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.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 79 Comments
      Ric J
      • 6 Months Ago
      Even my wife, presumably one of those this was targeted for, felt that it was a ridiculous thing to do at that stage of the race.
      tenspeeder
      • 6 Months Ago
      I'm surprised ABC didn't run a commercial for Disney in lieu of the finish
      gbvette62
      • 6 Months Ago
      Is what ABC did, any worse or more annoying then when they immediately start showing the crew jumping up and down on pit road, after their car wins, instead of showing the rest of the field crossing the finish line? All of the networks do this, and always have. It makes no sense. There are often many good races for position, going on deep into the field, that are missed by the TV audience, because the networks think it's important to show the winning crew celebrate.
      SethG
      • 6 Months Ago
      That's OK. At least they didn't send NBC's Olympics team. Then you would not have seen the race at all. Instead you would have seen a series of pre-produced interviews with the wives, girlfriends, former school-teachers, neighbors, sick relatives and other others.
        MotionDesigner
        • 6 Months Ago
        @SethG
        But what will Americans do without their beloved fake and manufactured drama??
      Hazdaz
      • 6 Months Ago
      Clearly done by some pinsheads that "know" TV, but don't have the foggiest idea about racing.
      ekoshrin
      • 6 Months Ago
      As i was watching, I was yelling at the split screen, not believing what they were doing. I'm glad i'm not the only one that noticed.
      clquake
      • 6 Months Ago
      Pointless. Were they expecting some kind of odd unanticipated reaction? Everyone knew what the reactions were going to be. What we didn't know was who was going to win the race, and that should have been the focus.
      Rob Pollard
      • 6 Months Ago
      Glad people are commenting on this. I don't watch a ton of IndyCar, so I didn't know if this split screen was typical or not. But I found it highly annoying. I mean, one of them wasn't even the driver's wife -- it was his girlfriend! He could have another one next week. I did hope they would stay on her after Hunter-Reay went into first the last time -- the look on her face as she slowly realized her guy was no longer in first (which seemed to have to be explained to her) was at least somewhat enjoyable. I am sure someone in marketing thought this would be a great way to add "human interest" to the race, but I thought it detracted from the race. I did enjoy the celebration afterwards (where the wife was the first person interviewed). The crew members seemed to barely pay attention to her -- and why would they? She didn't race or help setup the car, do the pit stops, etc. I realize wives/significant others can provide great moral support and can help drivers off-the-track, but this was not their time. It was the drivers and their racing abilities.
      ChazInMT
      • 6 Months Ago
      I was thinking the same thing while it was happening. I was like What The Heck!!! If per chance the folks at ABC/ESPN read this, here's a hint. Don't Do That Again!!!
      throwback
      • 6 Months Ago
      This is what happens when a sporting event becomes a show and pulls in casual fans. The Olympics is a classic example. The back stories on the athletes get more interest than the events themselves. The Monaco Grand Prix was shown on NBC and there seemed to be more shots of the harbor and the people, than the pit stops.
      Dana
      • 6 Months Ago
      They did the same thing with the Emerson Fittipaldi/ Al Unser. JR race in 1989 just terrible broadcasting.
        kqr
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Dana
        Ooops. I said this in another part of the thread before I saw that you had already mentioned it. The wife drama angle has been part of the TV coverage for decades, especially if the race was close at the end. Back then, however, it was the whole screen on the wives, not just part of it. '89 was an especially annoying example.
      imoore
      • 6 Months Ago
      Apparently ESPN didn't learn anything from the Brent Musberger/Katherine Webb lustfest.
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