The Blind Truth

he next time you watch NHRA on ESPN2, and wonder why Paul Page or Mike Dunn don’t immediately react to something that happens on the starting line or during a run, remember this:

They can’t see the track!

While it is unthinkable that a major sporting event – baseball, football, basketball, NASCAR, you name it – would be televised without the anchor announcers being able to look out the booth an see what is happening with their very own eyes, that is exactly what happens in the Full Throttle series.

Page and Dunn are in a closed trailer, in the ESPN production compound, calling the action based only on what is on 13-inch video screens positioned in front of them. Page has four views; Dunn three.

“Those monitors are our connection,” explains Page. “If one of them goes bad . . . We never see it.”

I didn’t know this until I visited the TV compound at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in April. The only other “big time” race I’ve seen done this was way the SCCA National Championship Runoffs at Mid-Ohio a bunch of years ago. That was because the boss of the independent production company hired by Speed Channel calculated he could save money by not wiring-up and running cables to the booth.

Eric Swaringen, the ESPN producer, cited financial and logistical reasons for this unusual – and, to me, troubling – arrangement.

“I’ve probably covered 20 different sports and I’ve never been in one where they have not been able to see the action live,” said  Swaringen, during an extensive interview. (Part One in May DRO.) “It does make it more challenging for Paul and Mike. The hardest part is being able to show the speed and power of the cars: It’s hard for them to get a feel for it without being out there. For them to do the job they do is pretty amazing.

“A lot of it is monetary and finding a place to put a trailer either at the start line or finish line. There’s only a certain area where they can put the TV compound. There might not be a spot to put a booth with a big window. Plus, you have to worry about vibration and other considerations.”

Page, who has probably broadcast every type of motorsports except chariots, admitted: “At first, it scared the daylights out of me.