Sunday, February 3, 2008
Manske's Wild Ride About To Begin
While many fans have responded positively to the changes that ESPN and SPEED recently announced, there is no one who is more clearly in the spotlight than Nicole Manske. On Monday afternoon, her wild ride will officially begin.
At 1:30PM Eastern Time, she will begin her new ESPN life with a live chat at ESPN.com that will include questions from fans. Here is the link to submit questions.
At 6PM that same day, her first appearance as one of the three co-hosts of NASCAR Now will start a year of high-profile national TV exposure that she will certainly never forget.
Trying desperately to recover from the damage done by former host Erik Kuselias, the ESPN executives are banking on Manske's ability to present a professional image in the studio.
The other key component in this new mix is her ability to travel to the Sprint Cup races and fill the "ESPN news reporter" role that caused so much friction at the tracks in 2007. Does the name David Amber ring a bell?
Manske is a key piece to this new puzzle, along with Ryan Burr and Allen Bestwick. Once the Monday editions of NASCAR Now expand to one hour beginning February 11th, Bestwick will be the Monday host.
Burr and Manske will rotate between hosting the other daily shows during the week from Connecticut, and reporting for ESPN from the Cup tracks. That is a ten month assignment with no real break and a whole lot of travel. In TV, they call this a "life changer."
While Burr and Bestwick are familiar to ESPN viewers, Manske had been hosting a one hour per week general motorsports program that featured a lot of Teleprompter reading and a whole lot of posing for the cameras. Now, that is not going to fly.
This assignment is going to demand knowing the "ins and outs" of NASCAR from day one. The reason is very clear. That would be the fans. For some reason, many fans are much more critical of the females involved in sports TV than their male counterparts.
Over at SPEEDtv.com, one of the longest running threads in the forum is about Ms. Manske. Beginning on August 7th, the thread contains 696 entries and has been viewed over 10,000 times. Even with her departure from the network, it is still active.
You would think that most of the comments are about the content of her reports, or the issues with the program. In fact, they are not. Most of the comments are from men and they are directly related to her clothing, her body and her social life. Many of them are absolutely brutal.
There is no other thread on the SPEEDtv.com website that features grown men posting full-size "screen captures" of women and then discussing at length what they are wearing, and what they might not be wearing.
If this is the result of only one hour per week on the air for Manske, imagine where the "Internet boys" will take her daily appearances on ESPN2.
Just like the cult of Erin Andrews, ESPN is going to have to make sure Manske's appearance is literally "buttoned-up" all season long. She is not a veteran NASCAR reporter, and has to focus this first season on building her credibility up with a fan base that can be tough to please.
ESPN employees have terms like being "put in the blender" or "thrown in the washing machine" to describe the incredible changes that happen in someone's life when they are thrust on the national stage for the first time.
It is very easy for someone new to stagger out of "the ESPN blender" in late November completely burnt-out and with one's personal life in pieces.
During my time at ESPN, there was only one network. We used to call it the "trash compactor" because it always needed to be fed, and when it was done, it immediately needed to be fed again. Running 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, even one cable sports network never took a rest and required a lot of work.
Now, Manske finds herself tossed into a giant media company that will use her "content" in all kinds of forms and across all kinds of "platforms." The PR guys love to use those cool words.
What that means is that Manske will soon be on Jayski.com as a video clip, on the ESPN.com pages with her NASCAR reporting, visiting on ESPN Radio shows to push NASCAR Now, appearing on ESPN News and eventually on SportsCenter if her reporting goes well.
Beginning Monday, 27 year-old Nicole Manske from Roscoe, Illinois will be totally immersed "in the ESPN blender." Her life will never be the same.
The up-side of this true national TV experience is that strong-willed people can make it work for them with planning and discipline. Many current sports TV personalities took the "big break" just handed to Manske and turned it into a career-maker.
Here at The Daly Planet, we have a strong contingent of female readers. That is because we evaluate and discuss only the content of the reporting and information offered to us by the NASCAR TV networks.
That policy will remain in place for 2008. We did not care what color tie Jerry Punch wore in the announce booth, and we will not care what color dress Manske wears on the NASCAR Now set.
Beginning Monday, ESPN will roll-out the 2008 version of the re-vamped NASCAR Now with three hosts, multiple journalists, reporters at every race, roundtable discussions and highlights of all three national series. It will be critical that Manske step-up and assume the role that she has been assigned to make this new format work.
So, we begin NASCAR Now for 2008 with a clean slate for both Manske and ESPN2. We appreciate the changes that were made, and understand how rare it is for a TV network to be this directly responsive to the fans. Good luck to all involved, and as usual...we'll be watching.
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