Will Leitch, who I like a lot as a writer and who has already accomplished more than most of us by founding Deadspin, has an article up on Sports on Earth today called “Why I Like Joe Buck.”
Now Leitch, a lifelong St. Louis Cardinals fan, is obviously biased toward Buck, who does the play-by-play for the Cardinals and is the son of the most beloved broadcaster in team history. So he can be excused for liking Buck the same way that Yankees fans can be excused for liking Michael Kay. Wait…no Yankees fans like Michael Kay.
By way of defending Buck, Leitch created a list of imaginary reasons why he thinks people don’t like Joe Buck so that he can dispute them.
Purely in the interest of fairness, how about we run down a list of actual reasons people don’t like Joe Buck, from a genuine Buck detractor (me)? It is election season, after all, so we must present both sides of the issue.
But first, let’s run down Leitch’s strawman list:
1. He’s smug.
You’re goddamn right he’s smug. Leitch goes on to say that he finds Buck to be wry and kind of funny for a sportscaster, which is asinine. Buck has always carried himself like he’s a little too cool for the room — when he’s announcing baseball, his ego gets inflated because he also calls the NFL. When he announces football, his ego gets inflated because he’s got about 25 IQ points on Troy Aikman. And no matter what sport he’s calling, he tries to imbue the game with his trademark wit. Which is to say: he drops tiny one-liners here and there, makes some bad puns, and sounds above it all. Worst of all, he’s smug with no reason. He’s not funny, he’s not a talented announcer, and he’s widely loathed.
2. He doesn’t get excited enough.
Again, correct. And when he does get excited, it’s at weird times for inappropriate reasons. Leitch makes this a referendum between Buck and Gus Johnson. Even though I’d handily take Johnson to call any game over Buck, those aren’t the only two options. Excitable screaming and comatose snoring are not the only two styles of announcing sporting events. I promise. There are others.
Seriously…Buck is the most boring play-by-play man in the game. He can make the most thrilling moments seem run-of-the-mill. Just watch this if you don’t believe me.
3. He’s moralistic and priggish.
Leitch argues that the Randy Moss mooning episode was an isolated incident, and that Buck is not a moralist despite that call. That’s like arguing that the guys who ordered bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were pacifists except for just that one time.
4. He likes baseball more than football.
Disagree. As I explained here, I think he looks at baseball like football’s shrimpy little brother. Football’s where the money’s at, and football doesn’t feature the long shadow of his father hovering over him. Even if he does prefer one sport over the other — in either direction — that shouldn’t be a problem. Lots of announcers have called multiple sports over the years. Who cares which ones they prefer? The problem is when they make it sound painfully obvious over the air that they’re bored and would rather be somewhere else.
5. He’s on television all the time.
Leitch claims this is the “main reason” people don’t like Buck. He also claimed in a recent column that people don’t like his beloved Cardinals only because of over-familiarity.
False and false.
People don’t like the Cardinals because they’re a boring team, LaRussa was a pretentious, arrogant asshole, they constantly get lucky in the playoffs despite having inferior teams, and because everyone is sick of the lie being shoved down our throats that Cardinals fans are the best fans in the whole wide world.
Similarly, people don’t hate Buck because he’s always on TV. Tom Brokaw was always on TV and nobody hated him. People hate Buck for all the reasons listed above and below, but as with the Cardinals, Leitch is too biased to see it.
OK, now that we’re through Leitch’s reasons — some more legitimate than others — let’s keep it going. We’ve got momentum now.
6. He is aggressively anti- advanced statistics.
I understand that Buck’s job is to present the game to a wide audience, and hence break it down to its lowest common denominator so he’s not excluding anyone from understanding the action. But there are ways for announcers to take baby steps to introduce advanced stats to an unknowing public — just look at what Len Kasper’s doing on Cubs’ broadcasts. Buck, meanwhile, still relies on batting average like it’s God’s own hand-picked data point of choice. Buck calling a game in 2012 differs in no discernible way from broadcasters calling a game in 1982, and that’s a problem.
There are dozens of more talented, smarter, funnier broadcasters working today (and who knows how many thousands more trying to get jobs or toiling away for a minor league team). Matt Vasgersian, Kapser, Victor Rojas, Vin Scully, Bob Uecker, even Jon Miller now that he’s free of Joe Morgan’s shackles. Buck is not a talented broadcaster. But his father is Jack Buck! So he gets the national games and the World Series.
8. His obsession with steroids.
Buck can’t get through a game without talking about PEDs. Who’s clean? Who’s dirty? What about the record books? It’s 2012, man. Let it go. The Steroid Era was ugly for a lot of reasons, but people like Buck inflame the worst of it and won’t let us move past it.
9. He makes watching sports boring.
First do no harm. That should be the number one goal of all sports broadcasters. Don’t make it more pleasant to watch the game with the sound off, or with loud music blaring in a bar, than with the volume up, listening to the announcers. If you can add something to the experience, that’s great. Some wisdom or humor or personality or analysis. But if you can’t, then at least don’t detract from the viewing experience and make watching sports an unpleasant chore. Buck violates that rule every game he calls.
10. Have you ever seen his TV show?
I rest my case.