Blog Entry

Idle Thoughts: Good news is no news

Posted on: March 8, 2011 3:19 pm
Edited on: March 8, 2011 9:16 pm
By Pete Pistone

We’re three weeks into the 2011 NASCAR season and there is no denying things are on an upswing in big league stock car racing.

A memorable Daytona 500 with a fresh faced first time winner, one of the sport’s most popular and best known drivers ending a 66-race losing streak in Phoenix and a solid candidate to unseat Jimmie Johnson as this year’s champion winning in Las Vegas have given NASCAR a trio of compelling story lines to start the season.

The on-track product has been quite good and despite a sedate opening half to last week’s Vegas race, overall competition and racing has been excellent.

Attendance has also been very strong in the opening weeks of the season with sell-outs reported in both Phoenix and Vegas and Daytona drawing an announced crowd of 183,000.

And television ratings, which were down 13 percent overall last season and dropped significantly during the Chase, are way up in 2011 with all three races drawing much larger audiences than last year.

However the headlines around the sport have been about anything but these upbeat trends going on.

Rather one of the biggest stories so far this season focused on a reporter being fired for clapping in the press box. Next came an alleged fight between Robby Gordon and Kevin Conway that outside of the two combatants doesn’t appear to have been witnessed by anyone. And the icing on the cake was delivered in the form of some fan unrest over FOX analyst Darrell Waltrip getting a two-year contract extension?

Obviously the Charlie Sheen -ization of the world has invaded NASCAR.

It’s very apparent that to some sitting behind a keyboard or a microphone and spewing constant negativity is a much easier task than reporting the facts. Now that the tide has turned somewhat in NASCAR at least in the early part of 2011 after an admittedly rocky year on several fronts, those who would rather nit pick what’s wrong with the sport are left to sift through the scraps.

So in turn items like debating the ethics of cheering in a press box or a police report being filed in the aftermath of two second tier drivers (who have a business beef with each other) scrapping in the garage area suddenly becomes front page news.

It’s not my job or anyone who works in the media to be a cheerleader for NASCAR. You have to report warts and all when one’s job is to be the objective eyes and ears of fans and those who are interested in the sport.

I have the opportunity to go outside the realm of simply reporting and provide commentary as well in the form of opinion pieces and columns like this one at CBS in addition to co-hosting “The Morning Drive” on Sirius NASCAR Radio.

But in both those roles I believe there should be a sense of fairness in either criticism or praise.

It is interesting to me that others both in the press as well as some fans conveniently ignore a positive story when it presents itself, choosing rather to latch onto more sensational headlines.

The discussion about television coverage is one that really gets under my skin in the unfairness department.

It’s true that in terms of ratings NASCAR has benefitted from good stories and solid competition as well as having it pretty open on the television stage. There are no Winter Olympics to compete with this season and except for some regional college basketball, an NBA game or two and golf; Sunday afternoons aren’t jam packed with sports viewing options right now.

That will change in the coming weeks with the NCAA tournament, NBA and NHL playoffs, baseball’s opening weekend, The Masters, etc.

But the reality is that for whatever the reasons, more people are watching again this year, which would contradict the theory some “experts” and fans have that the NASCAR television product is unwatchable.

To listen to some, you’d think FOX, TNT and ESPN position one camera on top of the grandstands at a racetrack and just turn it on when the green flag flies and switch it off when the race ends. There are blogs that dissect every race telecast down to its most microscopic minutiae to point out everything from camera angles being too wide or tight, pit stop shots bungled, not showing every car crossing the finish line, announcers occasionally misspeaking or telecasts going to – gasp – a commercial break.

Running times are calculated between commercial breaks and minutes spent on various topics, exposure for different drivers and cars and even how many sponsor mentions are given get tallied up every week.

And as for the people working as announcers, reporters or analysts, for the most part this group of disenchanted viewers wouldn’t want them behind a microphone if they were taking orders at Taco Bell.

Fair enough and these folks are entitled to their opinion. It’s not one I personally share nor do I believe was ever a reason people weren’t watching NASCAR race telecasts in the first place.

Television sports has a laundry list of polarizing commentators and controversial announcers including Howard Cosell, Dick Vitale, John Madden, Billy Packer, Johnny Miller, Tim McCarver and yes even Darell Waltrip and Rusty Wallace .

But if you are a fan of any particular sport would you not watch a game or race you love because of a dislike for announcers? Trust me, I’m not a fan of everyone who broadcasts sports on television and there are some guys (and women) I like more than others. However you can count me among the group that wouldn’t miss an event I’m interested in watching simply because of the announcers and commentators.

I don’t buy that it’s a reason NASCAR’s ratings have suffered in recent years.

The people that have these jobs in NASCAR are grown-ups and understand taking some heat is part of the job. But some of the criticism in my mind goes beyond constructive and has become quite personal as well as unprofessional in my opinion.

Here’s the bottom line for me. People watch and follow sports for one reason (NASCAR included) and one reason only – to be entertained. The second a game or race loses that, whether on television or in person, is the time when people tune-out, lose interest and find something else to occupy their busy lives.

It’s only been three races and there is still a long season ahead. But so far this year I think NASCAR has been very entertaining and judging by the uptick in television viewers and ticket sales, many others agree.

Shouldn’t that be a story to receive its fair share of coverage?


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Category: Auto Racing

Since: Oct 11, 2008
Posted on: March 10, 2011 4:48 pm

Idle Thoughts: Good news is no news

Thats why his Nick Name back in the day was JAWS!!!!!!!!!!!YOU GO D W LOVE YA

Since: Jan 7, 2007
Posted on: March 9, 2011 7:01 pm

Idle Thoughts: Good news is no news

I don't really mind having DW announce races.  He gets a little carried away every now and then.  For Crusty Wallace, I never liked him as a driver, and I don't like him as an announcer.  On the subject of announcers, I have muted a Colts game a few times and listened to it on the radio while watching on TV before.  The reason is I just can't stand Dan Dierdork.  I really wish CBS would fire him, but I don't think I can get that lucky.  It sucks listening on the radio while watching TV since the radio is 3 or 4 seconds ahead of TV.

Since: Jan 20, 2010
Posted on: March 9, 2011 2:56 pm

Idle Thoughts: Good news is no news

I appreciate all your comments and reading articles, features, posts and columns here. Feel free to send away any specific questions as well for our weekly mail bag which will run every Thursday.
Thanks again all!

Since: Aug 15, 2006
Posted on: March 9, 2011 12:13 pm

Idle Thoughts: Good news is no news

One more thing Pete,  It would be nice to see you comment on some of the post here.  It would show us that yes you read our comments as we read yours and comment.  Explain why you can or can't do some things.  It would make things more interesting.

Since: Aug 15, 2006
Posted on: March 9, 2011 12:11 pm

Idle Thoughts: Good news is no news

Pete - very good article and I enjoyed it.  People don't like certain announcers because of their success in the past,  Who they were successful against etc.  The crap about DW and Michael is just that crap.  If I have a complaint about DW it is his love for Hendrick Motorsports especially the way Rick dumped him after 1992. Telling DW he had to develop his own engines.  But that is neither hear or there.  I'm not a Rusty fan because I didn't like him as a Driver, I know that but I still get on him from time to time.

What I'd like to see more from reporters like you is getting into NASCAR's face and making them explain things down to the last detail.  Such as why was Robby put on Probation and Kevin Conway wasn't?  Make NASCAR explain to the fans the difference between Robby and Kevin vs Jeff Gordon and Jeff Burton last year?  Make NASCAR explain why they stated Clint Bowyers car was not legal after Richmond and nothing was done, but that is was so close after the New Hampshire win that 150 points were taken?  Take those 150 points away after Richmond and Ryan Newman would have been in the chase. 

That is one of my two problems with Reporters they allow NASCAR to slide on a lot of major issues and that shouldn't be.  The other is the love fest for Dale Earnhardt Jr.  I understand that Junior is the most popular driver but dammit, the sport will survive without him winning another race, the sport will survive when he retires and believe it or not a lot of his problems are his, not others.  No one said in 1989 when DW was the most popular driver that if he didn't win races the sport would collaspe nor was he the center of attention during every race.  And he was a 3 time champion.

No one said anything about Bill Elliott not winning or have a rough year when he was voted most popular driver for how many years?  The reporters never even suggested that when Dale Earnhardt Sr. was alive that the sport would die when he retired. And when he died...the sport went on.  Same will happen with Junior so why the fuss.  He hasn't done a thing the past 3 years to really go gaga over like you and the rest of the reporters do.  When he becomes a force to recon with again like he was in 2004 then I can understand the articles, but now it is just one more thing to show that you guys have nothing to do and since you won't ask NASCAR the hard questions you dally up to the most popular driver so you can keep a job.  Report on those who deserve the articles please.  Right now that would be JJ, Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, and Kevin Harvick.  Plus this year, Paul Menard, AJ Allmendinger and yes Martin Truex Jr. all three who are in the top 10 and running strong this season.

Since: Mar 13, 2009
Posted on: March 9, 2011 11:06 am

Idle Thoughts: Good news is no news

What hurt NASCAR in the last five years is the crowning of the same champion.  No offense to Jimmy Johnson, but had this racing series developed another points winner besides the number 48 car more viewers would have stuck around.  There is nothing more boring than seeing the same champion over and over.  The ruination of NASCAR was implementing the points system which utilized the chase.  We would have seen Jeff Gordon win his fifth title, Tony Stewart another, and maybe Kevin Harvick as well win one had we still had the 'old point system.  Instead, those who were leading at the time of the final ten races were to begin faded because of not having won and therefore not being awarded bonus points.  Now we have another new point system which will be worse in my view and again de-legitamize true champions.  Go back to the old system, get rid of the chase, and see your fan base grow even more.

Since: Feb 27, 2011
Posted on: March 9, 2011 11:05 am

Idle Thoughts: Good news is no news

For me it's simple... I enjoy watching the races more when DW is splaining all the coopitition between the drivers. He's genuine and fair in what he says on the air. And he makes me laugh.

Since: Apr 5, 2007
Posted on: March 9, 2011 10:37 am

Idle Thoughts: Good news is no news

DW is awesome.  He plays it light and breezy, doesn't talk down to his audience, and has a NASCAR racing resume that's as impressive as anyone possible.  So he's a goofy character, too.  To me it doesn't take away from his insight and credibility, both of which he has in abundance.

Since: Oct 7, 2010
Posted on: March 9, 2011 10:03 am

Idle Thoughts: Good news is no news

DW is a terrible announcer!  All he does on there is make excuses for his brother because he is a terrible driver.

Since: Nov 14, 2006
Posted on: March 9, 2011 8:31 am

Idle Thoughts: Good news is no news

I like DW. He's not afraid to say what he's thinkin' and he puts things in an interesting perspective. He is the most entertaining announcer in the sport, so I guess he's doing his job. I could see how he would rub some people the wrong way, but at least he's not boring...

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