Monday, July 25, 2011

Rusty Wallace: Announcer? Team Owner? Dad? You choose

Rusty Wallace's experience is best served as a representative
of the NASCAR community, not in the play-by-play booth.
I may be opening Pandora's box on this topic, but I feel it is necessary. Play-by-play announcers of any sport are supposed to be free of any bias, call the plays as we see them, and share the ones we miss from our couch.

NASCAR has Rusty Wallace, who crosses many lines in his role as an announcer for ESPN. A Nationwide Series team owner, Wallace comments on the cars he owns, those driven by son Steven Wallace and Michael Annett, and clearly shows a slant of favoritism toward them. His roles as team owner/father/announcer are clearly blurred.

Each week on Twitter, the tweets roll in with this topic being addressed. Just a sampling of the tweets I saw this week:

"Ummm, ok, really!? All we r doin is watchin Stephen Wallace fall back thry the field and listen to Rusty making excuses! Enough! #annoyed"

"Rusty Wallace just needs to stop doing the lap-by-lap commentary"

"At what point does DAD (aka Rusty Wallace) admit 2 himself his son just isn't that good? Helping 1 thing False hope quite another."

"I dont get how Rusty Wallace is allowed to be in the booth and have an opinion on a car he owns, and his son drives.#bias"

The most valid point I see is that for starters, Rusty should not be able to comment on anything to do with his own cars. I personally agree with a lot of comments seen online that his presence influences the other announcers to talk more about Steven, when he is not necessarily doing anything to require coverage.

You may think that on the same hand there is Brad Daugherty, a Sprint Cup team owner who does pre-race announcing for ESPN for its Nationwide and Cup races. I have never once felt that Daugherty has shown any bias toward his team whatsoever and feel that he brings a lot to the booth. His excitement for the sport is unparalleled to any other announcer and he brings that mix of a fan, owner and sports lover but in a well-balanced mix. It's also important to note that Daugherty is not in the play-by-play booth for the series in which his team runs, whereas Wallace is.

I am in no way saying that ESPN needs to fire Wallace, but I would suggest his calls avoid anything related to his cars, which is next to impossible. The blinders need to come off his eyes as a team owner and realize that his driver/son is the cause for many of his own accidents ... Loudon comes to mind.

I know it is difficult to stay neutral, as has been shown during numerous on-track incidents with his team. There is always a reason to follow: "Steven must have ..." or "Michael got hit by ..." but never have I heard Wallace say, "Steven made a mistake and that cost him." Honesty goes a long way.

If I have the choice, I would suggest someone like Shannon Spake, Nicole Briscoe or even Jamie Little climb into the booth for play-by-play calls. Not because they are women, but because they have the experience needed and show a passion for NASCAR.

To take away from this a displeasure of Rusty Wallace would be wrong. I adore him as a driver, past champion and a representative of our sport, but his work in the play-by-play booth is doing his career a great injustice judging from the comments I see each week. Step aside and focus on your cars solely, leave the booth work to someone else.

Agree or disagree? Your comments are welcome.

*The opinions expressed are solely those of the author.*


NASCAR By the Numbers and In the Rearview Mirror (looking back at NASCAR's history) are Amanda's two weekly columns with Skirts and Scuffs, but as an Associate Editor her duties are limitless. Amanda also strives to provide exclusive interviews for the readers of Skirts and Scuffs. To read her past columns and interviews click here.. Feel free to contact Amanda viaTwitter. 

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