Thursday, July 8, 2010

Issues with ABC, Part 378

It's been discussed to death by this point, including on Trackside with Cavin & Kevin this week, but it seems like every IndyCar fan has been up in arms this week angry about ABC's presentation of the Watkins Glen race last weekend.  At the risk of beating a dead horse, here are two quick issues I had that I think highlight the weaknesses of ABC's production.

On one round of pitstops, Adam Carroll pitted first, from mid-pack.  In road racing, pitting first can work to your advantage.  If there's a caution after you pit but before the rest of the field pits, you'll cycle to the lead when they all come in under yellow.  It's a long-shot, sure.  But it almost happened!  Just a few laps later, Simona de Silvestro crashed, bringing out that yellow.  Unfortunately, it was just a lap or two too late for Carroll.  I bring this up because despite the fact that Marty Reid and Scott Goodyear had been plugging Carroll earlier in the race, we didn't hear peep about this possibility, and they actually cut away from the leaders to show his pitstop!  Maybe it's not the most riveting moment in racing history, but it's a little subplot that could maybe help some newer race fans (and those purported "casual viewers" are a big part of why the series wants to be on ABC) feel like they have a handle on the strategy beyond yet another segment on red and black tires.

On a more general note, it frustrates me that despite talking several times this season about how important in laps and out laps are, and how drivers can really get an edge by being quick on these laps, the ABC crew never bothers to actually tell the viewers what lap times drivers run on these critical laps.  I know it's all available with online timing and scoring, but we don't all watch the races with iPads on our laps - at least these "casual viewers" probably don't.  So tell me!  Tell me what kind of crazy-fast in lap Will Power ran before pitting, and how it compared to his pole lap, and how it compared to the other front-runners.  Give me another way to conceptualize how he compares to other drivers.  Get me inside his head.  If there's a calm moment a few laps later, give me an inset screen and show me the in-car camera of his badass in-lap, and stay with it through the pitstop.  Put me in that seat.  Make me understand the work these drivers do inside the cockpit.  Help me understand the many little elements and decision that combine to make Power so damn fast, rather than just telling me he's fast.  He's leading - we know he's fast.  Show us why.

To be clear, I actually don't think the broadcast was terrible.  I think it was average.  It was a solid B- in a tough class.  But unfortunately, that's not good enough.  The IndyCar Series is fighting for its life, and fighting for every eyeball it can get, and then fighting to keep those eyeballs.  To do that, they need great drivers, great teams, great sponsors and partners and promoters, great management, great cars, and just as importantly, they need a great TV presentation - the kind of presentation that can take those hoped for new viewers and turn them into fans.

And Sunday's presentation didn't cut it.