Monday, January 19, 2009

What do Ron Hornaday Jr. And The Pittsburgh Steelers Have In Common?

The answer is they both got smeared by ESPN. This process is very simple and easy to understand. It starts with a person or a team that is singled-out by ESPN well in advance.

Despite the reality of the facts surrounding the subject in question, a team at ESPN takes months to create a high-profile smear-and-run campaign.

It involves many ESPN employees who work for the TV, radio and Internet divisions of the company. Once the plan is complete, the story is launched at the most opportune time to garner the best publicity for all of the ESPN "platforms."

In 2008, this happened to Ron Hornaday Jr. when ESPN announced to the world that Hornaday had taken steroids for performance enhancement because of his advanced age. Click here for the original story.

ESPN reporter Shaun Assael alleged Hornaday was worried about losing his ride to younger drivers. Nothing could have been further from the truth. Ron Hornaday thought he was dying.

The campaign was launched (click here) just before NASCAR began the 2008 Chase for the Championship on ABC. The story was released mid-week so it had several days to grow on the Internet before the Truck and the Sprint Cup Series raced together at the very same track. What a coincidence.

By the time Hornaday pulled into the race track, the media had been whipped into a feeding frenzy. Where ESPN was concerned, the execution of the plan was perfect.

There is a growing slice of the very big ESPN pie that does not care about truth, accuracy in media or sports in general. The purpose of the smear-and-run is not to expose a story or confront an issue.

It is simply to get ESPN's "brand" in the news on a global basis. The stigma (click here) still lingers for Hornaday. There was no performance issue. There were no lies. The topic was gone with one press conference.

One day later, Dr. Jerry Punch said on the air "Ron Hornaday will not be disciplined by NASCAR for the testosterone use for a medical condition, a thyroid condition."

The entire response from the NASCAR on ESPN on-air team took eight seconds. The topic was never mentioned again. No one from ESPN ever apologized to Hornaday. They did not have to, he was collateral damage. The real mission had been accomplished.

Now that the NFL is into the playoffs, ESPN's latest target is the Pittsburgh Steelers football team. The allegation (click here) is that the players took Human Growth Hormone (HGH) given to them by a dirty team doctor.

The ESPN reporter is Mike Fish, the same one who surfaced last season to feed (click here) the phony NFL video cheating scandal. That story was released just before the Super Bowl and instantly put the ESPN "brand" around the world in less than one day.

In reality, the doctor in Fish's newest smear left the Steelers organization back in 2007 and the HGH shipment the physician admits receiving was in 2006. That does not seem to be an issue because The Steelers made the playoffs this season. Any story from ESPN with Steelers in the title will get published worldwide. It (click here) certainly did.

Pro Football Talk (click here) suggests that the only reason ESPN released the story recently is because it feared the Steelers would lose in the playoffs and the story would lose its "scandal appeal." Here is an excerpt:

The overriding purpose (of this smear-and-run) is to create another Patriots-style lightning rod, drawing eyeballs and ears to the various ESPN (TV, radio and Internet) platforms so that ESPN can acquire information and express opinions about whether the Steelers’ most recent Super Bowl win is tainted and whether their current run for another title can be undermined by the efforts of ESPN to create a distraction. We wonder how long ESPN can peddle this same, tired formula.

The Hornady story resulted in a TDP column (click here) titled "The Two Faces Of ESPN On Display."

One division of ESPN telecasts both NASCAR and the NFL. This side of ESPN is loaded with hard working men and women with a love of sports and an incredible work ethic.

The dark side of ESPN is loaded with guys like Mike Fish and Shaun Assael. They exploit the power of the ESPN "brand" and attack the very sports that allowed ESPN to flourish and become a success. They do it when the stories will get the most publicity and have no conscience about truth or the effect of their written words.

NASCAR is weeks away from the start of the most confusing and off-balance season in the modern era. Collapsing teams, angry drivers and bankrupt sponsors are threatening to push the sport to the brink. It should be very interesting to see which side of ESPN shows-up to handle this situation.

NASCAR Now on ESPN2 starts February 2nd at 5PM ET. Stay tuned.

The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Just click on the COMMENTS button below and follow the easy instructions. The rules for posting are located on the right side of the main page.


Anonymous said...

Honestly the only sport I watch on ESPN and have no issue with is college basketball. They still cover that one sport the way it's meant to be covered.

Other than being forced to watch ESPN's racing coverage and their college hoops I'd never turn on any of their 'family'. ESPN used to be the most watched channel in my home...well at least when I was single.

ESPN is the MTV of sports. Garbage.

Glenn said...

JD, I’m usually right there with you on most every column you write.
This column, I don’t see the purpose except for slamming ESPN.
I agree ESPN is the most worthless network out there for having any class and ethics. In general they don’t have any.
I don’t keep up with football anymore so I cannot speak about how much has been said or written about the Steelers.
NASCAR though, I know TOO much was written and said about Ron. I guess that’s why I question this column. The story was reported, the concerned people addressed the story/ situation, and it was over.
As your site states right at the top “Reviewing the media coverage of the motorsports scene” and I have no problem with it and enjoy reading your columns and the comments.
There have been a few columns along the way that appeared to be a slam against ESPN, and I say, “appeared” because I don’t have any idea exactly what you were thinking.
I guess I think it’s time for the “Ron Hornaday Jr.” story to be asleep. The story will never go away, but until there is relevant information about the issue, it needs to sleep.
IMHO your December 2, 2008 column finished off the media coverage about Ron.
It was brought up again on December 19, 2008 to make a comparison to what ESPN was doing to Terrell Owens. Well, OK, one more time to see how we still feel about ESPN.
It’s now 2009, a new year, with a full set of issues to be dealt with. Why do we need to restart and discuss the Ron Hornaday Jr. story again?
I see the idea of the column is to compare the two situations, I just feel it’s time to let Ron live in peace. He didn’t ask for his name in lights and print the way it was done, nor did he want it.
It was last years story.
I just don’t see the need to stoke the fire and get it going again. I honestly don’t think my issue with this content is the intent of the column but it comes across as such.

Daly Planet Editor said...

AMS fan,

I appreciate your comments, but find them confusing.

We are about to embark on a season of NASCAR like no other.

The Hornaday situation was well planned by ESPN and took months of hard work to coordinate. The timing was designed to inflict maximum pain and exposure.

You are naive if you believe that this season will pass without another attack on NASCAR by this dark side of ESPN.

The sole purpose of this column was to make sure that ESPN is aware that someone is watching and not afraid to speak-up about the way in which this sport is treated.

By the end of last season many drivers were openly mocking ESPN and the interviews before races with several pit reporters were no more than painful exercises in one word answers that showed the distain for the network by the drivers.

Before the season begins, in much the same way that the NASCAR 39/10 TV show is reviewing the 2008 year in racing, we are making sure that fans understand how negative and harmful some of the ESPN coverage was to the sport.

No one expected this type of treatment of NASCAR by ESPN. Suggesting that I am "slamming" them is believing that somehow there is a TDP agenda with regard to ESPN.

We have consistently praised NASCAR Now, enjoyed the Nationwide coverage and loved the early season coverage of the media center by ESPNEWS.

Manske, Bestwick and Massaro are poised to have a great season and may be the key to getting fans back on the NASCAR bandwagon.

But if once again some obscure reporter from deep within the bowels of ESPN drops a bomb on the sport, this time we will be waiting.

The only real question is who has ESPN already targeted and whose real life will be affected?


Daly Planet Editor said...

There are new posts up, please refresh your browser or click on the TDP logo at the top of the page.



Anonymous said...

The Hornaday story has a lot more to it than you ever mention. Anyone who does not have problems with his method of acquiring the testosterone and reasons for using it are blind. I have never done it or do I know of anyone who has done what he did. I believe ha got off easy, most people who are caught in shady dealings like this are prosecuted in the legal system.

Dot said...

What do the NFL suits think of the way BSPN reports their sport? We already know that the NASCAR suits either don't give a crap or they're aftaid to say something. The NFL is pretty powerful.

I don't follow football online. I'm curious to know what the football fans think of BSPNs reporting. I know some posters here are fans. Do they feel the same way we do?

Does the E in ESPN stand for Enquirer?

JD, OT. When does your new format start?

Anonymous said...

I find one show on ESPN that's valuable to me as a football fan, Dot...NFL Matchup, and ironically, it's produced by NFL Films, not ESPN (I didn't know that until I just looked it up now.) I haven't seen it this year and now I know why, they moved it to 7:30 am...just too early. Guess more people are interested in the 'celebrity' talking heads with their big egos. But as for ESPN's 'coverage' of news....I have seen them do hatchet jobs on people of all sports, I've also seen very in-depth, thoughtful pieces. Very mixed bag. But ESPN is not alone, FOX has done some idiot shows too, none of the networks are immune. Just occasional poor judgement either by reporters or producers who put the stuff on. But I don't think it's helping to be reminded of the poor treatment Hornaday got by the ambush job by repeating the story over and over again. I guess I'm with AMS fan on that one. I just think it's time to move on.

Anonymous said...

Performance enhancers are a completely legitimate news story for ESPN or any other media outlet.

I don't care for the way ESPN handles some things, but personally, this fan has no problem with this supposed "dark side" of ESPN if it continues to bring to light issues that are worthy of discussion. Investigative reporting has a place in sports journalism just as it has a place in hard news coverage. These stories may upset some people but legitimate news stories shouldn't be swept under the rug and ignored.

I also agree with AMS fan - if the attention given to the Hornaday story is so wrong, then why continually bring ESPN's coverage of the story up in this space?

Daly Planet Editor said...


When you get a moment, could you help us to understand just what performance Hornaday enhanced?

The HGH shipped to the Steelers doctor in 2006 was used in his private practice to treat tendon injuries in seniors.

No connection to a player or the team of any kind was ever established.



Anonymous said...

Dot - The commissioner of the NFL, Roger Goddell, is married to Fox News Channel's Jane Skinner (no relation to CWTS driver Mike Skinner) ...

Had Shaun Assael actually done his homework, instead of auditioning for the National Enquirer ... He would've found that Ron Hornaday Jr has a lifetime contract with Kevin & DeLana Harvick (and that goes back to Day One) ...

Anonymous said...

JD, no one will ever know the answer to your question. That doesn't mean that the issues shouldn't be raised and the questions shouldn't be asked.

Unless that doctor was perscribing HGH to all those seniors for growth disorders then there's a story there about how a doctor once connected to the Steelers organization was possibly perscribing HGH in a manner in which it's not approved to be used for. Given the timing of the Steelers severing their times with him they may have thought there was the potential for an issue there too.

alex said...


Football fans are just as frustrated with ESPN as Nascar fans.

Daly Planet Editor said...


Just for the record, it is January of 2009.