Behind the scenes with NASCAR on NBC

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“The first event I ever announced was a women’s gymnastics meet at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln,” said Rick Allen, lead announcer for NASCAR on NBC. “The guy who was supposed to do it didn’t show up. And I just happened to be hanging around, so I did it.”

As the then-reigning back-to-back Big Eight (now Big 12) Conference decathlon champion for the Cornhuskers, as Allen was in 1991 and 1992, why wouldn’t you be hanging around the women’s gymnastics team? If charisma was a sport, he’d still be leading the league.

Allen’s affable, smooth, confident tone on the air transitions just as easily outside of the booth to the confines of the NBC Sports tent where we talked about his job as the voice of NBC Sports’ rejuvenated NASCAR franchise.

“Nothing about this position is easy, but I am privileged and very excited to be here.”

Allen got his start announcing races at Eagle Raceway in Eagle, Nebraska after getting a degree in speech communications.

He joined Fox Sports in 2003 and served as play-by-play man for Camping World Truck Series and Xfinity races until last year. Former NASCAR driver Jeff Burton and former crew chief Steve Letarte join Allen in the booth.

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“At any one time, I have five people in my headset, whether it’s my producer, our spotter, our stats guys… all providing me with information to make the broadcast as engaging and understandable as possible for the fans watching it. And that is on top of the conversations I’m having in the booth, with Jeff and Steve.”

Allen isn’t just a mouthpiece who acts like he knows what he’s talking about; the authenticity of his interest and enjoyment of NASCAR is palpable as he speaks. He’s the voice of the franchise and is excited about helping viewers understand the intricacies of the sport with the second biggest audience base, trailing only the NFL.

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Social Network and Marketplace for Car Fanatics

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Where can car buffs, car clubs and industry insiders go to interact with other automotive fans? Where can you show off your custom, rebuilt 1967 Mustang GT you’ve been antsy to unleash? Can you say: Social Media? Admit it, a social media site like Facebook has been quintessential in helping thousands locate their long lost cousin, or reconnect with their high school sweetheart and that’s a good thing, if that’s your purpose. But what about the guy who just wants to find other Mustang enthusiasts, or the jalopy driver looking for recommendations on where to purchase her next car? Then there’s the girl who dreams of starting her own Car Girl Club.

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Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

You may have noticed the popularity of MMA (mixed martial arts) events on television and pay-per-view specials in addition to seeing a few notable athletes in movies and television. The popularity of MMA is fairly new, yet a number of martial arts that fighters use to defeat their opponents, including Brazilian jiu jitsu, have existed for centuries. Below, you’ll be more interested in the sport after learning of the many benefits training affords.

History

In the early 1600s, Japan experienced a time of peace following feudal wars, yet military and civilians alike shared the mantra, “live in peace but remember war.” It was agreed that people should learn self-defense, and many styles of fighting were used, yet grappling, fighting without the use of weapons, grew in popularity. Grappling incorporated many techniques and styles used in hand-to-hand combat while its main focus taught disciples to fight from the ground. Jiu-Jitsu grew from Judo, and the Gracie family is often credited with bringing the style of fighting to Brazil and ultimately the USA.

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Blu Tuesday: The Gambler, Inherent Vice and More

Every Tuesday, I review the newest Blu-ray releases and let you know whether they’re worth buying, renting or skipping, along with a breakdown of the included extras. If you see something you like, click on the cover art to purchase the Blu-ray from Amazon, and be sure to share each week’s column on Facebook and Twitter with your friends.

“The Gambler”

WHAT: After falling into debt with a pair of dangerous men, college English professor and degenerate gambler Jim Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) is given seven days to pay or else. When his mother (Jessica Lange) gives him the money to clear his debt, only to blow it at the casino instead, Jim is put in a precarious position when one of the loan sharks (Michael K. Williams) threatens the lives of his two students.

WHY: Rupert Wyatt’s “The Gambler” is a curious beast. It’s based on a film that’s just obscure enough that a remake wouldn’t ruffle too many feathers, yet is well-regarded by those who have seen it. In other words, the 1974 original starring James Caan isn’t exactly holy ground, but there’s not much to improve on either, which makes this Mark Wahlberg vanity project feel every bit as irrelevant as the story it’s trying to tell. Wahlberg’s character is such a miserable asshole that it’s very difficult to identify with him, despite some punchy dialogue from writer William Monahan, and to make matters worse, the actor is terribly miscast in the role. At least the gambling scenes are handled with style and verve, dripping in tension and absolutely painful to watch. But while the movie does a great job of illustrating Jim’s self-destructive nature, it never digs any deeper into the root of the problem, which makes it seem fairly hollow as a result. “The Gambler” had all the right ingredients – a great cast, a talented director and source material that’s already proven to work – but it’s a disappointing misfire that fails to capitalize on its intriguing premise.

EXTRAS: There’s a collection of featurettes covering the production process (including the differences between the 1974 original and Rupert Wyatt’s remake, location shooting and costumes), as well as six deleted scenes.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

“Inherent Vice”

WHAT: Pothead private investigator Doc Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix) investigates the disappearance of his free-spirited ex-girlfriend (Katherine Waterson) and her real estate mogul boyfriend, Mickey (Eric Roberts), which may be connected to a series of other cases involving a presumed-dead musician (Owen Wilson), the murder of one of Mickey’s bodyguards and a mysterious Indo-Chinese drug syndicate called the Golden Fang.

WHY: After years of toying with my patience, Paul Thomas Anderson has finally made a movie that’s almost impossible to defend. Fans of the director will make excuses for the film’s myriad problems anyway, but the fact that they find it necessary at all only confirms what a giant mess “Inherent Vice” really is. Based on the 2009 novel by Thomas Pynchon, the so-called inherent vice of Anderson’s slacker noir is the narrative itself. It’s as if the movie, like many of its characters, is in a constant state of a drug-addled high, unable to remain focused or make sense of anything that’s going on. And while that may be the film’s big joke, it’s not a very funny one. It feels complicated for the sake of being complicated, eventually becoming so mired in all the twists and pointless subplots that it doesn’t even know what it’s about anymore. Even worse than the gaps in logic is the punishingly long runtime, which is filled with dense, drawn-out conversations that go nowhere except lead to another similarly long-winded exchange. Joaquin Phoenix nearly holds the whole thing together with his amusingly daffy performance, but he’s the only bright spot in a movie that really should have been a lot more enjoyable.

EXTRAS: There’s a deleted scene and some fluffy promotional material, but that’s all.

FINAL VERDICT: SKIP

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UFC 189 fight preview – July 11th 2015

The Ultimate Fight Championship (UFC) will bring to a close their annual ‘Fight Week’ with the highly anticipated pay per view fight night on July 11th 2015.

The night will feature a Championship double header between Jose Aldo and Conor McGregor, as both fight to try and clinch the featherweight crown.

This fight will then be followed up by the battle for welterweight’s promotion strap as Robbie Lawler takes on Rory MacDonald.

The venue for the event has been set with the fighters heading to the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, with a full house expected on the night.

Although heavier weight classes usually take the limelight in the event of a UFC championship double header, officials for the night have said Aldo vs. McGregor will serve as the main event for viewers to enjoy.

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