No love for Aikman and Buck

The Dallas Morning News reports:

Troy Aikman is certainly a popular guy in Cowboys country, but apparently he and Fox broadcast partner Joe Buck aren’t as well loved out in Green Bay.

As of noon Wednesday, more than 16,000 people have signed a Change.org petition seeking to ban the Aikman-Buck duo from calling Packers games from the booth.

“This is a petition to get Joe Buck and Troy Aikman banned from announcing/commentating on the Green Bay Packers,” according to the petition’s page.

“On behalf of the Green Bay Packers fans across the world, we would like action taken to prohibit them from giving their constant negative input about our team. We are sick of the biased announcing always coming from them.”

On Thursday morning, Aikman broached the topic in an interview with The Musers on The Ticket (96.7 FM/1030 AM), saying “there’s a long line they’ve got to get in to try to keep us from calling games.”

He noted that the Packers have tried this before, as well as Seattle fans a few years back.

“I don’t know if there’s Cowboys fan petitions, but I get it from Cowboys fans too, saying that I’m against their team,” Aikman said.

In taking the criticism, Aikman said he relies on advice he heard from another man who spent quite a bit of time in the NFL booth.

“I remember what Pat Summerall years ago told me back when I was still playing,” Aikman said. “People didn’t have social media, they would write fan mail. And he said, ‘Hey as long as I’m getting fan mail — hate mail I guess you could say — from both sides, then I feel like I’m doing my job. But I think there’s some truth in that.'”

Many of the petition’s signees claim that the announcing duo are “too negative.” Other signees show off their failure to grasp basic grammar by calling them “bias” when the proper adjective is “biased.”

Aikman said he’s a bit confused by that suggestion.

“It is pretty remarkable, though, especially for Packers fans,” he told The Ticket. “We’ve had their games in recent weeks and they’ve played great, we’ve talked about how great they’ve been playing and how great Aaron Rodgers has been. So it’s a little bit confusing, but it is what it is.”

“I could not care less about that. I know Joe, he does get a little bit bothered by it. He’s a little sensitive when he hears that people don’t want us to broadcast their games.”

There is no requirement for action to be taken based on Change.org petitions, especially not for a private company like Fox. But it has become a popular venue for airing grievances online and seeking out others who agree with you.

“Last I’ve heard, we will be there on Sunday, and we’ll be calling the game and we’ll try to do the best job we can,” Aikman said.

Buck and Aikman, or at least one of them, have done a lot of Packers games, including …

Buck and Aikman called the Packers’ last five games of the 2010 season, including Super Bowl XLV. They’ve also done the Packers’ home playoff loss to Minnesota, the Packers’ home playoff losses to the Giants, the Packers’ overtime playoff loss to Seattle, and the infamous 4th-and-26 game, among others. This is more likely the result of Packer fans not wanting to hear bad news, which could be anything complimentary of the opponent.

Richard Ryman tries to explain:

People have theories on why Buck and Aikman are so despised, or just Buck and not Aikman, or just Aikman and not Buck. (Or Cris Collinsworth, but let’s not go there). Most petition signers offer little in the way of specifics, and many seem to type the wrong first letter when spelling Buck.

Some, while specific, were “heads I win, tails you lose” head-scratchers. One signer said, “Joe Buck never played a down of football and thinks he’s an expert … and Troy is just another ex jock that tries to sound important.”

But there were some thoughtful signers.

Marcia Van Gorden, a grandmother and Packers fan living in Minneapolis, gave an appropriately measured (i.e. grandmotherly) appraisal.

“Maybe I’m being sensitive, but it seems that in comparison to most other announcers, these two don’t seem to provide equitable focus on both teams. That’s in terms of the tone and what’s verbally expressed. An announcer may have played for a particular team, but when it comes to his or her announcing job, that needs to be set aside,” she said.

Don Tremby of Racine knows why “those two guys are lousy. (Last) Sunday’s game, I could tell specifically there was action going on and these guys were up there in the booth chattering about everything they were interested in instead of what was going on in this game. (Aikman) should be put in the bathroom and lock the doors.”

Gussert traces it to when they started doing games and Aikman was, he thinks, more negative.

“When there was a discretionary play-call by the coach or a referee’s call, he would always side against the Packers,” he said. “I would suspect someone (at the network) talked to him about it.”

The hatred is not universal.

“Some Packer fans seem to have a problem with Troy Aikman, but I am not sure why,” said Gary Getzin of Wausau. “Maybe it goes back to the Cowboys in the ’90s, when they beat Green Bay most of the time. Aikman’s analysis as a former quarterback is usually pretty interesting to me. Joe Buck seems to be on top of things and meshes well with him.”

Matthew Faulkner, a Packers fan in Milford, Del., agreed, preferring them to the other No. 1 network announcing teams.

“You know it’s a big game when they are calling it. As an analyst, I appreciate Aikman’s knowledge and experience — you always learn something whether it be about a particular play or scheme,” he said. “You won’t find a better play-by-play man than Buck in my opinion.”

In baseball, the only thing Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians fans could agree on was that Buck liked the other team better. And there’s this tweet from ‏@LionsMemes: “Can Joe Buck shut up about the Packers winning the NFC North, or can’t he resist because he loves them so much?”

Granted, it was on a page called “Shut up Joe Buck,” which guaranteed, shall we say, a certain kind of response.

At least one Dallas fan signed the petition to have Buck and (gasp) Aikman taken off this week’s broadcast because they are biased (gasp, gasp) against the Cowboys.

Such profound hatred requires a professional appraisal. We offer two.

Robert Thompson, director of the Bleier Center for Television & Popular Culture at Syracuse University, suggested that if fans watched the game alone, they might come away with a different impression. When people are watching the game in groups, they tend to cheer and holler and engage with one another when their team does well, but pay more attention to announcers when things aren’t going their way. As a result, they only hear the bad things about their team, or the good things about the other team, which is much the same thing.

“If they are doing their job, they are for the most part trying to be basically, usually objective,” he said. “Which means half of what they say is going to be objected to by the supporters of either team.”

Buck addressed being reviled by fans of just about every team when he talked to StewPod on Yahoo Sports and in an Esquire interview, both in October before the World Series.

“It’s kind of the world I live in,” he said on the podcast. “Baseball fans in particular are used to hearing their hometown guys and the team announcers go all summer, and then we show up. The deck is kind of stacked against you. I have to play it down the middle.”

Aikman defended himself Thursday to the Dallas Morning News. “I’m surprised they only came up with 25,000,” he joked about the petition’s signatures goal, before claiming the same level of disinterested interest in the game versus the teams.

“If you objectively and rationally look at the job these two do, each one has their own issues,” Thompson said. “Aikman comes not totally prepared, but when it comes to strictly football, he’s good. There might be some people that Joe Buck just rubs the wrong way. That seems to attach itself to Joe Buck.”

And let’s face it, we’re in an age when social media has an out-of-proportion effect. In other words, when people are of a mind to complain, they like to find other liked-minded complainers to commiserate with. Hello Twitter. Howdy Facebook.

“You can have these conversations turn into a critical mass within hours,” Thompson said.

Ryan Martin, psychology chair at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, specializes in studying anger and what to do about it. He said all that social media sharing probably is not healthy.

“That kind of venting usually gets people more worked up than it does help,” Martin said. “The more you invest personally in the outcome of a game, and the more you build your life up around it, the more angry you’re going to get when things don’t go your way.”

Martin, by the way, grew up a Vikings fan, and was convinced Buck loved the Packers.

USA Today ranked the top NFL announcers one year ago, and came up with …

4. JOE BUCK, FOX …
Disclosure, coming up with No. 1 and No. 2 and No. 9 and No. 10 were simple. Filling in the rest was next-to-impossible. Get me on a different day and maybe Buck is No. 3. Heck, maybe even Tirico is No. 2. The next guy on our list could be up there too. But today, we get Buck at No. 4, which feels about right. He got a lot of flak early in his NFL career for being too lifeless on the call — his lack of enthusiasm on the David Tyree catch became infamous — and over-talkative. He’s improved greatly at both. Here’s what he told FTW about his football strategy earlier this year:

If you’re well-read and you know what the storylines are, I think you can bounce around. You set up the play, you set up the players doing the play, then you get out of the way. This is TV. People are seeing the handoff to Rashad Jennings. Then you pick it up on the backside. Who made the tackle or who made the catch? Football is a more cut and dry.

It sounded like he didn’t have that mentality early on. Now he’s on top of calls, he always gets down-and-distance right, knows when to yell and knows when to flip on the cough button. (If it seems like I’m harping on those last three, it’s because it’s all anyone should ever look for in a football announcer.) …

8. TROY AIKMAN, FOX …

Here’s where we start our next level of announcers, fascinatingly the color men for three of the four broadcast network — two ex-quarterbacks and one ex-coach. Why is Aikman eighth instead of lower? Because he’s the easiest to ignore. The next insight Aikman gives to a game will be one of the first. He’s content to let the replay dictate what he says and where he goes with it. But Aikman is inoffensive enough that he rarely detracts from a game, except when he’s wishy-washy on replays (take a drink every time Troy says, “well, Joe, I’m not sure” and you’ll be on the floor by halftime). The worst you can say about Aikman is that he’s a non-factor.

Gene Mueller, who works for the Packers’ flagship radio station, commits an act possibly against his own professional interests:

Green Bay football fans are touted as among the best in the game: endlessly loyal, savvy and smart. …

Why is it then, that this gaggle that bleeds green and gold, that pays hundreds of dollars so they can frame a worthless piece of paper in a man-cave (I’m one of ’em), that can recite the name of every coach back to the founder by heart have its collective undies in a bundle about … television announcers?

Joe Buck and Troy Aikman are working a lot of Packers games these days on Fox–that’s what happens when your team is really good. The network assigns you their top crew. Yet some in Titletown have worked themselves in a froth about the two, claiming they’re biased against Green Bay. One chucklehead is going so far as to launch a petition drive to have them yanked from Packers telecasts.

Puh-leez.

We seem to slog through these same smelly waters each year around this time as Green Bay is advancing in the postseason. It was just two years ago this month that Buck took to the pages of the Journal/Sentinel to affirm his respect for franchise. Buck told columnist Gary D’Amato the origin may be the guilt-by-association that comes with being alongside former Cowboy Troy Aikman, renowned 1990’s Packers-slayer. Three times, Green Bay went to Dallas in the Jimmy Johnson era to fluff it’s playoff progress. Three times, Aikman and crew sent them home for the winter. “it’s just the nature of the business,” Aikman told D’Amato. “It’s part of the job. … they want you to be biased toward their team.” Buck’s dad, Jack, worked the Ice Bowl for CBS so the offspring’s Green Bay chops run deep. “In the NFL there’s Green Bay and then there’s everywhere else,” he told J/S. “It’s just rare. It’s an honor to be there.”

We live in a time of “fake news”, of people believing what they want to believe and reading only that which supports their suppositions, facts be damned. Truth is, Aikman and Buck have no anti-Packers bias, and the haters have yet to present the smoking gun that proves a slant. None. There’s nothing in it for the duo to take a side, to pick a fight, to emit even the slightest bit of a bias. They’re in the league up to their elbows every week, needing to talk to coaches, players and front-office types. If anything, the networks–not just Fox–are too quick to anoint the next super-star, to make irrational comparisons between a hot rookie four games into a pro career and a legend with his retired number on a stadium wall. Or, to ask the hard questions about a sport that is having a hard time dealing with players who end up on police blotters or who die way too young  from the hits they’ve absorbed over a career.

Are Aikman and Buck critical of Green Bay when the Packers are playing poorly? Certainly. That’s their job.  Fun fact: we here at Radio City get accused occasionally of being too soft on the Packers in tough times, the thought being that the front office keeps an editorial boot on our collective necks since we’re “The Flagship Station”. Nothing could be further from the truth. Listen to Wayne Larrivee and Larry McCarren, who call it like it is no matter what. And, having worked the network pre-game for a season, I can honestly say that NO ONE in local programming or in the Packers front office EVER told me what to say. The only edict: always refer to the team in the plural, as in “Packers”. Thus, in the team’s eyes, you aren’t a “Packer fan”. You’re a “Green Bay Packers fan.”

Does anyone question the loyalty–or the pigskin acumen–of the local fan base that booed the Packers offense and Aaron Rodgers during the regular season loss to the Cowboys back in October? Or the legion of sports talk radio listeners/self-appointed GM’s who wanted everyone fired and Green Bay’s city charter revoked amid the four game slide that left the Packers 4-6? What then of those loyal season ticket holders took a pass on playoff tickets when the offer to buy came around at the height of the slide? Enough to give thousands who’d never get inside Lambeau a chance to buy in for Sunday’s win over the Giants, thank you very much.  How about the folks who’ve owned seats since Lisle Blackbourn yet eagerly sell their tickets at huge profits, handing someone swaddled in purple and gold a prime spot at the Lambeau 50 yard line?

You can’t spell “fanatic” without “fan”. Our love knows no boundaries, and a lot of us think we always know more than the executives/coaches/players who’ve worked the sport all of their lives. We pay for our seat, buy our schwag, invest our emotions and think that gives us the right to spout off. Fine. These traits aren’t unique to Packers fans.

What IS ours, and ours alone, is the respect the rest of NFL fandom seems to have for us: the way we honor our past, embrace our present, anticipate our future. While other franchises can’t sell all of their seats Green Bay’s season ticket waiting list stretches from DePere to Waldo–single spaced, I might add. Other cities think we’re smarter than the average NFL bear, loyal to the end and wise to the ways of the oddly-shaped ball.

So why would some of us diminish our cred with such a ridiculous, petty, baseless fight? A good fan should be more concerned with Jordy’s ribs, the sporadic run game, the banged-up secondary and the need to stop a Dallas ground attack that shredded the Pack’s defense that first time around.

THAT’S what a solid, head-in-the-game Packers fan is thinking about as Sunday approaches, not the men who’ll be describing the game for a national TV audience, two guys who are convicted of nothing but trying to do an occasionally glamorous job rendered thankless by a few who hear what they want to hear while disregarding the rest.

You’re smarter than that, Packers fans. And the Rhodes Scholars among us will turn down the TV volume and let Wayne and Larry describe what we hope is another Green Bay win Sunday night.

The other option — which won’t happen before Sunday and probably won’t happen at all — is for the networks to use available technology to allow fans of each participating team their own announcer in the much-lower-tech 1960s. (And as CBS and Turner have done in three broadcasts of the NCAA Final Four, the second two featuring announcers for each team.) If you want Packer-oriented announcers, Fox would have to hire Kevin Harlan from CBS and Jon Gruden from ESPN. (Gruden was a Packer assistant before he was Tampa Bay’s coach, but Fox can use its John Lynch for Bucs games.)

 

 

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