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The Daly Planet

Various Other Articles

Harder Than You Think
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By Dave Clark | 06/06/2016
Category: Various Other Articles

In this day of social media, the common man has greater access and opportunity to share his thoughts and opinions with the world. From a computer, phone, or tablet, a person can thrust his wisdom or mental vomit upon a wide-scale audience. Suddenly, people who know nothing but think they know something have a platform, and they are using it to its fullest capacity. In this society, we are lightning fast to point out the faults of others, while at the same time, we expect grace anytime we stumble.
Following the Coca Cola 600 last week, I was perusing Twitter, Facebook and the web for reactions to the race. What I found was a whole lot of hate being spread around. Hate for the race itself, the winning driver and the TV coverage. It’s the latter that I want to address here. Let me be perfectly upfront here -- I am a broadcaster. For the past 29 years I have made my living in broadcast media. Yes, I am standing up for my fellow broadcasters, because it’s HARDER THAN YOU THINK!

While the primary focus of my career has been music radio, over the years I have been a news reporter, news director, and play-by-play anchor for football, basketball, and baseball.
I was taken aback by the attacks on booth anchor Mike Joy, and in particular, a misread of a soldier’s bio. He simply misread the years included in the script. I've read thousands of newscasts, commercial scripts, and promotional announcements in my life. God forbid someone should point-out every time I skipped a word, missed a pronunciation, or got a number backwards.  I would have been institutionalized twenty years ago. Mike is a treasure in the racing media world. His years of experience, encyclopedic knowledge of the sport and amazing memory would be nearly impossible to replace. In addition, he does a masterful job in quarterbacking the coverage. Take it from someone who has been the lead in a three-person ensemble show -- IT’S HARDER THAN YOU THINK! 
Week after week, I read the moans and gripes about Darrell Waltrip. OK, let’s face it, he's goofy and corny at times, even annoying at certain moments. Don’t forget however, that Darrell is also an icon in this sport. Other than Richard Petty, there’s not another living soul who has earned the benefit of the doubt more than Waltrip. As the old saying goes, he has forgotten more about racing than most people will ever know. Many times I have found his insight to be right on the money.
The haters would be remiss if they were to forget the newcomer to the Fox booth, Jeff Gordon. I think he's made an incredible transition from the car to the booth. Imagine quitting your job, jumping into a totally different career field, and having thousands of people watch you do it every week! He has far exceeded my expectations for a first-year broadcaster. My only gripe about Jeff is he has a habit of making excuses for drivers who make mistakes. It really is OK to point out a bone-headed move and do it in a kind and professional way. I have actually enjoyed the back-and-forth between Gordon and Waltrip. It’s entertaining and shows how two people with similar experiences can view a situation in very different ways. It would be boring if they just agreed with each other. Being a rookie in the booth, yeah -- IT’S HARDER THAN YOU THINK!
Finally, I read some tweets this week very critical of the production crew. There were complaints about missed shots, camera work and the like. The truth is, they do a pretty stellar job week-in and week-out. NASCAR coverage generally has more cameras, more audio, and more talent than just about any other sporting event, other than the Olympics. First of all, the “playing field” dwarfs the surface in any other mainstream sport, hands down. In Kansas for example, you could fit the Chiefs Football Stadium, Kaufman Field and two other professional sports venues just in the infield. The place is huge and to cover it with cameras is a monumental task. Then there’s the talent: three guys in the booth (Mike, Jeff, and Darrell), four pit reporters (Matt, Jamie, Vince, and Chris), two guys at the main anchor desk (Chris and Michael), and the car expert (Larry). That’s a lot of people who all get camera time. Add in hundreds of graphics, commercial breaks, sponsored features and a million other little things, and you have a monumental broadcast. IT’S WAY HARDER THAN YOU THINK! 

Oh, and by the way, all of it is mobile.  Each piece of equipment is torn down, packed away and reassembled each week. Fox does it all pretty seamlessly.  
Of course there are always opportunities for improvement, and in a competitive field like broadcasting it’s not bad to have weaknesses pointed out. My biggest beef is the vitriol with which these “constructive criticisms” are doled out. The problem with every arm-chair broadcaster is they think they know better than the pros. It’s sort of like telling Clayton Kershaw how to throw a fastball or Carson Palmer how to throw a spiral. It’s cool to have an opinion and cool to share it, but perhaps before you hit send, ask yourself: are you pointing out something that could be done better or are you just spewing minutia because you can?



a different Bill
06/06/2016 4:49 am (1)
"My only gripe about Jeff is he has a habit of making excuses for drivers who make mistakes. It really is OK to point out a bone-headed move and do it in a kind and professional way. "

To be fair, during his career as a driver it was a rare thing to hear Jeff Gordon get out of a wrecked car and say "That guy was just an idiot!" When he did it was always well desserved. More often than not he would say "He must have had a tire going down." or "He must have gotten a bit loose." when a wreck was another driver's fault. That really hasn't changed at all with his move to the booth.
06/06/2016 9:33 am (2)
Week after week, keeping my fingers off the keyboard IS HARDER THAN YOU THINK!
Bill B
06/06/2016 1:58 pm (3)
I'm sure being president is hard too but criticism comes with the job.
06/07/2016 11:53 am (4)
Nice writeup Carol, I know its harder than you
think, my best friend Pony whom I've known for 38yrs is the upper deck front stretch camera, its art in motion week after week with no break, they do a heckofa job!
Regarding the icon, well, those of us who have watched for decades remembering the professionalism of the Ned Jarretts, Benny Parsons, Neil Bonnetts, sorry, he and his brother need to fully retire and go fishing, neither one gets it, and I'm sure they can find someone for the booth that Jeff can banter with. Happy Tuesday!
06/07/2016 5:50 pm (5)
Article was written by Dave Clark, not me.
06/07/2016 5:55 pm (6)
Dave, simply because a man is an icon in a sport doesn't mean that he meets expectations of today's racing. Get so tired of the BBB, loose wheel, etc. Time to get fresh blood in the booth and someone that will not be beholden to NASCAR on all accounts. I understand that Darrell earned his way to the booth but sometimes changes need to be made to make the product better and IMHO, this is one of those times. No one is irreplaceable, not even Darrell. BTW, you didn't even mention Mike who Carol just skewered last week and deservedly so.
06/08/2016 4:15 pm (7)
You make a good point that it is "harder than you think". You also make a good point that it's unfair to criticize someone (like Mike Joy) for scrambling up a prepared text - mistakes happen.

But the counterpart to that is that FOX has been broadcasting NASCAR for 15 years now, with essentially the same crew. The producers and the talent should be getting better at it - and they're not. If anything, the quality of the broadcasts has declined over the years.

One could argue about the reason for that - too much fascination with gimmicks like Digger & "crank it up"? Too many cameras and voices to keep it straight? Just don't care if they're doing a good job or not (this has seemed to be the case in the past couple of years)?

Hard or not, the job is not as well done as it could be, or as well as the competition does (Memorial Day gave us a head to head to head comparison, with ESPN/ABC clearly being the best broadcast). Much of the criticism is constructive, and is justified...and doesn't appear to be listened to.


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