Mark On Mic is back with a bang

by Debbie Little

The Meadowlands’ online video series “Mark On Mic” avoided the second-year slide, receiving rave reviews for its new season.

“If I brought this back and nobody was watching, I’d just tell Mark, ‘Let’s just wrap this up quick,’ but it’s still doing okay,” Shades Demsky, series’ co-creator, said. “There’s no real sophomore slump. The numbers are still good, people are still interested, so that makes me happy.

“I know the drivers are watching. But we’re not trying to get the drivers interested in the game, they’re in the game. But they’re watching.”

At the start of season two, Demsky, The Meadowlands’ racing and simulcast manager, wasn’t sure what the future held for the popular series.

“I didn’t know what to expect because I was coming back without Mark and I was expecting to come back with Mark,” Demsky said.

The plan was to kick off production at the start of December following the last major night of stakes races at The Big M for the year on Nov. 26. Unfortunately for Demsky, the show’s star, driver Mark MacDonald, was home in Canada visiting his family.

“‘What do you want me to do Mark?’” Demsky said. “‘Do you want me to continue to make it Mark On Mic or do you want me to change the web series and call it ‘Meadowlands On Mic’ and I mic up anybody?’”

MacDonald was comfortable having Demsky replace him with a guest host for a few weeks and judging by the metrics, it worked out fine.

The three guest hosts, who manned the GoPro in MacDonald’s absence, were Corey Callahan, Tyler Miller and Joe Bongiorno with Yannick Gingras, Vinny Ginsburg and Brett Beckwith, respectively, as their mic’d up guests.

A running joke in the first season of Mark On Mic was that the best way to beat the favorite was to put a mic on them. Although no one really believes that wearing a microphone can get you beaten, just as rooting for or against a team doesn’t determine the outcome of any sporting event, in this case it wasn’t far from the truth when you look at the numbers.

While wearing the mic in the inaugural season, Mark went one-for-16, only winning in the very last episode. His guests did slightly better, finding the winner’s circle three times in the 16 starts.

The perceived curse continued for Mark’s guest hosts in the first
three episodes, none of which
won their respective races, but their guests bucked the trend, going two-for-three.

Since returning, Mark got off the schneid in episode five and is now one-for-three. And although none of his guests – Scott Zeron, Trae Porter and Joe Bongiorno – have won yet, the shows have still been entertaining.

“You know who was gung-ho to do it?” Demsky said. “Trae Porter in race 14. I told him if we do 14, you’ll be the guest, and he was excited. Then I kind of broke his heart saying we’re going to do race 9 and he said, ‘If you ever need me, I’m happy to do it.’ And then I got to make him happy, because no one else wanted to do it.

“I’m going to get younger new faces. That’s my goal. That’s why I was happy to put Trae in. He’s a 21-year-old kid. A lot of the young guys at The Meadowlands have a lot of personality and Vinny is definitely one of them. I want to get him back on. I think he was great the first time doing it. Talked through the whole race, just really good.”

“I like Brett Beckwith,” MacDonald said. “I think he’s one of the best young drivers around. He’s done it already, but he hasn’t done it with me.”

What fans of the show may not know is what goes into choosing the race.

“So, you’ve got to find a) a race that I have a shot in, which is hard to do,” MacDonald said with a laugh. “And then 1a) find someone in there with a shot to beat me and wants to do it with me. I’ve got to hope I land on a race where Yannick or Scottie doesn’t have the 10-hole with a 100-1 shot.”

Sometimes MacDonald finds a race that would be perfect but finds no takers for the guest spot, as happened with one race recently. Since MacDonald’s goal is to get people interested in our sport through these videos, hearing “No” can sometimes be frustrating, but he understands that it’s not the right platform for some drivers, who tend to be quiet.

“You’re looking for the guys with personalities and it’s tough to get,” MacDonald said with a laugh. “It’d be easy if all my family members were in town, we could have our own segment. But they’re not all here.

“It’s getting to the point where I almost hate asking people because they don’t want to do it. I don’t know why. And it’s so easy to do because you just put a mic in your pocket. But that’s okay, I’ll make it work and it’ll be funny. Even if I’m last, I try and make it funny.”

The hope is to get at least 10 episodes in the can before Demsky needs to head for Tioga at the end of February.

“Shades does a great job editing it,” MacDonald said. “He’s very good at what he does. All the fluid switching that happens doesn’t just happen. It’s a lot of work.

“From the time we turn those mics on it’s about 15 or 20 minutes. To strap the GoPro on is nothing. To turn the mics on is nothing. But to match the race with the GoPro footage, to sync in the audio of the two guys together is not an easy task. So, you need someone that knows what they’re doing to do that. That’s above my paygrade. I can talk and I can drive a horse but I can’t edit a video.”

The latest episode of Mark On Mic with guest Joe Bongiorno is now up and new episodes drop around noon on Wednesdays on The Meadowlands’ YouTube channel under the fun and games channel. It can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.

“It gets a lot of eyeballs inside the game, but anytime you’ve got any sort of platform you want to try and reach outside our game,” MacDonald said. “And I think people would enjoy them if they knew they were there. All that stuff you put on Twitter, Instagram, all those things, that’s free advertising. So, of course you take advantage of it, but we don’t take advantage of it enough in our game. We’re always two steps behind where everybody else is.

“People say it’s unmarketable. Well, we don’t even try. I’m trying now to get some people outside of our sport to retweet it and see if I can’t get a few more people that just might like to listen to it to laugh.”