This is an ongoing feature of Queers4Gears – where we interview someone from the world of motor sports and ask them six questions. This week we interview Troy Germain – a Motorsports Broadcaster from Vermont. Troy has been on the air for 20 years. He currently calls races all over New England and Canada in the ACT (American Canadian Tour) and also at the legendary Thunder Road in Vermont. Troy is openly gay – not a common thing in the world of racing. You can read a long form story about Troy from the Boston Edge by clicking here.
Q: Did you ever want to be a Race Car Driver or work on Pit Crew?
A: I have thought about it…. and a few times I have been offered to take a car out for practice and things of that nature. I think I was more interested in it when I was younger but I never strapped into a race car – typically because I was afraid that I was going to like it too much. My dad had a saying – that the only way to make a small fortune in racing is to start with a large fortune and it will be small by the time that your done. So I have always tried to stay on the money making side of the sport – not that I make a ton of money doing what I am doing but I am certainly not losing money every week.
Q: Who do you look up to in the world of Motorsports broadcasting? Who are your heroes?
A: Obviously, I worked elbow to elbow with Ken Squier and Dave Moody for most of my ACT career so those are two guys that I look up to a lot. One of the biggest influences in my earlier years of announcing was a gentleman by the name of Jim Clothey who passed away a couple of years ago. He was the announcer at the track where I started back in New Hampshire in 1991. He based a lot of what he did off of the younger Ken Squier years and I guess I based a lot of my stuff of the Jim Clothey when he was still active in racing – so he was an early influence. Then moving onto Thunder Road – Moody and Squier have been pretty instrumental. And I gotta go for the New Englanders – like Mike Joy – I look up to him as well.
Q: Have you ever said anything on the air that you regretted after some thought?
A: Yeah – you know – you get caught up in the moment every now and then. I can’t remember anything specific right now but just like Moody and Squier I like to call things as they are. Occasionally I would amplify a bad day or bad season for a competitor saying, “This is the first race out of 10 that this guy has qualified for.” You know there is a positive way to say it and a negative way to say it and occasionally I would go on the negative side. But (I haven’t said) nothing devastating by any means.
I remember when I was first announcing there was this guy on a local track up at Groveton – and he was absolutely horrible. I mean… he would spin out on every single corner and by the end of the night I was making a joke of it – “ohh, surprise, surprise…. he’s around again.” Well, the following week, this guy came up to the tower and he tried to rip me a new one. He said it was my fault he was driving so badly. This was a hobby stock division and this guy was screaming about his sponsors that were in the grandstands and he said because of me they are not gonna back his car. Not because he couldn’t drive though.
Unfortunately, what I am know for on the negative side of the ACT world is messing up on the National Anthems. There are at least two races a year where I play something else off my iPod instead of the National Anthem. This year it was “Bad to the Bone.” That is the thing I work hardest not to do – but I sometimes just press the wrong thing on my iPod. I’m like – we don’t need a cassette or a CD – because I have my iPhone and it works perfectly. I remember to put it on airplane mode so I don’t get a call or a text while playing the anthem – but one day went I tried to switch from the Canadian to the American Nation Anthem – it went to Bad to the Bone. Could have been worse though – could have been Eminem.
Q: At the top level of Motorsports Broadcasting – you see a lot of retired drivers and crew chiefs. Dave Moody always jokingly points out, when he has them on his show, that they are taking work from well trained broadcast professionals. On the other hand – you see some guys up in the booth who have great pipes and a sports broadcasting background but they don’t know a lot about racing. With a limited number of seats in the broadcast booth – Which is more frustrating to you as a guy trying to work his way up.
A: That’s a very valid point. I am glad that I am not the only one that notices that. Broadcasting at that level is such a competitive business to begin with and to see the Andy Petrees – the Larry McReynolds – the Darrell Waltrips – ect, ect…. it’s frustrating. It used to be just one(guy); there was Benny Parsons or Ned Jarrett and the others were racing broadcasters. Someone like myself or Moody who have grown up around the sport for our entire lives can definitely relate to the fans better, if not more, than these former crew chiefs and race car drivers. They are very knowledgeable about the sport but they can’t broadcast.
And like you said – there are some great broadcasters that know nothing about the sport. I think of Brent Musburger. When it comes to football – it doesn’t matter who’s playing – if Brent’s calling the game then I am going to watch – because I so much enjoy his call of the game. But there was a reason he only spent one season in NASCAR – I am sorry but there was. Joe Buck could call baseball and football – he could probably call field hockey and soccer but racing is a totally different sport all together. Chris Myers (for example) when he started out – not so good…… but he has taken the time to grow in the sport of racing. Over the years he has developed into a good race broadcaster….. could I do a better job…probably (laughs).
There is defiantly a middle ground that is losing out: the people that have the broadcast experience and have the knowledge of the sport…… they can relate to the fans and make it sound a lot more intelligent than it is. I am one of those guys – that is slowly working my way up. You look at FOX – Larry McReynolds, Darrell Waltrip those are two chairs that could be filled.
Q: Queers4Gears has gotten very little negative reaction – and you have said that generally there is a lack of attention paid to your sexual orientation in the garage. I get many comments from gay people who are not race fans that have a hard time believing that – they just assume the world of racing would hate on openly gay people. What would you tell those gay people to help them better understand the sport?
A: The best thing that I can do and what I have done is take them to a race. Because all they know is NASCAR – and to be honest -the last five to ten years……even I have a hard time sitting through that. To ask someone that knows nothing about the sport to sit down and watch an entire cup race – that is not doing the sport (of racing) any justice. So I will bring them to Thunder Road on a Thursday Night and I will make them pick a driver so they have someone to root for and can actually get into it. With only one exception (an ex boyfriend) every person that I have brought to a race has wanted to go back. It is exciting -they are rubbing fenders and spinning each other out – you can see a guy race from the back to the front in a 50 lap race. But how exciting is it (in NASCAR) to watch 43 cars run around for 250 laps on a 1.5 mile track. It is just not as exciting.
I agree that I get more negative feedback from the gay side than any negativity from the non-gay community. In the garage I am just one of the guys. I have brought boyfriends to the track and occasionally you get an odd look but that is far as it has ever gone.
Q: In racing – who would be quicker to accept an openly gay driver…..the garage or the grandstands?
A: That’s a good question – I might look at both sides of it. In the garage – the person who comes out is someone that everyone already knows…… as a “person.” And if they respect that person for who he is and what he does then they are going to accept his homosexuality.
In the grandstands all they know is the public persona of the person – they might look at it a little bit differently. But on the flip side – there is so much gayness in mainstream society now – more so than even 5 ago……. and I think that would impact the public perception. If a big name driver came out – who had been in the sport and was respected (by the fans) then I would hope they would be more accepting at that point. I don’t know that’s a tough one.