Bowyer Set To Step Up To The Microphone

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Tuesday, February 9 2021

Clint Bowyer moves from cockpit to broadcast booth in 2021. What will his role be? (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Ashley R Dickerson)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

The early lunch crowd was just beginning to filter into the seating area at Lidia’s, an upscale bistro in Kansas City owned by celebrity chef and purveyor of the the good life, Lidia Bastianich. 

Located in the artsy Crossroads district, Lidia’s was a fave of the downtown urban office bros who would gather to nosh as they talked about their five-figure wrist watches.

But one table was populated by a newspaper reporter, a NASCAR PR rep, a Kansas Speedway media relations person and a young race car driver who didn’t exactly fit in with the hipsters in the regentrified warehouse.

First, because he was wearing a Timex and knackered flannel shirt. Second, he was kind of on the loud and blustery side as he talked about racing.

It was in 2004 and Clint Bowyer, a local short track star who was venturing into the bigger time of the Busch Series in a car owned by Richard Childress, was doing interviews.

At Lidia’s, he demonstrated the gift of gab that has led him to a broadcasting gig that kicks off this coming season.

Bowyer is extremely likable. He has been a sports writer’s delight in an age when the vast majority of drivers dispense unseasoned interviews in order to not offend teams, sponsors and the sport itself.

So, he could be very good with a camera in his face and a microphone in his hand.

But the fear here is that his new bosses at Fox Sports will use him in what has become one of the most disgusting roles in sports broadcasting – the staff buffoon.

Debatably pioneered by Dick Vitale in college basketball, broadcast buffoons have spread out across the airwaves. Their gig is based not on critical thought and analysis – not that either of those are needed when it comes to something as simple to understand as sports – but on schtick and at a very loud volume.

Think Lee Corso on college pregames.

In racing, think Michael Waltrip and his cringeworthy running among the starting-grid cars, Justin Bell making every “interview” into a slapstick mini-series about himself, and Rutledge Wood, whose entire repertoire of questions concerns asking drunk fans about how much fun they are having.

Anecdotal evidence indicates that at the very least, Bowyer will be pressured by his “broadcast partner” bosses to be a shill for the sport and the network – like Rick Allen and Mike Joy.

At worst, he will fitted with the proverbial monkey suit.

It is sad to listen to guys who were thinkers and highly analytical as competitors who now spend Sunday afternoons cheerleading for “our sport”.

A couple years back, when it was announced that Dale Earnhardt Jr. would head to the broadcast booth, the reaction was; oh-oh.

Junior was wonderful to listen to during his driving days. He was thoughtful, intelligent, low volume and exceedingly honest. When he spoke, listeners learned things. When he offered opinions, he did so without looking over his should to see if NASCAR was listening in.

Would the pressures of being a “broadcast partner” with NASCAR serve to filter Earnhardt’s thoughts and words?

So far, so good. He’s kept the volume down and the analysis thoughtful. The enthusiasm that does make it into his work is at an appropriate level.

The “Dale Jr. Download” television show he does with Mike Davis is terrific. He’s as good at interviewing guests as are career journalists. 

This week we’ll find out what Bowyer’s role will be at Fox.

Here’s hoping he and the producer’s talking into his earpiece will allow the country boy from Emporia, Kan. to retain some dignity.

Folksy is good. Buffoonery, not so much.

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Tuesday, February 9 2021
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