Sunday, July 19, 2009

RAY on the RADIO

Ray Evernham won NASCAR's 1994 debut at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as Jeff Gordon's crew chief, so it's appropriate to have him as my Newsmaker guest on this Wednesday's (7 p.m. EDT) The Race Reporters radio show on Ray, who teamed again with Gordon for another Indy win in 1998, and did it as a car owner with Bill Elliott in 2002, now is an ESPN analyst. ESPN begins its Sprint Cup coverage with Sunday's Allstate 400.

Ed Hinton, writer, and NASCAR Scene associate editor Bob Pockrass will be on the media panel.

Meanwhile, American Le Mans Series President Scott Atherton was last week's The Race Reporters Newsmaker. I first met Scott in the mid-1980s, when he worked on Domino's Pizza's CART sponsorship of Al Unser Jr., and invited him on because I wanted to better understand his bet-the-ALMS-house strategy on Green racing.

A few sentences of explanation are in order for ALMS fans who didn't know of Atherton's live interview, which covered the second half of the show. Despite the fact that the interview was scheduled two months ago, and that they had a formal news release on it 72 hours in advance, the ALMS' PR department did not post any advance word on its site -- unprecedented among Newsmakers' own sites in TRR's brief history. Why? I was told "apparently something got lost in the translation" as staff readied for the weekend event at Lime Rock Park. (The audio link was posted well after-the-fact.)

In a series where media coverage is not exactly overwhelming in volume, helping to publicize a live, lengthy interview with its PRESIDENT falls through the cracks? That says a lot. The series' official report on the Lime Rock event provided no information on the championship standings in any class. I thought that's what a series is all about -- determining a champion.

You can listen to the show, with Atherton and journalists Larry Edsall, Greg Creamer and Jonathan Ingram -- plus my opening commentary on the nonsense that is talk of an alternative power 2011 Indy 500 - by using this link:
* I grew up in the age of Walter Cronkite. The highest praise that can be offered is to say he was a NEWSman. The news was to him what gimmicks are to the current-day cable goofs.

* The British Open (spare me the pompous "The Open Championship") proved again that among the most useless words spoken in broadcast media are predictions from golf announcers that a player will have a great round or make a putt.

* Sorry to say the media's love affair with President Obama has infected sports coverage. (Well, we already knew that, with NBC allowing the worst offender on its Sunday night NFL studio show.) The President threw out the first pitch at baseball's All-Star Game last week in St. Louis. Unlike any other high-profile person performing this ceremony, however, the Fox director stayed on a close-up of the President, so viewers couldn't see the quality of his pitch. (Low, didn't make it to the plate.) Show me any similar example in recent times. Was there an advance agreement between the White House PR operation and the network? I don't know. But I wouldn't be surprised.

* How to explain away getting booed and, at the same time, minimize such a crowd reaction? Do what the President did: Wear a Chicago team jacket in front of St. Louis fans, and then, throw the ball to the city's most popular athlete. (Trust me on this, I called the Arch city home for almost a decade.) Both were very effective image-management decisions.

* To cover both sides of the political base, let me observe this: It's insulting crap for radio talk-show host Sean Hannity to refer to someone as "a Great American" just because he/she calls his show. That caller could be a drug dealer or a child abuser for all Hannity knows. See item below.
Finally, and most importantly: In advance of Monday's 40th anniversary of the first moon landing, NASA issued a statement from astronaut Michael Collins. He was the one who orbited the moon while Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed. Here's part of the transcript. All I can say about Collins' comments is -- AMEN!

NASA: You are starting to sound a little grumpy. Are you grumpy?
COLLINS: "At age 78, yes, in many ways. Some things about current society irritate me, such as the adulation of celebrities and the inflation of heroism."

Q: But aren't you both?
A: "Not me. Neither.

"Heroes abound, and should be revered as such, but don't count astronauts among them. We work very hard; we did our jobs to near perfection, but that was what we had hired on to do. In no way did we meet the criterion of the Congressional Medal of Honor: "Above and beyond the call of duty.

"Celebrities? What nonsense, what an empty concept for a person to be, as my friend the great historian Daniel Boorstin put it, "known for his well-known-ness." How many live-ins, how many trips to rehab, maybe -- wow -- you could even get arrested and then you would really be noticed. Don't get me started."

Upcoming The Race Reporters guests:

July 29 -- Newsmaker: Dario Franchitti. Panelists: Robin Miller, Gordon Kirby.

August 5 -- Newsmaker: Tony Schumacher. Panelists: Dave Kallmann, Susan Wade, Jon Asher.

[ Ray Evernham news nuggest Thursday . . . ]