Television Then and Now

Television is not the truth! Television is a God-damned amusement park! Television is a circus, a carnival, a traveling troupe of acrobats...." Howard Beale (Peter Finch, in his OSCAR winning role) unraveling over the state of the medium he works in, NETWORK, 1976

When the new NHRA TV package was unveiled for this season, what with a new network, new faces and ideas, and a far more aggressive stance than the predecessors, from the get-go there were concerns. Social media virtually exploded, especially in regards to the departure of Mike Dunn from the broadcasts. Make no mistake, I too am a fan of Mikes, but the only thing that is a constant in life, indeed, is change. If Mike Dunn was the all-conquering king of broadcasting, then how come the ratings for the ESPN broadcasts were looking up at the hull of the Titanic? I could fill an entire column on what was wrong with the previous broadcast package, but I won't.

The cruel fact is that ESPN cares absolutely nothing about motorsports, they never have and they never will. This month, we're going to be taking stock of the new, and we'll also be looking back at the old, and play a little "pro and con" with both. I don't want to tip my hand already, but to paraphrase The Stones, with the old shows, "Time...was on their side."

As I've noted before, on August the 1st, 1981, a fledgling network called MTV began, and the first song they played was 'Video Killed The Radio Star'. (For you youngsters out there, back then the 'M' stood for MUSIC, as opposed to their current business model where it now means MALARKEY.) And as such, the internet has essentially killed taped broadcasts. People simply cannot wait anymore, well, a good majority of them anyway. True story: last year, when there would be a race on "the deuce" at a respectable time, like 6pm, I found that I had to turn off Facebook around noon, because SOME people felt that they were the junior 'associated press' and would be blurting out round-by-round coverage on their page. It was like Homer Simpson leaving 'The Empire Strikes Back', yelling out in front of everyone in line, "WOW, Darth Vader is Luke’s Father!" Thanks, Mister Blow-the-picture-for-me! So, taped deals are not going to fly in this era, or at least not what we loved and cherished in the manner of the Diamond P shows anyway.

Here's some fun stuff for you, as I'm looking at the 9/14/1984 issue of 'National Wally' (thanks to Ron Colson for teaching me that phrase, btw) which was also the Indy results issue:

The projected broadcast dates for the Diamond P telecasts are here, and brotha, PATIENCE is a virtue! (And in 1989, a great Guns & Roses song.) While the earliest airings were Sept. 15 (Chicago) the good folks of Pittsburgh had to wait til December 9! Sure, that gives them plenty of time to stock up on pierogies and Rolling Rocks, but again, it was a different time, and people were happy to get what they got. Me, I know I saw the show on ABC, but boy, some of these other markets, get lots of tin-foil on your rabbit-ears, they clearly were dealing with UHF (millennials, Google it) Providence, RI, was up to channel 50, Chattanooga, TN, all the way up to channel 61, and on and on. There were only nine business days between race end and first airings, so those guys were working at a brisk pace to be certain.