Thursday, October 23, 2003

Some observations on the World Series broadcasts:

I don't know if I'm just getting mellow with age or what, but I'm starting to not hate Tim McCarver with every fiber of my being anymore. There was a time only a few years ago when the very sound of his high-pitched twang would send me scrambling for the remote control to hurl at my TV. Now, however, I've actually found myself thinking "Hey, that's a pretty good point" to things he's saying during the game.

He and Joe Buck are handling the announcing duties on Fox. Now, I've been listening to Buck's play-by-play since he was 22 years old. He's about the same age as I am, and we were getting started in the same business at about the same time in the same city.

When he was named to the St. Louis Cardinals play-by-play team at 22, I was fully prepared to hate his guts for the sheer nepotism of it. Here was the punk kid of legendary Cardinals' broadcaster Jack Buck taking the mic alongside Dad at an age when most kids his age where still swilling beer-bongs in the frat house. I turned on the radio, ready to pounce on the first misstep in his first season.

But there was a problem: he was good. I mean really, really good. He had a smooth delivery, wry sense of humor, and conversational style perfectly suited to baseball (combined with the ability to convey drama that suits him to football). He was gracious and affable in person. He was impossible to hate. In fact, he compelled you to like him.

Did he get the job because he was Jack Buck's son? Probably. No other 22-year-olds were considered. But while his father may have opened the door for him, his talent is what kept him there and propelled him into the stratosphere.

Now, ten or eleven years down the line, Joe Buck is THE voice of the World Series (he did his first Series at 27) and the Super Bowl on network television. He's the number one play-by-play guy in sports. And none of that has anything to do with being Jack Buck's son. Being Jack Buck's son doesn't get you the Super Bowl or the World Series. It doesn't get you the job as the go-to sportscaster at the network level. Nationally, at the age of 33 or 34, Joe Buck has exceeded even his father's accomplishments (though the elder Buck will always hold preeminence in the hearts of St. Louisans).

He is a pleasure to listen to, and makes a good team with McCarver. Much better, in fact, than Jack Buck and McCarver made doing the World Series on CBS in the early '90's. Joe Buck makes it sound easy--the truest mark of a gifted professional.

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