The World Series, like any league's championship playoff round, is a time for fans to bathe in the hype surrounding their favorite team. The 2013 World Series involving the Boston Red Sox and the St. Louis Cardinals is no different from any sport in that regard.
With the advent of the internet, there are of course a plethora of sources available to fans that really want to dig deep on their team’s prospects. On-demand video, blogs, and endless news stories are just a fraction of what's available.
Having said that, the most important piece of media is the actual coverage of live competitive action. This reality puts a large burden on whichever television network is covering the championship to produce the highest quality and most unbiased proceedings possible.
In the case of the 2013 World Series, that network is Fox Sports, a division of Fox Broadcasting Company and a global media giant with a fairly robust history in covering such climatic sporting events.
How do you rate Joe Buck as a broadcaster?
This brings us to one particularly perplexing aspect of the 2013 World Series, and for that matter, more than a few that have come before it. In the case of this year's World Series, Fox Sports selected Joe Buck and Tim McCarver to be their lead announcer and analyst in the telecast booth, respectively.
These two are of course extremely experienced, as one would assume of any duo selected for such an important event. However, one peculiar aspect of this specific pair as it relates to the 2013 World Series is that Joe Buck has extremely close ties to the St. Louis Cardinals.
Specifically, Buck was not only raised in St. Louis, but also happens to be the son of long-time sportscaster Jack Buck. The elder Buck was the play-by-play announcer for the St. Louis Cardinals for 47 years and it's probably safe to say one of the biggest individual supporters of the Red Birds.
Joe Buck, having followed in his father's sportscasting footsteps, is now a national sportscaster with Fox Sports. He also remains a resident of St. Louis and undoubtedly a huge fan of local teams from the region.
It is Fox Sports' designation of Joe Buck as the lead broadcaster for the 2013 World Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Boston Red Sox that begs some serious questions.
First and foremost, one would wonder if Joe Buck could be a truly impartial observer during such emotional proceedings. Surely, Mr. Buck is keenly aware of his potential conflict of interest and likely makes every effort to conduct himself in the most professional and unbiased manner possible.
However, attempting to realistically judge Joe Buck's impartiality is a highly subjective endeavor and quite honestly shouldn't even be a conscious piece of something like the World Series.
The fact is, Fox Sports has likely made a huge mistake in placing Mr. Buck in such a precarious position. The network risks alienating at least half of their prime target audience (Red Sox fans) while also putting a damper on their ability to create the most neutral viewing conditions possible—a scenario which would arguably help them net the largest absolute audience.
It is of course well known that nothing in this world is perfect—nor perfectly fair. That fact being a key reason why sports themselves are so popular to begin with, as they provide an escape for fans from real life hardships. And in the playoffs, this escapism can arguably reach its maximum level.
Do biased announcers have a place in playoff broadcasting?
In this age of instant feedback, it’s stunning to think that a network with the considerable resources of Fox Sports wouldn’t have already learned, through viewer feedback or a myriad of focus groups, that presenting the most impartial programming possible would be most ideal for an event as emotionally-charged as the World Series.
Instead, the network apparently believes that designating Joe Buck, a man whose father worked for nearly a half century covering the St. Louis Cardinals, somehow represents their best option for lead broadcaster. All this despite the fact that the season is all but over, leaving a stable of other idle announcers available for the job.
I'm neither a Cardinals nor a Red Sox fan, but if my team was facing such an unfavorable broadcast scenario I'd be leaning heavily on my local radio broadcast to mark the proceedings.
An immense network such as Fox Sports certainly isn't going to change its behavior because a few small voices highlight a puzzling and imperfect situation. On the other hand, television networks do have one significant Achilles Heel—ratings.
Maybe a large dent in that vital statistic would send a strong enough message to Fox Sports and other networks that striving for the most neutral broadcast possible would be a win-win for both networks and viewers.