Dear Fox Sports: Joe Buck Needs To Go Away from Golf

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 15: Joe Buck attends the 2017 FOX Upfront at Wollman Rink, Central Park on May 15, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 15: Joe Buck attends the 2017 FOX Upfront at Wollman Rink, Central Park on May 15, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images) /

Admittedly, this is not an original thought: Joe Buck is insufferable. I know this because I watched the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach this weekend.

Let’s agree on the premise that Golf is a difficult sport to commentate. It’s slower than every sport outside of cricket. Whether it’s Joe Buck, or anyone in general, It makes for especially horrible radio. “He strikes his drive aaaaaannnnnnnnnnndddddddd (four more seconds of total silence) … it’s in the first cut.”

Riveting. It’s like I was there!

Golf on TV is better but is still so different from other major sports with its glacial pace. Watching one day of complete U.S. Open coverage took about nine hours. I don’t even want to watch early ‘90’s Baywatch Pam Anderson jog in slo-mo for nine hours. And if Joe Buck were calling it, I’d rather see her take a runaway boogie board to the noggin in the first two minutes.

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The U.S. Open on Sunday was dripping with drama. Koepka was going for three in a row, Rose was straining to vault ahead, and the big lovable Woodland was holding back the onslaught in his pursuit of a first Major. It added up to the #1 and #4 golfers in the world chasing a wild bronco-of-a-golfer in Woodland, at one of the best courses in the world, at the U.S. Open on a Sunday. That’s tough to mess up.

Enter Joe Buck.

Joe just had to, well, shut up. Get out of the way. Let the players, the course, the moment, and the knowledgeable on-course commentators tell the story from the front lines. His entire script should have been, “Let’s go out to (whoever) on the (whichever) hole.” That’s it. But he couldn’t help himself.

It was an oddly uncomfortable moment when they had Jim Nantz in the booth. Surely I wasn’t the only one who thought, “Jimmy, grab the wheel! Joe is taking us Thelma and Louise-style off the cliff! Save us now!”

Hearing Nantz’s soothing voice against the backdrop of Pebble Beach made everything feel right for about five minutes. Then it was back to Beaker from The Muppet Show calling a dirt track Sprint Car race – “ME MEE MEE MEE ME!”

Oh, what could have been.

Fox Sports is still relatively new to the U.S. Open. Their first foray was Chambers Bay in 2015. That broadcast was a disaster, too.

“You know what would be great?” Fox Execs apparently said. “Let’s take a guy who doesn’t really understand the game of golf and make him the lead voice on our first U.S. Open broadcast.” Results were predictable. But hey, everyone deserves a second chance, right?

We are now four years into Fox’s experiment of ‘Bucking Up The Open’ and it’s time to cut bait. At this point, I can’t think of anyone I’d rather not like to listen to than Buck.

Hulk Hogan? “Let me tell you somethin’, Zinger. That bunker is nastier than King Kong Bundy’s singlet. He better say his prayers and eat his vitamins if he wants to get within ten feet, brotha!”

Would that be worse than hearing Joe Buck call ‘fog’ a “Marine Layer” for the 273rd time? Or refer to the rough as, “kush”. I grimaced more than a few times at baseball or football references trying to be used to describe a golf shot.

There were some good things about the broadcast; namely, Ken Brown. OK, I’m a sucker for a golf commentator with a British accent, but Brown also brought a deep knowledge of the game and married it with David Attenborough-like observations of the scenery, fans, and conditions. His “Brownie Points” segments were always on-point, giving the viewers insightful clues about how the Pros would play a certain hole.

I felt Paul Azinger did an admirable job. He obviously knows the game and the players well. He drew on those strengths to provide candid, folksy insights. Curtis Strange was passable but forgettable. The rest? One day later, I don’t even remember who they were. Take that as you like.

In the end, certain actors are meant to play certain roles. Did you know John Travolta was offered the lead role in Forrest Gump? Can you even imagine? Travolta reportedly declined so he could make Pulp Fiction. Luckily, it worked out great for everyone.

With Joe Buck and golf, it’s time to recast. Buck is a brassy baritone, better suited to sporting events that need a bossy lead actor. Golf requires the subtlety of a great character actor, not a mega-watt bullhorn announcer. It’s a game of anticipation and small increments. Of short, quick breaths and extended exhales.

There is no bombast in golf. There are no guttural heaves. That seems to be the Joe Buck milieu. He’s like Will Ferrell’s character Jacob Silg on SNL – a man who can’t control the modulation of his voice. Everything is one volume, one tone, and completely off-target. It’s funny on late night TV. Much less so at the U.S. Open.

The great mystery of golf is that, the harder you try, the worse you play. To perform you have to relax.

That’s where Fox Sports and Joe Buck are. They are strangling the club, their knees are locked and their molars are grinding. There’s not enough CBD gum in the world to fix it.

Next. U.S. Open 2019: Can Gary Woodland keep this ride going?. dark

Fox Sports has been an innovator over the years. They, more than any other network, have embraced technology and fan interaction in sports broadcasting. It’s time to turn that talent for trying new things to the golf booth. No more retreads. No more shoe-horning football or baseball guys into golf.

It’s time to reset.