Some Guys Just Don't Know When to Quit
I feel compelled to state right here that in his driving days, I was a Darrell Waltrip fan. More specifically, I was the biggest DW fan I knew. He was "my guy" from the DiGard days in the Gatorade 88, all the way through to the bitter end in that K-Mart/Route 66 Ford. I was loyal through those last eight miserable seasons, always thinking (hoping) that just one good run would be enough to get things turned around. I had it all, DW hats, bumper stickers, keychain, model, diecast, jacket, you name it. I even remained loyal when he went to the FOX booth in 2001. Then things changed.
2001 was exciting. FOX was taking over the coverage and at the time they were innovative. It was also proof that NASCAR really had hit the big time. The first time he uttered, "Boogity, Boogity, Boogity" at Daytona, it was cute. Looking back, it was probably OK for that season. I mean that was DW, a little corny but he was huge name in the sport and brought us great insight. That was then though and this is now. Unfortunately for race fans, much like FOX's coverage, Darrell hasn't changed. The sport has changed, as have the fans but it's as if he's still stuck in an almost two decade time warp.
Like a one hit musical act, he's done nothing to improve his broadcasting. Everyone who's watched a NASCAR race in the last several years knows all about the reason Richard Petty used to run high on the track because Waltrip continues to remind us as if we've never heard, that if you ran up there you were closer to the wall and it wouldn't hurt as bad if you hit it. Don't even get me started on his goofy "vortex theory." Then of course, there's his phrase I've mentioned when the race starts.
Remember when the Budweiser frogs used to say, "What's up" in the commercials? It was cute, it was funny. People went around using that as a greeting for a while because it was funny. Then, like anything else, it got run into the ground, became annoying, then finally no one was saying it anymore. It got old. "Boogity, Boogity" is just like that. It was fun, different, for a while it was trendy. Then it just got old. Yet there's Darrell Waltrip, still saying it every week as if it's the first time the words came out of his mouth.
For whatever reason, TV networks believe a three man booth is needed for NASCAR races. I won't debate the merits of that here, let's just assume it's needed. Once Jeff Gordon entered the booth, Darrell wasn't really needed anymore. The fact that Gordon had raced the newer incarnation of cars made a lot of DW's points about handling irrelevant. How many times have you groaned as Waltrip made a point only to have Gordon correct him and educate him? I can't imagine a guy like that, with the same old schtick, lasting in a broadcast booth in another major sport.
I don't like bashing the guy. He's a great ambassador for the sport. He's one of the greatest drivers ever to compete. He still likes to be at the track. He could be a great asset; unfortunately, in his current role, he no longer is. As tracks look to enhance the fan experience, why not use DW in that way? Set him up in a tent, perhaps find a company to sponsor it, and let him tell his stories to fans. He can answer questions; he can pose for pictures and sign autographs. It would keep him involved and give those who want to, the chance to see and listen to him.
With it being announced that he's returning to FOX for the 2019 season, I'm afraid his broadcasting career is going to wind up just like his racing career did. With a generation of fans knowing nothing about him other than what he says in the broadcast booth, I hate thinking he's going to wind up as a joke both on and off the track. We deserve better and so does he.