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This weekend, I get to do something nobody has ever done before: a TV broadcast of a World Series game at Wrigley Field.
It will be the No. 1 highlight of my career.
I probably shouldn’t say that. Indians fans will think I hate their team. (I don’t.) Cardinals fans will think I hate my hometown of St. Louis. (I love St. Louis and still live there.) Some Cubs fans may think I’m on their bandwagon. I don’t ride on bandwagons. But if you put your allegiances aside for a moment, hopefully you can understand. This is history.
Last week, when I announced on Fox that the Cubs had won a pennant (another thing nobody had ever done on live TV before), I got chills. I’ve never done a baseball game quite like it. The crowd at Wrigley Field seemed to hold its breath the whole night, even when the Cubs took a 5–0 lead. There was this release when they won. It was the loudest I have had to scream to get over the crowd since I lost my voice in 2011. Then I was silent for a couple minutes. The Cubs and the city of Chicago deserved that moment, and our director John Moore did a great job of telling the story with live video and natural sound. Anything I said only would have detracted from it.
Thanks to some good fortune and the fact that my employer, Fox, has held Major League Baseball rights for most of my adult life, I have broadcast 19 World Series. I have never seen the kind of fervor for a team and a venue like I have for the Cubs and Wrigley in 2016. It’s national front-page news, and it should be. For many of us, it is the sports story of a lifetime.
That will hit some people’s ears the wrong way in St. Louis. My dad, Jack, was a beloved Hall of Fame announcer for the Cardinals. I did Cardinals games for many years. The Cardinals-Cubs rivalry is one of the best in sports. Saying anything nice about the Cubs can earn you some dirty looks in St. Louis.
But I think most Cardinals fans love baseball enough to understand what this means for the sport. And I think if I said, “Here are four tickets … and a chance to talk to the managers before the game … and have your voice on the highlights,” most of them would walk to Chicago to do it.
You don’t have to cheer for the Cubs to marvel at seeing them in the World Series. I hope people can see that, and I hope we all get more out of sports than just the satisfaction of your favorite team winning.
Every year at this time, I hear from fans that think I am biased against their team. I don’t hear it as much in football, because NFL fans are accustomed to national announcers. Baseball fans are used to their hometown crews. It’s gotten to the point where if I mention that the other team exists, I’m somehow denigrating their team.
That is part of the business now, and it’s fine. It’s a small price to pay for having this job. But if you are a sports fan, you are cheating yourself if you don’t appreciate this moment.
Look around. We have an election that has basically become a national screaming match—one that people are tired of. The World Series is such a great diversion, and maybe more than at any other time, this diversion is needed. It’s a lot more exciting with the Cubs involved.
To the people who think I am betraying my dad: I’m pretty sure I knew him better than you did. My dad would be over the moon about this. He would want to be sitting where I am. My dad was a baseball fan first and foremost. His favorite player to watch was not a Cardinal; it was Willie Mays. His favorite person, among baseball stars, was Stan Musial. But his favorite player on the field was Mays.
My dad loved the Cubs. He didn’t love them like a fan loves them. But he loved going to Chicago. He loved doing games at Wrigley. You can’t devote your professional life to baseball and not love walking into Wrigley Field. There is nothing like it. Wrigley is going to be the real star this weekend, so to be there for a World Series game? I can’t wait.
Joe Buck is the lead baseball and NFL voice for FOX Sports and the author of the upcoming memoir, Lucky Bastard: My Life, My Dad, and the Things I'm Not Allowed to Say on TV.