Slow The Train Anointing Jeff Burton Instantly As NASCAR’s Next Greatest TV Voice

On paper it all looks good when it comes to NBC Sports’ announcement Tuesday that driver Jeff Burton will be part of the network’s broadcast team when they jump back into the fray of Sprint Cup Series coverage in 2015.

Jeff Burton (Photo: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Jeff Burton (Photo: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Burton’s reputation as the “The Mayor” of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series seemingly brings all the intangibles to the table that someone could want in creating the perfect analytical voice for television coverage of NASCAR events.

Over the last decade of his career Burton has developed a reputation with the media covering the Sprint Cup Series as the go-to guy in the garage when looking for insightful, objective analysis of any number of topics in the sport.

And on Tuesday, after NBC’s announcement concerning Burton, many involved in the sport sang high praise for the move. And it is a smart move for all involved, there’s no arguing that.

But the masses speeding to anoint Burton as the next great television voice of NASCAR coverage need slap on the restrictor plate and give it some time.

Across the realm of the sports landscape, predicting how athletes end up morphing into roles as television analysts is the ultimate crapshoot.

Sometimes it’s the guys nobody expects will succeed who blossom. Look at Michael Irvin and Keyshawn Johnson with the NFL. During their playing careers there were surely few among the masses who could have predicted that one day each would become influential and well versed members of the media covering professional football.

And there’s the other side. Sports television is riddled with so many instances where the athlete that seems to have all the right makeup to be a smart voice as an observer loses that voice the minute they stop participating and the microphone on their lapel goes hot.

Also remember, Burton will be working not for a news entity but an entertainment division, where positive promotion of a sport is far more important to the bottom line in many instances than fair analysis.

That factor of finding the balance between entertainment vs. objectivity can be a prickly one for those moving from participant to paid provider of educated analysis.

In NASCAR, the biggest example of where things can take a sharp turn in a different direction when it comes to entertainment vs. objectivity is the muting and morphing of Darrell Waltrip in his role as a broadcaster for the Fox Sports coverage of NASCAR.

Much like Burton, in his competitive days Waltrip was a sought out voice among the top drivers in the sport. At times he could undoubtedly be over the top with some opinion, but he brought a fair perspective to analyzing the sport day to day.

Then he traded in the helmet for a microphone and objectivity and fair analysis was traded for playing the role of NASCAR promoter, and often times apologist for the sport. Waltrip’s strong voice wilted under the lights to the point where, after a decade in the booth he has more or less become a caricature of the man once known as “Jaws” for his fearlessness for speaking is mind.

And behind Waltrip, Rusty Wallace followed in line at ESPN as another smart voice as a competitor that morphed into more of a pom-pom bearer for NASCAR than objective voice.

It’s no guarantee that Burton won’t flourish in his role with NBC, but those expecting the reasoned and fair opinions “The Mayor” brought to the table as a competitor might be surprised how TV can change the voice of those suddenly thrust into the role of blindly promoting all that is the perceived good about a sport one’s employer is paying to broadcast.

Follow RaceDayCT On FacebookFollow RaceDayCT On Twitter

Did you like this? Share it:

Comments

  1. paulrose358 says:

    Should be interesting.

  2. Ken says:

    I don’t think Jeff will wear well on TV. I think he might be a one trick pony with a limited knowledge of all aspects of the sport.

  3. Pokey says:

    As much as I like Burton, he doesn’t seem like he is chatty enough to bring more emotion to the race casts. He is sort of like a policy wonk, long on insightful opinions and short on the entertainingly glib side. Michael Waltrip would be the other extreme. I hope I am wrong and that Jeff really blossoms in such a role and that there is a side of his personality that most of us haven’t seen much of.

  4. PB says:

    Wow….”one trick pony”??? That is border-line moronic.

    Jeff Burton is going to do an unvelievable job,and it is going to be very natural for him.I’m shocked a bit at some of the comments I have seen since this announcement was made.

    Hate to say it but there are lots of idiots out there that really have not been paying attention.

  5. RA Eckart says:

    Great article, Shawn. Let’s give Burton a chance, but realize it’s gonna take 2-3 years to be good at TV. To make it click, he’s gonna need a great support staff at NBC (the boys at the shop). NBC’s poaching a chunk of TNT crew, so think about that in Burton’s success.

    The only great surprise on TV in the last 13 years has been Ricky Craven. Not exactly the most outspoken interview during his driving days, Craven has been the true embodiment of fair & impartial broadcasting.

    Right now, Mike Joy’s the lone professional on TV, and FOX lets Darrell run all over the best thing they have going. How someone doesn’t poach Craven is beyond me, but the next best thing may be sending Burton to whatever school Craven went to.

  6. LarryG says:

    Jeff Burton will always be himself. Don’t expect him to become a NASCAR mouthpiece. I was at a Q&A of his and he was asked what he thought of Obamacare. He said, “don’t get sick.” What made that a great response was that everybody liked it. He’ll get the same response in the booth.

Leave a Reply