that’s what we call the beach in these parts) or the mountains. (I don’t know what folks who can’t be down the shore or up in the mountains with 90 minutes like we can do on holiday weekends. Probably they fix their combines or something.) And even for folks who elect to stay home for the weekend, most of them will have to be at work Monday. A Sunday night race? Nope. It just isn’t done, or it is but it shouldn’t be. Here’s a little tip about Florida, summertime, the weather, and holiday weekends. Traditionally the race was run early in the day, I forget exactly what time, but they were out there and racing by 11. That spared the fans the brutal Florida late-day heat, spared the drivers the strong likelihood of evening thunderstorms after a sultry, humid, Florida afternoon, and let everyone pack up and hit the beach by two. Bill France Sr. wasn’t a stupid man, which leaves open the question of how his grandson got to be a congenital idiot.

After Daytona, your coverage of NASCAR racing heads off to the barren electronic wastelands that lay beyond basic cable, NBCSN. We’re here to talk NASCAR, but let me tell you why I already have a grudge against NBCSN. In addition to being a race fan I’m a huge fan of old muscle cars and hot rods. NBCSN took over coverage of the Mecum Muscle Cars and More auctions from Velocity, and since then they’ve screwed up everything possible. The announcing crew remains the same and they’re all great. It’s not too hard to train a camera on a car that’s being pushed onto stage as opposed to 43 of them zipping by in a pack like racing. But Mecum Auction fans were used to multiple blocks of coverage of our auctions, sometimes beyond 40 hours worth of airtime for the biggies like Indy and Kissimmee, not two hours on a Thursday afternoon and maybe a few 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. tape-delayed segments. If you’re not going to cover those auctions properly, then by all means send them to a network that will. (The same goes for your NASCAR coverage of course.)

But your second race will at least give you a shot at redeeming yourself from the Fourth of July scheduling faux-paux. (I mean in addition to somehow working Sandy (Fourth of July Asbury Park) into the musical montage for the event.) Dig through that pile of memos on the desk postmarked Daytona Beach and you’ll find one about a new aerodynamic package that will debut at Kentucky. It’s a bit confusing because it was supposed to be the 2016 rules package and have a test run at the non-points All-Star Race, but it didn’t, then someone from NASCAR said the 2016 rules package might be the same 2015 rules package, but the drivers sat down for a chat with NASCAR officials and pretty much asked them, “WTF? Are you kidding?”

Talk about walking into the parking garage of the Watergate to get your parking stub validated and stumbling onto an inept bunch of RNC burglars. Yep, here’s your chance to earn your chops as NASCAR electronic journalists rather than quasi-celebrity endorsers. During and after the race, my guess is one of three scenarios will play out A) the racing will be much better, B) The racing is still truly horrid. C) Shrug; well, it couldn’t get any worse so maybe this might work given a little time. Report honestly. You don’t want to be remembered as the folks who reported G. Gordon Liddy said they were just delivering pizzas to a resident.

I’m not sure why you’d pay so much money for a property like NASCAR and then consign coverage to a network a lot of people don’t get. If you were thinking enraged NASCAR fans were going to call their cable companies to demand that NBCSN be added, you’re living in the past. People, by and large, are already enraged with their cable companies anyway. In fact the three entities that Americans are perpetually pissed off at these days are their cable companies, terrorists and the oil companies. It’s hard to find anyone with a nice thing to say about any of them. Yeah, some cable companies do offer NBCSN but usually only as on “Upper Tier” sports programming option. Lady, I don’t watch sports. I watch stock car racing! Do you really think people are going to shell out extra money for the channel? Here’s the straight scoop. Everyone I know is looking to cut their ties to cable to lower the costs to a minimum. Is NASCAR’s next TV deal with Hulu? The Bristol Night Race is going to be on NBCSN? I guess it’s like my dad used to tell me, “I bought you into this world and I can take you out of it.” Cable TV bought NASCAR to America and now ya’ll seem intent on killing it off. It’s like one of those ancient questions one of my philosopher friends used to pose: Is it better to have loved and lost or to have never loved at all and have placed a strip of duct tape over your license plates the first night you met her, pulled on a ski mask, waited until she stepped off the curb, floored it and run the b…. But I digress. He’s in treatment now. No worries.

A few more points. I see your broadcast team will be made up of Rick Allen, Jeff Burton and Steve Letarte. Before every race you need to sit the three of them down and have them recite a mantra “I am not the show. The drivers are the show. I’m just here to tell folks about the show and I could be replace by a holograph in about half a heartbeat.” That’ll inoculate them against the dreaded “DW Syndrome.” In fact, the three of them need to learn to listen to each other in the booth, another habit sadly lacking at FOX. Get one of those mechanical monkey with cymbals toys that scare the piss out of everyone, myself included. When one commentator catches another going off topic or prattling on just to hear the sound of his own voice he would then turn on the monkey and let that clanging be a warning to his booth-mate it was time to throw his jaw in neutral and put his brain in overdrive. Whoever gets the most clangs in a broadcast has to bring the monkey home for the week and sleep with it on his nightstand.

I’m surprised by the call to put Rick Allen in the booth, but hopefully he’ll do OK. I knew NBC has been looking someplace to send Brian Williams and I had my fears. And while you’re at it, could you send someone with a reputation as a straight-shooter to lead the pit reporters. I haven’t seen much of Dave DeSpain lately. Once, just once I’d like to have a pit reporter tell a driver “We can read who your sponsors are off your clown suit. Do you have an even somewhat intelligent answer to the question or should I go talk to someone else with a room-temperature IQ?”

Well that ought to be enough to get you started with, anyway. Action Items: Watch those tapes, order the monkey, and practice the mantra. Oh, and give whatever programming genius decided to air the Firecracker on a Sunday night a demotion to the mailroom before he does something else grievously boneheaded.

I’m sure the rest of my Tuesday Tea Club will have some additional suggestions for you in the comments section below. Just keep a fire extinguisher by the keyboard when you read them. I fear some of them can get a bit caustic at times. It’s the heat lately, that and the fact I haven’t tossed them an ace cub reporter to gnaw on lately. But I don’t want you to think about me that way. I’m just trying to be helpful because I’m your Internet Pal. Like any pal would, I’ll get back in touch time to time to see how you’re doing, or perhaps let you know how you’re doing. Hopefully ours can remain a cordial relationship but when it comes to bad race coverage someone needs to put a foot down, and I am that foot.

Your Internet Pal,

Matt

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Bill B

“Watching fireworks on TV is like watching a videotape of someone else having sex with your girlfriend.”

It’s lines like this that always make me look forward to reading your stuff Matt. Excellent 3 part article.

Funny how now that NASCAR has acknowledged that there is, in fact, a problem with the racing by making this big rules change announcements, all the usual shills that told us how great the racing was for the last 15 races are singing a different tune now. It’s so obvious when someone is toeing the company line.

Tim S.

Allen acquitted himself well in all the series he covered after he got a season or so of experience. Jeff Burton outside the car has never been anything but a rubber stamp for the NASCAR Way, falling all over himself to tell the fans that they don’t know what they’re watching. He has trained himself to not sound southern at all, and is the perfect choice for the talking press release that the bosses have been wishing for. I don’t know much about Letarte but the last thing we need is another Hendrick cheerleader in the booth and I hope he isn’t one.

DoninAjax

The Firecracker started at ten (in the morning). The coverage started about five to ten. It was over by about 12:30 and you headed to the beach.

The Daytona 500 started at 12:45 and the coverage started at 12:40 on CBS.

The Indy 500 used to start at noon Eastern and you could set your watch by it.

Ain’t progress wonderful.

Since your father “bought” you into the world, what was the price back then?

Greg Maness

It was the end of the world as we knew it when they moved the start time of the Firecracker 400 from 10:00 to 11:00 … then they had the audacity to no longer run on the 4th of July (unless the 4th was on a Saturday) … and THEN they REALLY killed it when they decided to run AT NIGHT … … but, worse was STILL when it was no longer the “FIRECRACKER 400” … which I saw every one live and in person from 1963 thru 1989 (yeah, sat in the Seagrave Annex wooden bleachers until 1969 when they opened that nice Fireball Roberts Grandstand — my seat was Section R, Row 13 (on the front row, actually), Seat 9 !!) … … … and the Firecracker 400 was year and year out the most (or, well close!) exciting race of the year!!

janice

hopefully there’s no one on nbc’s crew that is anywhere near like michael waltrip. this year the brotherly tension between him and dw has been historic. i swear michael is more of a sponsor shrew than the drivers. you want a laugh sometime, look at his twitter pic of his mom eating kfc on a paperplate at the house. big old kfc bucket prominently displayed, or the containers on the table. i guess kfs is his new napa and aarons.

i just realized that the firecracker is on a sunday night…….hopefully it won’t be rain delayed cause 4:30 am comes way too early. but then, typically the races have helped lull me to sleep.

wonder if nbc will have their pit reporters in firesuits to protect them against the unknown happening in a pit box?

DoninAjax

Sounds like Mikey needs some “taming.” Any volunteers? How about Billy Jack?

GinaV24

Great part III as the follow up to I and II. Here’s hoping that someone at NBC is reading this column but I doubt it. All of those big $ people think they know better than anyone else. I didn’t realize it was on Sunday night either. Guess they figured everyone would be at picnics what have you on the Fourth but as you said, most of us will be on our way home from whereever we were (the shore indeed) so we can be at work on Monday. Running the race early in the day (no matter which day they run it) would make a lot better sense than the way its been done with rain delays and heat in Florida adding more issues to the mix.

Bill B, yeah, isn’t it interesting that now the shills suddenly realized all along that “things needed to change”. Funny old world, isn’t it?

Janice, sponsor “shrew” isn’t the word I would have applied to Mikey’s ability to suck up to every company under the sun. Good thing that he’s good at something.

LH

Long time fan here — old enough to remember watching the first flag-to-flag Daytona 500 on TV.

I wouldn’t be able to watch races on the Fox/Waltrip channel if it weren’t for being able to fast forward on the DVR.

Your single biggest point, in my mind, is telling NBC to watch the old ESPN coverage — there was no such thing as DVR back then, and I still watched the entire race every weekend…I guess we can only hope NBC gets the message…

Dan

I’ve read at times comments here about the brotherly tensions between the Waltrip boys. Gotta tell ya I just don’t see it. Know why? I DVR from start to finish and watch when it’s over. Zip right through those two to avoid hearing their stupid comments. Especially Mikey’s. Is it worth listening to them to hear the brotherly tension? I would think not. Is that wrong?

Lastlap

The only problem with the Waltrip’s is that they have the same problem that NASCAR and everything and everyone surrounding NASCAR has:

Too much money, money, money involved in the sport.

Take me back to the days when Bobby Allison drove a 1965 Chevelle.

The NASCARJeff

1) If anyone says “Boogity, Boogity, Boogity” I am turning off the sound and listening to MRN/PRN.

2) Please do not put Ward Burton on as a spoiler to Jeff like Mikey is to DW.
But I don’t like the Waltrip brothers anyway

3) No Digger

4) Just don’t screw this up! FOX had a good thing going and now Mike Joy, Larry MacReynolds and DW are just going thru the motions and DW is so out of touch it is not funny… It is sad.

JohnQ

I agree with all of you. Everyone (except Fox and NASCAR) knows the coverage is horrendous. But really, the coverage is a sideshow. IT IS THE PRODUCT. Near my home there is a road sign that reads NO PASSING ZONE. I’d love to add a sticker to it that read, OFFICIAL SIGN OF NASCAR. If someone occasionally passed somebody, honestly, we could all live with the coverage.

GinaV24

Oh man, JohnQ, that would be terrific. I think you should find one and do it!

Greg Maness

You did it again, Matt. Once again you have gone and written an (fantastic three-part) article that everyone is going to swear I wrote in my sleep and then claimed I am some “Yankee Irishman” named “Matt McLaughlin” and submitted it for publication while under the influence of Coors Light! But, I digress ……….

I once again thank you for putting the words to pen and paper and “computer screen” (almost) exactly as I think them!

JOB WELL-DONE, MY FRIEND!!

— Greg Maness, “The Southern Scottish Redneck Deadhead Springsteen-er Old-car Fanatic 50-years of NASCAR Lovin’ … and a touch of Physics, too … Pabst Blue Ribbon and Belhaven Scottish Ale Drinkin’ ‘Matt McLaughlin Admirer!'”

Greg Maness

Mike … you have yourself a deal!!

Greg Maness

Mike??? … … … MATT!! MATT!! MATT!! … … I guess I was thinking of “Magic Shoes” instead of “Magic Words!” I am so sorry!!

Thumper

We can talk about the start time and the booth talent but the really, really strange fact is NASCAR and NBC’s choice of NBCSN as their TV programmer. Even big viewer numbers for NBCSN, if they happened, will prove too small for advertisers/sponsors and the slow demise of NASCAR will continue.

Steve

Overall I liked this 3 part article and agree with most of it. But I think Nascar fans need to get over the fact that races are being moved to cable tv. Nascar is not the juggernaut it used to be. In fact, it back to a niche sport status. The ratings are not anywhere near what they used to be and if a show like FOX Sports Live is getting better ratings than Cup races, why would you expect them to put all the races on network tv?

Races can be streamed on NBCSN can be streamed by anyone so you won’t miss one race. If money is an issue for people, plug your computer into your tv and watch. Or get a Roku and download the app and watch. Its not that difficult

I’m a fan of the sport, but it gets tiresome hearing nascar fans speaking of how they are entitlement to have all races on network tv. Don’t expect the networks to place them in their prime programming spots anymore when they aren’t drawing fans to watch the races.

Chris

Matt, I loved your three-part series on how NBC should cover the second half of the racing season. I don’t holdout much hope but you never know, stranger things have happened. At least I won’t hear DW yelling out “Boogity, Boogity, Boogity” so that is a plus. With your writing this series it has prompted me to take look back (on Youtube) races from the 80’s and 90’s as it seems there are some writers that accuse some of us of looking at racing from the past with rose-colored glasses. Below is a reply I posted on Matt S’s column on the topic of the Chase. I think it also is good for this column as well, (although Matt S didn’t seem to care for it maybe you will)

“Point #4: “Another successful Chase would help validate the current format”

I wasn’t aware that there had been a successful Chase using the new format.

As I write this I am watching the 1989 Goody’s 500 (Martinsville) on Youtube which should be required watching for anyone that has only followed NASCAR since around 2000 or so. I’ve been watching older races lately to see what the coverage was like then verses now in order to see if I’m remembering things with rose colored glasses (as some writers seem to feel us older fans do). Admittedly the technology is much different due to the fact that we are talking 1989 here but actually it’s quite refreshing. The only thing would’ve been nice is if they had a continuous ticker tape scrolling across the top but listening to the announcers, (Ned Jarret, Benny Parsons and Bob Jenkins) is just great. They actually cover the entire race and give updates throughout the field. I didn’t hear one nickname such as Junebug, Rowdy or Smoke. I didn’t hear the phrase “Sunoco fuel” or “Four fresh Goodyears”. What is also nice and I assume is due to the crude technology at the time is that more of the track is shown, not just a bunch of tight shots or just a shot of the leaders car.

Additionally there was a lot of passing throughout the race and even though there were quite a few cars a lap or two down you wouldn’t know it by the way that they were racing one another. You didn’t here the phrase “aero-push” once as we did at the last race at Martinsville. Drivers were not giving quarter to each other as they do now tip-toeing around one another. I know that NASCAR has added a lot of safety features throughout the last 10-15 or so years but I have to say that it was kind of neat to see cars flying into the pits (for their 20 second pit stops).

I know that we can’t stop the “progress” that has been made over the years but I have to say after watching some of the older races (pre-95, before all the big teams showed up and NASCAR went all corporate killing off small teams just like big corporations killing small businesses) the races sure did seem a lot more exciting to me.”

Joanthan

Lets be honest, Fox Sports has lowered the bar , ok, they put it in the ground, so at this rate anything NBC/SN does is going to be better than Fox Sports, and I am very much looking forward to next weekend , but who knows, after next weekend, will all could be wishing we had TNT/ESPN back,or even Fox Sports, but I doubt it.

While you are right, local channels do like to air fireworks , but Sunday is also consider primetime, Saturday night really isnt , I think the move to Sunday was to get their first race back in a prime time setting, and not fireworks, and you could of said that and it just went over my head, either way , welcome back NBC/SN, dont let us down, we need a network that will be professional with the coverage.

One more thing, when you get to track, any fluff you thought about bringing in, yeah, just dont, we are full on the fluff Fox Sports has been shoveling to us.

One more Thing again, dont talk down to us, we know really dont like that, and we know a few things about NASCAR, we dont need you telling us every week what lose is, or what wedge is , or that the engines need fuel, or the cars have four tires, because they roll better than square blocks, you get the idea.

If this has already been covered, forgive me , I have CRS.

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