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.August 2, 2009 12:42 pm UTC 7 Comments
This week’s race at Pocono marks the second week of ESPN/ABC‘s Sprint Cup coverage for the year. ESPN is probably the most criticized of NASCAR’s broadcasting partners, with Rusty Wallace, Brad Daugherty, and Tim Brewer often taking a lot of heat.
There are also calls to put Allen Bestwick back in the commentary booth and move Dr. Jerry Punch back down to pit road, “where he belongs.” (That’s in no way a sleight against Dr. Punch; many simply feel that he was one of the best pit reporters in the business, and that he ought to return to the job that made him one of the most well-respected NASCAR broadcasters of the 1990s.)
But I’ve got a different gripe with ESPN’s coverage of the sport.
Here is ESPN’s schedule page for the Sprint Cup Series. Notice that the races go by their actual names in only a few instances. Instead, they often go by “NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at (insert track here) presented by (insert sponsor here).” The Nationwide Series page is the same way.
The Camping World Truck Series page, however, is quite different. In all instances, the races are listed with their official names and presenting sponsors.
Why the discrepancy? ESPN and ABC show Sprint Cup and Nationwide races, but not Camping World races. They don’t care about presenting the names of truck races in a factual manner… but with the other two major series, somebody obviously saw a money-grubbing opportunity to sell more advertising space on the telecast while circumventing the official race sponsors – unless they pony up to ESPN as well.
Robbing the race title sponsors of TV time – one of the most important factors in a company’s decision to pay millions of dollars to sponsor a race – is not just only an instance of questionable ethics on ESPN’s part, it’s also factually incorrect reporting. As a news site, and occasionally a news channel, ESPN has an obligation to present the facts about sporting events, and that includes the name of an event. In ESPN’s eyes, Tony Stewart wouldn’t have won the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona, as presented above – he’d have won the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Daytona presented by Pennzoil or something. That’s revisionist history, and that’s a problem.
It’d be like calling the Super Bowl broadcast “NFL Football presented by GoDaddy.com,” and preceding to only refer to the event as such on their website. Something sound wrong about that to you?
It’ll also be interesting to see if one of the final 17 races of the Sprint Cup season becomes sponsored by a company that wants to change the race length (e.g. the Shelby 427 at Las Vegas or the Lenox Tools 301 at New Hampshire). How will ESPN handle the lap change – will they reference it in passing on the broadcast without explaining it, or will they entice the race sponsor to pay extra to see its name on TV?
Either way, ESPN’s policy of holding out from race presenting sponsors needs to come to an end. I’m sure that if I paid millions of dollars to become title sponsor of a race, I’d be fuming. Have a little integrity, ESPN. Just a thought.
Enjoy today’s Sunoco Red Cross 500 at Pennsylvania – I mean, today’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Pocono presented by Old Spice.