Joe Buck carries ‘second dad’s’ unknown NFL legacy into Hall of Fame

Joe Buck's Hall of Fame story is about more than his last name.

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When the legendary coach George Halas picked his top 11 Chicago Bears of all-time, Joe Buck’s grandfather was among them. In a Chicago Tribune article from 1941, Halas chose two-way threat Joe Lintzenich as one of his backs. 

Lintzenich played only two seasons with the Bears, but he had a lasting impact; especially as a punter. In 1931, at the Polo Grounds against the Giants, Lintzenich booted a 94-yard punt. It stood as an NFL record for decades.

Buck is about to make some history of his own this weekend when he enters the Pro Football Hall of Fame as the Pete Rozelle Award winner, making him and his late father, Jack, the first father-son duo to have received the honor. 

For Joe, this means the world to him, because his dad was his hero. However, his Hall of Fame story is about more than his last name.

Joe Buck is named after the aforementioned Joe Lintzenich, his grandfather on his mother’s side. When Jack Buck was on the road, calling Sunday NFL TV games, “Monday Night Football” on radio and Cardinals baseball games nearly every other day, Lintzenich was more than a grandfather to Joe. 

They would go to see Lintzenich’s St. Louis buddies, attend parades on holidays and, for Joe, the way his late grandfather used to look at him with sheer pride remains inside him to this day, nearly four decades after Lintzenich passed. 

“He was kind of my de facto second dad,” Joe told The Post.

Joe Buck with his grandfather, former Chicago Bear Joe Lintzenich.
Joe Buck

Mother knows best

In December, 1993, when Fox swiped the NFC package from CBS, Fox ended up hiring some CBS executives, including Ed Goren. 

Jack Buck used to work at CBS, and his wife, Carole, was friends with Ed’s wife, Patty. Carole gave Patty a tape of Joe on play-by-play.

“She said, ‘Good, I’ll listen,'” Carole Buck, now 82, recalled. “Then she said, ‘I’m going to take this to Ed.'”

By March of 1994, Joe had an audition, though he had never called a football game before. To practice, Jack had the local CBS affiliate mail a tape of an old Saints game. 

George Halas’ top 11 all-time Bears from a 1941 Chicago Tribune article.
Chicago Tribune (2)

In the living room of their rented house near the Cardinals’ St. Petersburg, Fla. spring training facility, Joe was on play-by-play, while Jack was on color. 

Soon after, Joe flew to Hollywood, nailed the audition and had the job on the spot. 

His first game for Fox was with analyst Tim Green at Soldier Field, calling his grandfather’s Chicago Bears.

It was Joe’s mother, Carole, who taught him football as a child, using Joe’s empty beer can collection, which he said was a common kids collectible in the 1970s. 

When he was 7 or 8 years old, Carole used a Foster’s can to teach him how to throw. Carole would set up the cans in a formation.

“I’d say, ‘Your job is to get through these people and knock them down and score a touchdown,’” Carole said. “And he would look at me and say, ‘But I like them,” I’d say, ‘You are going to have to pretend you don’t like them and hit them.’”

Joe Buck and his mom Carole
Joe Buck

Joe was a good athlete in high school, better at baseball than football. He was a  contributor as a two-way lineman on a 3A Missouri state championship-winning team at St. Louis’ Country Day School, but stopped playing his senior year after he broke his neck when he was on the wrong end of a head-on collision with future Army star running back Mike Mayweather.  

He would heal, and he tried to walk-on at Indiana as a pitcher, but he nearly threw out his arm when the coach said righties needed to hit 95 on the gun and his best gas was 81.

“Knockoff Summerall”

Almost three decades after he arrived, Joe Buck is the undisputed face of Fox Sports, having called 23 World Series to go along with six Super Bowls. On baseball, he began as the voice of the sport, while on football he had to work his way up, albeit quickly.

In 2002, Buck was elevated to the No. 1 NFL seat. He replaced the legendary Pat Summerall, who was part of the greatest NFL broadcast team in history, in Buck’s opinion, with John Madden.

Jack Buck holding his son Joe.
Joe Buck

Working with Troy Aikman and Cris Collinsworth, Buck started off a little slow on the No. 1 team.

“I fell into the trap of trying to do a knockoff Summerall,” Buck said.

Joe had gone out of his way to never completely mimic his father’s style, which was an impossibility anyway because he did not have Jack’s distinctive gravelly voice. However, calling football, he could come off a little flat.

“I have to go with my gut”

In 2012, Joe nearly lost his voice altogether, which, as he noted in an autobiography published three years ago, was caused by an addiction to hair plugs, resulting in an operation that went wrong. 

When his voice recovered, Buck changed.

“I said, ‘I’m just going to let it fly,’” said Buck, who suffered from depression after the one-two punch of a divorce and the potential of losing his career. “The exciting moments ,I’m just going to get as excited as I want to get. I’m just going to kind of abandon my old way of thinking.”

While Buck has discovered his own style, he still controls the big moments, using a less-is-more approach.   

Buck thinks his top call was when Plaxico Burress caught Eli Manning’s Super Bowl XLII-winning touchdown against the undefeated Patriots.

“Manning…lobs it…Burress…alone…Touchdown, New York!” 

And then he sat back. This is often Buck’s tact — simple, accurate, letting the pictures tell the story. He still has a hint of Summerall in these moments.

His best pure football call was Stefon Diggs’ 61-yard game-winning touchdown catch on the final play that sent the Vikings to the NFC Championship game with a win over the Saints in 2018.

“Keenum…steps into it…pass is…caught. Diggs! Sideline…Touchdown! Unbelievable! Vikings win it!”

He hasn’t hit them all out, which at his level is noticed. In 2005, he called Randy Moss’ faux mooning of the Green Bay crowd after a playoff touchdown “a disgusting act.”

“I have to live with whatever comes out of my mouth and whatever I’m hit with at the moment,” Buck said. “I don’t ever have an agenda. I just have to go with my gut and whatever comes out. On the one hand, I’m like, ‘Ugh, probably too much.’ On the other hand, I said what I felt. 

“You can’t live your life with regret and do play-by-play. You’d be constantly locked up. There aren’t really any calls that I say, ‘Wow, that was awful.’ That one included. I’m as cringey about it as I am as I am proud of it.”

Matching the call with the moment isn’t always easy. In the Burress Super Bowl game, Buck’s call of the miracle David Tyree catch in the Giants’ win lacked emotion. Buck initially thought Eli Manning was sacked. With Rodney Harrison all over Tyree, Buck wasn’t sure who had the ball. With 100 million people watching, his first thought is he did not want to be wrong.

“You just have to be sure on stages like that that your eyes aren’t lying to you,” Buck said. “I wasn’t 100 percent sure until I saw the replay.”

Aikman’s quarterback

When a player, especially a quarterback, moves from the field to become an NFL game analyst, the routine remains basically the same. He studies the game plan all week and then executes on Sundays.

Aikman — who with Buck represents the longest-running tandem in NFL broadcasting history after Summerall-Madden — looks at Buck that way, confident that his broadcast partner will show up prepared every week, ready to execute.

Joe Buck and Troy Aikman in 2019.
AP

He’s not going to miss assignments. And, if Aikman does, Buck will adjust so no one notices.

“He knows where I want to go,” Aikman said. “He doesn’t hang me out there. He knows if there is something he wants to say, he’ll say it. He knows if there is something I want to say, I’ll say it.”

While Summerall and Madden may be the greatest NFL duo ever, “Joe and Troy” have become a trusted part of the NFL fabric, an easy Sunday listen.

‘Jeopardy!’

The biggest reason that Joe Buck can be polarizing is because he is on top. When you are doing the World Series every year and the Super Bowl every three, everyone on social media is not going to say how great you are.

From adult daughters he has a strong relationship with, to a second wife, ESPN reporter, Michelle Biesner-Buck, to 3-year-old twin boys to a contract that pays him more than $10 million per year, Buck appears to have it all.

Joe Buck with his wife Michelle Beisner-Buck.
Corbis via Getty Images

He even guest hosted “Jeopardy!,” which will be on-air next week. 

“It was a blast,” Buck said of the tapings.

At the start, Buck’s connections helped his career lift off quicker than others, which resulted in some backlash. His ability, though, is what keeps landing him opportunities. Could taking over “Jeopardy!” be next?

“I don’t know,” Buck said. “‘Is it something they could see me doing?’ is the better question. That, to me, is the ultimate cross-that-bridge if and when I get there. I just know I walked out of there feeling I represented myself and maybe play-by-play guys across America well because I felt like I handled the pressure of trying to host that show and felt comfortable.”

More than a name

Now, don’t read all of this and think Jack Buck didn’t have a big influence on his son. Joe wanted to be Jack — and that will make his induction all the more meaningful to him — but his mom, Carole, was the one at home. 

Before that, she was on Broadway as an actress. Joe plans to consult with his mom about his speech in Canton.

Joe Buck (r.) with his father Jack Buck.
Joe Buck

“She knows what it is like to walk out on the middle of a stage and try to impress somebody and try to be funny and try to deliver,” Joe said. “I learned as much from my mom as I did my dad — probably more from my mom.”

One of the shows Carole appeared in was, “How to Succeed In Business Without Really Trying,” which seems apt for someone whose career has been built upon the perception of that premise.

He attempts to come across like it is very easy, and at times, he makes it appear that way. But those around him know better.

“He’s a tireless worker,” Aikman said. “He’s got such an ease about him that I think they would find that interesting. I think he prides himself on that, but yet he would never talk about that.”

And because of that Buck is a lock for multiple Halls of Fame. But while baseball will come eventually, this weekend, he will enter football’s Hall.

Both Jack Buck and Joe Lintzenich, his dad and his “de facto second dad,” were his heroes. They both served in World War II. They were the men that Joe wanted to be like.

As Carole said, if they could see him enter the Pro Football Hall of Fame, they would both have tears in their eyes and give him that look of pride.

From the start, Joe Buck was bestowed so much to be at the top of sportscasting. But you don’t end up becoming a legend unless you build on what you are given.

This story originally appeared on: NyPost - Author:Andrew Marchand

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