If you have been a race fan for a while, you probably remember the web site The Daly Planet hosted by John Daly. Lovingly referred to by fans as TDP, the site provided news, background, insights into NASCAR broadcasts. More importantly, it was a critical safety valve for fans to unload their ever growing frustrations with how races were being broadcast. TDP also gave fans a forum for positive, constructive comments on how to improve broadcasts and make them more tolerable. Unfortunately, they fell on deaf ears.
In May 2009, facing declining viewership numbers and increasing criticisms, Chairman and CEO of FOX Sports, David Hill suddenly decided that he now wanted fan input.
The following is my light-heartedly attempt to present to him through TDP what I thought about the way his outfit broadcast races by imagining what it would be like if it had been FOX and not NBC who had broadcast the Kentucky Derby. The Derby had just been run earlier that week with 50-1 Mine That Bird coming from last to first in one of the greatest upsets in the 135 years of the Derby to win the "Greatest Two Minutes in Sports."
Read on to find out what was posted on TDP...
IF FOX COVERED THE KY DERBY...
I realize that that Richmond and the Kentucky Derby are two vastly different events, but based on their past NASCAR performance if FOX had done the Derby…
The "Call to the Post" would have been replaced with the song, "Let's Go Racin' Boys"
The start of the race would have been missed… they'd be in commercial.
"And they're off" would have been replaced with "Boogity, Boogity, Boogity"
The wide angle out of the starting gate shot, which shows all the initial fight for position would have been shown instead by Digger cam.
FOX would immediately go to replay of all the bumping between horses out of the gate. Larry Mac would attribute it to aero push and immediately show a horsey graphic (with Digger as jockey) and Draft Tracker to explain the term "push."
DW would have chimed in with "Rubbin's racing" and that the sanctioning body has been working hard on the problem and it should be eliminated by next year's "Run for the Roses" with the unveiling of the new HOT - "Horse of Tomorrow." An ugly nag, handles like a Clydesdale (no offense to Clydesdales), hard to ride and their racing sucks, but they are safe and if racing is to continue this is what we have to go with.
Tight focus on the pre-race predetermined broadcast favorites would be the norm… if and when any actual racing was shown. There is nothing like showing close-up after close-up of a galloping thoroughbred's flaring nostrils to show you just how the race is developing.
DW would compliment the favorite on their setup as they can hold it down on the yellow line… I mean rail, and reminisce about the last time he raced on dirt… "I was racing for PB Crowell back then…"
As they round the first turn, the broadcast turns to Jeff Hammond, who would go to the "Farm Bureau cut-away horse and jockey" and explain "now this is a saddle"
Halfway down the backstretch the "If the race ended now" graphic would appear, followed by a "Wolverine" movie trailer.
Scoring crawler changes to show interval behind the leader… of course that was based on the scoring loop at the end of the frontstretch.
As they enter the far turn, its two horses on the screen, the only two horses who have been shown since they entered turn two… never mind they are mired in the pack and not making a move… they were the production favorites.
Behind a screen full of graphics and out of view from the tight shots, Mine That Bird's phenomenal weaving drive from last to first begins. Of course, without HOTPASS ($10 per race) you'd never know it.
The traditional "and here they come" call down the home stretch is drowned out by the AFLAC trivia question. The race is only a little over two minutes long and FOX has to get that in.
That would have been followed by DW's eerie silence. Unable to find NAPA or Toyota logos on any of the 19 riders' silks and knowing that Mikey is just too darn big to get on one of those horses, he's left speechless.
As they are coming to the line, it is nothing but nostrils until Larry Mac screams "Where did he come from" and FOX is forced to cut from the tight shot of their favorites to show Mine That Bird crossing the finish line ahead of the field. How he got there… who knows? It’s clearly obvious this finish wasn't in the production script.
The photo finish for second place or beyond would not have been shown, but we would get a live close-up of all the members or MTBs crew jumping up and down (except for the trainer, Chip Woolley, Jr. as he was on crutches).
Any showing of the little gelding's incredible race would have been totally inadvertent and his pass of the favorites would have just been a flash in the background.
The scoring crawler would have shown Mine That Bird last until after he crossed the line because that's the position he was in at the last scoring loop. Never mind that the information is totally irrelevant and outdated and who cares that it blocks too much screen and the motion detracts from the action shown… it’s just a really neat graphic.
The jockey's emotional display during the cool-down… ah, we'd already have gone to commercial.
Forget aerial shots and isolation cameras supporting the post-race analysis of the win; it would have been done instead by Digger cam. It’s your fault if you can't tell the horses by their hooves.
Trophy presentation ceremony has long since passed when FOX returns from its 17-commercial block before signing off the air. No time for interviews or replays, we have "Simpson" reruns to go to.
In the broadcast crew's parting shots we'd hear Joy remark how great a race it was, Larry Mac comment that it was all setup that led to the win and DW… well, he knew the little horse was going to do it all along.
As the credits roll, it’s on to Baltimore and the Preakness… with Digger in the bottom left, wearing his own blanket of roses.
And FOX wonders why the ratings keep going down.
So why dust off an old post, make it into an article and post it today?
Well, that was 2009 and now eight years later, to me really little has changed and a lot has changed. TDP as we knew and loved it is now gone. John closed the site and can now be found on Twitter commenting on racing as well as a wide variety of non-racing topics. It was a great loss to this fan and I'm sure many others when he made his decision to shut the site down as another means for fans to be heard was gone.
Lesser changes include David Hill and Digger are now gone, but their impacts continue on. Rarely a week goes by that I don't stumble across a disgruntled fan continuing to call out the pesky rodent as one of the reasons they no longer watch racing at the frequency they did before FOX entered the race broadcast scene. Larry Mac is no longer the third in the booth, replaced by Jeff Gordon. Jeff Hammond has dropped off the radar, replaced by Waltrip the younger. Use of the Turn Cam has been cut down significantly and the shilling by the booth has seemed to back off a notch or two as well.
Beyond that, not much has changed as far as I can see. The Race is still secondary to Booth entertainment and for whatever reason there still seem to be difficulties for FOX in smoothly presenting the Race as it unfolds. Today's race coverage has only slightly improved over the description written above. The crawler is still there, presenting its outdated info and the illusion of action. The camera work is marginally better and the Booth is still the Booth.
In closing, I have a mixture of emotions on this subject. I am sad that more than eight years have elapsed and the much needed changes, many posted on TDP by new and experienced viewers alike, have not taken place; disappointed that coverage can't be the best it could be; frustrated that trying to watch a race can be so difficult and many Race Days it's easier turn it off than to keep it on; embarrassed to admit that MUTE and CLOSED CAPTIONING are becoming the most used buttons on my remote followed by CHANNEL CHANGE and OFF; defiant in refusing to use outside "aids" or sources to make the Broadcast understandable - if you can't cover the race with all the technology you have available maybe you should be in another business... and finally hopeful that maybe, just maybe, improvement is coming and coming soon.
Most of all, I'm thankful; thankful that NASCAR on FOX only covers auto racing and does not do the Kentucky Derby.