Sunday, February 24, 2013

Monday Morning Crew Chief: The next best thing to 'BeIn' there

So as we got to the last minute before the start of the 2013 World SBK season without a North American broadcast deal, it seemed as if there would be essentially no way for motorcycle racing fans to watch what has been -- at least arguably -- the most compelling road racing world championship.

Then, we were told that a subsidiary of Al Jazeera -- a network whose name previously only cropped up when some jihadi nutcase wanted to release cell-phone video of a terrorist beheading -- would carry carry it on 'BeIn', a cable sports channel available in approximately 17 households.
I'm not sure whose coverage BeIn picked up, but it was too good to be true. 
Then, we were told that BeIn's stream would be available only to the 49 people who were already customers of a cable company that carried BeIn.

With that in mind, I went out to a birthday party Saturday evening (Sunday morning at Philip Island). When I got in later, I checked my FB page and saw rather rapturous accounts of how great it had been watching the BeIn feed online. My friends noted, "A full hour of race coverage without a single commercial!" and one helpfully posted a URL, that appeared to be hosted on a Spanish server, where anyone could watch it.

I clicked the link and watched a few minutes of soccer news, and then it cut to SBK Race 2.

Indeed, the race coverage was brilliant, and even on my sketchy and bandwidth-challenged connection it was a hell of a lot better than anything Speed ever put up. The only thing that bothered me was, it was an hour of uninterrupted coverage without a single commercial.

You see, if something seems to good to be true, it usually is.

I watched for an hour, without seeing so much as a banner ad. I wish there had been some advertising, so that I could at least hope BeIn has a business plan that will allow them to continue paying the bill at the server farm. I can, unfortunately, guarantee you that that great feed won't be available for too long if is to go completely unmonetized.

Still, as long as it's available, it's the next best thing to being there.

Keith Flint, of the band Prodigy, is a genuine motorcycle nut, and not just a  'celebrity' whose PR advisors have told should be seen associating with bad-boy sports like motorcycle racing. That said, he was a guest of Crescent Suzuki on the grid.

In an accidentally revealing moment, the grid-walk cam focused on Flint -- a guy who (me being me) I didn't recognize from Adam (Ant). All I saw, at a glance, was an idiot in a sideways flat-billed cap, with lots of chunky bling, who, when he realized that a camera was pointed at him, mugged for it and flashed pretend gang signs. (Note to all white guys, even motorcycle racers: The pretend gang thing is pathetic; especially so when you're dressed all ghetto to boot.)

What was noticeable, too, was that although the riders were less than two minutes from the sighting lap, Flint was NATTERING on to Leon Camier. Dude: unlike you, he's a professional motorcycle racer. Unlike being an idiot rock star, Camier's job requires concentration. SHUT THE FUCK UP.

While I'm on this rant, let me add that if I could wave a magic wand and make one thing disappear, it would be the way celebrity wannabes are invited onto the grid at all. For fuck's sake, you're on the starting grid at Philip Island. The celebrities here are on the bikes.

"Motorcycle racing must be cool, right? Because look at these cool people who want to be with us..." It just makes our sport look desperate. 

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