Joe Buck Back In The Cardinal Booth? NO THANKS!
There was a certain tinge of sadness when Joe Buck abandoned the Cardinal broadcast booth after the 2007 season, but I could understand the move. A nationally-syndicated job with FOX awaited young Buck, and with it all of the riches and fame that a Cardinals broadcasting job could never offer.
Still, for sentimental Cardinal fans, seeing Joe Buck leave our baseball family and the chair of his legendary father felt cold, wrong, decidedly unsentimental. Some broadcasters like Jack Buck, Harry Caray, Mike Shannon, or Milo Hamilton stay with their beloved teams throughout their careers, content with fewer dollars and a smaller but more focused and personal kind of fame. By making this move, Joe Buck demonstrated to the organization and its fans that gave him his start that the Cardinals were too small, too insignificant for his widely-regarded talents. So he left for greener pastures.
Given that Buck was the son of one of the most beloved figures in Cardinal history, fans still received him warmly around town after he left. His chain of restaurants do well in St. Louis, and they do so in part with menu items that play off of baseball names. He’s often called back to St. Louis for various functions and charities and greeted with enthusiastic crowds. Despite abandoning the team for national fame, Cardinal fans were willing to overlook it for the sake of the Buck family legacy.
But then the 2011 postseason happened. With a ragged and determined Cardinal club desperately trying to charge through three tough postseason teams, Cardinal fans noticed a growing edge in Buck’s voice as the Redbirds continued to advance. Then came a legendary Game Six comeback, and those five simple words Buck seared into the memories of Cardinals Nation in the bottom of the tenth inning after a Lance Berkman single tied the game:
They. Just. Won’t. Go. Away.
From then on, Buck positioned himself as an enemy of the team and its fans. There’s no coming back from it. I understand the need to be impartial in a national broadcast and attempt to mask his appreciation for St. Louis, but that turn of phrase goes too far in the other direction. Buck certainly didn’t say anything like that against the Rangers when Josh Hamilton belted a two-run homer in the top of the tenth inning to pull his team back off of the mat. No, he saved such an ugly sentiment for the team that groomed him as a 21 year-old broadcaster and gave him a shot at all of the riches and fame he subsequently received.
It seems that Joe Buck wasn’t well liked by many fans in baseball even before this happened. There is a Facebook page devoted to the idea that Joe Buck Sucks, and fans regularly complain of a perceived bias on his part (Giants fans complained about it during the 2012 postseason, for instance). Many fans complain of Buck’s pomposity and phoniness. He certainly lacks the warmth and likeable nature of his father’s broadcasting style, and this doubtless leads to increased friction with fans.
But for Cardinal fans, those five ugly words Buck used in 2011 continue to throb like an infected splinter.
Today’s announcement that Buck will return to the Cardinal broadcast booth for some undetermined number of games was greeted with the kind of hostility one would expect from a jilted fan base. The fans don’t want Buck back. Interestingly, they’re resisting the idea despite having one of the worst broadcasting teams in the sport. When fans would prefer to listen to Rick Horton over Joe Buck, you know the dislike is serious and real.
Personally, I don’t want him back. He didn’t appreciate what the Cardinals gave him and what he received from the fans. Moreover, I can’t watch highlights of the greatest game in Cardinal history without Buck’s five words besmirching it every single time.
Buck wanted fame and fortune, and he got it. I hope he’s happy with his choice. Now Just Go Away.