My friend Chamberlain and I occasionally joke about Bob Varsha’s non-call of the most important moment of the 1989 Formula One season. If you are going to be an announcer then you are planning repeatedly for your “big call”. I assure you, “Do you believe in miracles?” was not an accident. Needless to say, Varsha blew his big call. When tempestuous teammates Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost collided while trying to take the same line into a turn in Suzuka (and consequently knocking Senna out of the race and points contention) Bumbling Bob could only manage this: “Ohhh!” And that’s why you’ve never heard a replay of the call.
Contrast this with the Paul Page’s call at the Indianapolis 500 the same year. With Emerson Fittipaldi and Al Unser Jr battling side-by-side (a rarity then, practically commonplace in the IRL now) Page calls out “They touch!” and proceeds to describe how Little Al slams the wall and Fittipaldi wins his first Indy 500. In spite of his favoritism and nasally voice, Page was still an accomplished broadcaster. Paul Page: B+, Bob Varsha: D
We are two races into the season, and with some new broadcasters in place I think it’s already time for first semester grading of the current booth.
Not since Bob Jenkins has the IRL had a voice of respectability like Marty Reid. After the first race in Homestead I was caught off guard at how good his race calling skills are, which was especially difficult given that he had to temper his enthusiasm due to the tragic events involving Paul Dana. After paying his dues as a pit reporter Reid has made a successful transition to the booth, and after his call in of two races in 2006 I’m convinced they need to lock this guy up for several years. Marty Reid: A-
Scott Goodyear continues to be the best commentator no one knows. He’s not offensive, he plays it straight and he’s actually a smart guy. If they had commentators like him in football games I’m sure heads would explode. The only knock against the guy is he’s kinda dull. And while there is a fine line between being smart and sounding like a know-it-all (*cough* jackarute *cough*), I think Goodyear does a great job of toeing that line. Extra credit to goodyear for telling Rusty how Boulder Dan was waiting and was going to nose out Spiderman on the high side 10 laps before the finish in Homestead. Scott Goodyear: B+
Of course, for whatever reason ABC has decided to add Rusty Wallace to the pair. Maybe they want someone to be like John Madden and go “Boom” or “Wham” or whatever interjection Goodyear is missing. My guess is they want Rusty be like Mr. Boogity Boogity Boogity on the NASCAR telecasts. I liked Rusty the driver, and I may even like Rusty the person were I ever to have the good fortune of meeting him, but Rusty the IRL commentator leaves a lot to be desired. He seems enthusiastic, but “Wow, they sure are close!” is not terribly interesting or insightful. If ABC/ESPN really wants someone with personality they could bring back Tom Sneva instead of someone who I really believe has never watched an IRL race before this year. Rusty Wallace: C-