- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 5, 2006

Joe Buck is everywhere. Since 1996, he has been the lead play-by-play man for Fox’s coverage of Major League Baseball. He added the NFL to his duties in 2002, and this year he’s also serving as host of Fox’s NFL Sunday pre-game and post-game shows. Buck, 35, is the son of Hall of Fame Cardinals broadcaster Jack Buck. He talked to sports business reporter Tim Lemke of The Washington Times outside FedEx Field, as he prepared for today’s game between the Redskins and Cowboys.

Q: My first question is sort of a personal one. When do you see your family?

A: That’s a good question. I think my schedule is not what everyone thinks it is. I’m home all week. I’m home Monday through Friday. I do carpool, both dropping off and picking up every day. And I’m with my kids. Monday through Friday I don’t do anything. Now, I have to be somewhere. They don’t pay me just to be a nice guy. So I show up and I’m gone Friday, Saturday and Sunday during football and Friday and Saturday during baseball. I think we’re all sort of used to it by now. My kids don’t know any other way, so I’m not going to let them read this. They don’t know Dad’s supposed to be home on the weekends.

Q: You just got done with the World Series. The Cardinals pulled it out. Was it hard for you to keep your emotions in check?

A: Well, I grew up there and was around that organization from the time I was zero. There’s always that underlying anything I do involving the Cardinals. But I’ve been through this a bunch of times with them in the playoffs, and I’ve found it easier and easier to divorce myself from my feelings as a kid and the team I followed to doing my job, which is the No. 1 priority I have. If I start to slide that way, I think it would be a huge disappointment to me. In fact, I get more grief from people in St. Louis because they say I go the other way. And I listen to the tape and I can kind of hear it. It is a balancing act.

Q: Were you surprised the Cardinals won?

A: Yeah, because seeing them all year, not at any time in the year did they play like they did in October. They got the pitching, they got timely hits, they had a good bullpen. But it was just their year. This was by far the worst team of this group that has gone to the playoffs the past four or five years.

Q: Do you feel like on some level they deserved it because they had great teams that got overshadowed the last couple of years?

A: I was happy for [Tony] La Russa because I know how much it means to him, and that to win a World Series in a Cardinal uniform would be the highlight of his career. He works awfully hard at it. I will say this: They had a very average regular season, but they played the best baseball this October. They outplayed San Diego, they outplayed the Mets and they outplayed the Tigers. Period.

Q: There’s been some talk of tweaking the playoff format. Would you advocate any changes?

A: Yeah, if you could somehow convince ownership to lop 40 games off the regular season schedule, they could do whatever they want in the postseason. I don’t see why there’s any reason anymore to play 162 games. Now, there are going to be teams that pack their stadium every night that aren’t going to want that, but if you’re concerned about steroids and HGH and guys having to answer the bell every day, give them more off days, cut the season down by about 40 games. Then you’re not playing games where people are putting pine tar on their hand to grip the ball because it’s 28 degrees.

Q: On to football. In addition to doing play-by-play, you’re now doing the pre-game and post-game shows. How’s that working out? Is it pretty frenetic?

A: It is, but it’s really helped my play by play. I would say that first and foremost. I have a better understanding of what’s going on around the league. In years past I used to focus on just the game I was doing, and was in this little cocoon, and you don’t realize what’s going on around you in the NFL. It’s a hectic day on Sunday, but there are people in this world working much longer hours doing much harder stuff than reading a teleprompter and talking about football. It’s fun, I enjoy it, and as long as they want me to do it, I’ll be here to do it all. It’s great.

Q: Many people thought the strength of the NFC East would be the big story this year. What’s your view on how the season’s played out?

A: Going in I thought it was a year where our talk was going to be dominated by NFC East talk. Obviously, the Redskins finishing the way they did last year, and then they bring in Al Saunders, you think they’re going to take a step up and they take a step back. The Cowboys — who knew that Tony Romo was going to be their starting quarterback at midseason? The Giants got off to a slow start and now they’re hot. And the Eagles — that was the team everyone forgot about at the beginning of the season — got of to a 4-1 start and now they’ve lost three in a row. So it’s kind of been a pillow fight. But that will make it interesting down the stretch.

Q: Do you think the Bears can run the table?

A: They’re going to be tested against the Giants. Heck, they’re going to be tested against the Jets. They’re going to be tested by New England. So I think the odds are against them running the table and going 16-0. They have a lot to prove. Grossman’s got a lot to prove in a big game and against a good team. They don’t have to make any apologies because they haven’t beaten anybody great yet, but when it comes time, we’ll see how good they are.

Q: Is baseball still your biggest love?

A: At the core of me, there’s still a baseball guy. But I’m really challenged by what’s going on with my NFL life. They’re both very different. But there’s nothing like the month of October in baseball. I don’t care if it’s four games, five games, seven games. That month, culminating the World Series … there’s nothing like it in any other sport. There’s room in my life for both sports and I enjoy them both tremendously.

Q: What’s your prediction for the Super Bowl?

A: I picked Dallas at the beginning of the year from the NFC, so I can’t back off that. And it’s become more and more obvious to me what should have been obvious at the beginning of the year that New England is still the class of the NFL, and that [Tom] Brady is unparalleled in the league, because it doesn’t matter who they give him to work with, he just takes what he gets and wins. That’s why everybody can’t wait to watch the Patriots and Colts on Sunday night. It’s going to be a great game. But in January, they’re going to have to do it all over again.

Q: NBC has the NFL now. ESPN now has “Monday Night Football.” Do you feel like you have to keep raising the bar?

A: I love that competition. I love competing against Bob [Costas] and [Chris] Berman and the guys that are in the host chair and I love competing against the guys that do the play-by-play. I learn a lot from those guys. I’ve known Bob since I was four. I realize that I’m playing against the big boys and we as a network know we’re up against good competition. And we like that.

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