What the heck happened during the Southwick TV broadcast?

August 29, 2011 8:50am | by:
A brief explanation for those of you who watched the second 450 moto broadcast from Southwick on television Saturday, and wondered, “How the heck did the announcers not know the race had started? Are they really that dumb?”

Well, two answers. Yes, the announcers are really, really dumb.

But the bigger problem was a technical one. Due to hurricane conditions at the track, our monitors kept flickering on and off, so there were portions of each race where Emig and I couldn’t see anything. Nothing. We announce the races from inside a semi truck. There are no windows. The walls are soundproofed. For half of the first 250 moto, we couldn’t see a thing and just had to call the race based on the timing and scoring screen. You probably couldn’t tell because we adapted and made it work.

The worst case scenario broke out during 450 moto 2. We were watching the Suzuki team wrench on Ryan Dungey’s bike when our monitors went blank again. So from that point on, we had no idea when the race was going to start. Our producer was yelling into the headsets “Stay on Dungey, stay on Dungey,” which we took as instruction to keep talking about the Dungey scenario while we waited for the race to begin. So we figured that must have meant the parade lap had begun. But apparently, he was saying that as instructions for the crew to keep a camera on Dungey to catch his reaction. The race had started without him.

Emig and I didn’t know. We couldn't hear or see anything. Looking at my watch, I knew the race was scheduled to start soon, give or take a minute. Usually, though, there’s a backup plan. If we lose everything, our producer will quickly tell us what’s happening so we can talk through it anyway. But when the race began, he was communicating with race control to figure out if Dungey was legal to enter the race late. When Emig and I asked for an update, no one could hear us.

We eventually saw a lap logged on the timing and scoring screen. But even on the parade lap, the timing and scoring screen logs the entire field. So we weren’t sure. The quick lap time provided a clue, however, lap times at Southwick vary wildly, (the fastest qualifying lap was a 1:55, and the fastest lap of the second moto was a 2:20) so that was still only a guess. It was only when I noticed Justin Barcia had completed two laps that I realized the race had begun. Again, we didn’t have a monitor, we didn’t have sound, we don’t have windows. We were in a truck away from the track staring at blank TV screens.

But most of all, usually when we miss something, the producers tells us. But this time, he was communicating with officials to get a ruling on Dungey, so he didn’t hear us.

Our monitors came back on during lap three, when the crew patched us into a different (and very blurry) backup signal. While it’s true the race didn’t air live on SPEED, the show does air live internationally in a variety of countries. That feed is beamed up on satellite, and that’s what we have. What’s done is done.

Also, motocross tracks don’t really have the right facilities to build an announcer’s booth for TV with windows, and even in supercross, the guys announce by watching the screen, not looking out the window. The key is to always call what’s on the screen and not by looking out the window.

And that works, unless the screen doesn’t.