As the play-by-play voice for Fox's MLB and NFL broadcasts, Joe Buck is as comfortable as you can be in front of an audience sans script. His new HBO talk show "Joe Buck Live
" will have the sportscaster pushing those skills in a new setting, attempting to meld interviews, comedy and, of course, athletics.
"The last thing I want to do is strictly sports," Buck told us. "There's going to be sports, certainly, but at the core it's going to be fun. That's why every episode is going to have a Funny or Die
piece and a comedic roundtable."
Whether you call it extemporaneous speech, ad-libbing, speaking off the cuff or improv, we asked Buck to tell us some of the tricks of his trade
Buck: "Play-by-play or fielding questions, the worst thing you can do is a lot of pre-planning about what you want to say. You've got to know what you want to do in broad, regular terms, and then just go where your mind takes you. Confidence then comes into play, and that has a lot to do with the ease in which you can pull it off ... It's got to be in the moment. It can't be canned. People are smart enough to tell when it's canned." Know Your Guidelines
"You can talk off-the-cuff only if you are prepared. Like when you went to school -- you know when you are actually prepared, and when you're just hoping to get by. When you're prepared, you can go wherever you feel like going, because you've done your homework and you have a background to go into those areas. When you're not prepared, you're in deep water, because people quickly pick up when you're not educated on a topic."
Listening Is Key
"Like in any good conversation, it's really about listening. If you're interviewing someone or having a back-and-forth about a play in the NFL or Major League Baseball, you have to listen to what the other person says in order to react well off of it. If you're so hell-bent on getting to the next question, you may miss the elephant in the room. You never want to blow past something an interviewee reveals, just because you've got something to say loaded in the chamber and ready to fire."Filling Time
"One time, I announced a live bass fishing event. The problem with that was it was live bass fishing, and the fish don't know they're supposed to bite between 4:30 and 6 p.m. Eastern. It was by far the toughest job I've ever had. I didn't know what a bass was. I didn't know why they liked certain lures. I had never heard of the people I was interviewing.
So I talked a lot about the weather and how the boats were crafted. I read up on some of the backgrounds of the anglers or fishermen or whatever you want to call them, and I asked them why they got a C in sophomore English. You've got to find any angle you can to fill time sometimes, when you don't know anything about the subject at hand. Fortunately, for me, there's no overtime in bass fishing, because I prepared exactly 90 minutes of material. If that show had gone 91 minutes, there would have been a minute of dead air."Steering Clear of the Awkward
"You've got to run it through the filters. In your head, there's the politically correct filters, the profanity filters, the I-wonder-if-I-say-this-will-I-sound-like-the-dumbest-person-alive filters. When I was doing the bass fishing event, a friend called me afterward and said, 'Did you really say, "In the weigh-off, the fisher with the heaviest fish wins."' Obviously. Why else would you weigh them? So you got to be careful about being redundant, too."
Confidence to Take Chances
"In broadcasting, when guys are starting out and finally get to a national level, it becomes really vanilla. They become really scared of climbing out on a limb. They're afraid they're going to slip up and someone new is going to take their job next week ... You still have to have an opinion, and you have to be man enough to understand not everybody is going to like what you say. Once you get over that, it frees you up." Topics to Avoid
"Race and politics are stuff I steer clear of during sports broadcasts. You can have a sense of humor without delving into hot-button issues. Of course, you don't have to be Howard Cosell, but you also don't have to be Howard Stern. In fact, you don't have to be anyone named Howard."Never Try to Fake It
"Sports announcers are not the greatest actors. So when you try and fake something like you just thought of it, it's twice as bad. The clever little way you thought to describe something a week ago when you were falling asleep in bed doesn't usually end up fitting the situation. If you're actually in the moment, it's way more valuable and relevant. That being said, Bob Uecker is both a fantastic actor and a great sports announcer. I actually give out box sets of 'Mr. Belvedere
' to my close friends around Christmas."Looking for more expert advice? Check out some of our recent columns.
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