A Hope For NBC’s Preakness Coverage

Let’s get this out of the way: Michelle Beadle blocked me on Kentucky Oaks day, after this exchange (you can click to enlarge):




It seems a little mild to warrant being blocked, but Beadle can hardly be blamed for having an itchy block finger, given some of the abuse that she has to put with in putting herself out there and engaging with followers. I admire her nerve and audacity, and all the other well-known people who make themselves accessible, only to be rewarded with unspeakable vitriol and meanness.

Did I admire her role in NBC’s Kentucky Oaks and Derby telecasts? From the few spots I saw, I did not, and that’s got almost nothing to do with Beadle herself and everything to do with NBC’s programming decisions.

The two spots that particularly disheartened me were the one to which I refer in my  tweet above and the one in which Beadle appeared in the paddock with handicappers Mike Battaglia and Bob Neumeier.

In the first spot, Beadle was tasked with talking Derby fashion—odd, I thought, for a woman known most recently as a sports personality, as co-host of ESPN’s SportsNation, an anchor for Michael Kaye’s radio show on New York City’s ESPN radio affiliate, a host at the London Olympics, and the current host of The Crossover on NBC Sports Network. She’s also worked extensively in a variety of entertainment platforms.

Given that background, it’s not, perhaps, preposterous that she was assigned the style beat—though it’s at least curious, given her current role as host of a sports show on the network broadcasting the Triple Crown races.  In his recent column on Beadle, Jay Hovdey noted that “as with all platoon rookies, the new kid had to do Derby hats and Derby celebrities.”

All platoon rookies? My memory might be failing—and I mean that seriously—but I don’t remember seeing any male “platoon rookies” dishing Derby hats on a broadcast.

Later, Beadle stood with Neumeier and Battaglia as they analyzed a race, freely admitting that she knows nothing about handicapping or horses, and that she’d pick the horse whose silks she liked the best.

Now believe me: the woman who bets cat horses isn’t going to throw stones at any hunch bettor for any reason. But nor would I expect anyone to hire me so that I could tell people how much I like Charming Kitten.

Nor, I suspect, would NBC put Beadle on one of its Stanley Cup playoffs shows so that she could say, “I don’t know anything about hockey, but I love the Kings’ uniforms, so I’m picking Los Angeles.”

Nor, I suspect, would we see a male reporter in either of those positions.

The problem with Beadle’s role is not that she’s irreverent and zany, or that she’s not a handicapper. The problem isn’t really with her at all.

The problem is that in having a female sports correspondent talk about hats and admit her ignorance, NBC has made decisions that they don’t make with male broadcasters, and that they don’t make with other sports, undermining Beadle and racing, showing neither at its best.

I’m unlikely to see much of tomorrow’s Preakness broadcasts, and I forgot to set the DVR before I left Brooklyn.  I have no idea what NBC’s got planned for its four and a half hours of coverage. I hope that it takes the sport seriously, that it promotes what is good about racing and examines what needs work, that it informs and explains, and that it makes viewers want to pay attention to horse racing for more than just a couple of days a year. I hope that NBC does with racing what it does with hockey: give airtime to knowledgeable commentators who bring a variety of perspectives, and show the sport at its best.


13 thoughts on “A Hope For NBC’s Preakness Coverage

  1. I don’t see this as a gender issue -regarding “male Platoon rookies”-do you remember Billy Bush? He did the same interviews. Go back and watch. Just as silly, fashion, celebrities, fun. I wasn’t offended by him, so why should Beadle offend me?

  2. Too funny! You were blocked by Michelle Beadle. You are so mean!!

    As always.. enjoy your blob posts and tweets.

  3. I can not wait to share this with my wife who called me immediately Post Oaks coverage to rant about how thoroughly displeased she was with Ms. Beadle. (Although she may have used other terms than displeased)

  4. I have no idea of whom you speak. Do you know why? I do not watch 4 hours of television coverage of an event that takes roughly 20 minutes if you include the post parade and instant replays. If I knew even less about racing I wouldn’t even watch that 20 minutes or so, I would just read about who won later. NBC has the worst sports coverage in the world and always has.

  5. I didn’t have any problem with her admitting ignorance of the sport — that serves the purpose of someone for newcomers to identify with — but I noticed immediately when she got the style/fashion beat. And had the same reaction you did to Hovdey’s assessment: no, they do not assign rookie males to that. Wake up, NBC. Just because she’s a blonde female and says she knows nothing about racing does not make her dumb. But blocking you, LOL, was a bit extreme.

  6. I thought that Michelle Beadle was a distraction intentionally postition by NBC programming. I too took it as a message that NBC does not want to treat racing seriously but I couldn’t hold that against Michelle since she was hired to follow a scripting formula.

    She did win bonus points for me in what I assume was an unscripted moment while interviewing some celebrity or another on Oaks Day. She asked the woman who designer her hat; the woman in turn said, “And who did yours?” (or something like that) When Beadle answered that she had bought it in the hotel gift shop, I blinked to make sure I wasn’t watching Saturday Night Live.

    That was the best line of the entire two days of programming.

    My recommendation to NBC: start out, in 2014, with an all-woman on-air team for Oaks and Black-Eyed Susan Day…publicize it in conjunction with breast cancer research and watch the ratings soar to the point that they will henceforth inject more women and more serious analysis into Derby and Triple Crown telecasts.

  7. I watched her interviews during the Kentucky Oaks. I thought I was the only one who found her annoying, until someone posted something about her on the Paulick Report’s Derby re-cap, stating something to the fact that they hoped NBC gets rid of that annoying blond woman who knows nothing about horse-racing and her pathetic attempts at humor fell flat. I had to google her video about her fashion coverage and her hat from the hotel store to make certain that this was the person you were referring to. I had NO IDEA that she had a regular gig on NBC Sports. I stupidly made the comment that I thought she was a relative of some NBC exec, alluding to the usual NBC references of “Nephews,Brothers,Cousins” and “Nepotism Before Competence”. Yes, the reference to SNL also occurred to me, especially when I heard the opening remark of “Well, this isn’t the WORST gig I ever did…” Yuck. Thank you for addressing this in your blog. Give her a job somewhere else. Horse-racing doesn’t need this.

  8. Sorry to chime in twice on this, but I realized that my comment came off as rather negative on Michelle Beadle, and that’s not how I meant it. I sort of take it as read that if everyone felt the way I do about racing (lifelong fan), the grandstands would be bursting at the seams. They are not, so obviously, we need another way to appeal to potential fans, and a fresh pair of eyes is a promising way to do that. The bottom line for me is that Beadle gave the appearance, in all of her spots, of having a good time. That is a place to start; get them in the front gate, and loving the sport can come with more familiarity.

    And even if one doesn’t like what she’s doing, it’s not difficult to ignore her in the interest of positive PR. I ignore parts of the broadcast all the time, LOL. Different strokes for different folks.

  9. If horse racing is found dead on the backstretch the murderer will be wearing an NBC logo. It is astonishing how much mind-numbing boredom NBC packs into 4 hours of televised nonsense. Clue to those who need to put their microphone where it would do the most good – lose the pompous ego-driven talking heads, the ridiculous computer simulations, the silly ditzes, the know-nothing handicappers, the sappy video loops, the endless clown questions… Try the C-span approach and show the audience out there in the dark (barking at their TVs…) what they came for – everything that happens before, during, and after the race without unnecessary comment.

  10. Handicapping horses is for guys and dolls so it goes and to be taken seriously you must just accept that I guess. What makes me sad is that a bikini contest is okay on Preakness Day and a drunken infield brawl is what is needed to promote the sport.

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