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MEDIA VIEWS

Media Views: ‘I don’t know where I’m going to be next year,’ Joe Buck says, as crazy NFL announcer carousel spins

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Joe Buck (left) and Troy Aikman were Fox Sports' lead NFL game announcers for 20 years. They now are moving to ESPN's "Monday Night Football." (Fox Sports photo)

Joe Buck, who has ascended to the pinnacle of his profession in his nearly three decades at Fox Sports, is at a crossroads. Will he stay but work with a new partner? Or will he move to what once was the pinnacle in all of sportscasting, "Monday Night Football," to remain with longtime broadcast partner and buddy Troy Aikman? Those are the possibilities he is mulling.

"I don't know where I'm going to be next year," Buck said on the latest episode of the "Daddy Issues" podcast he does with and buddy and actor Oliver Hudson.

Buck has been at Fox Sports since it debuted in 1994, and has been its face  for the last two decades as the network's lead NFL and MLB play-by-play announcer. On one side, that's stability — a rarity in broadcasting. But on the other hand if he stays there would be instability, because he'd be working with a new NFL partner after being alongside Aikman for 20 seasons. Aikman is making the move to ESPN for "MNF," in a deal that has not yet been announced but is no secret.  

"I know Troy's gone — he's now at ESPN," Buck said on the podcast. "I'm kind of in limbo. I've got another year under contract at Fox. They have expressed interest in keeping me. They also know that was a big partnership that I had with Troy."

Buck is not commenting beyond what he said on the podcast, and ESPN and Fox aren't commenting at all. But it is believed Buck could get out of his Fox contract, and he certainly makes it clear how much he likes being with Aikman.

"The timing you build up and get comfortable with with a partner. ... When I'm doing a game with Troy, I'm never looking at Troy. I'm looking at the field. I'm looking at the monitors in front of me or John Smoltz (on baseball telecasts) or whoever I've worked with over time. But I can sense little movements that they do that let's me know he wants to jump in, he wants to say something. ... You're constantly reading body language and taking hints and clues without actually being told 'I want to talk about this.'

"... There's a comfort level in a job that is extremely intense these days, doing live sporting events at that level for 30, 50, 100 million people at a time. You need to make sure that you're on the same page with the person working next to you and that person has your back. And that person knows you have theirs. That's what we've built up over 20 years."

Aikman's take

Aikman concurs and recently talked to reporters in Dallas, where he lives, about how close he and Buck are.

“We have been through a lot in our profession, and in our personal lives,” he said. “We have paralleled a lot in our personal lives, and even helped each other get through a lot of that. I know that’s not the norm. He’s truly one of my best friends."

He also was a bit cryptic.

“I think there’s probably more that could be said, and I think there will be in the right time," he said. "There has been some disappointment how that was taken for granted by some, but he’s been a fantastic partner and in my mind the best in the business. There’s nothing I’d love more than to continue to work with him.”

Whirling carousel

There is a merry-go-round spinning now at the highest rung of the NFL television announcer laddar, sparked by Amazon landing rights to the Thursday night package beginning this year. It will exclusively stream those games (no regular TV). For a time it seemed as if Aikman would be hired to do those alongside play-by-play announcer Al Michaels, whose contract as NBC's top NFL play-by-play man expired last month.

Buck said that Aikman also would have stayed at Fox, but only working on the Sundays it had the late-afternoon showcase game. On the weeks CBS had that slot exclusively, Buck would work with a new partner on a noon contest. Then Buck and Aikman would be together for the postseason.

"That's fine," Buck said. "I can live with that." 

But Aikman's decision to head to ESPN disrupted the plans for Michaels to go to Amazon, at least temporarily. He still could end up there, or at Fox if Buck leaves. Fox would be attractive, because it has two of the next three Super Bowls and Michaels has broadcast a record-tying 11 of them.

New York Post sports media columnist Andrew Marchand has been on top of the situation throughout. He reported that after Aikman decided on "MNF," Amazon pursued Rams coach Sean McVay and 49ers general manger John Lynch, both of whom decided not to leave. Then Kirk Herbstreit emerged as a candidate for that slot, and if he landed it he also would remain at EPSN as its No. 1 college football analyst.

It's a cyclone of activity.

"All of a sudden ESPN comes out of nowhere," Buck said on the podcast. "I mean literally nowhere, from any of our conversations, and they end up signing (Aikman). ... So now it's like, 'Who's Al going to work with?' I just lost my partner who I thought I was going to have for half the year but now he's gone totally to ESPN. It's put a stick in the spoke of this bicycle tire that has flipped this whole thing on its head.

"It's absolutely dropped down out of the sky. Nobody in the business saw this coming, nobody predicted any of this — including the people involved."

  
 
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