FEEDBACK FRIDAY – UP FRONT: THE TROUBLE WITH ESPN
I completely agree with all that you have said about the espn2 coverage of the "John Force Show." I appreciate all the interest the Force team has brought to drag racing, but the coverage is too far over the top. I have another problem with the espn2 coverage, however. Since the NHRA has achieved recognition for the diversity within the sport, why isn't that diversity mirrored in the broadcast team from ESPN. Does ESPN have no Hispanic, no female, no under 30, lno African Americans on their broadcast team? If the sponsors of the cars recognize the need to reach the next generation, (requesting younger drivers for their cars), then wouldn't it make sense to have people who do the interviews be within a decade or two of the drivers they are interviewing?
I have chosen to watch very little of the broadcast this year, and when I do, I fast-forward through all the talk and interviews. - Charles Hail
This article brings to light what I believe most Drag Racing fans feel, the coverage is terrible. Aside from the networks obviously un-impartial coverage of JFR and DSR, the real issues are these:
1)Paul Page is terrible, I understand his background in the motorsports arena is deep and prestigious, but he doesn't fit for Drag Racing. He pronounces the names wrong, seems very aloof more often than not, and makes obvious mistakes that his partner Mike Dunn does a valiant job of covering up.
2) The production of the show does not flow like a Nationally televised event on a major network, it appears more like a Tractor Pull at a state fair. How many times are they in the middle of interviewing a Fuel driver when they pan back to the track action in just enough time to spit out the names of the 2 PS drivers about to leave the line in a very disrespectful "Oh by the way, also running" type of way.
You have to show 45 7-second passes in a 3 hour show, how can there not be enough time to show them all? What this really does is neglects to talk about what makes the whole circus go ... sponsors.
The entire run should be shown, from burnout to turn off. In that format you can still have the commentary that is necessary, while also mentioning the words "Castrol, FRAM, Matco Tools" etc. One thing the NASCAR broadcast seems to understand is that the sponsors need to be mentioned as much as the drivers, but in a way to link the two names together so that the name "Lowes" becomes synonymous with Jimmie Johnson for example.
ESPN does a poor job of promoting the brands that essentially pay their bills as well, both the Sponsor names and the Drivers as well. Overall, I would prefer to watch the show on mute as to not be annoyed. Drag Racing is BY FAR the most impressive motorsport going, and it desperately needs a platform that is more organized and professional to correctly promote and build the sport. - Greg Daw
I just read Jon's report on the way espn2 does there coverage of the shows. Most people think Force pays someone to get his share of ink. John is the champ, but lets move on and give the smaller teams some airtime and help them get sponsors.
I have known Jon Asher for 40 years and raced against him and the Jade Grenade and he tells it like it is. Maybe they should put him in the booth with Mike Dunn. Now that would sure help the ratings. - Fred Frey
Gee thanks Fred. Now he's going to be asking for a raise when he reads this. - Editor
I agree that John Force gets way too much coverage. I, like you, have a great deal of respect for John and all he has accomplished, but the sport needs to promote others as well. Maybe there would be more corporate sponsors available if they knew their teams would get some decent TV exposure.
They could also increase the number of people watching on TV if the program ended at a more reasonable time. How are we going to generate new fans if their parents are making them go to bed before the race is over? I also think attendence at the races would increase if they sold tickets at a more affordable price.
ESPN also needs to do a better job of broadcasting the sound of the fuel cars. I hope Mike Dunn and Paul Page aren't being dropped.
Thanks for allowing my input. - Sam Cohn
We all know Full Throttle has the final say on the broadcast.
There's no reason why it takes longer for ESPN2 to air the first round compared to being there in person. The painstakingly long time it takes keeps me from watching it.
Anyways, if it were really about the racing we would have the luxury of seeing the sportsman finals as well.
I guess only in a perfect world. - James Boos
Jon, I think you're mostly right-on. Force does get the lion's share of coverage, but ... he does attract a lot of attention. And that can't be ignored by ESPN or NHRA.
As a viewer, I am tired of feeling another driver has been force-fed to me, Matt Hagen. It doesn't matter how anyone else is doing, we've got to see and hear what Matt thinks. Ugh!
However, I have two bigger complaints:
First, drag racing coverage is still treated as second-best. Ask the question, "Are you tired of having your race day coverage bumped by other sports?" and you'll probably get an earfull Don't get me wrong, I am appreciative of the coverage, but I think we deserve better.
Second, and especially during qualifying coverage, we never get to see the less-funded teams. Many times, there is a TON more human interest potential in the "little guy" trying to attract (or keep) a sponsor, or who races with family and friends, or who is just getting started. What a boost some national TV coverage would be, even if he or she didn't qualify. But no, we get to see 20 different views of a higher-qualified car ... and the non-fuel classes barely are shown at all.
I guess I have a third point. I'm sure Paul Page is a nice guy, but he is an awful drag racing commentator. He stumbles, gives out wrong information, and seems just "off" many times. How are we, as a sport, going to get any "cred" if the announcer can't get it right? You mention that there may be a shake-up next year... I hope it isn't toward a professional wrestling-style, rock and roll-based or tattoo'd, pierced, etc. style. We need mainstream guys (Marty Reed was so good!) who are nice, "average," knowledgable, personalble, etc. Just not Paul. (Mike Dunn does an awesome job, by the way.)
Thanks for the opportunity to give my two cents worth! - Mike Kelleher
I'm glad I'm a Force fan, but Ive seen bout all of that "scooter" I can stand. espn2 also will put anything ahead of the drag racing, baseball ... volleyball ... women's basketball ... anything and then it's always the drags that get cut or time moved. SAD. - Bill Mason
Kudos to Jon for another fine article. When I was a kid, Big Daddy got me fascinated with drag racing even though we rarely got to see much racing on TV. As the years went by, I drifted away and then John Force pulled me back in and I felt like a kid again. I'm a JFR fan, not just John but all the drivers but I know we were approaching overload and I'm glad to see this year it has gotten better.
Depending on whether you like him or not, it was too much of a good/bad thing. Just a thing. I'll be the first to agree, espn2/NHRA needs to get their act together. It's as if they don't want to grow the sport. They need to realize, even though the fan base may be much smaller than other motorsports, it is still a good building block, not a rock to kick down the road. I get the impression from the article there will be changes coming in the broadcasts. I hope so and I hope it is for the better. Not going to mention names but things need to change. That being said, thanks to Jon for another fantastic article and thanks to Competition Plus and Attitude Apparel for this website. - Dennis Shahan
Wow!! This is as good (and as well written) an article as I have ever read on ANY subject. Guess ESPN has gotten themselves in a real rut. And it happened so slowly over so many years that I didn't realize it until you pointed it out.
For many years, I have wondered why the overall popularity of NHRA drag racing is decreasing. This biased, unbalanced coverage is no doubt contributory. Maybe it would help if ESPN would toss in some coverage of the non-professional cars. You know, show some grass roots enthusiasts' cars that don't require $5 million a year to run. This could help restore some fan/car brand identification. - Eddie Dean
I agree wholeheartedly!
I am a fan of John Force and JFR. He/they do get alot of air time much more than any other drive(s)It seems there is a feature from his Cali shop or his Indy shop on every show. We never see a Pro Stock shop or a prostock builders shop. I am more of a prostock guy than a nitro guy and it is evident that espn2 is the total opposite. If I see 3 rounds of prostock other than highlights I count myself fortunate.
I also think a change behind the mic would be good. Paige and Dunn are just OK. They dont bring a whole lot to the show that say ... John Kernan could bring (I know Dunn drove). Paige needs to go back to Indy cars.I could never figure out how he got that NHRA gig in the first place.
I sure hope they get it straightened out. - Gregg Wilkens
I couldn't agree more Jon. I've contacted ESPN & NHRA about the John Force issue and it fell on deaf ears. It's not the Force racing league! And all his daughters getting TV time is sad. There are so many great stories out there waiting to be told. I've been following the NHRA since I was a kid in '69 and I'm so tired of Force and his kids getting all the coverage. Thank you for saying what lots of people are thinking. - Aaron Chavez
I read Jon Asher's commentary on espn2 drag race coverage of drag racing. He's right. I have written them several times about how big ESPN only talk about drag racing if there is a tragedy. I explained that drag racing is much more than that. Their camera angles don't help you see the speed of those cars and there is more than T/F, P/S. Comp, Super Stock and Stock have a lot to offer. Do stories on "unknown" racers so the average Joe can identify with him. Hire people who enjoy drag racing, not just someone who needs a job. - Ulysses Jenkins
Your commentary was dead on. ESPN needs to be reminded that there are 15 other FC drivers, 47 other pro drivers (without PSM), and countless sportsman drivers. I don't want to see or hear fluff, I want to watch rounds. If I was to watch fluff, why not make the connection between pro and sportsman racing (Cory Mac and Dave Connolly, as well as many others come to mind)? I used to email espn2 often in the past.However, I have never received a response, so I quit wasting my time.
But cheer up, it could be worse. I live in Montreal now (I am a native So Cal SGV'er), and am forced to watch the coverage on TSN - sometimes two weeks after the event!
Keep fighting the good fight. - Chuck Hendrickson
Yet another "telling it like it is" column. I thought it was excellent! The over saturation of NHRA's telecasts with all things Team Force is the most unfunny joke in the history of the world! I quite often find myself yelling at my TV set during the broadcast. Keep up the great no BS columns, Jon. - Bill Huseth, 46-year drag racing fan
You are 100% right on. I never knew the relationship between Force and the ESPN2 figure. Makes a lot of sense now. I don't watch NHRA drag racing. I cannot stand Page Page. Mike Dunn is excellent IMO. Not enough coverage of pro stock and the sportsman show is a joke. - Paul Reiter
On the money, Jon!
I stopped watching the NHRA races because of 2 things - it turned into "Force TV", and I hate Paul Page. I hate what he says, and how he says it. I hate the sound of his voice.
So ... dial back the "in your face" Force coverage, ditch Paul Page, and I'll be watching again. - Chris Pile
NHRA and the broadcasting networks think Funny Cars, Dragsters, motorcycles, and Pro Stocks are Drag Racing. Witness the success of the ADRL and Pinks All Out TV show. Grass roots racing is Drag Racing. Let NHRA attempt to run their show without the regular sportsman racers that NHRA treats like a secret and they could not fill the boring voids. I am not surprised that Drag Racing receives little, if any, coverage. It simply can not compete with other forms of motor racing. It is a niche sport. - Dennis Long
I LOVE your story. Excellent and makes a very good point, the same we have felt for quite a while. One note regarding Greg Anderson. Next time you are in their pits notice which car Greg is tuning and which one Jason is. You will find that I like Jason, but I am very proud when Greg wins because Jason has been tuning his motor and vice versa. They do represent class in that class. Keep up your challenges NHRA and espn, they need their cage rattled. - Steve Jackson
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