Joe Buck and Troy Aikman, the new “Monday Night Football” announcers on ESPN after over two decades together at Fox Sports, are keenly aware of the free agency frenzy they were recently a part of and have weighed in on their successors at Fox.
The Post, which has not been a passive observer of this journey, asked the duo on an ESPN conference call Monday about how much they keep up on all the media chatter.
Buck interrupted, laughing, “You guys are on top of this stuff?”
“I really don’t keep up with it. I don’t want to disappoint anyone over there at The Post – Joe usually lets me know what’s happening,” Aikman said.
Buck interjected that he sends Aikman the “cliff notes” on the stories.
“But I guess my response to it is it’s been interesting to see all that’s been going on,” Aikman said. “There’s been a lot of movement and discussion over the last couple of years. It’s turned into quite a business for [Post columnist] Andrew Marchand.”
The idea that, after he retires from football, Tom Brady would replace Aikman at Fox was not at the forefront of his mind.
“As far as Tom, it’s not something I thought he’d be doing, but I think he’ll be great,” Aikman said. “I have a great relationship with Tom, and love when we call his games. I’ve had a chance to get to know him more since he went to Tampa in the NFC. I think he’ll be fantastic and it was an outstanding hire,” Aikman said.
“I was just as surprised as everyone else, and I’m in this game with the announcer movement,” Buck said.
He marveled at how fast things have changed in sports media in a relatively short amount of time: “Someone said to me the other day, ‘We as fans need someone to tell us where all these sports announcers are ending up.’
“Everybody’s shifted and moved places. Amazon’s involved. They’ve got a great team. My dad passed away 20 years ago, and I think he’d be stunned if walked out of the grave right now and he’d say, ‘Wow! That’s what’s going on in this business?’
“It comes back to a supply and demand and having a known quantity. As much as I wanted to work with Troy, and continue that relationship, I think that’s what was appealing to ESPN. If I can speak on their behalf, they’re getting a booth that they know what they’re going to get when Opening Day comes around in Seattle.”
He was off the belief Brady will excel in the booth after a greatest-of-all-time career on the gridiron.
“As far as Brady, would anybody ever bet against the guy being great at anything? He’s kind of cornered the market in that. But, it’s a new thing and with new opportunities come new responsibilities. I think it’ll be a steep learning curve, and I think he’ll be fantastic. I tend to root for everybody. I genuinely feel happy for him.”
Later in the call, Aikman was asked about the biggest hurdles to becoming a great broadcaster. He said that knowing football is important, but elements such as understanding television and timing are more vital to the role.
Aikman said that working alongside talented behind-the-scenes producers and directors is also paramount, and that there are former athletes who have failed in broadcasting that might have succeeded if they were paired with better off-air workers.
“As for Tom, I have nothing but respect for him,” Aikman said. “He’s won at everything he’s done in life and there’s no reason he won’t at this as well. The reason why I think he’s going to be good is he’s gonna work. The reason he’s played as long as he had, and has won seven Super Bowls, is he doesn’t take any shortcuts. And he’s not going to in broadcasting.”
In terms of leaving Fox, Aikman said that throughout last season, he did not believe it would his final year there.
He explained that most of his conversations were “centered” around splitting time between “Thursday Night Football” on Amazon and Sunday afternoons on Fox, but there was eventually a holdup over how many games he could do. Ultimately, ESPN got involved in the negotiations.
“It was an opportunity that was ultimately the best fit for me,” Aikman said of joining ESPN, mentioning that he would still get postseason games and Super Bowls. “But I didn’t think that was even going to be a possibility until right after the Super Bowl.”
Buck mentioned that he and Fox made an amicable split after the network let him out of the final year of his contract to join Aikman at ESPN.
Buck was excited for his successors, Kevin Burkhardt and Joe Davis, who will be replacing him in ultimately calling the Super Bowl and World Series on Fox.
He said the talks about the split took “maybe a month” – and that Fox understood how much he wanted to join ESPN not just for professional reasons, but personal as well.
“It was such a great fit in my life, to be selfish and personal about it,” Buck said. “But, having a wife [Michelle Beisner-Buck] who has worked here for 7-8 years, and having little boys at home, just kind of simplifying and paring things down in my life made a lot of sense. And to get to come to ‘Monday Night Football’, and to do it with a known quantity in Troy, it just made all the sense in the world.”
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