Thursday, June 9, 2005

MH - ABC's Indy Bias

Here's an update to our post last week on ABC's woeful coverage of the Indianapolis 500. Reader Bobby provides some pointed comments on ABC's shortcomings:

The allegedly "edgy" graphics and music may have copied trends, but the graphics package was a poor copy of Fox's famed NASCAR graphics package which inspired today's NFL and MLB packages.

And ABC's move is a complete opposite of NASCAR, where both Fox and NBC (divided by portions of the season) each signed an experienced broadcaster to the call. At Fox, Mike Joy, who at 55 is slightly younger than Bob Jenkins (57), was given the lead role, and is backed by well-experienced analysts whose experience total 107 wins and admittingly will watch football games and keep their eyes on the coaches' mindset during the game. Joy is a veteran of over 30 years of short-track announcing in the Northeast before recently moving to Statesville, NC. He co-owns the Northeastern territorial rights to Sunoco racing gasoline.

NBC's Bill Weber, 48, is a former television sports anchor in Indiana and worked on public relations before returning to journalism at ESPN, and later NBC.

While announcers are rarely seen, Fox has a notorious manner of having the crew wear fancy business suits -- the three men at Sunday night's NASCAR race wore black wool suits, and they aren't afraid to wear the wool -- Larry McReynolds once admitted his daughter helped him one off-season in improving his look which fans noticed, and since Fox's first race, all three men have at one time or another deviated from the others in wearing a different color -- brown is a favorite color of all three announcers -- Mike Joy anchored Fox's first race in a brown jacket, and the three announcers aren't afraid to present themselves as professionals in front of CEO's.

ABC did get the ratings, but Todd Harris is a joke. Now the Fox NASCAR crew that night did get a bit overexuberant at the finish of Sunday night's Coca-Cola 600, but it was 100% evident they knew what they were watching. The way the analysts carry the race through the final laps watching Jimmie Johnson pass Bobby Labonte in the last 1,000 yards showed their prowess -- they developed the angle in the final ten laps, including the red flag, as they worked well with Labonte's team leader Steve Addington. That call sounded as if you were at the local bullring and the local announcers were calling the last lap of a spirited battle.

It's clear Todd Harris and Mike Joy are day and night apart in their experience, and in their calls, and Joy used his 30 years of experience to outshine Harris.

Thanks for the insight, Bobby. It's nice to know I'm not the only one who found Harris woefully lacking in his commentary. Indy used to be the premiere event in auto racing - now, largely because of the IRL-IndyCar split (with the result that many of racing's brightest new talent is in NASCAR; there's no way Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart should not be at Indy), Indy racing has fallen off the radar of many sports fans.

Indy has a chance to recover its place in the sun - a good chance, based on this year's ratings - but it's going to remain a second-class citizen on TV unless ABC starts to give it the respect it deserves and cover it like the major sporting event it is.

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