Good old America remains the land of opportunity. And when opportunity knocks in sports broadcasting, there is usually a long line of athletic types waiting to get into makeup. They are there because of the opportunity to make money with little experience.
Racing is no exception. Several former drivers and even some crew chiefs show up in our homes with little to offer other than their names. Some do better with the mike than they did on the track or turning wrenches. Others show all the emotion of the power company guy reading your electricity meter.
When you speak of racing on TV, you are either talking about the live telecasts or the regular motorsports shows. Live telecasts of races are a cut above motorsports shows. You have to be putting off mowing the front lawn if you watch one of these programs. They are not the kind of shows where you can just sit back and do nothing. The last time TV sat back and did nothing, someone let Darrell Waltrip and Benny Parsons past security.
Inquiring minds do want to know about the broadcast world and some of the people who come into their living rooms more than half the weekends of each year. So, here are some reader-generated inquiries (because of the volume of mail, personal replies are not possible):
Q. Why are screens at movie theaters getting smaller and the screens on TV sets getting larger?A. This is a natural progression since it's easier to find a parking place at home.
Q. I never can find my remote.A. Why not take the hint?
Q. What would Jeff Hammond do if he couldn't use his hands?A. Nobody knows, but he would likely shut his mouth.
Q. What would Larry McReynolds do if he couldn't use his hands?A. He likely would still be talking.
Q. What would be the quickest, least expensive way to get an NBC or FOX jacket or cap?A. Marry into an NBC or FOX family. Many staff members currently are single or on the verge of becoming single and often are available to date or get married on less than two days notice.
Q. Do any of the people doing races have a chance for a TV career?A. Sure, I think so. Plans are being discussed about the return of the American Sportsman. In a twist on the longtime series, Kodiak bears and wolves will try to hunt down Wally Dallenbach and a guest celebrity. Also, another network watches Benny Parsons' use of the chalkboard. They are working on details of crafty ways in which to butt in a cafeteria line.
Q. Is it OK to watch races and eat at the same time?A. Here are a couple of things to note: 1) People always lie regarding how much food they eat. 2) People always lie regarding how much TV they watch. I know people who wait to begin Sunday lunch until they hear the command "Gentlemen, start your engines." I don't know if this gives you much to go on or not. There are some folks who claim a certain number of race fans do believe that "Gentlemen, start your engines" happens to be the last four words of the "Star-Spangled Banner."
Seriously, Winston Cup racing has come a long way since its beginning on television. It also has some distance to go, but it's getting there.
One thing we want people to realize and keep in mind is that those who have experienced racing (drivers and crewmembers) are there to share their knowledge of the sport with you. The two anchor people (Mike Joy and Allen Bestwick) are professional journalists. So are the pit reporters who keep the telecast moving along in a mannerly fashion. Some of these people are better than others, and it is only natural that you and your neighbor might not agree on who is best.
Wally Dallenbach and Marty Snider are instrumental in the increased ratings that NBC-TNT enjoyed in 2002. Both ask tough questions, and there are no signs of hero worship with either.
Dallenbach, more than any of the TV personalities on either network, is not afraid to express his opinion. Ask NASCAR President Mike Helton or driver Jimmy Spencer.
Fans love this, too. There was a time in TV journalism when reporters refused to express their opinions for fear of making drivers or NASCAR mad. It doesn't seem to matter to Dallenbach. He takes a straightforward approach and if it upsets you, he takes the attitude he is doing his job.
There should be more journalists like him, even on the teaching level. The profession finds itself overrun with too many whimps too cowardly to ask a tough question. That is sad.
Benny Phillips lives in High Point, North Carolina, and has covered stock car racing for nearly 40 years.