The Unsung Heroes Of IndyCar
When I say “new & improved” I’m talking about the two new voices you hear in the booth as opposed to the regular voices heard in the pits and out on the course in the various turns. Paul Page is not exactly a new voice to the broadcast. Not only has he had a few guest appearances in recent years – he was the main anchor from 1977 to 1987, before moving to the television booth in 1988. Pippa Mann was on the broadcasts for Indy Lights, before becoming the driver analyst with Page for this year.
Page replaced Mike King, who held the job from 1999 until last year. Oddly enough, King’s tenure was the longest of anyone to hold that job except for the legendary Sid Collins – who held the post from 1952 until 1976. Pippa replaces Davey Hamilton, who I thought did a good job during his stint from 2007 until last year.
Have I listened to the IMS Radio Network broadcast during the actual call of the race this season? No. I’ve either been in attendance or in front of the live TV broadcast for every race this season. But I do listen to them online during practice and qualifying on a very regular basis. When I listened to the first practice from St. Petersburg back in March, I was amazed at the chemistry that already seemed to exist between Paul Page and Pippa Mann. Page is more than twice Pippa’s age, but there seems to be a rapport between the two that belies their difference in age.
In my opinion, the IMS Radio Network crew are the unsung heroes of the series and the entire broadcast team deserves some recognition. Pippa Mann has proven to be an excellent driver analyst. She is knowledgeable and her accent is very easy on the ears. The pit and turn announcers do an outstanding job in relaying information to the listeners. Jake Query, Mark Jaynes, Nick Yeoman and Michael Young have worked together for quite a few years now and do phenomenal work
But I want to give a special shout-out to Paul Page. I’ve heard various comments that he has lost a step from his first stint in the booth or that he conveys no emotion. I disagree – on both points. I think he does a seamless job of intermingling the other announcers and letting them do their jobs and tell their stories. He also has quickly built chemistry with Pippa Mann and readily defers to her expertise, rather than trying to interject his own opinions – unlike his predecessor.
As for his perceived lack of emotion – he doesn’t scream at the top of his lungs when something exciting is happening. But I don’t think that means he doesn’t show emotion – far from it.
There is a tendency among sportscasters these days to try and become the star of the broadcast instead of the event they are covering. Look no further than ol’ DW on NASCAR broadcasts for a perfect example. Page takes a more understated approach to broadcasting – similar to my favorite football TV broadcaster, Pat Summerall. But never mistake being understated as a sign of a lack of passion. That would be a serious mistake when discussing Paul Page.
I had a good friend tell me that he thought Page’s call for the last lap of this year’s Indianapolis 500 was like he was calling the third day of practice. He said it was very underwhelming and unbefitting of such an exciting finish. I went back and listened to it a few days later. I wondered if we were both talking about the same call. While Page wasn’t screaming three octaves higher as his predecessor might have done, you could certainly sense the excitement in his voice.
There is much more to a radio broadcast than screaming and emotion while describing the action. Unlike television, the radio announcer has to paint a picture with words to convey every sense of what is going on. Page learned this skill from the master of painting word pictures – Sid Collins.
Has Page been flawless in the first half of this season? Hardly. But neither has Allen Bestwick, Leigh Diffey or Brian Till as his TV counterparts. When Bob Varsha fills in for Diffey later this season, he won’t be flawless either.
But if you haven’t tuned into one of the broadcasts this season and you’re assuming it is the same old gibberish you heard coming from an anchor’s mouth in past years, think again. Paul Page and Pippa Mann bring a refreshing spin to every practice session and qualifying round compared to past years. If I ever find myself away from the television during a race, I am confident that they will deliver to me a very descriptive and informative broadcast.
The IMS Radio Network crew puts in a ton of hours every race weekend and gets very little recognition. In my opinion, they are vastly underappreciated for what they do. This entire broadcast team deserves some credit for a job well done.
Please note: There is no race this weekend or next. This is also Father’s Day weekend and since I am a father, I will use that as an excuse to push away from here this weekend. Therefore, there will be no post here on Monday June 16, but I’ll return on Wednesday June 18. Enjoy the weekend! – GP