Saturday, September 08, 2007

Elliott Sadler, Were You Watching Trackside on Speed?

One of the most enjoyable, fan-interactive shows on Speed TV is the Friday night "Trackside." During the second half of the year, Good-Old-Boy Elliott Sadler is one of four hosts, along with Steve Byrnes, Larry MacReynolds and Jeff Hammond. The tall Virginian brings a sense of fun to the show.

Many Sadler fans tune in to the show specifically to see him. Many other fans travel to Sadler's version of Mecca, known as Richmond International Raceway, to specifically see him. As the show opened, Steve informed the audience that Sadler was not going to be on the show. It is a pity, because Elliott may have been required to explain a VERY prominent sign in the background audience.

The sign stated: Sadler 19 We Miss the Barn Party. It was viewable during a majority of the program.

For those who are unaware, last year the Sadlers threw a hellacious party on their property, known as The Barn Party. Over a thousand fans were reported to be there, and Sadler brought in his buddy Blake Shelton for extra entertainment. This was actually the second event of the year for Sadler Fan Club fans, as there was a Karting event earlier in May.

This year, the Sadlers are hosting a bowling event in October, in conjunction with the Charlotte race. According to various message boards, this event has caused a bit of ill will with many of the fan club members. It was announced with such late notice, that many of the fans will be unable to attend. Those who will already be in the Charlotte area have already made their flight arrangements, and won't be able to change them without financial pentalties to the airlines.

If you go to Sadler Foundation Webpage you will discover a list of events from the past.

There are many issues hidden amongst those listings. For years, the Sadler boys held a Fan Appreciation Day the week before the Spring Richmond race. Many fans were planning to join the Day in 2004. Plans were made, airplane tickets were purchased, race tickets were purchased, and suddenly it was announced there would be NO Fan Appreciation Day, and there would be a different event in May. There had been repeated requests for more information from the Sadlers, from Elliott's business manager, his PR person, and indeed even from the SFC office. By the time it was announced, the Richmond bound fans could not change their plans. There were no appearances planned by Sadler during the whole weekend. Those fans put a brave face on it, had a wonderful time meeting with each other, but it still rankled. Those fans, myself included, have not forgotten that they did not feel in the least Appreciated.

Look carefully at the list at the Sadler Foundation site, there was NO event in 2005. Nope, none, nada, zip, zilch!

Here comes 2006. Elliott is struggling at Yates. He already knows he is going to leave for Evernham, and plans two events to bolster his popularity. Both events in 2006 were by all reports, awesome!

Then, 2007, there is no announced event until the end of August. Again, it left fans scrambling, as many fans plans were already formulated for the rest of the season.

One wonders how long the Sadler fans will tolerate this total lack of caring. When you look at the opposite extreme, the fans of Kevin Harvick can look forward to an awesome event every fall. The date for the fall event is always announced very early in the year. Fans of Kevin prepare for it, plan around it and talk it up even before the event is announced.

Another comparison is due here, also. Kevin's fan club event attendees take part in a meet n greet, and a signing. EVERY Fan Club member gets this. They do not pay for the event, nor the autograph. Sadler, long ago, abandoned the free events along with his Fan Appreciation day. Now, the events require payment to enter. For some of them, he even requires more money to have the privilege of getting an autograph. It is couched in Fund-raising, but at the same time, why must all events be fund-raisers?

If you step away from the fan events, and look at the treatment of his fans as a whole, it is apparent that his fan base is not quite as large as he would like. He has been signing souvenirs in closed haulers. I have reports of at least three signings this year where his fans were able to go through his line at various appearances 2 to 3 times. Three years ago, if you did not arrive 3 or 4 hours before and stake out your spot in line, you were not even assured of being able to see him. In addition, his fans are now being asked to participate in his on-line poker venture (currently free, but payment requirement is expected soon), and his online football/racing fantasy betting venture.

One hopes that Sadler will reevaluate his priorities. His fans are becoming more aware of how he feels about them. I am sure that the fans who spent an hour holding the sign at Speed TV's Trackside show are certainly more aware!

Sunday, September 02, 2007

ESPN - It Was Pretty Ugly!

ESPN has stepped on my last nerve!

A few weeks ago, August 18th, 2007, I was sitting in my local Goodyear store while my car was being prepared. (Yes, I am a NASCAR fan, and choose to use NASCAR sponsors whenever possible. Fortunately, I find this particular Goodyear store to be excellent!) This Goodyear store happens to have a flat screen tv set up, and I was able to watch the Busch race while work commenced on my car!

Watching that race was challenging. I had to change channels several times to follow the channel switches, while ESPN was waiting for the tennis match to finish. Trying to follow the directions on the scroll bar was a struggle, as I had to figure out what channel was where. Thankfully, the other Goodyear patrons were patient! I was willing to forgive it happening once. I do remember at least one time in the past, with the former broadcast package, where it happened and the start of the race was held up. So, I shrugged it off, and resigned myself to not having a TiVo recording of that race.

But then last night, it happened again! This time the scroller directed the watcher to ESPN360. I searched my channel guide frantically to find that channel. When I could not find it,I 'googled' it, and discovered it was internet content only! I clicked on it, and received the message:

Sorry, your internet service provider does not carry Please contact your service provider to add as part of your service.

At this point, I was pounding my keyboard in frustration! I quickly went over to, and started up their pre-race coverage. Well now, I received more content from TURNER than I received from ESPN. Then to add insult to injury, I instant-messaged a friend in Canada, to vent about the situation. She had no idea that there were any problems. You see, TSN had the whole feed! She even got to see OUR Anthem sung!

Last night was a travesty. I can forgive quite a few of the perceived errors with broadcasting. I understand the need for commercials. I understand that we can't predict when the cautions will happen, and that they can happen during commercials. I do understand that it is especially challenging to get the commercials done during a caution period at a short track. I even understand that sometimes some one pushes a wrong button. I can even forgive that I don't like the folks in the booth. I get ALL of that, and forgive it, as long as it looks like a effort is being made to improve the product. I don't see that effort being made here!

I see this as being a huge negative for the Busch series. In fact, it is probably it's death knell! There are commercial purchasers who did not get their value of having commercials during the countdown. NASCAR is already stressed about finding a series sponsor, and they are running a 'blue-light special' to try and attract one. With constant snafu's from ESPN, what potential series sponsor would want their name attached to something so negative? If the broadcaster does not care enough about the series to schedule it properly, why would any sponsor care?

In fact, if ESPN does not care enough about the Busch series, why should I care?

NASCAR, you have a problem here!