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Fox Sports’ rise heralds Speed’s demise

When I went to bed Friday night, Speed channel was showing an old documentary about the Trans-Am series.

Sam Posey was host. Parnelli Jones, Dan Gurney, Mark Donohue, George Follmer, Peter Revson, Swede Savage, et al., were driving. And a little later, Willy T. Ribbs. They were thrashing gears in throaty American muscle cars from yesteryear. Good stuff. Loud stuff.

When I woke Saturday morning, they were showing NASCAR Truck Series qualifying from Michigan. A guy named Jeb was telling the pit lane reporter, probably also a guy named Jeb, that he had a good setup.

So it would appear that nothing had changed while I slept.

Which couldn’t have been farther from the truth.

While I slept, the Speed channel up and died. Fox black-flagged it. Dropped it like the transmission in an old El Camino.

Speed has been rebranded Fox Sports 1, the new around-the-clock sports network that will compete with ESPN for viewers and programming and sideline reporters that look like beauty queens.

So no more “Pinks.” No more “Unique Whips.” No more “Chop Cut Rebuild,” “Hard Parts: South Bronx” or “Pimp My Ride” reruns. No more Fram oil filters guy. No more pay him now, or pay him later.

No more “Wind Tunnel,” no more Dave Despain. No more Australian V8 Supercars. No more staying up all night to watch the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and I’m going to miss headlights flashing across my darkened big screen in high definition (though at 3:45 a.m., how can you tell).

So will Mario Andretti.

“For us, as racers, it has got to be a negative,” the original Super Mario told Car and Driver magazine as the Speed channel embarked on its final laps. “It’s something that is being taken away from us. As a man in the business, as a racer, I am somewhat disappointed. The fact that when I’ll turn it on, I’ll see baseball.”

Eventually, he probably will see baseball. He didn’t see it Saturday.

Whereas ESPN showed slow-pitch softball, on tape, and college wrestling, on tape, on its first day, this was Fox Sports 1’s lineup: “Fox College Football Kickoff;” live NASCAR Sprint Cup practice; Tom Brady, 1 on 1 with Michael Strahan. Then like 18 hours of UFC programming. Then the debut of “Fox Sports Live,” which is the Bizarro World “SportsCenter,” or something like that.

“The dynamic duo of Jay (Onrait) and Dan (O’Toole) deliver the news and highlights as only they can,” reads the promo.

“Unfamiliar with Jay and Dan’s body of work? (Yes.) Their first FoxSports.com podcast will give you an idea of the hilarity to ensue. (No. Please, no.)”

If George Carlin still were alive, you’d want hilarity to ensue. Same with Richard Pryor. Maybe even with Carrot Top, if you have to pay to get in.

When it comes to ball scores — and because I officially have become my father — I’m OK with “Cardinals 8, Cubs 1, and back to you, Chet.”

Anyway, because hilarity is about to ensue during Bowling Green vs. Toledo football highlights, I no longer will be able to watch ol’ Parnelli hold off Dan Gurney through the esses. As a gearhead, to use Mario’s understated expression, that somewhat disappoints me.

But I must confess that “Pimp My Ride” reruns never did much for me, because guys do not generally pimp ’73 Chevy Vegas, rusted out Impalas and Volkswagen Rabbits, which are rides I have owned.

I thought the Speed channel was much more interesting when it showed a variety of motorsports, instead of mostly showing guys with mustaches and tattoos hammer on old Buicks before NASCAR Truck Series practice goes green.

FOX Sports 1 will continue to show NASCAR practice and qualifying and anytime Danica Patrick does something. Or does nothing at all. Darrell Waltrip isn’t going anywhere. And the NBC family of networks eventually will pick up the slack to augment its IndyCar and Formula 1 coverage, at least until the Olympics start.

So most gearheads, who tend to like football and some of the other sports, too, probably will wind up watching Fox Sports 1 more than they watched Speed.

I’m also delighted that ESPN will have competition, if for no other reason that when the Dave Clark Five came over, and Herman’s Hermits, Lennon and McCartney started writing songs for “Beatles ’65.” That was a damn fine album. Plus, that Stuart Scott dude is getting somewhat big for his britches.

When I sat down to write this, the NASCAR Nationwide Series race from Mid-Ohio was providing background noise.

I have since switched from ESPN to Fox Sports 1.

Hilarity has yet to ensue. But Erin Andrews and some other fabulous sports babe sporting a slinky dress and bare shoulders are yammering on about something, and so those other guys named Jeb are just gonna have to wait.

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow him on Twitter: @ronkantowski.

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