Friday, July 3, 2009
Mayfield Mayhem Stumps "NASCAR Now"
Nicole Manske opened the Wednesday NASCAR Now program with the right topic. The stunning decision from a US District Court granting Jeremy Mayfield a temporary injunction against NASCAR had come down only hours earlier. That is Mayfield and his attorney, Bill Diehl, pictured above leaving the courthouse.
ESPN reporter David Newton actually called into the show by phone. The only video shown included one soundbite from Mayfield and one from NASCAR's Ramsey Poston. Neither was in context and they made little sense. Mayfield said he had cleared his name and Poston commented about future testing.
Earlier this year, NASCAR Now had interviewed a drug testing expert from the World Doping Association. Dr. Gary Wadler gave his views on the myriad of problems with NASCAR's current drug policy and the specific reasons he thought it could be successfully challenged in court. Click here for a review of that program.
"Woefully lacking in details," said Wadler of the NASCAR policy. On this day, that was also true of NASCAR Now's ability to deal with this issue. During his "phoner," Newton said this was a huge case for NASCAR. So, how did Manske follow-up on this breaking story? With an interview of Brad Keselowski promoting ESPN's Nationwide Series race on Friday night.
Even a small local TV station covering a court hearing has a reporter on-camera who offers a complete story of the activity of the day. That includes questions asked of the key participants, a recap of the issues and an on-camera presence. For ESPN to offer Newton on the phone as the single source of information on this issue was inexcusable.
There was a live shot next, but it was ESPN's Dave Burns. He again promoted the ESPN Nationwide Series race at Daytona. Manske ran Burns through a series of painfully scripted questions about Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards' Nationwide Series teams. Fans know that script all too well where ESPN is concerned.
None of the Dr. Wadler footage addressing the Mayfield issue was shown. No legal analyst was on the show to help fans understand what the ruling really meant. No NASCAR executives were interviewed for their reactions to the ruling. Both Mike Helton and Brian France were in the courtroom for this hearing. If they refused ESPN's request to be interviewed, that should have been stated.
Meanwhile, back on the show Matt Kenseth's team got their Daytona 500 rings. Tony Stewart and Kenseth drove at a local track. NASCAR Now promoted an IRL race while leaving the Sprint Cup Series Daytona race off the motorsports schedule. Finally, a live shot with Matt DiBenedetto who won the Camping World East race in Loudon wrapped the show.
In the end, there was no on-camera reporter outside the courthouse in the very home of NASCAR. There was no reaction from the NASCAR President or Chairman to a precedent-setting day for their sport. There was no perspective from ESPN's Ryan McGee who touched-off the entire drug issue with his Aaron Fike interview. There were no opinions from Ed Hinton, Dale Jarrett or even medical doctor Jerry Punch.
NASCAR Now may have found their on-camera talent this season, but behind the scenes things have to drastically improve. This program was about promoting ESPN's Nationwide Series and IRL races with some filler stories thrown-in. Newton's update by phone was almost an interruption in the scripted scenarios that have plagued this network from the start of the NASCAR coverage in 2007.
What a disappointing show at a critical time in ESPN's evolution of NASCAR credibility. There is no NASCAR Now on Thursday as on-track Daytona schedules cancelled the show. The next time fans see Manske it will be at 7PM on Friday right before the Nationwide Series coverage. What a coincidence.
Update: Click here for Marty Smith's Thursday column on Mayfield and this issue.
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