Monday, May 30, 2011

Interesting Finishes

For the last 20 laps of the Indianapolis 500 yesterday the commentators were hyperventilating about the first three cars running out of fuel. They were all but certain that none of them could finish the race with the fuel they had onboard, but they did not tell us who would win if the three cars stopped for fuel or ran out.

The second place car stopped for fuel, and then the car that had been third, and the commentary continued to speculate in a feverish tone about the leader running out of fuel, but still we hear nothing about who is currently in second place and likely to win in the event that the winner runs out of fuel. We can see on the scroll who is in second place, but nothing is being said about his fuel status.

On the last lap the excitement is rampant as we are being told, screamed at, that a rookie is going to win the race because, apparently, fuel is not a factor on the last lap (see Coca Cola 600 following), and we still have not heard who is in second place.

The commentary is spoiled when said rookie crashes entering the final straight and the person we have been wondering about is finally named as, speaking his name for the very first time, the commentators tell us that, “Dan Wheldon wins the Indianapolis 500.”

The Coca Cola 600 was even more weird. For the last forty laps or so the commentators are speculating about everybody running out of fuel, except that they freely admit that they don’t know what the race teams’ strategy is. How often do the expert analysts on a sporting event admit that they don’t know what’s going on?

Just prior to the end a race car blows an engine, causing a caution, and the network goes to the in-car communication just in time to hear the crew chief exclaim, “I don’t effing believe it.” He didn’t say “effing.” The commentator then apologized for his language. At any rate, that caution set up the weird, and mostly unannounced, finish. There was a lot of incoherent screaming, but not much actual narrative.

On the restart the leader ran out of gas, causing the cars to stack up and several of them to crash. That should have caused another caution to be called but, for some odd reason, did not. The second place car inherited the lead and the race went on.

On the last lap the camera was focused on the first place car, so closely that when it began slowing down the viewer could not tell that it was doing so. One announcer was screaming that the leader was slowing, but… Finally the camera backed off and we could see that it was indeed doing so, having run out of gas.

The announcers are excitedly telling us that Kevin Harvick had “come from nowhere” to win the race, failing to mention that not only had the leader run out of gas but so had the second place car at the same time. Harvick had been running third, but the commentators were apparently unaware of that because they were screaming excitedly, “Where did he come from?” as he crossed the finish line to win.

I may be old fashioned, but I find races more exciting when they are won by driving fast, not by driving slowly and saving fuel. To me the result of a race is more satisfying when it is determined by who drove the fastest, rather than by who ran out of fuel. Maybe I just have a different definition of the word “racing.”

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