Watching Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday night got me thinking about how damn long Joe Buck has been the voice of the World Series. He called his first Fall Classic for Fox back in 1996 and has called every World Series since 2000. I know he’s the target of plenty of scorn and disdain, but calling the World Series for 19 straight seasons is one hell of an achievement.
However, all things must come to an end, and I really doubt Joe Buck is going to be calling the World Series for another 19 years (with the obvious caveat that Fox might not even have the rights to the World Series for another 19 years). That got me thinking about who will succeed him as the voice of the World Series, and that got the ball rolling downhill and forced me to think about other sports. Who’s going to be calling the NBA Finals in ten years? Who will be the voice of March Madness? Some of these broadcasters and voices (like Buck) have been ever-present in our lives and sporting events over the last decade-plus, but will they still be calling games in ten years?
With the understanding that we’re assuming all events stay on the networks currently airing them (just to eliminate the off the wall possibilities of like, the NBA on Fox or the NHL on CBS), here’s who we think will be calling each sport’s championship event in the 2028-29 season.
MLB World Series: Joe Davis. I feel like Davis is being groomed to replace Buck as the top MLB play by play broadcast on Fox, an opinion that’s become more and more clear in recent months and years as he’s continued to receive high profile roles on the network (including as, essentially, their #2 baseball broadcaster behind Buck). The wrench in the situation is Davis’ role with the Los Angeles Dodgers – Buck’s been an exclusive Fox guy for years. Would Fox still be alright “sharing” Davis with the Dodgers in five or ten years time, or would they dangle a more substantial role in front of him to pry him away from his role as the successor to Vin Scully?
NFL Super Bowl: Joe Buck (Fox), Mike Tirico (NBC), Jim Nantz (CBS). Nothing much going on here. Ten years ago, Joe Buck was still the primary voice of the NFL on Fox, and he doesn’t seem to have much of a reason to leave that role (unless he wants to). Al Michaels will be in his 80s when NBC hosts the Super Bowl in a decade’s time, and it would be easy to assume that he’ll have stepped into retirement before the Super Bowl (on NBC, if the rotation holds into the next round of TV contracts) in 2027. Mike Tirico is the immediate in-house replacement at NBC, a role that he seems to be just waiting in the wings to claim when Michaels finally walks away.
As for CBS, they’re the biggest wild card in all of these scenarios. Jim Nantz has called the last five Super Bowls on CBS. Kevin Harlan would be a great choice to replace him, as the voice of the last nine Super Bowls on the radio, but he’s only a year younger than Nantz. Greg Gumbel is in his 70s, and won’t get re-promoted to call the Super Bowl come 2028. Spero Dedes and Ian Eagle are both younger, in-house options, and could also be appealing options. However, I’m still leaning Nantz for now, if only because there isn’t a slam dunk replacement like there is for MLB and Fox.
NBA Finals: Mike Breen (ABC/ESPN). A decade ago, the Finals were called by Mike Breen on ABC. This past June on ABC, the Finals were called by Mike Breen on ABC. Funny how that works out. Breen’s still at an age (57) where he could still be regularly calling games in a decade, but he’s not young enough where he’s the guaranteed future voice of the Finals.
If not Breen, two options come to mind – Dave Pasch and Ryan Ruocco. Ruocco is still incredibly young and ten years still might be early for him to be the lead Finals broadcaster, but Pasch seems to be primed for a more significant role after years of working his way up the ladder of ESPN’s college basketball, college football, and NBA coverage.
NHL Stanley Cup Final: Kenny Albert (NBC). This one is impossible to predict. Doc Emrick has been *the* voice of hockey in America for the last decade-plus, but he’s 72, and I don’t think he’ll be the main voice of hockey in America for the next decade. Kenny Albert has been the #2 guy for the last few seasons, and many of the other broadcasters used are based in Canada. I feel like another hire is coming from outside the company in a few years (maybe someone much younger, like Alex Faust) to set up a more obvious succession plan. Until then, Albert seems like the guy that will get the nod.
College Football Playoff: Chris Fowler (ESPN). I don’t see Fowler going anywhere for awhile, much like Brent Musburger held out as ESPN’s primary college football voice for years upon years, but if he does, Rece Davis seems like the slam dunk replacement as ESPN’s top college football voice. Believe it or not, Davis is only three years younger than Fowler, so it’s not as if the reins will be handed off for years to come. Past those two…man, spin the wheel. Pasch could take the top spot for a bit. Adam Amin, Jason Benetti, Dave Flemming, and Tom Hart could be in the running as longer term options. I feel like they’re all jockeying for positioning behind Fowler, though.
NCAA Tournament: Jim Nantz (CBS/Turner). Jim Nantz has been the primary voice of the NCAA Tournament since 1991. Think about how crazy that is for a minute. The funny part is that back in 1991, a number of the broadcasters that worked the tournament are *still* involved with March Madness, including Greg Gumbel (in studio), Bill Raftery, Verne Lundquist (who took the NCAA Tournament off this year, but plans to return in 2019), and Brad Nessler. Like with the Super Bowl, Nantz could go, but I don’t see it happening yet. Brian Anderson is an obvious option as a successor, as are the two potential successors to Nantz in CBS’s NFL coverage – Spero Dedes and Ian Eagle.
Just remember, that even though a lot hasn’t changed in terms of broadcasting championship events in the past decade, a lot can change pretty quickly. Turner wasn’t involved in the NCAA Tournament ten years ago (and could not be involved ten years from today). The College Football Playoff didn’t even exist ten years ago. It might seem ridiculous to think that Jim Nantz will be the primary voice of both the NFL on CBS and March Madness in a decade, but given his history with the network and the two sports, is it really all that farfetched?