1. After calling games together for 20 years at Fox, Joe Buck and Troy Aikman worked their first Monday Night Football game for ESPN last night.
It was the typical Buck-and-Aikman telecast that we’ve heard every Sunday for the past couple of decades. As I said on Twitter right at kickoff, whether you like or dislike Buck and Aikman, whether you think they call a good game or not, the one thing that can’t be denied is that when you hear their voices, you automatically get a big-game feel.
After watching every edition of the ManningCast last season, I didn’t watch one second of the ManningCast last night. That’s not a knock on Peyton and Eli in any way, shape or form. The ManningCast is great. I just never once had the desire to flip over, thanks to Buck and Aikman.
I spoke to Buck right after the Seahawks held on to beat the Broncos, 17–16, thanks to Denver coach Nathaniel Hackett not knowing how to coach the game and attempting a 64-year-field goal instead of going for it on fourth-and-5 from Seattle’s 46-yard line.
The veteran play-by-play caller gave us a behind-the-scenes look at his first day on the new job.
Sports Illustrated: So, any nerves before the game or was this like any other broadcast for you?
Buck: It wasn’t like any other broadcast and it wasn’t like any other night. I was really excited at my ripe young age of 53, but I felt in some ways like I was 24 or 25 doing Buccaneers and Bears on opening day in 1994.
There’s that newness. It’s like starting a new school. But on the other hand, I never felt nervous. It was great because my wife was there and we had time on the field and we FaceTimed our kids before she did her thing and then I went up to the booth and it was just very calm.
I told her, I felt like I would be jumpy and we do more here because it’s a standalone game as opposed to, most of the time with the late game at Fox, the early games run long and you don’t even do an on-camera at the beginning of the game.
We’re doing multiple segments here, and Troy and I didn’t really stress about those and we just took it as it came and it was a great feeling and a wonderful start to a new relationship.
SI: I did see you did a lot throughout the day. You were doing social media videos, you were on SportsCenter with Scott Van Pelt after the game. Will this be the norm every week?
Buck: We’ll do SVP and we’re doing recaps after and that’s good. You feel like you wanna leave with everything buttoned up and I like the pregame stuff because it gets me in the right frame of mind. It gets me in the mood to talk about it all and you get your words down in the pregame and then it makes the game a little bit easier so you’re not starting on a sprint when they’re counting you down there. We’re gonna be across a lot of their different shows, which I like.
SI: You’ve worked with Troy for 20 years, but this was your first game with a whole new production crew. How was that?
Buck: Oh my God. They were great. And that’s the part you don’t know. We did a practice game up here in Seattle a few weeks ago and it was fine, but they didn’t have the ability to roll replays, at least the ones that we wanted. It was kind of a dress rehearsal and so just tonight was the first time we really worked under the gun with with [producer] Phil [Dean] and [director] Jimmy [Platt], and it felt like we’ve been doing games for a long, long time, so that part was easy
There wasn’t a lot of clutter in our ears and it was surprisingly simple.
But many times, even in that practice game, I looked to my right and I was just so thankful that on air; I don’t have to develop a chemistry or figure out when the other person wants to talk. If they’re hurrying me up or I’m hurrying them up. I just felt like it should after 20 years of fitting our commentary around each other.
SI: Was it weird not doing a game on a Sunday?
Buck: No, because it was cool. They brought a bunch of monitors into a meeting room and we all sat around and watched football and I just sat there and did my work. It’s hard for me because if I do my boards on a Wednesday, Thursday or Friday, which is what I used to do, especially doing Thursday and Sunday games with the Thursday night game, by Sunday, or in this case, Monday, you forget half the stuff. So I kind of left a lot of the work to be done Sunday, and we just all sat around and spent the day watching football, which was fun.
SI: I said on Twitter that no matter what people feel about you and Troy, you guys signal a big-game feel.
Buck: That’s what [ESPN] bought after 20 years. If not, the whole thing is nuts. I’ll give you that. It felt like a normal game, though. I swear to God.
SI: How much did it help that you had a wild atmosphere with Russell Wilson’s return to Seattle and then the surreal ending?
Buck: Oh my God, it was made to order. It’s nuts. I mean, that was crazy. I’ve never really been caught off guard like that at the end of a game because we’re on camera and you just expect, “Hey, it’s fourth-and-5; here it is, everybody, Russell Wilson. Let’s go on camera.” And you get out of that and I look down and my stat guy is giving me “64” on a grease board, and I don’t know what he’s saying. I’m like, “O.K., well this would be a 64-yard field goal” and I’m like, Holy s—, they’re kicking a field goal. And then thankfully, Seattle called a timeout so we can reset because it was just like, wow, this is not why you get Russell Wilson. You want the ball in his hands. This is not desperation. With the crowd, the crowd can carry it. I love nothing more than to not talk when that stuff is happening, and I made it pretty clear that when Russell Wilson ran out we were not gonna talk and it was time for our producer and director to do their thing, and there’s nothing better than that. We got a hell of a game. I thought Geno Smith played his ass off. It was great.
Buck did reveal to me that there was one hiccup.
“Troy’s telestrator didn’t work. They ordered a new one. He was good. He rolled with it as best as Troy can. It can’t all be perfect.”
2. Speaking of Joe Buck, Aaron Rodgers appeared on the latest episode of Bill Maher’s Club Random podcast and tried to explain to the Real Time host that there are people out there who have a strong dislike for Buck. Maher was completely dumbfounded, which made for an amusing exchange.
I asked Buck about this conversation when I spoke to him Monday night.
“I’m pretty blown away that they went on and on about that. I’m beyond honored. I texted Aaron. My old producer, Richie Zyontz, sent it to me and said, ‘I’m sure you’ve seen this by now,’ and I hadn’t. I don’t check Twitter. It was just nice before the game; it was a nice lift that you have two people talking like that about me and my career and the stuff I do. Somebody that’s on the field currently who I have a relationship with, but he and I aren’t best friends, and I’ve never met Bill Maher, so for them to go on and on, I was like, that’s really freakin’ cool. It was actually nice. It was a nice moment on Twitter for me, which is actually rare.”
3. As I said in the lead item, I didn’t see any of the ManningCast on Monday night, but I did see this clip of Peyton going through all the emotions during that disastrous final minute for his former team, and it was fantastic.
4. Here’s something that shouldn’t surprise anyone with any iota of intelligence: A lot of people watched the NFL this weekend. On Sunday night, 25.1 million people watched Tom Brady and the Bucs beat the Cowboys on NBC. It was the most-watched Sunday Night Football opener since 2015.
CBS drew 17.4 million viewers for its 1 p.m. window on Sunday, making that the most-watched regional window since 1998.
Fox’s doubleheader averaged 15,355,000 viewers, up 11% over last year.
5. As I wrote on Friday, I still can’t believe that a story was made out of Tom Brady appearing on The Masked Singer. The five-time Super Bowl champion reiterated again Monday on his SiriusXM show that, “I don’t know where they get all these things. They gotta talk about something. It wasn’t me. I wasn’t masked, and I’m not a singer. That wouldn’t really fit my profile. I’m basically good at one thing, which is throwing passes. Other than that, I’m basically worthless.”
6. A lot of people seemed to have enjoyed this tweet yesterday.
7. This week’s SI Media Podcast features a conversation with play-by-play legend Al Michaels.
The new voice of Thursday Night Football on Amazon Prime Video talks about working with Kirk Herbstreit, what the challenges are for Prime Video getting into the NFL business, why it wouldn’t make sense for Amazon to reinvent the wheel and the Thursday-night schedule.
Michaels also shares his thoughts on how Tom Brady will do as a broadcaster, talks about what Aaron Rodgers is like, reveals the criticism that bothers him and reminisces about his early days in broadcasting.
Following the interview with Michaels, Sal Licata from WFAN radio and SNY TV in New York joins Jimmy for the weekly “Traina Thoughts” segment. This week, Jimmy shares his thoughts on legalized gambling websites, Sal talks about a big mistake he made when he recently attended a Mets game and more.
You can also watch the SI Media Podcast on YouTube.
7. RANDOM VIDEO OF THE DAY: In honor of Troy Aikman’s telestrator not working last night, here’s the time John Madden used his telestrator to make some enhancements on Aikman.
Be sure to catch up on past editions of Traina Thoughts and check out the Sports Illustrated Media Podcast hosted by Jimmy Traina on Apple, Spotify or Google. You can also follow Jimmy on Twitter, Instagram and TikTok.