Tag Archives: the venn instersection of sports and theology

The Baseball Purgatory of Joe Buck

joebuck2.jpgOn Saturday, we visited friends to take in game 2 of the Subway Series, a rare evening Fox broadcast. These friends are Yankee fans, but we agree on this point: Joe Buck is awful. Much of our in-game conversation revolved around his hideousness. (We pretty much left Tim McCarver’s performance alone; at this point, making fun of Tim is like busting on the fat kid in your grade who’s been left behind three times.)

As the game ground to a conclusion, Joe Buck sounded positively crestfallen. And when Frankie Rodriguez finally struck out Francisco Cervelli to end it, Buck was despondent. I thought maybe it was because he expected the Yankees to mount a comeback (an effort the Mets’ bullpen did its best to aid). Especially since the general tenor of the broadcast depicted the Mets as little more than an inconvenient molehill in the mountain that is the Yankees’ season.

But my friend countered with something that really struck a chord. “He’s not sad because he wanted the Yankees to win,” my friend said. “He’s just sad because he realizes he still has to call baseball games.”

This is a theory I’ve had for a while and written about more than once, but I’ve never heard put quite this way before. I’ve said that Buck secretly hates baseball and unfavorably compared him to Chip Caray, another legacy broadcaster who also sucks but who is at least animated. I’ve even thought Buck is trapped in a purgatory of his own design.

It never occurred to me that maybe Buck hopes that each baseball game he calls might be his last. Perhaps a wildcat work stoppage will grind the big leagues to a halt. Perhaps MLB will get fleeced by a Bernie Madoff-esque con artist and lose so much money it’s forced to close its doors. Perhaps some strange psycho-social event will alter the collective American consciousness so much that professional sports will no longer be a viable industry.

Maybe he thinks that if he just does just this one more game, he’ll be released from this Faustian bargain, the one where he asked for fame and fortune in exchange for going into the family business that he hates. Is there any realistic chance it this Last Game will ever come? Of course not. But he has to think there is or go mad.

In a book I read recently (I want to say it’s Paul Auster’s Invisible, but I’m not 100 percent sure about that, so don’t quote me), two characters wonder if the damned would have hope. They come to the conclusion that in order for Hell to have any meaning, the damned have some kind of hope. If they didn’t, they would resign themselves to the horrors of hell, no matter how bad they were, and it wouldn’t truly be hell.

Therefore, Buck must believe that he will be released from his torture, even though only the grave will release him from this obligation. It would be chilling, even sad, if it wasn’t happening to Joe Buck, who is fucking horrible.