A Peek Behind the Curtain of One Lucky Bastard

Joe Buck

Avid baseball fans dream of going to their favorite Major League team’s spring training. Very few of them are born there. That is literally Joe’s story. He was born on April 25, 1969 in St. Petersburg, Florida – the spring training city of the St. Louis Cardinals. His parents weren’t there on vacation or to fulfill a dream. His mother, Carole, was married to Jack Buck – the broadcasting ‘voice of the Cardinals’. Jack was there to work – his career would have a significant impact on Joe in many ways.

Joe grew up in St. Louis, home base for the family. Jack was revered not just in St. Louis but also on a national level. He called all 162 regular season games for the Cardinals. Additionally, he called NFL games, World Series, Super Bowls and countless other events. Add to that the countless banquets and charity events he emceed and there was a lot of time when Jack wasn’t home for Joe. The many perks Joe experienced as Jack’s son were offset to a degree by the amount of time father and son were apart. While he missed his dad, Joe understood and accepted his dad’s career. He cherished the times they were able to share.

Joe was a chubby kid (called fat in those days), wasn’t a terrific athlete and was awkward socially. But he developed a love of sports, of broadcasting, and traveling with his dad whenever there was a chance. One such trip resulted when Joe’s senior prom date cancelled her commitment, leaving him with no plans for the weekend. Instead, his dad took him on a trip to New York City where the Cardinals were to play the Mets. Joe was no stranger to the broadcast booth – but was taken totally by surprise when his dad said “Joe Buck will be calling the next half inning, right after this commercial break.” Jack wasn’t kidding. He and his broadcast partner left the booth and Joe had no choice but to take the mic. He got through the inning.

He began his professional broadcasting career calling games for the Louisville Redbirds, a minor-league team. He would work for the Cardinals, first filling in for his father then being hired full time in 1991. In 1994 FOX Sports hired him for national broadcasts of both the NFL (football) and MLB (baseball). At 25, he would be the youngest person to announce NFL games. Two years later, at 27, he would be the youngest person to ever do play-by-play for a World Series. In 2002, Joe became the lead voice for FOX football. 

His national duties led him to relinquish his role with the St Louis Cardinals. His departure, in 2008, marked the first time in 48 years there would not be a Buck announcing Cardinal games.

To date, he has won seven Emmy awards. This Sunday he will announce his fifth Super Bowl. He has called 19 World Series – including 201’s historic Chicago Cubs victory. He’s called 21 MLB league championship seasons and 15 MLB all-star games. These combined accomplishments are arguably unmatched in sports broadcasting history and they were only achieved because Joe Buck worked to become a fearless brand.

Fearless Brands certainly have their faults, but find a way to work through them

With a resume like Joe Buck’s one would assume that the majority of sports fans would consider him to be one of the best ever announcers. That’s not the case. On the contrary, Buck might be the most disliked announcer on the national sports scene. How can that be? To this day there are detractors who believe his career is the result of his father’s status – nepotism. That myth is easily dispelled by realizing that a network like FOX Sports wouldn’t keep anybody for 23 years out of some sense of obligation. His performance and his awards prove why he continues with the network.

There are those who feel that Joe Buck roots against their team when he announces games. What’s interesting is that fans from every team feel that way. Fans of the opposing teams in the same game believe he’s biased against their team. Two factors drive that. First, fans are used to hearing their local announcers – when the national guy calls a game, he’s not going to show the same enthusiasm – for either team. Secondly, Buck’s calls must be so right-down-the-middle, so fair, that both teams’ fans get upset.

Lastly, many people find Joe Buck to be smug, arrogant – oh, and he talks too much. If they only knew the person as opposed to the announcer, they might see things differently. But how? Buck came up with the answer. He decided to write a book. His purpose was not to author a best seller or to win awards, His purpose to lay it all on the line – to tell his full story for the first time in his life. That’s exactly what he has done.

The title of his book – Lucky Bastard: My life, my dad and the things I’m not allowed to say on TV – makes it very clear what the story is about. In it he opens his life as if it were a book. His honesty is both powerful and refreshing. One story sums up the essence of this man – from fears and ego to brave honesty and humility. 

Buck was losing his hair. On the surface, he was terrified that if he were to become bald, he would lose his TV gig. The book reveals a deeper reason. Ego and vanity. He decided to do something about it and began to undergo hair plug procedures – a process which he describes as the most painful thing he can imagine. Driven by fear and ego, he had 8 such procedures. The last one nearly ended his career. The anesthesia process caused one of his vocal chords to ‘quit firing’ and he began to lose his voice. Now that would certainly end a broadcasting career.

He told everyone that the cause was a virus. To be direct, he lied. He was too embarrassed to disclose the true cause. His voice came back and he learned a tremendous lesson. The truth will set you free – and that’s what he’s done in his book.

He’s been totally honest and open. He’s allowed his true personality to emerge. He addresses his shortcomings and his mistakes while at the same time taking ownership of his many talents. That’s the mark of a truly fearless brand. 

Love yourself enough to be yourself – Joe says that his wife changed his life and has shown him how happy he can be. Having someone who loves you enough to hold up a mirror so that you can see what a good person you are is a rare and valuable gift. For Joe Buck, he’s learned to love himself. That’s allowed him to be completely open and genuine. That is so freeing. Strive to love yourself enough to be yourself.

Dismiss the haters – There will always be haters – especially for people with any degree of celebrity. Social media has added a louder voice to the naysayers, critics and just plain mean people. Joe let that affect him. Not during his broadcasts – but in his private life. With a lot of work and support, he has come to grips with the haters more than ever in his life. Joe Buck is a great example of not defining one’s self by the comments of others. Hint – it can be an ongoing battle – don’t give up.

Honesty truly is the best policy – With the publication of Lucky Bastard, Joe Buck’s hair plug saga is known to the public – no more lying and hiding. What a relief! What a better way to live. It’s certainly not easy to deal with our egos – vanity is a powerful trait. It takes courage to face up to our egos – but as Joe proves – it’s a gift when we overcome our vanity.

Joe Buck is a Lucky Bastard in so many ways. At the top of his ‘lucky list’ is living an open and honest life. Rest assured that both Patriot and Falcon fans will become irate by Joe Buck’s calls on the Super Bowl. Know that is because Joe Buck is a brilliant broadcaster – professional, fair and comfortable with his talents. It’s the mark of a fearless brand. It’s a great example of why you too should appreciate that you are a “lucky bastard” and build your fearless brand.

Friday's Fearless Brand Personal Branding

Coach, International Speaker and Thought Partner - Bill’s mission is to add value to the world – one brand at a time. Bill guides individuals and companies alike in building what he refers to as a ‘fearless brand’. This is the process of discovering, embracing and delivering their greatest value – which allows them to realize greater profit. Read More

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