1995 TOYOTA GRAND PRIX OF LONG BEACH PPG Indy Car World Series Race No. 4 APRIL 7-9, 1995 INSIDE THE BOOTH WITH PAUL PAGE by Jeff Angell, for SpeedNet On the second day of qualifying for the Long Beach IndyCar race I was treated to a unique...
1995 TOYOTA GRAND PRIX OF LONG BEACH PPG Indy Car World Series Race No. 4 APRIL 7-9, 1995
INSIDE THE BOOTH WITH PAUL PAGE by Jeff Angell, for SpeedNet
On the second day of qualifying for the Long Beach IndyCar race I was treated to a unique and entertaining look behind the scenes at ABC Racing's production facilities. My host? As advertised, none other than the former "Voice of The Indianapolis 500", Paul Page.
To begin with, Paul was almost apologetic in his explaination of the non-standard facilities used for this event. The Long Beach event's steering committee has a history of utilizing as much local talent as possible in all facets of it's promotion and this includes the agencies responsible for supplying and supporting the broadcast hardware.
This is the main reason I'm not going to dwell on the technical aspects of what we saw, but more on the "feel" I got for the relationship that Paul, as one of the on-air personalities, has with "the troops" (the techs, working directors and producers, etc...), the drivers, his fellow on-air associates, Sam Posey and Bobby Unser, and most important of all, his relationship with us...the fans.
The other reason is that I forgot my notebook this morning...(red-faced scuffling of feet)
But that probably wouldn't have changed the feeling I recieved that none of the technical staff appeared to be "just doing my job..." It became obvious after only a few moments that each of these extremely competent persons was a racing fan and that they were there for love of the sport. This was evidenced by the fact that between them (Paul, the techies, and production types) they have won numerous Emmys for their work and could command as much as 3 times the compensation they now recieve for similar positions (with MUCH better working conditions) in the more pedestrian stick and ball sports but REMAIN in motorsports.
I might not make the same decision...
These folks, believe it or not, are MORE critical of what gets sent on-air than we are. There was evidence of some actual suffering amongst them for things like missing the pass for the lead last week at Phoenix. Paul alluded to as how he was continually berating the person above him who decided to air the Andrew Craig interview while green flag racing was going on, within moments of it showing up on his monitor.
To further elaborate on the events at Phoenix, earlier in the week Paul confronted Rick Rinaman concerning the delayed decision to refuel Emmo. Rinaman didn't allow for more than three words from Paul before hanging his head and saying, "I know...I know...it wasn't my decision...I know...I know..."
We've sometimes come down on poorly timed interviews and questions that may appear to lack sensitivity, but the realty of the situation is that the teams, drivers, and traveling production staff practically live together during the season and a "family" atmosphere exists between them. They do know what they're doing and the drivers understand (ultimately) the need for timely information during a race.
The biggest reason we don't hear of the grief with decisions made pit-side (or from the cockpit) that is felt in the booth, is that it makes the announcer's sound a bit self-serving. Paul Page has twice won second place in the season standings in SCCA clubman class championships, driven (not raced, though) a multitude of different race cars including Indy type cars, attended ALL of the major driving schools at their highest competition oriented levels, and still races four-five times a year to keep his hand in.
To say that the driver's respect his opinions would be a massive understatement. It might blow a couple of his personal contacts should I go into detail, but recently a driver who has been having consistency problems SOUGHT OUT Paul's advice. The next event that driver's results improved measureably and afterwards he thanked Paul and said he was a considerable factor in the outcome (for that driver) of the event.
He knows from whence he WOULD speak, but the average viewer doesn't know these things and the network's PTB would frown upon recieving letters asking things like, "Just who does Page think he is, second guessing (insert name of driver/team manager) about race tactics?" So the best he can do is prompt either Sam or Bobby for comment with sometimes not too successful results...
It's said that Paul has come close to physical violence (a vicious rumor to be sure) in order to get their attention refocused from "entertaining" the crowd at home to actually watching was happening on the track. Yeah, MOST of what we hear between those two IS contrived to get precisely the reaction it does. The "Howard Cosell" Syndrome, I believe it's called...
Lastly, I should mention the frustration that was evident on all faces when specific past criticisms were mentioned. All of these folks are race fans and racers, FIRST. Trust me when I say that if you've moaned or groaned about a situation concerning a broadcast, be it length, editing, live or not, "stupid" comments from the booth, timings of "features", these people have also...and twice as loudly.
They REALLY are on our side.
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