October is the time of year when the leaves change colors into a vibrant collage of orange, red and yellow, significant others begrudgingly pick apples, pumpkins and gourds at their partner’s behest, everything from lattes to Twinkies is pumpkin spice, everyone brags about their Halloween costume (with only some living up to the hype), and Joe Buck can be seen and heard on TV on a seemingly nightly basis.
The 10th month out of the year is the busiest for Fox Sports’ lead play-by-play NFL and MLB broadcaster with Weeks 4-8 of the NFL season and the entire MLB postseason crammed into its 31 days (though if necessary, Games 6 and 7 of the World Series are November 2 and 3).
“I was off this past weekend then kind of the fun and games for ol’ Joey stop because I have two NFL games this week—a game in Seattle on Thursday and a game in Dallas on Sunday—and then the baseball playoffs start for me. Once the ALCS kicks in, which is on my wife’s birthday on October 15, then it’s pretty much every day. They have conveniently scheduled Thursday Night Football in the middle of the series on the travel day, so while everyone’s resting up on a Thursday, I’m going to do a nationally televised NFL game and show back up for the weekend games.
“It gets a little crazy, but it’s just that one month that kind of defines my year.”
Now before anyone feigns sympathy for the eight-time Emmy Award winner and 2020 Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee, Buck knows how lucky he is to be in his position, and how much he’s had to work to get there. It’s why he titled his 2016 New York Times bestselling memoir Lucky Bastard: My Life, My Dad, and the Things I’m Not Allowed to Say on TV.
There’s no luck involved in Buck’s constant preparation he’s relied upon for three decades since joining Fox Sports in 1994, and leading the network’s MLB play-by-play duties since 1996 and its NFL coverage since 2002.
With an Excel sheet of his October schedule in hand, Buck readies as best he can for his autumnal marathon. He’ll create sheets for his NFL broadcasts ahead of time with basic information on each team’s players: name, number, height, weight, college, years in the NFL, and how they were acquired. A voracious daily reader out of necessity and pleasure, Buck constantly jots down relevant notes and tidbits to utilize for each broadcast as gameday rapidly approaches.
Baseball, on the other hand, is more immediate since it isn’t until he arrives at the ballpark that he knows the starting lineups each game. Sure, he comes prepared with his scorebook filled out as best as he could, but with more games in a shorter time period, especially compared to football, “it’s kind of a mad dash to first pitch for me.”
“I plan ahead on football, but baseball is a little bit more day to day, almost like cramming for a test in high school or college—and I was pretty good at doing that and then having the information just poof out of my head,” Buck said. “I’m pretty good at compartmentalizing and that’s how I go about tackling the month.”
Prepared and confident with reading and research as much as he can be ahead of a broadcast, Buck also needs to be mindful of his most important asset: his voice. In 2011, his broadcast career was threatened when he suffered a paralyzed left vocal cord a few weeks before the baseball season; it wasn’t until October when he truly felt his voice had returned.
Well aware he’s 52 and not 22 as the nights are longer and the mornings arrive earlier, this month especially, Buck makes sure he gets plenty of rest, limits his drinking and tries to live as clean as possible and eat as well as he can. Not only that, but Buck swears by Halls cough drops to not only provide relief for weary vocal cords, but also a boost of fresh breath within the close confines alongside broadcast partners John Smoltz (MLB) and Troy Aikman (NFL).
A fan and user of Halls for years, Buck recently partnered with the company and features in an ad for Halls Minis.
“This was the easiest thing for me to go, ‘Oh, hell yeah, I’m all over that,’ because I really use the heck out of Halls cough drops,” Buck said. “… I love the new packaging because I can take them with me even easier than having a big bag of cough drops.”
Research, preparation and recovery have helped Buck become a continuous presence among football and baseball. It’s how he’s won eight Emmy Awards and called six Super Bowls, 23 World Series and 25 MLB League Championship Series for Fox.
“I don’t win a national talent competition every year to get to do these games,” he said. “I try to treat it as such. I have to stay on top of it and I have to treat myself right, especially during this month. … Living right, taking care of myself, taking care of my voice, but also staying on top of the information every day is the only way I’ll keep getting to do these games.
“That’s how I feel—I get to do them. I don’t have to do them, I get to do them, and someday somebody else is going to be doing them.”
But for now, it doesn’t appear Buck is slowing down anytime soon. He and Aikman are celebrating their 20th consecutive season in the broadcast booth for Fox—a type of consistency and longevity enjoyed for longer in NFL broadcast history only by legendary duo Pat Summerall and John Madden, with the former being who Buck replaced as Fox’s lead football voice.
While Buck has lauded Summerall and Madden as the best in the business, he and Aikman are continuing to leave their own lasting legacy among NFL commentators.
“I think the proof is when you do something with somebody at that level for so long in this business, something’s going right,” Buck said of the retired three-time Super Bowl champion Dallas Cowboys quarterback. “Troy and I are actually really good friends and I think that’s the part that really works for us. I think people hear that when we’re on TV, that we actually do like each other.
“Twenty years is something we’re very proud of being in the booth together and hopefully it’s 20 more.”