Leigh Diffey had a unique route to his career as a sportscaster, one that garnered a bit of hostility from other journalists as he was attempting to enter the industry.
Diffey, who is NBC’s lead play-by-play voice for IndyCar, joined the Awful Announcing Podcast to discuss his career and preview this weekend’s Indianapolis 500. Although Diffey is now a renowned voice in motorsports, it took him years to get there, breaking into the business in Australia while working as a physical education teacher. During the podcast, which will be released in its entirety Friday, May 26, Diffey was asked about seeking broadcasting opportunities without any formal training early in his career, and whether that caused him to receive animosity from others in the industry.
“One hundred percent,” Diffey answered without hesitation. “And I got it, in my face, in the newsroom because I didn’t go to university and study journalism or communications. I was a physical education teacher and came in through the back door so to speak, through my commentary. When the network that I started working for showed a lot of interest in me, they said, ‘We know you can commentate, we know you can call a race, but you’re going to have to learn the business of television.’”
According to Diffey, that opportunity came as a freelance reporter in Australia on the show Sports Tonight, which was the equivalent of SportsCenter. Sports Tonight ran in Australia from 1993-2018, with a brief revival in 2018.
“Yeah, I got some resistance,” Diffey said of his early days in the newsroom. “And they didn’t hold back in coming forward and letting me know, ‘You don’t belong here. You shouldn’t be here. You didn’t go to school to study for this. If it wasn’t for motorsport, you’d have no place being at this network.’ I had people tell me that to my face, other journalists, other reporters. But you just very quickly have to grow thick skin and move on.”
Decades later, not only is Diffey a prolific voice in motorsports and NBC’s lead play-by-play announcer for IndyCar, but he’s also the network’s top track and field broadcaster for the Olympics, along with holding other duties during the Summer and Winter events. Listen to Diffey’s full appearance on the Awful Announcing Podcast which includes discussions on becoming a United States citizen, working the Olympics, and calling Helio Castroneves’ fourth Indy 500 win in 2021.