It does, you know. You just have to get it hot enough.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

OLN’s Coverage of Dakar 2005


The desert changes everything, or so they kept saying on the first hour of OLN’s Dakar coverage. I’ve seen bad coverage before, but I wouldn’t wish OLN’s level of coverage on my least favorite sport.

And, yes, you’re right: 2005 Dakar is already over. So why is OLN’s coverage just starting? I guess “timely coverage of a sporting event” wasn’t in the OLN contract with Dakar organizers.

20 minutes into the first hour of OLN’s coverage it was clear that for OLN, the desert had changed everything about the nature of racing coverage. The desert drove OLN to cover the Dakar by showing lots of stock footage, American talking heads, and not much about the Dakar itself. I don’t know who these reject hosts from the Travel Channel and ESPN 27 are, but someone should have told them they were there to cover a race, not produce a gee-whiz puff piece on American racers.

Sadly, once the actual race coverage got started, it continued to be the Robby Gordon and his American Pals Hour. Look, here’s an American racing in the Dakar! Isn’t that amazing! Here he is in his Red Bull VW drinking a Red Bull while going on like a speed freak about the race. Oh, and here’s some European guy, I think he won once or something, but since nobody wants to read subtitles while he talks, lets go talk to Robby Gordon again! And here’s some standup interviews with the drivers standing beside their pristine vehicles talking about what the Dakar means to them. Gosh, aren’t they courageous to go out and race across the desert like this?

Where’re the interviews with top contenders? Where’s the look at all the new technology being used this year? How about that new Yamaha 2WD motorcycle? What’s up with the changes to the motorcycle classes in general? How about some coverage of the new classes — are Quads official yet? Maybe go over some of the basic hazards of each country while showing the map — didn’t they have to skip one of those countries last year due to political strife? Aren’t there bandits in that one country that regularly carjack racers and crews? What are the new rules on marathon stages and tire changes? Aren’t there vintage and privateer racers, support crews, or the tech leads on the different works racers worth hearing from?

Worse still, OLN’s coverage already looks to be a couple of guys “in the rear with the gear” commenting on footage shot by people actually willing to leave the airconditioned production vans and get their clothes rumpled. Are these guys even with the race in the desert or are they just shooting standups during the liason stops?

The first time I saw an episode of Speed’s Dakar coverage, some sunburnt reporter was talking to a motorbike rider out in the desert while the rider was draining fluid from his own elbow. I was instantly hooked — what the hell is this race, why are they out in the middle of the desert, and who on earth is stupid enough to even do this sort of thing? Toby Moody was out there with the racers in the weather from start to finish talking to them at the pre-dawn starts, mid-day CPs, and late-night finishes.

That, OLN, is how you send someone to cover the Dakar. Send ’em out and get ’em dirty. They don’t want to get dirty? Fire ’em and find someone who does. It also helps to hire someone who is experienced with Dakar racing and can correctly pronounce competitor’s names. If you’re really stuck and can’t find anyone, call me — I might not know as much as the pros, but I’ll at least get out there and cover the race.

To be fair, OLN did show some actual footage of vehicles racing. As a matter of fact, I think I saw more crashes, stalls and wipeouts in the first hour of coverage than I have in any other hour of Dakar coverage. Look it’s people crashing motorbikes on the first stage! Here’s some crash footage from previous races! Let’s see a few dozen more crashes! Wow, look at that guy crash! And there’s a woman crashing!

Who cares about seeing the vehicles actually racing, aerial coverage of the course, or even footage of the pit and staging areas? SHOW ME MORE CRASHES. I’m easily confused, so don’t show me a course from the air, don’t show me footage of vehicles I don’t recognize like a 2CV or a Tatra, never show me any sort of coverage that actually might require me to think. SHOW ME MORE CRASHES.

It’s the desert. It changes everything. It makes race coverage suck in ways race coverage has never sucked before.

posted by jet at 23:21  

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