Saturday, June 22, 2024

Joe Buck and Troy Aikman make history as longest-tenured broadcast crew in NFL history with 22 years in the booth

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Joe Buck and Troy Aikman were nicknamed “The A Team” when they joined Cris Collinsworth to form Fox’s top NFL broadcast crew in 2002.

There were even promotional ads shot featuring Aikman dressed as Mr. T.

Buck and Aikman have long outlived that and have added something else neither could have imagined. In their 22nd season together, they have become the NFL’s longest-tenured broadcast team. The first 20 years were at Fox before they moved to ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” last year.

Buck and Aikman surpassed the legendary duo of Pat Summerall and John Madden, who worked together for 21 years on CBS and Fox. Summerall and Madden split up after the 2001 season when Summerall went into semi-retirement and Madden moved to “Monday Night Football.”

“It means a lot to me because my dad (the late Jack Buck) was a partner to both Pat and John. I knew them when I was a kid,” Buck said. “I know there was a lot of respect there. It’s just the years just kind of fly by and somebody goes, ‘Oh, by the way you are passing Madden and Summerall.’ That was surprising to me.”

The Buck-Aikman-Collinsworth booth lasted for three seasons (2002-04) before Collinsworth left for NBC in 2005 after it got the rights to “Sunday Night Football.” Aikman thought he would only be doing games for a couple of seasons before moving on to something else.

“The fact that I’m still doing it 23 years later is shocking to me, but I think there’s a lot of good fortune and luck that goes into that,” Aikman said. “There’s some other great broadcast teams that, for various reasons that had nothing to do with themselves, weren’t able to continue. So the fact that even recently ESPN regarded our work that they wanted both of us just means a lot.”

Aikman and Buck hardly knew each other when they were paired together. Buck was hired by Fox when it started doing NFL games in 1994 and split time between regional games and working in the studio the first eight seasons. When Aikman retired from the Dallas Cowboys after the 2000 season, he was hired by Fox and was assigned to the network’s No. 2 team with Dick Stockton and former Cowboys teammate Daryl Johnston.

It didn’t take long though for the two to strike up a friendship, similar to what Buck did with Tim McCarver and John Smoltz, who were his baseball partners at Fox.

“I think you need to put as much work on the personal relationship as you do the professional. I don’t know that everybody does that,” Buck said. “I know a lot of stories of broadcast partners that have been together for a nice chunk of time that didn’t really enjoy being with each other. I just can’t imagine being in that situation in this kind of a job when you’re relying on each other in front of millions of people live.”

The Buck-Aikman move to “Monday Night Football” has also boosted what can still be considered one of the premier packages in sports.

This season’s average of 15.4 million viewers is up 14% over last season. Part of the bump can be attributed to nearly the entire schedule also airing on ABC due to the writers strike delaying the fall television season.

Through nine weeks, the NFL is averaging 17.2 million viewers per game, a 7% increase over last season. It is also the league’s highest average viewership at this point since 2015.

Both noted that doing the Thursday night games on Fox from 2018 to 2021 was great preparation for Monday night. It also means seeing more of the league compared to the same teams multiple times.

“You have a good feel for what the importance is for the teams that you’re covering that night and where they fit into the bigger picture along with two or three of the hottest stories in the league,” Buck said.

It’s also clear the move to “Monday Night Football” has energized both, especially Aikman, who said his memories of watching football weren’t from Sundays but from Monday nights.

“To be a part of that history and lineage is really special. But in addition to that, ESPN paid a lot of money for us to be there in that booth and call the games. And so we didn’t want to disappoint anybody or let anybody down. We wanted to live up to what the expectations were of us and why we were brought over.

“So it was good. And it continues to be good.”

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