Fox Sports broadcaster Joe Buck knows his way around a big sporting event. From calling high-profile Super Bowl matchups to World Series games to the U.S. Open Golf, Buck has been on the big stage more times than he can count.
This season has a number of high-profile matchups on the Thursday Night Football schedule, including the Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks in Week 5, Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns in Week 11, and Dallas Cowboys at Chicago Bears in Week 14. The schedule starts with a big game, as the Eagles and Packers face off in Week 4. Buck is excited to open up with that matchup.
“The first one is a great one, and it’s an exciting way to kick off Thursday Night Football on Fox,” Buck told Men’s Journal. “I can’t wait to sit down with Aaron Rodgers and speak about his relationship with his new coach—and we get to do it at Lambeau Field. I say it’s the best place in the NFL to see a game, it’s the one place you can’t miss as a fan.”
Buck spoke with Men’s Journal about his most anticipated NFL games for the 2019-20 season, which teams can challenge the Patriots, and the most memorable moments he’s ever called in the booth.
(Thursday Night Football on FOX starts with Week 4: Thursday, September 26 at 8:20 PM ET with the Philadelphia Eagles at Green Bay Packers)
Men’s Journal: You do a lot of work as the lead broadcaster for Fox Sports. How do you balance calling games and your home life?
That’s the hardest part. Thinking about how I am as a father, husband, and brother—that’s the important stuff. When I was a little boy, my dad [Jack Buck, Hall of Fame broadcaster] was all over the place. He was working so hard, so we tried to make the most of the time we had together when he was home. It’s a balancing act. I’ve found a way to get through this maze, and it’s by doing work on planes and catching up on off hours so that when I’m home, I’m fully home. When my kids go to bed, I go to work. You have to do it that way. It allows me to be free and clear.
What matchups are you most looking forward to calling on Thursday Night Football?
The first one is a great one: The Eagles visit the Packers. It’s an exciting way to kick off Thursday Night Football. I can’t wait to sit down with Aaron Rodgers and speak about his relationship with his new coach. We get to do it at Lambeau Field. I say it’s the best place in the NFL to watch a game. It’s the one place you can’t miss as a fan. Apart from that, the Chicago Bears-Dallas Cowboys and New England Patriots-New York Giants matchups will be very interesting. We’ll also get the Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers… obviously the Ben Roethlisberger injury [QB out for the season] changes things, but part of that is seeing where Cleveland will be. They have a great collection of talent, had a lot of hype coming into the season, and Baker Mayfield is one of the more exciting players to watch. No matter what, you know it’s going to be a hard-fought, hard-hitting football game.
What players and teams have impressed you the most this season?
We had the Cowboys Week 1. Sitting there talking to Dak Prescott, he felt different about this team. He came in with a sparkle in his eye, and I think he’s showing his best stuff. The Dallas offense has been great. They have lots of weapons—and in the NFC, it looks like the Cowboys and the Rams are the best. In the AFC, it’s hard not to see the Patriots winning unless injuries happen. Brady is such a terrific leader and QB, plus the defense is so good this year. I don’t see anyone challenging them in the AFC except for the Kansas City Chiefs. With the Chiefs, you have to ask if the defense is good enough to hold them in games. So overall, I’d say the Rams and Cowboys in the NFC, and Chiefs and Patriots in the AFC.
You and Troy have a great relationship. How has that built up for you guys over the years?
There’s nothing more important in this business, because you’re on TV as a pairing, and so if he’s struggling, then I struggle, if I struggle he struggles. When you can lean on each other and we can laugh about it, that’s what the friendship lends itself towards. We’ve kind of grown old together, doing this almost 20 years now, we are the longest current running duo, closing in on John Madden and Pat Summerall, something I would’ve never thought possible. None of that would happen if we were not really good friends. I love the guy like a brother and he feels the same way towards me, it’s been ideal working together. I’ve known him to be a great family man, a great dad. I’ve got daughters, a little older than his. We talk about parenting and our girls as much as Cover 2 defenses and quarterbacks. When you bring all that other stuff into the booth, it’s a really comforting feeling that he has your back, and he knows I have his.
What are the most surprising plays you’ve been in the booth for?
The David Tyree helmet catch from the first Giants-Patriots Super Bowl… taking down the undefeated Patriots team and the Eli Manning coming out party. Manning had an unbelievable postseason, and taking the Giants all the way to a Super Bowl win with a play like that was incredible to watch. Another one is the Stefon Diggs play from the 2018 playoffs with the Vikings and Saints—his walk-off touchdown. You don’t really get walk-offs like that in football. It’s usually the kicker making a kick to end the game. But the timing of that and the noise, it was amazing to see that moment. Those two jump out to me.
The Eagles and Packers kick off Thursday Night Football, what excites you about that game?
I can’t wait to sit down with Aaron Rodgers and speak about his relationship with Matt Lafleur. Aaron’s always been honest with us. On the other side with Philadelphia and Doug Pederson, he’s a head coach that is so secure with what he does. We get to see it behind closed doors. He’s never met a 4th down he’s not afraid to go for, and he makes games more interesting. For Philly, it’s about Carson Wentz and if he’s where he was two years ago when his knee went out. They’re really good, they have a chance to be in the end-of-year conversation. For this game, to have it in Green Bay is a great way to start for Fox. It’s unique, and I say it’s the best place in the NFL to see a game—the atmosphere there, it’s a religion for fans, and having that history there is amazing. I say to everyone who asks, they should go see a game at Lambeau Field if they can, it’s the one place you can’t miss.
You’ve shown great versatility jumping from sport to sport. How do you prepare?
It keeps me fresh. I like bouncing back and forth through the sports. I really like the guys I work with and that helps. In football with Troy, we are good friends, and in baseball with John Smoltz—they’re both champion athletes and Hall of Fame level guys. They over-prepare and they give me a lot of confidence that wherever I go in the broadcast, they can follow me. You have to put the work in. You have to do the reading—be aware of the teams and the trends. When I show up for the baseball postseason or jump back to football, I know how the teams got there and why. I make sure I stay current. I feel I have the best job in the world.
Your dad had a big impact on your career. Can you tell us about your relationship?
I have more appreciation now for how he was than I did when I was younger. I idolized my dad. I didn’t know back then when I’d be in the booth with him for games that I was preparing myself for what was to come later. He was such a good guy. He treated people right. People loved being around him. He grew up a poor kid—went through the Depression, was injured in WWII. There were facets to his life I’ll never understand. But he was a good man and he treated everyone well. I’m fortunate that I followed him into this business and got to see what it took and how he did the job.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
I remember my dad saying to me, “Always broadcast the game with this in mind: If you get hit by a bus walking into the stadium, they’ll still play the game.” If you take over in the booth and act like people are there just because you’re there for the broadcast, that’s an issue. So I’ve tried to make sure that if a big moment happens, I state what happened, then get out of the way. I let the fans hear the natural reaction and remember that it’s not my game; it’s their game. And while that’s specific to broadcasting, I feel like you can use that in life, too. It can help to remember that when you’re doing certain things, it’s not always about you and there are other things at play.
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