Joe Buck was hired in March to be the stage host for ESPN’s “Monday Night Football,” leaving Fox Sports – which he has worked for since its inception in 1994.
But his kick-off with the net wouldn’t come from the lofty Lambeau Field, where the Packers work, or even a modern NFL mansion like Sofi Stadium, home of the Rams, or AT&T Stadium, where the Cowboys play. Nope, he’ll come in a quieter setting, inside a TV studio in downtown St. Louis.
Lifelong St. Louisan Buck is an alternate version of the primary television broadcast of the PGA Championship, which begins Thursday in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and continues through that weekend.
These are going to be great performances, similar to the “Manningcast” Peyton and Eli Manning he did in some “MNF” matches last season and is due to perform again this year. It’s a companion to traditional Monday night television broadcasts — which Buck and Troy Aikman, who also relocated from Fox, will do on ESPN and occasionally simulcast on ABC this season.
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Instead of having Aikman by his side for the PGA extravaganza, it will be ESPN golf analyst Michael Collins — a former can-and-stand comedian. Buck has a lot of experience broadcasting the sport. He was the leader of USGA channel coverage, including the US Open, when the network was showing those events from 2015-2019.
How similar are Buck’s golf broadcasts to Manningcast’s bluffs? It’s probably a lot, because it’s being produced by Omaha Productions for Peyton Manning — who conducted the alternative presentations for “MNF” — in association with ESPN. Maybe we should call them “Buckblasts”.
“We loved doing ‘Monday Night Football’ with ESPN, and the entire Omaha team was looking forward to producing alternative TV shows to celebrate other sports,” Peyton Manning said in a statement. “As one of the major golf tournaments, the PGA Championship is an ideal setting to do our first golf tournament and we look forward to working with Joe, Michael, and everyone else on the ESPN golf team.”
The focus will be on fun and different visions rather than the traditional TV broadcasts that will be broadcast on ESPN and CBS. These alternate shows will be packed with guests who will appear via video clips, and those already booked include Charles Barclay, Fred Coples and Buck St. Louis’ friend Jon Hamm. There will also be soccer players, including Aikman and Bills quarterback Josh Allen.
“Buckblasts” will run for four hours each day of the competition. Next Thursday and Friday it will be on ESPN from 1pm (along with our streaming coverage on ESPN+). Then it switches to ESPN2 for the next hours while ESPN has “normal” TV broadcasts.
During that weekend, “Buckblasts” will be on ESPN from 8-9 a.m. while ESPN+ airs the traditional version. Then it goes to ESPN+ for the next three hours while ESPN owns the traditional TV broadcast.
After that, Buck and Friends will be completed, with CBS (KMOV, Channel 4) taking over at the conclusion of the final two rounds.
Schlanger on site
Buck won’t be the only St. Louis to take part in TV coverage of the PGA Championship, as Steve Challenger will be part of ESPN’s on-site broadcast team.
That starts a busy period for the announcer from St. Louis High School and Meso. After working on a golf event, he heads to Los Angeles to summon the French Open from the television screens of the Tennis Channel studios there.
He said he has “one day to go from one day to the next,” adding that he “will be on the air with golf from Tulsa for about six or seven hours every day, and then the tennis channel (the channel) will be about the same every day, depending on the length of the matches.”
He’s used to hectic schedules. Last year, he’d switched from tennis to a cycling event and then back in tennis multiple times in the same day, all while working from a studio in California that was about 5,600 miles away from both events held in Europe.