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Jay Busbee

ESPN values kiddie baseball, PTI over NASCAR qualifying

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Man, I would never want to be the network program chief in charge of juggling live programming. Case in point: Friday afternoon, when ESPN faced the dilemma of trying to figure out how to shoehorn three programs -- Little League baseball, NASCAR qualifying, and Pardon The Interruption -- into two timeslots. Whatever you do, somebody's going to be very, very ticked.

Spoiler: NASCAR lost out, at least for 23 minutes.

Now, I'm certain this will send NASCAR neurotics into fits; it's not quite America's Funniest Videos pre-empting the race, but still -- Little League baseball? Really?

But this is where broadcasters building up goodwill comes in handy. ESPN promised that it would devote more time to NASCAR this season, and reviews of ESPN's coverage and postrace work have largely been positive.

However, ESPN's announcers promised that "you haven't missed anything," and that's not quite true. Nine drivers had already run by the time the broadcast resumed, and Jeff Gordon had a near-catastrophic pre-qualifying-lap spin.

Still, while the programming decision was a bit embarrassing -- come on, who's really watching Little League baseball outside of the families and hometowns involved? -- this little crossover wasn't the worst thing that could have happened. Now, if they'd pre-empted NASCAR for the WNBA, we'd have to throw down.

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