Sugarcoat Police Takeover Doing No Favors Whatsoever For Growing Short Track Racing

This is not going to be a popular column.

It’s depressing that I know that and feel the need to state that in a preface here, but sadly that’s the state of short track racing in 2019. 

It’s not going to be a popular column because I’m going to point out something negative. 

I can almost guarantee I’ll be lit up on social media. I’ll be called negative. It will be said that I must hate short track racing and short track racers. I’ll be ridiculed for not just being positive. 

“Be positive or keep your mouth shut and don’t say anything.” That’s become the mantra of so many in short track racing. 

And so goes the preface of this column … 

NASCAR should be heartily applauded for their decision to stream all regional touring division events live in 2019 on fanschoice.tv

For fans of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, it’s an amazing gift to be able to see all series races live. And beyond that, it’s a great tool to create new fans, something desperately needed across short track racing. 

Saturday the Whelen Modified Tour had its season opening event at Myrtle Beach Speedway in Myrtle Beach, S.C. 

And online, fans got to tune in live to watch all the action from Myrtle Beach on fanschoice.tv. 

Here’s the problem. It became clear right from the start that the track announcers serving as the audio feed for the broadcast had clearly done little if – any preparation – for the event. 

One of the announcers was Myrtle Beach Speedway general manager Steve Zacharias. The other announcer we’re not sure of. Never heard a name during the broadcast, but it sounded as if he’s a regular track announcer at the track. 

This is not an attack on Zacharias or the other announcer for how they handle any regular duties at the track. And it’s not an attack on how things are operated at Myrtle Beach Speedway. By all accounts, Zacharias is doing a splendid job operating the track and clearly NASCAR and the Whelen Modified Tour officials and teams have been happy with the visits to the track to open the season for the last two years. 

The reality is anyone that’s been around short track racing long enough has at one point or another heard some bad announcing. It happens. Names get mistaken or mispronounced. Mistakes happen whether its names, or the amount of laps left or running orders or any other number of things that can get screwed up. 

The issues Saturday? It was a laundry list for miles. It wasn’t a matter of saying they just had a bad day. 

Patrick Emerling was called Patrick “Fleming” for nearly the entire event. Timmy Solomito’s first name was often changed to “Tommy”. Five-time series champion Doug Coby was referred to as Doug “Mayhew”. Mayhew Tools is Coby’s primary sponsor. The list of wrong names and mispronunciations was endless. Eric Goodale was referreed to as Eric “Goodell” the entire event. Eric Goodale’s last name is pronounced exactly as it looks on paper. 

And then there were mistakes with calling the running order. More than once it was mentioned by the announcers that they had no access to timing and scoring. Problem is, we live in the age of information. Timing and scoring is at our hands on any smart phone or tablet or laptop. Not having it is not preparing for the job correctly. At one point they were telling viewers the leader of the race at that point, Kyle Ebersole, was actually a lap down. He wasn’t.

Most troubling was hearing the announcers literally just make stuff up. 

At one point one of the announcers mentioned the Whelen Modified Tour competing in Las Vegas. The Whelen Modified Tour has never competed in Las Vegas. The Whelen Modified Tour has never competed within 1,000 miles of Las Vegas. 

At another point one of the announcers mentioned that Myrtle Beach Speedway was the largest “short track” on the Whelen Modified Tour schedule.

Myrtle Beach Speedway is a .538-mile oval. 

Thompson Speedway, which just happens to have hosted the Whelen Modified Tour more than any track ever and will host a quarter of the division’s 16 points events this season, is a .625-mile oval.

I’ll be the first to admit, I was not good at math in high school, but you’re not going to stump me on that one. And Oswego (N.Y.) Speedway, another .625-mile oval, is also on the Whelen Modified Tour schedule. 

And we won’t even worry or wonder here about how the suits in Daytona feel about an announcer during the broadcast of a NASCAR sanctioned event calling the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series four hours of boredom each week. 

Unfortunately, the message sent during the fanschoice.tv broadcast Saturday was: “It’s just the Whelen Modified Tour, we don’t need to prepare, we can just make it up as we go”.  

And that’s not fair to the Whelen Modified Tour. It’s not fair to the teams of the Whelen Modified Tour who try to present the series professionally at each event they go to. It’s simply demeaning to the efforts of those teams and the efforts of NASCAR to bring a professional and prepared look to the series at each stop. 

But, more disturbing is an attitude that permeates so much of short track racing today which was on full display on social media Sunday. 

Last month in this same space we wrote a column about the ills created by the mob mentality of sugarcoating all things negative in short track racing. 

We wrote this: 

It feels like short track racing has reached this seemingly painful plateau in its existence where entirely too many people who are deeply involved seem to operate with the philosophy that everything surrounding the sport must be sugarcoated.

Objective opinions must be sugarcoated. Negative opinions must be sugarcoated. If facts are negative, then they must be hidden. If news isn’t good then it shouldn’t be reported.

Every topic, every opinion, every observation, they must be positive it seems, and if not, the Sugarcoat Police will scream that someone is hurting short track racing by talking about the negatives.

The reality is – in everything, not just short track racing – putting a focus on what’s wrong can help serve to fix an issue.

Screaming that only positive opinions should be shared or disseminated through social media is like putting duct tape on a leaky pipe. It might make the dripping stop for a little while, but the problem isn’t going to be fixed and the effects of that problem will only grow worse. Covering up the negatives and only spewing false positives will only to continue to compound the real issues until they grow to be unfixable.

On Sunday in multiple places on Facebook trafficked by teams and fans of the Whelen Modified Tour, the Sugarcoat Police went full-on in slamming anyone who dare be even remotely critical of the broadcast announcing Saturday, with some even going so far to say that all fans should be applauding how good it was. 

What’s sad is that in short track racing we’ve reached this point where offering constructive criticism is tantamount to purposely running over someone’s dog. 

And the stale refrains echo each time someone is critical of anything short track related and the mob attacks. 

“You think you can do it better?” is the most common statement of defense. 

We’re not even going to go into what an immensely ignorant argument this is. Let’s just say this, if you heard someone complain about being the victim of a mistake by a trained brain surgeon, would you respond in defense of the brain surgeon by saying “Well, do you think you could do better?”

The next stale refrain in the chorus is: “It’s free, don’t complain.” 

Ok, here’s the problem with this. Yes it is free, and yes we understand that fanschoice is trying to do this on the cheap and not spend a bunch of money on dedicated announcers. But, that’s no excuse for the track announcers to just forgo any preparation. Because in the end, it dumbs down the product and makes the series look bad. Telling people to just ignore it is not the answer. Think a sponsor of the series or a team sponsor wants to hear announcers fumble on names and facts for 150 laps and then be told “just ignore and be happy it’s being broadcast”? Probably not.

NFL games are broadcast for free on CBS, Fox and NBC. If the announcers showed up each week and spewed wrong information for three and half hours of each game, do you think people involved would say: “Well, it’s free, don’t complain”? Absolutely not. 

And this idea that everyone in short track racing needs to be coddled and patted on the back and cheered on for everything is starting to make it look like grassroots racing is four year olds on the first day of tee-ball. 

“Yahhhh Johnny, you went the wrong way around the bases, but you still did great!!!!” 

It shouldn’t be like that. This is the Whelen Modified Tour. This is supposed to be the premier level of Modified racing in the country. It shouldn’t be participation trophy mommy’s and daddy’s cheering on what’s wrong.

Those taking to social media on Sunday to applaud a “great effort” by the announcers are not doing anything to help fix the ills of short track racing. They’re only serving to make sure problems go unfixed. 

If you’re potty training your child and that child drops a present in their diaper you don’t tell them they didn’t do anything wrong, or worse tell them did a good thing and applaud them. 

But that’s what happened Sunday when so many turned to Facebook to tell people they should applaud the unprepared announcing crew rather than talk about what was wrong and what should be fixed.  

And that’s what happens so much in all facets of short track racing today. Not only have we reached the point that anyone that points out the negative issues is now considered evil by so many deeply involved with the sport, we have people basically saying the negative is now good. It doesn’t even begin to make sense. And as long as a huge faction of those embedded in short track racing continue to force the mantra on social media of ignoring the negative – or worse celebrating the negative – nothing is going to get better. Why try to get better when so many are celebrating it getting worse? 

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Comments

  1. Stuart Fearn says:

    I did see some other comments about the free cast being terrible but didn’t realize it was THAT bad!
    Doesn’t even the mini stock tour and similar deals have their own announcers? That is a mandatory minimum in the very least. Ben Dodge (or similar) series expert must be there to call the race and make it come over at least factual and help tell the story of the race. Simply calling out the order doesn’t tell you who came from the back, has fresh tires, wrecked in practice, etc, etc. The story behind the story and the insiders line to get you involved in the race.
    Best of luck to them in the future, hopefully just growing pains

  2. Jack Arute says:

    I have tried to hook up with FansChoice for the mod shows and I can’t even get a return call
    I’d love to explore doing the shows

  3. Those are some tough points to argue. I especially agree with your reminder of the high class operations the teams of the Whelen Modified Tour bring to each event… they look and play the part that should be expected from a semi-professional team sport. That shouldn’t go unappreciated.

    Race teams approach marketing partners with “Live internet broadcasting of each event from FansChoice.TV” as a marketing asset. How do you think that goes over when a businesses tunes in to analyze their investment? The sponsors quickly realize their return is minimal when reviewing the partnership agreement. The poor preparation efforts of the media company makes the sanction and race teams look like lower class operations.

    I don’t think Shawn is just saying “Do better.”
    It’s more like “Match the presentation effort these race teams are putting in.” They deserve that much.

  4. Shawn hits a 🎯 again!!!

    Shawn, these shills need to be called out. The negatives need to be called out for the good of the product. The announcers were a joke. It was completely disrespectful to the owners, teams and sponsors. These announcers clearly didn’t do any preparation, but one of them had a real smooth voice. Made the cluelessness sound lovely. Was this a demonstration of southern hospitality?

    Many years ago, when NASCAR was starting with an internet presence, I lit into NASCAR for taking a week or more to post the race results. There was no excuse for it. Race results were published in newsprint faster than NASCAR was doing on the website. They got the message and results began getting posted almost immediately. As long as they can get away with it, they will. They need to be called out.

    Don’t disrespect the customer. Customers have many options nowadays.

    Great job Shawn. Thanks for being the adult in the room.

    Hey Jack Arute, can you P-L-E-A-S-E get the replays on the big screen back? That was awesome!

  5. Shawn. Totally agree with your article. Loved the fact of the coverage video wise, but the two “announcers” were horrendous. I think it would serve the tour EXTREMELY well with their own announcers so it would all flow naturally.

  6. Shawn;
    I could not listen to the broadcast Saturday, but i was very grateful to be able to follow on Racedsy Ct, so I thank you for that.
    As for broadcasts, maybe fan’s choice could approach some of the more articulate former modified owners/drivers et al, to guest host when in their area. I’m sure they would represent the sport well, and do a great unbiased job.

  7. Rob Walendy says:

    You do color and I will do play by play.

  8. Thanks for the honesty Shawn. These problems should be fixed as they occur and nor swept under the rug.

  9. I have no use for streaming. You can’t feel the thunder, you can’t smell the race smell, you can’t realize the speed. Streaming is for the keyboard warriors who talk smack but never really go to the races. Thus the sugarcoating issue. I go to the races I want to attend and can make and I read about the events I can’t make. No streaming for this fan.

  10. JD, what is it was on regular TV? Would watching it that way be acceptable? Are you saying watching any and all sports is for keyboard warriors? Streaming is the new OTA (over-the-air), and is replacing or supplementing cable. I stream it and direct it to my big screen TV, what could be wrong about that?

    I’m thinking you don’t have high speed internet service.

  11. That is so true if u don’t know how to read there names right next time ask them how to say there names 50% of the time they don’t say anything right but that is the south like sink is zink

  12. Harold Wilson says:

    No one would do it better Jack

  13. Fast Eddie says:

    I was unable to catch the broadcast, but fully agree with what you’re saying. The race teams and all involved are working hard to represent themselves and their sponsors to put on a good show for the fans. The people involved in the broadcast should be working just as hard to represent the WMT properly. “If you’re going to do it, than do it right!”
    There was a southern organization that used to put on a national event at New England Dragway. Although the announcers were very knowledgeable about the sport, they did a wonderful job of mispronouncing many northeast names for years. I felt bad for the racers, thinking here they are finally on a national stage, and no one is even getting their names right. They eventually “got it” and had a local announcer working with them to “translate”.

  14. Sharpie Fan says:

    So let’s all agree that the best way to fix this would be if the Tour had its own dedicated announcer. Many tours do — MRS, NEMA, etc.

    But let’s also agree that even the announcers for “the premier track in the northeast” sometimes live by the motto “never let the truth get in the way of a good story”.

    I sit in the stands shaking my head but your average race fan doesn’t know any better so they believe what they hear.

  15. i was there at the track both this year and last year. the announcers were grossly unprepared both years, to the point of it being pure comedy. these guys take zero pride in their job not to do some homework and ask the proper pronunciations to do their job effectively. the management should be ashamed of itself having such incompetent people as the voices of their racetrack.

  16. JD,

    If you have any sort of cable TV or satellite service today, anything beyond your own antenna, you’re already streaming…

    The set-top box used in digital cable and satellite service is actually a computer that simply decodes and aggregates streams, and presents them to you in an organized format you can control with a remote. Your monthly fee covers a guaranteed bandwidth delivery system, a physical cable, fiber, or satellite signal, the purchase, maintenance, and software update costs associated with your boxe(s), as well as licensing fees paid to content (the broadcast feed) providers where applicable. Even if you’re watching TV on an antenna, there’s a good chance the programming was streamed to your broadcaster.

    Many people who already pay for high speed internet can receive these streams using computers, smart TV’s, game consoles, or standalone devices, including the Firestick, Sling, or Roku, with the final product being a HD picture on a TV. If done properly by the broadcaster, to a viewer with a proper internet connection and decoding gear, it’ll look and sound as good as anything from NBC, ESPN, etc… via cable or satellite TV or an over the air antenna.

    Some may think of streaming as only to phones, tablets, or computers, but that’s changed in a hurry. In those cases, I’m with you, I don’t want to watch a race on my iPhone…

  17. Agree with sharpie fan, the tour should have it’s own announcers, they should talk to Ben Dodge, I’m sure his Start Finish Productions could come up with something.

  18. Hillary 2020 says:

    So who’s to blame. Nascar, fans choice, the tracks or all of the above?

  19. Even though just about just about every other touring series has their own announcers, NASCAR have never seemed to do it for their regional tours. And I doubt they would pay someone to do it. But be honest, if there was ever a PASS race at Waterford or a VRMS race at say Lake Erie Speedway using only the local announcers it would probably a mess too. The World of Outlaws Sprints run more dates a year than all the NASCAR regional tours combined and they have had their own announcers forever. And that person pretty much has to be a full time employee due to the travel and midweek shows as opposed to NASCAR who could easily find someone to show up on mostly weekends and is familiar with the series.

  20. Hilary 2020,
    My opinion, on this matter specifically, the track is to blame. The announcers should have been better prepared. It’s been said they were thrown into the spot unexpectedly, but nevertheless, there’s no excuse for not having a roster handy, not having timing and scoring at your fingertips and absolutely no excuse whatsoever for just making stuff up about the series/event that isn’t even close to true. That said, I know some have suggested NASCAR/Fanschoice should have dedicated announcers for this stream. I don’t think that’s going to happen. NASCAR/Fanschoice are doing these streams as a low budget way to offer live coverage for the regional divisions. Ultimately, big picture, I guess it’s on NASCAR to ensure that track announcers are prepared, which I don’t think should be a problem at most venues the series travels to.

  21. And let’s make this clear, this is not about sugarcoating. This is about attempting to influence and bully the media and open posting systems such as these, FB, etc. Try to suppress, oppress and censor what some don’t want to be exposed, then try to promote, promote, and promote some more all that you want to be believed. Sound familiar?

    When something is broke, it has to be fixed, not ignored. Ignoring that pain in your chest, arrow through your head, flat tire, knocking engine, is never a good idea.

    And then you have to realize that many people are tribal and competitive. It carries over into these forums in the “positivity” and “negativity” arguments. When you have to argue about what is positive and/or what is negative, you lost your argument a long time ago.

    Hey Barry, I was traveling on the interstate, and I considered myself lucky to be able to watch a race streamed to my iPhone. Not the best way, but under those circumstances, it worked. My wife was driving.

  22. I really liked the race on Fans Choice- I knew there was some announcing blunders but did not remember being as bad as you described/ I guess I was more interested in the racing then the announcer. It will be better when the get to CT. You would think they wouldn’t have any problem getting Interns to follow the Series and do announcing and color commentary.

  23. Not to put too fine a point on it the key component in the definition of streaming is buffering. Or allowing playback to start while the rest of the data is in the process of being received.
    5 nights of the World Series announcing in my view was top notch. Myrtle Beach not so much. I didn’t care and enjoyed the race. It will get better.
    The main point of the column was the sugar coat police. If you think Facebook and Twitter are the epicenter of feedback from critical thinkers on topics from national politics to local racing I guess there’s a point there. Frankly I think it’s over rated and perhaps losing a little of it’s attraction as more people let their accounts get old and stale including a lot of race teams. What’s left is people with the least to say saying the most.

  24. I agree. Buckler seems to constantly force his overused Cliches EVERY race

  25. Great article the thing I noticed most being there they never once mentioned any of the sponsors

  26. Crazy in NY says:

    While I agree with most of the article it’s funny when Ben Dodge gets a pass for butching names but
    yes this MB team was especially bad. His intro’s the last few years have been cringe worthy at times.
    Ben..if you’re reading it’s Andy (Jank-Oh-we-ack)…… please don’t call him Tony again.

  27. Speaking of Ben Dodge and seeing as how the theme of the article is sugar coating how about this observation.
    On October 12, 2017 our own Matt Buckler wrote an nice article as a employee for the Journal Inquirer describing the illustrious career of Ben Dodge in the run up to his well deserved induction in the NEAR Hall of Fame. The guy’s an institution in racing name pronunciation not withstanding but Matt who is a professional journalist did a bit of sugar coating for his friend that was note worthy.
    https://www.journalinquirer.com/sports/racing-hall-s-doors-to-open-for-dodge/article_c6baa7f8-af59-11e7-86e4-efa097eede71.html
    It’s a great piece describing an amazing career but left out out the Riverside Park dust up the including an unceremonious release as race director resulting from charges of larceny involving a mere $250.In the end it came to nothing and Dodge remained a hero of racers at Riverside for having created the first program whereby owners and drivers paid nothing to enter the pits. You could also argue that in a Hall of Fame announcement that tidbit might not be well received. Nonetheless it was a major piece of Dodge’s history that was left out by a professional journalist.
    https://www.courant.com/news/connecticut/hc-xpm-1996-09-25-9609250419-story.html

    Which leads me to conclude that whether you are an average Joe or Jane commenting on Facebook or a professional journalist there is a reason why we all seek to avoid the negative and unsweetened serials. Things that are sugar coated are easier to swallow.

  28. Doug (aka: WeldingWonders, Cybil, Sybil, Dug, TheHamHanded, etc.) wrote, “Which leads me to conclude that whether you are an average Joe or Jane commenting on Facebook or a professional journalist there is a reason why we all seek to avoid the negative and unsweetened serials. Things that are sugar coated are easier to swallow.”

    Hmmmm… ” … the negative and unsweetened serials.”

    The written word has its own vulnerabilities, such as homophones. For example, “serial” and “cereal”. One of them is traditionally a breakfast food made of corn and other grains. Health concerns have dramatically reduced, even eliminated, the use of added sugar.

  29. Yup I screwed up and blew what I thought was a pretty Kleavor last line. The good news is it gave our local hero DGF an opportunity to unpack his bag full of screen ID related taunts as well as a lecture on proper grammar. No sugar coating there for sure and I know I can benefit from his fine example.
    In my defense I still stand by the contrast of sugar coating by amateurs in social media and professionally. A deeper subject then would at first appear that hopefully racedayct can expand on in the future.

  30. Fast Eddie says:

    Hey Crazy, please cut Ben Dodge some slack. I’m sure Mr. Dodge announced many races that had Andy’s dad TONY Jankowiack competing. I think his unfortunate passing was related to a crash at one of the Spring Sizzlers.

  31. I listen to Ben Dodge and I can’t believe he has been doing this for so long. I cringe at what he says. He should know he has to get new material and get fresh. But hey, if you have a smooth, silky voice, the content of what you say doesn’t matter.

  32. Fast Eddie says:

    I thoroughly enjoy listening to Ben Dodge & Matt Buckler! their quirky comments, analogies, and one-liners make them who they are! They both have lots of personality and character, and you’ll be hard pressed to find any announcers more knowledgeable than them. And for the record, this isn’t sugarcoating; it’s fact! Sometimes I’m laughing at them, sometimes with them, and I usually end finding out something new about a driver or team I otherwise wouldn’t know. My only gripe about New England announcers is not hearing them when the race starts. More speakers! Turn them up!

  33. I think the announcers need to realize that nothing can be heard when the racing is green. They need to be quiet and wait for a yellow. The big screen at Stafford needs to be reactivated so it can also show the complete scoring while the race is happening.

    If you are sitting in front of a speaker, it can be too loud!!! The PA system should not be competing with the racing.

  34. josh paradis says:

    its because some people cant take the truth. if you have a premier division coming in the track should do a little extra to get it right and educate themselves about the series. its ignorance in short track racing thats killing it.

  35. “Hey Barry, I was traveling on the interstate, and I considered myself lucky to be able to watch a race streamed to my iPhone. Not the best way, but under those circumstances, it worked. My wife was driving.”

    Agreed! I was mainly referring to when a larger screen is available…

    I’ll add that as a 35 year and counting lifer in the technical side of the telephone -> internet -> mobile data communications biz, I’m always happy to hear of user enjoyment. Based on some stuff we’re currently testing, what we’ve got now will seem like a dial-up connection in a few short years. ;^)

  36. josh paradis wrote: ” its because some people cant take the truth.”

    Yep, I fully agree. 👍

    Looks like about 40% can’t take the truth.

  37. This is possibly one of my favorite articles ever on racedayct!
    I remember the 2007 New England 100 tv coverage where they made mistakes on the drivers names most notably Todd Szegedy. I mean these announcers are paid and journalists, and you say “Za-ged-ee”?? You might as well say “spaghetti” so the viewers metabolism can speed up so they can keep eating more popcorn and not get as fat while watching the lead change every other lap in the 100 mile/100 lap race, (cough 85 lap race cough due to espn having to cut the race short to flap their gums or the xfinity race… you remember). Then, them calling Jerry Marquis “Jerry Marcus” like cmon man, I understand English is the most difficult language to learn but, it is your first language and didn’t you take 400-500 level English classes in college to be on t.v.?? Then, we had the T.V. Companies calling and listed on the scoreboard Bobby Santos III on the Martinsville broadcast back then as, “Robert Santos”. Yes, I appreciate you are going by the book, but this isn’t a Tax Return, it’s NASCAR and we have nicknames. And I’m not done yet! This Myrtle Beach race is listed under the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series on my providers guide for what is on tv. Is it that hard to get these things correct? It’s housekeeping and I could announce a better race than these guys with all the “proper” education.
    I guess thats what we get for free though, “you get what you pay for”, and we paid zeerrroooo dollars for it. But, I am still happy we get the coverage though. Thank you fanschoice.tv i like mirroring my iphone to my appletv and watching it on my tv.
    Please get Jack Arute and Bob Dillner or Jimmy Spencer on there!
    Anyway, thank you Shawn that was a great article! You hit it on the head.

  38. Come on Barry, spill it. You know stuff. Are you referring to 5G or something more exotic?

  39. Tyler, I’d really enjoy Jimmy Spencer calling the Mighty Mods!

  40. josh paradis says:

    i think they need someone like larry mac to help with the mod races to help further break down things for the fans tech wise who dont get a chance to come out here

  41. Ray Evernham on the NBCSN re-airing was a dream.

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