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The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly: 1st Anniversary Edition

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On: Mon, Aug 2, 2010 at 3:19PM | By: John Welch

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly: 1st Anniversary Edition

The Good: Last year we began preparing to launch The AutoShopper Blog right around this time. The first images were saved on July 30th, the first article written on August 1st. Though it wasn't the first article posted, the first article I wrote was a recap of the Rally Cross portion of the 2009 X Games.

I was blown away. The idea of a home-grown Race of Champions-type Rally Balls-Off made me giggle in my sleep. It was better than the RoC: no silly dune buggies, the rally cars are different brands and there were prominent jumps that the drivers had to negotiate. Two of them! The course weaved through the L.A. Coliseum, out into the parking lot, then back into the arena for jump-tastic, fascia-destroying 70-foot launches in the middle of the bowl. It was a perfect concoction of familiar drivers and short-attention span laps that would capture the skateboard-centric mind and possibly open a new form of racing to a new group of potential fans. After all, what could be more extreme than slinging a 2,500 lb. vehicle around gravel-strewn corners right next to 300-foot drop offs? That happens at every World Rally Championship race. Totally gnar-bonetubularRadical, Yo. I was so keyed-up I failed to notice the deplorable ESPN camera work or the obvious lack of scrutineering and serious scoring. That is the "Good" portion of today's article, last year's X Games Rally.

 . . . And now for the BAD . . . duhn-dun DAaaahhhh . . . The coverage and execution of the 2010 X Games Rally. The Ugly? ESPN/ABC motor sports coverage in general. Two words: "Sorely Lacking" . . .

The Bad: X Games Rally X or Cross or whatever. Guys, guys, guys, I've heard all of the excuses. No practice, same-day course construction, no room for 700 horse hatchbacks to play. I've heard it all, and I say tough! With zero background knowledge as to just how difficult it is to plan a rally race in one day, I felt like I was viewing the show with mildly uninitiated eyes.

As Boris Said began previewing the course, it was clear that there were big changes for the rally cars this year. The track was less one jump, and most of the asphalt "street" section, but now included more dirt sections (confusing) and a standing start overlooking an enormous, steep grade (daunting). The track had potential, and the best new addition was yet to come. Super Rally Cross, X, whatever; four cars, side by side, racing at once for four laps. Lots o' fours. Remember that "four lap" part, we'll get to that later.

I'm excited! 4-wide rally racing?! That's exciting, right?! Saving the best for last, the medal for . . . uhm. . . 'normal?' Rally Xxross was to be awarded first. This is the part where my remote control develops a paranoia known only to those who have survived a "Tornado ate my Double-Wide"-type situation. At any time its precious remotecontrol life could come to a violent end, rocketed at the kitchen tile like BessieMooCow through a Mid-Western barn door on a dark Kansas afternoon. What could possibly arouse in me such mirthful disgust towards a freaking rally race of all things? For one, totally incompetent camera work.

Motor sports are difficult to film. ESPN must not do much of it. Wait, wait, they have broadcast IRL races, as well as NASCAR and the NHRA for years . . . they're well seasoned in the black-art of capturing race footage. This may be true, but what is also true is how damned bad they are at anything that doesn't go straight or left and then straight. Turbo-bad, to the point where Paul Page and Boris Said are commenting on action that you, the home viewer, cannot see! You can see the completely rallycar-free street portion of the track, or an eentsy peripheral view of a far-off Lancer completing a nose-dive onto a landing platform that is obscured by the part of the track the ESPN camera crew is focusing on—you know, that one totally unused piece of track that will remain unused for the next thirty seconds? Paul and Boris, wailing away about missed corners and high flying maneuvers that, I suppose, are just too darned totally far-out extreme for the home viewer to handle. Well, at least there was some semblance of racing going on, right? Some sort of organized test of driver skill and car preparedness? Nope, none of the drivers knew or fully understood the track; every race I paid attention to ended in a red flag for leaving the course, something I became thoroughly sick of after two or three heats. Tanner Foust won the Normal RallyCroxx X Games Gold medal . . . because of a red flag.

Super Rally-X-Cross was just as bad. I'm not cracking on the organizers of the event; we all know this is an exhibition, that these races mean nothing, and that the whole point is to throw Ford Fiestas off of cliffs for the entertainment of pubescent boys. I am only picking on the lazy ESPN coverage. Paul Page: " . . . And there go three cars over the 'Joker Jump' (uhg, really?) side by side, 3 cars 80 feet in the air all at once!" Wow, I bet that was awesome, Paul! I didn't see it because ESPN thought I would rather see the ass-end of Ken Block's Ford as it coasted to a slow, broken, stop on the back-stretch. Totally, frikkin Awesome. My remote is breaking out in uncontrollable cold-sweats, fearing the end may be near.

The icing on the cake? The final race for the Gold Medal would up the fake ante by adding another lap, bringing the total to five. So, off they go, ESPN neglecting to prevent mishaps like 25 solid seconds of "dead-air"; shots of the track where the action you are currently hearing about was a second ago. This monkey business wrapped up on the fourth lap, when a clueless corner worker waved the checkered flag for Tanner Foust, who proceeded to launch into a series of celebratory doughnuts. All the while being passed by other cars whose drivers seemed to think there was still one lap left. It's all good Brah! All four competitors decided to throw in the towel (after all, it is just an exhibition, right?) before completing the final lap, and joined each other in some sort of hippy doughnut party in the middle of the track. Who won? I don't know; when it became clear that ESPN would not be playing any replays of all the fantastic action they had not yet shown home viewers, I turned on Toddlers and Tiaras so I could watch some real competition. Was it four laps, or five? I don't know. Will you ever waste two hours watching X Games Rally XxCrossxX again? I don't know. It was insulting. But not insulting enough to make me miss the NASCAR race, on ESPN, the next day!

- Just so you know, ESPN has removed all videos of the 2010 X Games XVI XRally XCross XXxxxxXxXXXxx from YouTube. Pretty lame on ESPN's part.

The Ugly: This is what a sucker I am: I watched another race on ESPN this weekend. NASCAR jumps from network to network all year, and though all NASCAR coverage is kitschy and geared toward eight-year-olds, ESPN/ABC is the worst. Marty Ried is just plain goofy. His weird delivery and comical misrepresentations of statistics make him a pure joy to laugh at. Camera crews missing important action? You betcha! Elliot Sadler hit a wall so hard the impact dislodged his Ford's engine, threw it forty feet. You don't get to see it because all of the ESPN cameras are busy watching Kurt Busch slide to a stop. All - as in every single one. What are there, nearly forty television cameras around a typical NASCAR speedway? Not even considering the blimp cams, bumper cams, driver cams, and fancy XFL-style cams on a rope. . . Pitiful.

What makes it all so special though, for me, is all the silly gibberish that pours out of 'ole Marty like a frothy discharge from an infection fueled by dirt bad clichés. Here are a few of my favorites . . .

"That was a bit of a dicey move right there!" Marty watched 'Fargo' in the hotel and it's mesmerizing dialogue is just impossible to purge from his frontal lobe. . .

"There’s the commitment cone, thank you for not hitting it!" Why Marty? Is that your commitment cone?!

"Oh my, this is such fun . .. " Yes, he actually said that. More than once.

Okay, I'm done, time to clean all the chaff out of my DVR. There is GP2, World Challenge, WRC, V8 Super Cars, CORR, old ALMS, old Izod IndyCar Series, and a little NHRA and NASCAR Classics thrown in. Plenty of racing on the 'ole idiot-box these days, no reason to settle for this garbage Disney forces on us. Hopefully the X Games returns to its previous glory, or someone wises up and just hands Rally America a TV deal. So we can learn how to film a proper rally race. . . geez . . .

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