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.