As a kid growing up in St. Louis I was fated to come of age in the 1970’s, just after the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team dominated the sport and before Whitey Herzog became a St. Louis legend by bringing the championship back to St. Louis. Jack Buck, one of the country’s greatest sports announcers ever, called them all – from Lou Brock’s record breaking base stealing to the Ozzie Smith’s home run in the 1985 World Series “Go crazy, folks! Go crazy!” Jack Buck, along with his sidekick Mike Shannon, was the voice of the St. Louis Cardinals, and decades later I can still hear the love of the game and excitement in Jack Buck’s voice as he called games for a pretty sad and mediocre baseball team the Cardinals had become in the 1970’s. Soon after that I left one of America’s greatest sports town, but as I have learned over the years, I may have left St. Louis but St. Louis has never left me. The older I get the more I’ve come to appreciate St. Louis, and although you wouldn’t know it if you met me, I am a die hard sports fan.
Now I live in another one of America’s great sports towns – Philadelphia. And while I still bleed Cardinals red, I have had a deep appreciation for the town that poached Steve Carlton away from the Cardinals, and beat the hapless Football Cardinals (the “Big Red”) mercilessly in the NFL during the ‘70s. Philadelphia has suffered through some bad times; laughable baseball teams, football teams that choke in the stretch, and even a basketball team whose finest hours occurred generations ago. Maybe that’s why it’s been easy for me to pick up a love of this town’s teams. When the Phillies won the World Series, I was just as happy as anyone else and even shot off fireworks in celebration.
I have suffered with Philadelphia Eagles fans as our team started the season with high hopes (some commentators called the Eagles Super Bowl contenders) – only to have the team play some of the worst football one game, and some of the best a game or two later. The team has been wildly inconsistent, losing to the Washington Redskins in a game where the Eagles offense seemed like someone had spiked the Gatorade with thorazine. A week later they beat the Cowboys to the point where even the Wife – hardcore doesn’t begin to describe her love of the Eagles – began to feel sorry for Tony Romo. I just couldn’t; the scars from the thrashing the Big Red suffered at the hands of Roger Staubach’s Cowboys stop me from going that far. The team was all puff and glamour back in the 1970s, and they are even worse today.
Over this season I have come to realize something that native Philadelphia fans have known for awhile: Joe Buck hates Philadelphia. This season most of the games Philadelphia has played have been broadcast on Fox, announced by Joe Buck and Troy Aickman. I thought it was Buck’s passionless, dry style – more Howard Cosell than his Old Man in which his play-by-play has all the enthusiasm of a DMV worker calling out “next” at 4:59 on a Friday. But no, Joe Buck spends more time talking about the Philly opponents than the Philly team. I noticed this first during the baseball playoffs when Buck spoke glowingly about Manny Ramirez while Philly was at bat.
It became downright distracting today. Joe Buck just couldn’t shut up about the New York Giants while the Eagles were moving the ball. Troy Aikman isn’t much better. I realize he was a great quarterback, but his play analysis and commentary is about as insightful to football as mine is on Buzkashi. Perhaps it’s seeing his overrated and overpaid ‘Boys getting the tar smacked out of them by Brian Dawkins and Asante Samuel by the Birds that curbs his enthusiasm.
Either way it’s a shame that sports fans have to suffer with these two. I noticed that when the local Fox affiliate showed a highlight of the game playing on a flatscreen in their studio, the announcer was none other than Merrill Reese, who does play by play on WYSP-FM. It’s taken me this long to figure out that the solution to Joe Buck and Troy Aikman has been right there all along: turn down the volume on the television and turn on the game on the stereo.