Joe Buck vs. Jim Brockmire Is The Baseball Rivalry We Deserve
The most hated man in sports broadcasting goes head to head with Jim Brockmire this week.
Fox Sports play-by-play man Joe Buck has called All-Star games, Super Bowls, and every World Series game since 2000. He’s been a mainstay on Fox’s NFL broadcasts since 1995 and has led Fox’s baseball coverage since 1996. When your team plays in the “Game of The Week,” you’re getting Joe Buck, for better or worse. His sterling voice fills living rooms and bars across America nearly every weekend for 10 months out of the year. And yet Buck, a man firmly at the top of his profession, is one of the most universally hated figures in sports.
Buck hatred crosses city and state lines and finds common ground to bridge bitter rivalries. In January, Green Bay Packers fans started a petition to get Buck banned from calling the team’s playoff game. Red Sox fans lament his “bias” towards the Yankees, and Yankees fans bemoan his biases toward Boston. Facebook groups like “We Hate Joe Buck or “When Joe Buck Dies, I Will Turn The Volume Up” are a symptom of the national spotlight for the man’s two decade long headache.
Everyone Hates Joe Buck could be a show somewhere down the line. At the moment, his busy scheduled is tied to his day job, so Buck will have to settle for his long awaited cameo on Wednesday’s episode of IFC’s baseball comedy Brockmire.
The running joke throughout the season is that Buck has long been the nemesis of the downtrodden fictional baseball broadcaster Jim Brockmire. The rivalry comes to a satisfying showdown when Brockmire attends an annual broadcasters’ gala and hangs with old pals including ESPN’s Tim Kurkjian and Brian Kenny and Sports Illustrated writer and author Jonah Keri.
The cameo is years in the making. Buck appeared on the 2010 Funny or Die mockumentary short that inspired Hank Azaria to bring his fictional baseball broadcaster to television. In the season’s penultimate episode, Buck plays both friend and foe to Brockmire, who like most fans doesn’t have a concrete reason to hate Buck at the start, other than his “stupid face” and all the success he had from a young age.
In the show, Brockmire was once the youngest broadcaster in baseball history, poking fun at Buck who in real life was youngest broadcaster to regularly call NFL games in 1995 and became the youngest play-by-play man in World Series history when he called the 1996 tilt between the New York Yankees and Atlanta Braves.
Buck ascended to the top of the broadcasting world in real life and in Brockmire’s fictional narrative. He’s spent years coming to terms and laughing about the public perception of his job, and the more personal attacks hurled at him from behind the barriers of the internet. In some ways, aspects of Buck’s real life story mirrors the journey Brockmire is on as he rebuilds his life and career throughout the season. Buck lacks the catch phrases of announcers from yesteryear and hardly does enough Godfather references in the booth, but if there’s one thing Buck can’t be dogged on for, it’s his self-awareness.
In Brockmire, Buck is a pompous big shot, though not quite the villain Brockmire makes him out to be.
“It’s just fun to play a heightened version of myself and laugh at what I do for a living, which is literally what we’re doing,” Buck told Den of Geek in between takes on set in Atlanta last summer.
Buck has struggled at times with his fame. He fled the negativity of Twitter and is a constant target of criticism. Some people hate the way he calls games, others knock his chemistry with NFL analyst Troy Aikman, and trolls chalk his career up to nepotism (His dad is legendary St. Louis Cardinals announcer Jack Buck).
“Back in the day when my dad and Harry Caray and Joe Garagiola and guys like that were having fun and you could have fun without theoretically pissing people off every time you open your mouth? It was a great job,” he says.
Brockmire is in the mold of an old school broadcaster like Jack Buck or Harry Caray, and gets burned for his repeated outbursts on social media, something he has little understanding for.
Today with social media, Buck says he’s always walking a tightrope. To his credit, Buck has gotten better at withstanding the venom he receives. Brockmire is just the latest example of Buck poking fun at himself in recent years.
He’s jumped on Deadspin, a site that has its own love/hate with Buck, to answer questions in the comments ranging from, “How much hate do you have in you?” to “It seems like you do it just to make a living and don’t necessarily enjoy doing it. Am I wrong?”
When the Super Bowl came to cold weather “New York” (The game was held in New Jersey) in 2014, Buck did a Funny or Die sketch to lampoon fans’ perception of Buck The Broadcaster. It got personal. “F*CK YOU JOE BUCK! You hate the Yankees, you hate the Giants, we hate you!” one fan screams in the middle of the street.
He understands the frustration of fans, particularly baseball fans who are used to their local broadcast team and feel slighted when Buck’s crew has to play to a general audience. “It’s a no-win thing,” he says, “so consequently, if you listen to all that, it drives everybody into this boring lane.”
Brockmire has the opposite problem. His fellow broadcasters and the internet know Brockmire is lewd, and at times a complete sideshow to a baseball game. With a little help from Buck, Brockmire in the episode realizes that every man gets to control who they want to be. He doesn’t necessarily want to be the circus attraction, but there comes a time when you have to stop fighting your public perception and embrace it. In that sense, Buck and Brockmire, cut from different molds, can put the rivalry aside for now… until next season begins.
“You know, I think we all kind of take ourselves a little bit too seriously, and that’s a shame,” Buck says. “It’s fun to be able to kind of let loose, have a comedic shot at what we do, and see this bloviating announcer who’s kind of been to hell and back. It’s fun for me to see.”