by Chris Leone, Special To NASCAR commentary and driver pictures, 2012 NASCAR schedule, video, Bench Racing With Steve and Charlie
I do weekly Fantasy Pick'Em columns here at OPR, as well as the occasional opinion and analysis piece. I also provide the IZOD IndyCar Series coverage. For more on that, head to my site, OpenWheelAmerica.com. My Twitter handle is @christopherlion.February 23, 2011 4:41 pm UTC No Comments
Hey everybody. How goes it? Long time no talk, eh? I’ve been pretty busy. Not too busy to accurately predict the winner of the Daytona 500 (Twitter link to prove it), but still, college has been kicking my butt. But that’s not what we’re here to talk about. We’re here to talk racing – and how a particular network doesn’t exactly know what the hell they’re doing with it.
I give ESPN a lot of hell for the way they present their programming. Rightfully so, I think – the Worldwide Leader has gotten pretty lazy without any real competition. From stupid errors on SportsCenter to subpar NASCAR coverage, the great sports network with which I grew up is no longer so great, and its on-air “talent” seems to embody that term less and less.
Consider Monday’s episode of “Around the Horn,” where its four panelists attempted to discuss Trevor Bayne‘s miraculous Daytona 500 win. Save Tim Cowlishaw, who actually writes on the sport, the other three panelists – J.A. Adande, Woody Paige, and Kevin Blackistone – basically panned, in ignorance, what it took for the young driver (younger than me, even – damn, I feel old) to take his first career victory on the sport’s biggest stage.
And I’ll be damned if I don’t call them out on it.
No, it’s not a good idea to get sports journalists to write on sports they don’t really know (I have some basketball articles that I’ve written if you question that assertion). I understand that ATH is designed to deal with all the big stories in sports, and thus save for Daytona, Indianapolis, and the Chase, NASCAR doesn’t get too much love. Fine. But is it too much to ask for the panelists to do five minutes’ worth of research before the show?
We’ll spare Cowlishaw from this discussion; he knows his stuff. Paige and Blackistone do not.
When asked by host Tony Reali about the race, Paige decried the two-car tandems that dominated throughout Speedweeks. Are they the ideal? Nah. Did they add something fresh and interesting to the race, though? Yes. Yes they did. I’m often like Paige, in that I often cry for things to go back to the way they were – particularly in 1998 or so – but this wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. Judging by how the drivers reacted, restrictor plate racing was at its most harrowing and challenging all month. And that’s what we want, isn’t it?
Blackistone’s accusations are far more unforgivable. He drew a comparison to a speed-skating race from a past Olympics, where one skater said he’d just hang out in the back and wait until the end of the event, once everybody else had crashed out, and take the victory.
News flash, “Professor Blackistone.” You need a little re-education in the facts.
Let’s look at the data, shall we? Trevor Bayne was the third-fastest car in preliminary qualifying for the Daytona 500. He only started 32nd due to a last-lap wreck in his Gatorade Duel. He spent 135 laps in the top 15, eighth best among his competitors. His driver rating of 108.2 was fourth best. His pass differential of +48 was second only to David Ragan’s +61, and if not for jumping a lane change on a late restart, they might have finished 1-2.
I understand that Bayne only led six laps of 208, but he was there all day and everybody knew it. Nobody wrecked in front of him like Blackistone insinuated, either; the wrecks were, almost universally, behind him. He got to the front right away and stayed there all day. Can’t help it if people wreck behind you.
This is the problem with ESPN in general. Nobody knows what the **** they’re talking about anymore, and the network often doesn’t care, employing a series of idiots for the sake of over-the-top debate. And the lower down the totem pole your sport is, the worse their errors are. (I won’t be surprised if they call the Indianapolis 500 a NASCAR race this year.) Now that ESPNEWS has basically been consolidated to a 30-minute loop of college basketball highlights, the “entertainment” notion has all but taken over completely. And as long as they’re handling NASCAR, the coverage is going to be a joke. I hate to say this, but give me Digger, or give me death.
That’s all I got for now, folks. Once college slows down the fantasy column will be back. See y’all then.