Part of the fun of watching sports is yelling at the announcers, and for the past 30 years, nobody has been in the crosshairs quite like Joe Buck, the lead play-by-play man for Fox’s NFL and MLB broadcasts. As Hank Azaria’s degenerate sportscaster, Jim Brockmire, put it directly to Buck in an episode of IFC’s Brockmire: “Joe Buck, it’s nothing personal—I just happen to hate your stupid face.” He’s not alone. We hate Joe Buck because he’s the son of legendary St. Louis Cardinals announcer Jack Buck and has his father to thank for his early success; because he tries too hard to be funny; and because, as his second wife, broadcaster Michelle Beisner, said before meeting him, “He just looks like an arrogant prick.” But is Buck really the putz he’s cracked up to be?
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How do you deal with criticism on social media?
It’s not easy for my fragile ego…My therapist is always like, “Who cares?” Only one time have I had Twitter open when I was doing a game, and after that I took it off my phone. I said, “This is so counterproductive. I’m actually reacting to people reacting to what I’m saying, and it can’t work that way.”
The only guy I see on the air who legit doesn’t care what anybody thinks of him is [Charles] Barkley. But for the most part, everybody wants to be liked. At some point, you can’t be unrealistic about it. The only people I want to really like me are my family and the people who employ me.
How do you cope with being thought of as a smug jerk?
I try to have fun with it. And whether it’s talking about it on [Howard] Stern or doing the Brockmire stuff, I think you kind of stick the pin in the balloon and let the air out, and if people know you can laugh at yourself, well, I can’t be that big of a dick.
Your dad had six kids from his first wife who weren’t friendly to you growing up. What was it like being disliked by them from such a young age?
I’d visit these kids who just didn’t want me around. I could sense that, and I saw my mom jumping through hoops to try to get them to like her. I got that from my mom—I’m gonna make these people love me. And it doesn’t work that way. Let me be clear: I don’t blame them. I just didn’t understand it, and now I do, especially having gone through my own divorce.
How do you get past the image of you as a phony?
I’m out there to be real, and I think people respond to that. If you have some image that you’re protecting, eventually people get sick of it, and I can’t imagine living that way for an entire lifetime. I’d rather just be who I am, and that’s good enough. And I’ve exceeded any dream I’ve ever had in this business.
This article appears in the October ’18 issue of Esquire. Subscribe