Jeff Pearlman

  • Twitter Icon
  • Twitter Icon
  • Twitter Icon

Joe Buck’s nightmare

Finally got around to seeing the Joe Buck-Artie Lange throw-down on the first (and last?) episode of Joe Buck Live.

In a word: Awesome!

At the risk of being branded a homophobe, a jerk, a buffoon, etc—I thought Lange was absolutely fantastic, in that he tore down the holier-than-thou, this-show-will-make-your-day-worthwhile aura that Buck (by all accounts a good guy) exudes. Hmm—maybe that doesn’t read right. What I’m trying to say is that Buck, a talented announcer, is part of the goofball machine that tries to convince us that baseball is a holy endeavor; that the ghosts of yesteryear diamonds are watching from above; that a sporting event can save a city; that athletes are icons; that games do matter. He tries to bring excessive meaning to sports, when usually there’s no meaning at all. Games are games, moments are moments. Yesterday, Mike Pagliarulo was playing third for the Yankees. Today, it’s A-Rod. Ten years from now, Scottie Capro. This happens not because of some mythical passing of the torch, but because the human body ages, and eventually one can no longer catch up with a 95-mph fastball.lange

When the games end, ballplayers go to strip clubs, and sleep with hookers, and eat burgers, and drive cars, and poop and pee. In other words, it is a human profession, played by humans, and no matter how artfully men like Buck and Vin Scully describe the happenings, a sport is, merely, a sport.

That’s what the Lange-Buck collision fascinated me. It was the coming together of two disparate beings—one who sees bullshit in everything and takes joy in exposing it; the other who sees poetry in everything and takes joy in elongating it.

Men like Buck fancy themselves as oral symphonies. Men like Lange fancy themselves as oral rot. Men like Buck take their worlds very seriously. Men like Lange do not. Mike like Buck view humor through a very, very, very narrow prism—self-depreciation, but only to a very slight degree. Mike like Lange view humor without boundaries.

Perhaps mine is the ranting of someone who has seen behind sport’s curtain; who has watched stadiums being constructed and price tags being affixed to plastic batting helmets. I have watched Lou Piniella urinate while smoking a cigarette and heating a hoagie; I have had Wes Helms fart in my face.

In other words, I take the rot.

  • Ben from Flushing

    I agree 100% with everything here, except I’m left with a question – Bob Costas comes off the same way as Buck, in that he, too, “sees poetry in everything and takes joy in elongating it.” Yet Costas, unlike Buck, comes off as genuine and exceedingly likable. Why is that?

  • I don’t think you have to choose between one and the other. I can enjoy the sublime in the sport, Willie May’s catch, Andy Petitte vs. Greg Maddux in the 1996 World Series, etc. And I can see the sublimely ridiculous. Of course baseball is played by humans who poo and pee. But once in a while they can do something transcendant—like a no-name pitcher named Larsen—and on one day, do something no one else has ever done. And that’s why I watch sports. But it doesn’t mean I can’t a good Rusty Kuntz joke.

  • David

    This take is a little negative– one of the reasons we watch sports is to experience that sensation we used to feel when we were kids watching sports. There’s nothing wrong in trying to find and enjoy these “poetic” or “meaningful” moments, and there certainly are these moments. Buck just overdoes the sappiness which is obnoxious.

  • Mark

    Out of curiosity — if you’ve become so familiar with Oz behind the curtain in sports — why do you still choose to make your career in it? I mean, you’re a talented, interesting writer — surely there are other fields you could turn your talents to.

    I dunno, I enjoy the blog a ton. I’m just not sure why you are still so close to sports when it seems fairly clear that you don’t really like them anymore.

    Don’t get me wrong, I don’t much like Joe Buck either so I’m not defending his honor. But I certainly don’t find anything special about the “talents” of Artie Lange or his ilk either, and I don’t see anything to celebrate in somebody who makes his career by being a classless moron either.

  • Dave B.

    Ironically, Artie Lange is someone who treats baseball like it is a holy endeavor. He is totally classless but not a moron. He is very good at what he does, like it or not. HBO should know that if you plant cabbage, you get cabbage.

  • The poetic thing about sports is how they reflect life. Sure, stuff in sports sucks, but if I’d never had dreams of becoming a major league baseball player, I’d never have played college baseball, and if I’d never played college baseball, I’d never have grown up in college the way I did. My career ended up tanking in a hilariously unglorious fashion, but I grew as a person.

    Sports teach so many lessons, bring people together, all that cliche stuff. But cliches can still be true and meaningful.

    I’m personally a fan of making sports poetic and dramatic. Why not? They shouldn’t be all anyone lives for, and yeah, plenty of pro athletes are scum and dumb, but then, so are plenty of people who’ve never thrown a ball or picked up a bat.

    There are also plenty of awesome people in sports the same way there are plenty of awesome people who have never played a sport.

    Not trying to argue, just doing that thing where I see the other side of stuff and blurt it out. It’s about 1:30 a.m., so I’ll stop before I start seriously rambling.

  • Dan

    In poor taste or not they got more mileage and buzz from this and I dont think it was by accident. They knew this would get a huge response. If you heard Artie the next day on mad dog”s show and on the stern show it wasnt like buck didnt know something was going to happen.

  • artie was clearly the only reason to watch the show. like dan patrick, buck comes off as a stiff. the only guy i think, other than costas, that makes a show like this scheduled viewing is rome. he absolutely is the best at interviewing in the business.

  • Ted Mark

    Vin Scully has been describing sports artfully for over fifty years, and does so with elegance, dignity, and humility. Joe Buck does not, but he thinks he does.

  • JASONIAN

    If I ever start a snarky sports blog I am gonna call it “Wes Helms Farting in My Face.”

    That is great stuff!

  • SandroP

    Great Post- I thought you were going to write about the audacity of Lange’s comments but we all know he was scheduled to appear for a reason.

    I agree with the comments above, Buck comes off as trying to create the “Do you believe in miracles” moment for the most pedestrian play (albeit could be good but not great), but Costas seems more genuine. Then again, Costas didn’t have his dad’s legacy to uphold and live with.

    I’m curious to see the fallout to this. Obviously this was a marketing ploy to get people buzzing about the show, we’ll see if it holds up

Showtime Book
Love Me, Hate Me Barry Bonds Book
Sweetness Walter Peyton Book
The Bad Guys Won Book
The Rocket that Fell to Earth Book
Boys Will Be Boys Book

Once again, Jeff Pearlman has produced an exhaustively researched, elegantly written book that re-creates one of the most colorful and memorable teams of the modern era. No basketball fan's bookshelf will be complete without it.

— Seth Davis, author of Wooden: A Coach's Life