You have to wonder what, if any conversation may be going on FOX after Spingate. For better or for worse, TV commentators are the face of the sports they cover- whether it was John Madden for the NFL, Marv Albert for the NBA, or Howard Cosell for boxing. There’s even room for clown princes in the booth or studio a la Bob Uecker, Charles Barkley or Dandy Don Meredith.
There once was a day you could say that about Michael Waltrip for NASCAR. He accepted with a smile his role as being a Bob Uecker type, a guy who could laugh at himself, making for comedic TV commercials (remember the NAPA commercial where he showed up at the wrong track? Or the commercial where a rhythmically-challenged Mikey tried to show off moves Dale Jr. taught him?) To the uninitiated, Waltrip and his brother Darrell are the face of NASCAR. While we can debate Darrell’s performance another time, it’s time NASCAR’s face got some work done concerning Michael and other team owners.
A businesses’ identity and vision flows down from the top. What happened Saturday night at Richmond is a black eye on MWR, and a black eye for NASCAR. Even if Waltrip didn’t mandate team owners, it is his team, and the behavior reflects poorly on his team.
Who ever thought have a team owner as a commentator was a good idea? Speaking from experience, announcing a sport where a relative competes is tough enough; a team owner has even more skin in the game. Whether accurate or not, there will always be questions of whether or not an announcer can be impartial. Lest there be a mistaken impression that Mikey is being picked on, the same is true, whether its Phil Parsons, Brad Daugherty, or Rusty Wallace. You wouldn’t think sponsors would be real comfortable about it either.
Right now, Michael Waltrip has all the credibility of Baghdad Bob. He cannot continue as announcer and be taken seriously, no matter how contrite he may appear to be. While we’re at it, it’s time for the other team owning commentators to back away from their microphones. It’s the right thing to do.