Rumor Mill

MONTE DUTTON: FROM A FOX TO A PEACOCK

 

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After the end of the NASCAR Monster Cup road race in Sonoma, Calif., Fox reporter Matt Yocum asked Dale Earnhardt Jr. a general question about his entire career. It took Earnhardt by surprise. He had undoubtedly been expecting a question related to his sixth-place finish in the Toyota/Save Mart 350.

Junior was almost speechless for a few moments, but then he came up with something of an extemporaneous retrospective. The highlight was when Earnhardt said, “Long after your career is over, some of your accomplishments are forgotten, but who you are never gets forgotten.”

Watching at home, I was briefly as taken aback as Earnhardt. He’s retiring at season’s end, not now. What I then realized was that, from Fox Sports’ point of view, he was retiring then. Fox’s half of the season ended in Sonoma. Fox’s Earnhardt Jr. career ended.

The season has a regular season and a 10-race series of playoffs, which I think should be race-offs because nobody’s playing. It has its first second visit this week when Daytona Beach, Fla., will provide fireworks in the form of racing, likely thunderstorms and honest-to-gosh fireworks. A couple weeks after that, the last first visit will be to Loudon, N.H.

In past years, when the let’s go playoffs were known as the Chase, media releases exhorted us to enjoy the Great American Race (Daytona 500), race to the chase, chase to the race and duel at dusk. This year they started stalking the stages.

It’s all bodaciously Monster.

For many, not as many but still a good many, fans who watch on TV, just as significant a separation is between Fox (network, Fox Sports 1, Fox Sports 2, occasionally even Fox Business) and NBC (network and NBC Sports, maybe another channel buried in the program guide somewhere).

At the moment, NBC is looking good because it hasn’t televised a race yet. America is tired of folksy Darrell Waltrip, huckster Michael Waltrip, and their other brother Darrell, who is known as Larry McReynolds. I like the show sometimes. Occasionally, I like a rerun of Hee Haw.

At this moment, NBC looks awfully appealing. On Fox, only Jeff Gordon and Mike Joy make modest attempts to remain above the fray. The rest think entertainment is much too important to be left to the actual racers.

NBC is so … respectable.

Later on, probably during some long, wearying afternoon of Martin Truex Jr. domination on a 1.5-mile, moderately banked track with color-coded grandstands that should be covered with people, viewers will long for Fox’s version of “a little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down the pants.” Rest in peace, Chuckles.

Boogity. Boogity. Boogity.

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