JEFF PEARLMAN

Coming October 2022: "The Last Folk Hero: The Life and Myth of Bo Jackson"

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.