Like many of you, I spent my pre-Memorial Day Sunday sitting on the couch, watching racing. It started early, with the 7:00 AM kick off of Monaco Grand Prix coverage. There was a break in between, for things like bathroom stops, walking the dog and acknowledging that my loving girlfriend hadn't abandoned me for lack of attention. That was quickly followed up by a belter of an Indianapolis 500, which featured the second closest finish in race history.
Watching this close finish – a three-way dogfight between Marco Andretti, Helio Castroneves and Ryan Hunter-Reay – was made quite difficult for American viewers, though, thanks to the inept coverage of ABC and ESPN.
The race was red flagged at lap 192 when Townsend Bell speared into the wall, damaging the SAFER barrier. This set the stage for said dogfight, which played out over a mere handful of laps and ended with just six-hundredths of a second separating race winner Hunter-Reay from second-place finisher Castroneves.
American viewers had no issues watching the final lap, but the laps leading up to that, when Castroneves and Hunter-Reay were really dueling and Andretti was attempting to stage a valiant comeback were interrupted, because ABC and ESPN thought it'd be better to go to a split-screen, which showed the race and alternating coverage of Hunter-Reay's wife and Castroneves' girlfriend. Because ratings, we're guessing.
Yes, the race was still on, but why take the focus away from the event? Sure, we all appreciate a good reaction from a significant other – it's heart warming, and shows that there's more to this sport than the fastest lap time – but save it until the checkered flag waves. It was a lackluster and hugely disappointing end to a great race, an opinion registered by more than a few publications and, we imagine, plenty of fans.
Sports blog Deadspin has a great video that shows the difference between what American audiences saw and what was transmitted globally. Unfortunately, we aren't able to embed that video over here, so hop over to Deadspin and have a look, and then swing back here and head into Comments to let us know what you think.