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Column: Someone could get stuck spinning their wheels with all-day race coverage

Simon Pagenaud, Hailey McDermott
Simon Pagenaud, second from left, and his fiancee, Hailey McDermott, laugh after kissing the bricks at the finish line following Pagenaud’s win in the Indianapolis 500.
(Kamil Krzaczynski / EPA/Shutterstock)

Why in the name of Chris Economaki would anyone attempt to economize a quiet holiday weekend by binge-watching continuous live coverage of the Monaco Grand Prix, Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600?

Fasten your conveyor belts.

This was hardly a fuel-efficient use of TV time and tire tread and led to the dread of restarting our search engines, trying to translate thick British accents and Hooters ads into proper U.S. sports vernacular.

The exhaustive lessons learned from a 15-hour window turning into the skid of skepticism:

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— Someone asked Darrell Waltrip, the soon-to-retire Fox Sports motorsports analyst, if the NASCAR race that caps off Memorial Day weekend would be better off shortened a bit. Say, by about 100 miles.

“Is that what some thirty-something said?” the 72-year-old Waltrip shot back to the Associated Press.

Hold on, buddy. It’s an age-appropriate question for any consumer in today’s media era. A day-to-night 400-lap investment shouldn’t get shouted down by “boogity” monsters. Fox must be depending on viewers to be properly fueled with a Monster Energy-and-rum mix stirred with a lug wrench.

As a stand-alone entity, it’s an eternity of ethanol-infused caution flags.

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— NBC’s exuberance in its first Indy 500 must yield to the pumping of brakes when it believes it can drag its NASCAR fan base into a natural catalytic conversion to open-wheel wheelies. It all feels even less genuine knowing NASCAR’s TV rights move from Fox to NBC starting June 30.

There was no more abrupt transition from the polished British-voiced Sky Sports coverage of the iconic Formula One event in Monte Carlo to the “Beverly Hillbillies”-flavored NBC Indy prerace featuring Rutledge Wood and Dale Earnhardt Jr. yucking things up.

Once things finally navigated to the booth of Leigh Diffey, Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy (or was it Don Cherry?), objectives settled in and Diffey was able to keep everyone in their lanes.

— Very wise to work Danica Patrick into the race flow for her strategical insights, coming off a rather rah-rah prerace show contribution that came off as more of an excitable Rose Parade airtime filler.

— Jim McKay, for the record, still did it best. Any and all of it. So nice to hear his voice dropped into ads and story soundtracks during the afternoon.

— Jeff Gordon makes a NASCAR telecast tolerably entertaining and informative. Please don’t U-turn into some other field.

— The viewer disservice by airing ads side-by-side with live action is only magnified in coverage of the Indy 500 and Coca-Cola 600 when compared with a commercial-free presentation of a tight 78 laps in two hours in Monte Carlo.

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ESPN’s siphoning of the Sky Sports feed figured out how to stick a graphic in the top right corner of the screen to show how its F1 “coverage exclusively” is presented by a notable car wax company. On the ABC replay later Sunday, a cluster-mess of commercials could be stirred back in.

There was no excuse for NBC’s coverage of the Indy 500 to come down to the final 30 laps and force us to struggle keeping up with the right side showing position changes, wobbly pit stops and a lack of audio. All of it worthy of an Alexander Rossi fist shake.

— The late crash that knocked out Graham Rahal and Sebastien Bourdais reinforces what IndyCar can offer viewers over Formula One — live, raw reaction.

Said Rahal to NBC reporter Kevin Lee: “I respect Sebastien a lot. I don’t respect that move. … At those speeds, that’s how you kill somebody.”

When NBC issued a news release after the race with broadcast highlights, it deleted that quip.

Give Metta World Peace a chance

Advocates for mental health awareness in the arena of sports should rejoice with Showtime’s airing of a Bleacher Report-funded documentary called “Quiet Storm: The Ron Artest Story” (Friday, 10 p.m.).

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Producer/director Johnny Sweet heads up the project with a major assist from Colleen Dominguez, the former ESPN and Fox Sports reporter who also gets a producer credit for tracking down and interviewing key figures. They all add context to the story told by the former NBA star, the end of his career spent with the Lakers using the name Metta World Peace.

“Whenever it is presented at festivals, a lion’s share of the questions afterward are about mental health, not from those who are necessarily sports fans,” Dominguez said of the 1-hour 45-minute piece that won a best documentary award at the recent Santa Barbara International Film Festival.

“We’re really proud of that, and it also says a lot that the NBA signed off on it — with Bleacher Report a major rights holder. The league saw the positive message of redemption.”

Bleacher Report is part of Turner Sports.

Tune it in

NBC received understandable blowback for releasing snippets of “Lance Armstrong: Next Stage” (Wednesday, 8:30 p.m., NBC Sports Network).

During Mike Tirico’s 30-minute, commercial free sit-down with the cyclist who was stripped of seven Tour de France titles, Armstrong is quoted as saying about the doping culture he fueled: “We did what we had to do to win. It wasn’t legal, but I wouldn’t change a thing — whether it’s losing a bunch of money, going from hero to zero.”

USA Today columnist Christine Brennan called for NBC “to cancel this fiasco. It won’t, but it should.”

Reactions like Brennan’s might ultimately attract viewers who want to see whether criticism is warranted. NBC aired an interview clip on its Indy 500 prerace show that provided context to Armstrong’s words by showing his facial expressions and body language.

Tune it out

Concern about the WNBA’s sustainability is reflected by the league’s national and local media partnerships. The WNBA’s opening weekend might have had games slotted on ABC, NBA TV and new addition CBS Sports Network. Yet the Sparks’ opening game Sunday night at Las Vegas was only available in the L.A. market through a Twitter stream or a buy-in of the league pass. It sends up a red flag when Spectrum SportsNet instead is airing “Lakers Top 50 Plays of the Year” in its place.


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