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Beating my head against a dead horse

OK, I officially give up. I’m just not going to waste any more of my precious weekends watching the drivel that is the ESPN2 broadcast of NHRA’s national events.

As the great NHRA announcer Bernie Partridge is credited with saying, referring to the efforts of a drag racing team to get their car up to speed and failing, “Those guys are beating their heads against a dead horse.”

Only recently did I finally understand what Bernie meant by that unique malapropism. It became clear to me while I attempted to watch more than five hours of ESPN broadcasting the qualifying and eliminations from the NHRA race at Atlanta. No matter what the broadcast team does to put the action and drama of an NHRA drag race onto the television screen, they mostly fail.

The one measurement we have to determine how many people are watching are the Nielsen ratings, and we are able to see those the numbers indicate that in the past three to five years, drag racing’s audience just kept dropping until it reached a plateau of about one-half of a rating point and has stayed there. Virtually every time I write about this subject, we get many letters from frustrated fans venting about everything from the lead announcer to the content to the over-coverage of one team or star at the neglect of the rest. Yet despite this, the NHRA broadcast content remains basically the same race after race and year after year.

What is really frustrating about that is that the men in charge of the content seem oblivious to the viewing audience’s complaints or suggestions. The only conclusion that anyone can draw from their inaction is that they believe the broadcasts are as good as they can make them.

Last weekend I tuned in on Saturday for the ESPN2 broadcast from Atlanta, which was supposed to start at 6 p.m. (Central). Soooo, after being forced to sit through an NCAA Women’s Softball Championship game (which, by the way, had fewer people in the stands than there were in Atlanta on Friday night). I finally got to see the qualifying show that lasted for nearly three hours. The only way I can describe the broadcast I forced myself to watch is that it was mostly boring and way too long.
  
It was three long hours of basically the same cars, results, faces, interviewees, and interviewers. There is absolutely nothing unpredictable or original about the broadcast.

Do the ESPN producers/directors not understand that when they are only attracting about one-half of one point of market share, the only viewership they have are the absolutely most hardcore drag racing fans? The few viewers the broadcast attracts know the sport inside and out and, without a doubt, much better than Paul Page, Garry Gerould, or the producers/directors of the show.

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