Joe Buck on a Dec. 5 Saints-Bucs MNF game.

The narrative arc of Joe Buck’s career has provided a few decades worth of fodder for this site and many others.

Early accusations of nepotism were inevitable, and Buck also faced criticism for his work on the air, especially calling football. His infamous Randy Moss chastising was a low point along the path to Buck developing a reputation for being uptight, robotic, and possessing the overall air of a serial killjoy.

Now, though, Buck’s status has risen in the estimation of many observers, including our own humble site. (We talked about how he’s good in a roundtable six years ago, among many other positive pieces.) There have been times watching Buck interact with the Mannings or display self-awareness and a dry sense of humor, while also rising to the moment on various calls, that I’ve wondered if maybe I was always too harsh on Buck. Perhaps it was just easy to take shots at him back in the ’00s without any real justification.

This topic came up for me thanks to a video resurfaced by CHGO Sports on Twitter to mark the 16th anniversary of the Bears beating the Saints to advance to the Super Bowl in 2007. As a Bears fan born after 1985, that game should be one of my favorite fan memories, but it’s kind of just flat in my mind, and I certainly hadn’t watched highlights in years.

Watching it, though, my main reaction wasn’t nostalgia for the halcyon days of Rex Grossman throwing go routes to Bernard Berrian. Instead it was listening to the highlights as called by Buck and Troy Aikman, and thinking just how different Buck sounded back then.

Listening to those moments, it’s pretty clear how some people a few decades ago weren’t crazy about how Buck called games. It’s quite a time capsule, as Aikman actually sounds pretty similar in his moments to the 2023 version, while Buck sounds like the best video game commentary possible.

There’s just a weird disconnect to his work on that clip. (And this is clearly not a comprehensive sample of his style from that era, but it’s still striking.) It sounds almost like Buck is calling the game remotely. There are some weirdly muted calls of huge plays in one of the biggest games of the season (after one huge turnover he says “Vasher” like a bored bus driver announcing the next stop to two passengers.)

But the main takeaway shouldn’t be how Joe Buck wasn’t a great broadcaster in 2007. The real takeaway (and it was mine upon watching this for the first time) is that he’s gotten a million times better since then. Buck today (and for the last few years or more) is a welcome presence across multiple sports; even his golf work grew increasingly vital.

Buck was so good, in fact, that his addition (along with Aikman) essentially solidified ESPN’s entire Monday Night Football presentation. He grew from a broadcaster with a style that minimized big moments to one whose presence alone helps lend games a big event feel. That’s damn impressive, especially considering Buck probably could have just coasted for an entire career without that kind of development.

Thankfully for viewers, he chose a different path.

About Jay Rigdon

Jay is a columnist at Awful Announcing. He is not a strong swimmer. He is probably talking to a dog in a silly voice at this very moment.