Living Up To Stereotypes

As many of you know, Leigh Diffey called last week’s NASCAR race at Watkins Glen. He is also scheduled to do the broadcast for Sunday’s NASCAR Cup race at Michigan. We all know Diffey from being the voice of Formula One races since 2012 as well as being Bob Jenkins’ successor on NBCSN’s IndyCar broadcasts since 2013.

You’ve all read my rants regarding one voice for IndyCar. I think Leigh Diffey does a great job on the broadcasts for the Verizon IndyCar Series races. However, due to his conflicts with Formula One, he has missed the majority of the races this season. Kevin Lee has filled in nicely and I’m on a one-man campaign to have him hired permanently for the gig.

It’s not that I dislike Diffey’s performance, or that I’m kissing up to Kevin Lee. I just think that IndyCar needs their own and consistent voice, so that when you tune in – you know that you are watching an IndyCar race without even seeing a car. IndyCar needs their own voice to help create their own brand.

But this isn’t about branding, or campaigning for Kevin Lee or the upcoming TV contract negotiations. This is about NASCAR, or more specifically – their fans.

It seems that NASCAR fans came unglued when they tuned in last weekend to hear Leigh Diffey’s accent. I saw many comments from NASCAR fans that were forwarded on social media, complaining about the announcer with the British accent (Diffey is from Australia). They weren’t complaining about Diffey himself, just that NBC had the nerve to put a foreigner on their telecast. Seriously?

I’m from the south. Anyone that’s ever heard me talk can tell where I’m from in about two seconds. I’m proud to come from the south and I’m proud of my southern heritage; even though many are astonished that I detest many traditional southern dishes like black-eyed peas and lima beans – neither of which were meant to be eaten, in my opinion. And corn bread is far down on my list too. Given the choice between biscuits and corn bread, I will always take biscuits.

But just because I’m from the south doesn’t mean that I eschew accents that are different from my own. If that were the case, I would never watch any television other than CMT. Quite honestly, I never even think of Diffey’s accent until he pronounces Honda with an “r” on the end.

These weren’t good-natured comments either. They were filled with rage and venom. Are NASCAR fans still that provincial that anyone who doesn’t sound like Darrell Waltrip or Larry McReynolds should be banished from the broadcast booth. Even with my pronounced southern accent, I cringe when I hear the two of them get together. It’s no wonder that the (mostly) false stereotypes about the south exist, when these two are our representatives for the rest of the nation.

About thirty years ago, I found myself in New York City in a three-week training class for work. One day, I joined a few classmates as we went across the street for a quick lunch at McDonald’s. One of them, who was a New York native who I don’t think had never ventured outside of Manhattan looked at me in all seriousness and asked if we had McDonald’s in Tennessee. He apparently didn’t catch my sarcasm when I responded “Yes, and now we even have running water in some places” as he just looked at me with a confused look on his face.

So there is some reason that southerners are a little territorial. We feel we are constantly battling the perception that we are slow, lazy and uneducated rednecks. But when people from the south or NASCAR fans from other areas of the country bristle that an Australian is covering their preferred form of motor racing, it makes it even harder on us that are battling those stereotypes on a daily basis.

Leigh Diffey is one of the most knowledgeable broadcasters in racing. He knows and has covered just about every form of motorsports on the planet. Now that he has NASCAR Cup racing on his resume, about the only type of racing that I’m not aware of him covering is NHRA. But I have an idea he probably has a very strong working knowledge of that sport, as well.

As long as someone knows what they are talking about and is passionate about the sport, I don’t care what type of accent they have or where they come from. The infamous Todd Harris had a pleasant enough speaking voice that revealed virtually no accent. But he had no idea what he was talking about and was terrible in the IndyCar booth. That’s why 2005 was his first and last season covering IndyCar. I didn’t complain about him because of what he sounded like or where he came from. I just thought he did a bad job.

I will fully admit, I did not watch one second of the Watkins Glen that Diffey covered race last weekend. But I’ve heard from friends who did and they said he did a great job. That’s why I was so surprised to see these baseless attacks on Diffey from NASCAR fans. But I guess I shouldn’t have been. More times than not, NASCAR fans live up to their stereotype.

Leigh Diffey doesn’t deserve this. I’ve never met the man, but from all accounts – he is a great guy and loves motorsports. Those two things are all I need to know to make him alright in my book. I will still continue to lobby for Kevin Lee to take over the reins in the IndyCar booth for the reasons I stated. But they have nothing to do with Diffey’s performance as a broadcaster, where he’s from or what he sounds like. I think if he’s good enough to be the lead broadcaster for Formula One and IndyCar, he should be more than qualified to cover NASCAR.

Please Note:  Susan and I are having out of town guests this weekend (Paul Dalbey from More Front Wing and his lovely bride-to-be, Kelli). Since we will be spending the weekend with them, there will be no time for me to write. Therefore, there will be no post here on Monday Aug 14. I will return here on Wednesday Aug 16 before leaving for Pocono next weekend. I hope everyone has a nice weekend. – GP

George Phillips

15 Responses to “Living Up To Stereotypes”

  1. Some fans complained. Most didn’t. You are doing the very thing you claim to be against.

    • I’m not sure what you mean by your last statement. I didn’t say I did a scientific poll. But the small minority (as you claim) were very vocal. If you are saying that I’m guilty of stereotyping NASCAR fans, those loud few WERE living up to the image of the stereotypical NASCAR fan. Just as ignorant buffoons in the south live up to the stereotype of southerners that has been perpetuated over the years. – GP

  2. I watch both sports myself and some NASCAR fans are out of control. This is a small group of people doing this, also the ones who can’t get past Dale Earnhardt dying and have spent the last 16 years crying about that claiming to not be fans any longer. They also beg for North Wilksboro and Rockingham to come back and claim to really be leaving this year with Dale Jr going away. Can you imagine Indycar fans crying for The Meadowlands to come back for 25 years?

    Diffey’s voice leaves me annoyed to be honest but it isn’t the accent, it’s the pitch of it. That said he knows his stuff and a broadcast with him is better than a lot of others (Larry Mac and DW talking about Spam sandwiches all day). Kevin Lee would be my choice but Diffey is still better than Cheever and Goodyear or the ill-fated Tom Sneva years, ugh….

    • billytheskink Says:

      Maybe not the Meadowlands, but I can certainly imagine Indycar fans crying for Milwaukee/Nazareth/Cleveland/Laguna Sega/Riverside/Trenton/Portland/New Hampshire/Richmond to come back…

  3. Glad to hear that you have runnin’ water down there in the hoots and hollers of Tennessee. The Nascar fan/Diffey dustup is beyond stupid, but I am not surprised. Perhaps they would have preferred Oral Roberts.

    I like Kevin and I tolerate Diffey though I would take him any day over ol’ D-Dubya. I don’t mind Diffey’s accent, but I find his delivery a bit over the top sometimes as I prefer the less is more approach. I will give him credit for not allowing the word (?) “Boogity” to escape his mouth.

  4. billytheskink Says:

    Last night I saw Darrell Waltrip on a race broadcast
    Watchin’ with some smart-aleck open wheel few
    And the Indycar fans laughed at Darrell Waltrip
    And the Formula 1 fans laughed at Darrell Waltrip too
    Well he may be a fool, but he’s our fool
    If they think they’re better than him, they’re wrong
    So I went to the track and I took some Bud Dry along
    And that’s where I made this song…

  5. Count me in the Legion of Hopeful that Kevin Lee gets the big chair OFFICIALLY. Kevin is everyman, knowledgeable, and a good “traffic cop” between T-Bell and T-Racy. Count me FURTHER hopeful that NBC steps up and acquires the rights to the WHOLE series.

  6. Kevin Lee would be a great fit for years . I like your Idea of a anchor voice . DW gets on my nerves on every NASCAR broadcast . If I do tune in The announcers treat you like this is the first race you have ever watched and feel talked down too often .

  7. Victor Lovisa Says:

    Keep in mind George, these same NASCAR fans were the ones in 2008 asking if Dario Franchitti spoke English. He’s Scottish. Native language of Scotland? Yep….English. When you consider the source I’m not shocked they would complain about Diffey.

  8. Dale Christenson Says:

    If he could only learn to say “boogity, boogity, boogity, perhaps they would start to like him…..

  9. I too think Leigh Diffey is very knowledgeable about auto racing not just Formula One. I think we need our own main broadcaster and Kevin Lee would be perfect. People need to be reminded that Leigh Diffey is an American citizen and has been here in the states for quite a long time

  10. Chris Lukens Says:

    I just watched the tin-tops at Michigan. I think Diffey is very knowledgeable but he always sounds like his hair is on fire. I vote for someone else calling the IndyCar races.
    The other thing that I noticed is how many times he told us the cars were going over 200 miles per hour (even if it was only for 5-6 car lengths at the end of the straightaways). I did think it was neat that he acknowledged Larson’s 1st place finish, Wednesday, at the Knoxville Sprintcar Nationals and his 2 nd place finish last night. Something that would probably never be mentioned on an Indycar broadcast.

  11. Typical NASCAR fans- living up the the stereotypes that they despise to receive. British accent? Seriously? If you are going to condemn an announcer, at least get the part of the world he is from correct. One thing about NASCAR country I do not admire, is the little southern bubble they live in. Southerners can sound really ignorant. Unfortunately- much of the world bases their impression of an American off of a NASCAR fan.

  12. My solution to all television broadcasts is to turn the sound off on the tube and turn the sound up on the IMS Radio. It effectively drowns out the ABC drivel and mutes Diffy’s screaming.

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