Unsure of his exact location, Joe Buck could literally be in any place in the world at any given time, most likely calling an NFL game or checkers game.
“I’m back in the entertainment capital of the world, St. Louis, Missouri,” Buck said in a telephone interview Wednesday.
There is no greatest sports reporter in the world and Buck chooses to live where he grew up, with his wife and children.
For reasons that are beyond my comprehension, Joe Buck is a divisive figure even though he is the best gaming voice in the current sport.
There is no better football tandem than Buck and former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman. There is no better baseball tandem than Buck and former Atlanta Braves pitcher John Smoltz.
Buck and Aikman’s 2020 NFL season ends Sunday when they call the NFC championship match between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and host Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field.
After chatting with Tom Brady on Wednesday, Buck was kind enough to give me some time to discuss game calls under COVID-19 conditions, why broadcasters should embrace silence, how long he can keep his schedule, and his biggest flub on the air.
– Mac Engel: Are you having fun calling games given the abnormality of everything with no fans, or are you ready to finish with the uniqueness of it?
– Joe Buck: I’m a bit ambivalent. For what I do, there’s nothing like using a noisy stadium. When I’m on the couch, the last thing I want to hear is two or three announcers talking to us. As I said before the season started, the fake crowd noise was supposed to be part of a TV broadcast. I think the networks have developed it.
We have a command instructor at Fox, so it’s the home crowd whistling a bad call. There are next-level things that make this experience, and what interests me is the viewer experience.
It was pointed out how stupid I am, I can be fooled while sitting in an empty stadium and since I have sound going on, I think it is a house full of people. I’m referring to the crowd out of habit and I’m like, ‘You’re a fool. There is no one there.
– ME: Did you call a match this season where you or Aikman said you thought the outcome would be different if there were fans?
– JB: I just got off the phone with (Tampa Bay quarterback) Tom Brady 30 minutes ago, and he said, ‘I’m here to tell you the hardest game to win is a conference title game on the go. The victories I am most proud of are the AFC title matches on the go. “
We’re going to Green Bay and it won’t be the same. There will be 8,100 fans, but that’s not the same as 81,000 where the crowd is mounted.
And that perhaps applies to last weekend with Tampa in New Orleans. That dome changes the feel of a game. Change what a team can do online. I think home court has never been more irrelevant than it is in 2020.
– JB: I’ll interrupt you. In all the years I’ve been with Troy, I don’t think he’s ever been better. He is more willing than ever to be critical. It is never taken for granted. It is looked at, studied and prepared. The more I listen to it the more I think this is the best it has ever been.
– ME: HBO’s Real Sports created a profile of you on you many years ago, and I remember you saying you didn’t want to be an “old man in the booth calling games”. What exactly did you mean and do you still feel that way?
– JB: Yeah. I think it’s just life. This is also a much easier comment to make when you’re 28 or 35, then you’re 51. I won’t do it when I’m in my 100s.
I saw my father [Jack Buck] literally giving every ounce of his energy to his work, the last few years at the St. Louis Cardinals. When the cardinals dedicated a statue to him outside Busch Stadium, and it was so funny, he said, “I gave the cardinals the best years of my life, and now I’ll give them the worst.”
He was in poor health, but that kept him young and wore him down. I saw it. I have two daughters, 24 and 21. I have twins, who are 2 1/2.
What I told HBO, I still support it, I just don’t know the definition.
– ME: Have you seen the TV commercials of taking lessons not to become your parents?
– JB: They are great, progressive ads.
– I do; you’ve had moments where you thought, “Oh God, I’m becoming my father.”
– JB: I think I’m becoming my mother with my level of concern for my 2 1/2 year old twins. I don’t think I’ll ever be as carefree in or out of the air as my dad. My father was a depression-era child who grew up on nothing. He worked his tail to get where (he did) and beyond.
My father didn’t care; it’s due to being shot during WWII in Germany and being in a hospital in Paris when the war was over. His life experiences were so vast.
I think I’m more in the category of Carole Buck who worries about a cough coming out of the twins’ room.
– ME: Sportscasting is like anything else in that it constantly evolves, but is it much different today than when you started?
– JB: It depends on what interests you. What is your barometer for a successful broadcast. If you want to switch to social media, which is a relatively new invention, and take the temperature of how fans feel, you’re going to be really depressed.
You have to bring a snorkel to get through the mud. I see. Fans have a way of verbalizing their frustrations when their team just lost. Most of the complaints [about the broadcast] they come from fans whose teams have lost.
I’ve done 23 World Series and a lot of Super Bowls. I told half the audience that their team just lost.
There are many fans who think about the national team [TV play-by-play] the guy is mad at their team, which is just crazy. It’s done [broadcasters] hyper aware of what comes out of their mouth. There is much less forgiveness now.
I’m not saying anything that people don’t already know, but it’s a world where people are ready to get angry. Mostly it’s “Kill the Messenger”.
As for the call to play, the nuts and bolts are the same. Ball 1 is still ball 1. A touchdown is still a touchdown. The reaction is what is different.
If you have a strong opinion, you better be willing to put up with what comes with it. It’s something my father has never experienced. I’m not saying it’s better or worse, it’s just different. The fun factor is always the same. It is exciting as hell.
– ME: Vin Scully, Pat Summerall, Keith Jackson and a few others are celebrated as the best in sports, in part because they used silence. Use silence. If you’re making the # 1 games on Fox and we celebrate those rumors as standard, why are broadcasters afraid to keep quiet?
– JB: It’s hard for me to answer because it will sound like I know all the answers. I think it comes from insecurity and it takes courage, and I’m not saying I’m brave, but it takes some courage not to speak.
The little voice in your head is telling you that if you don’t say anything, people will think that you don’t know who took that touchdown, or that you don’t know what’s going on.
I think online sports are more about what you don’t say than what you say. It’s about eliminating the clutter. You’re playing sports on TV, which is redundant by its description. If they’re watching, they know it’s a touchdown.
If I were to teach in a class, I would emphasize being confident in your position and not feeling the need to talk too much.
– ME: What is your most memorable mess on the air?
– JB: There are two categories. There was my reaction to [Vikings receiver] Randy Moss makes the moon with fans in Green Bay [in 2005].
It was just how I felt in the game, and part of me thinks I would feel the same way now. That was a piece of broadcast history. I’m fine with that.
There are mistakes when a ball hits the top of the wall, and the guy is still running and is, “Wait, it’s not a home run!”
What stands out is making a mess [PGA Tour golfer] Brooks Koepka’s girlfriend name at the end of the US Open (2017). I never said the name of the guy who gave me the cards, because he always made me look 10 times smarter than me.
But this girl kept popping up all over the place. So it’s the US Open. And Koepka won. And now they are kissing. I get this card, I say the name and [color analyst] Brad Faxon says that’s the ex-girlfriend.
Then it’s, ‘OK. Good night to all.’ We just did 52 hours a day of live golf and the last name coming out of my mouth is Brooks Koepka’s ex-girlfriend. Jim Nantz would never do that.
I contacted Brooks and apologized and he laughed. I apologized. If you can’t laugh at yourself and turn mistakes into good stories, you’ll have a hard time.
– ME: Rumor has it that you will soon join the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
– JB: I’m entering through the side door or the basement.
– ME: Of your many successes, is this the most surreal?
– JB: Totally surreal. I think the best part is my mom was warned that the announcement would be made during half-time of the Cleveland / Cincinnati game. He would have watched but I don’t think he would have watched the interval. Do not say that [Fox NFL studio analyst] Howie Long that.
I thought it was good that she could see her son come in and get the highest prize, just like her husband did [with baseball].
We are very close as a family, and even though he has been away for 20 years, this has been very special.
© 2021 Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Visit to star-telegram.com Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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