Subdued return for 'Joe Buck Live'
Joe Buck smartly addressed the Artie Lange situation in his second HBO show
The jury is still out on Buck's ability to carry a talk show on a regular basis
More notes: Kudos for Boomer Esiason; Max Kellerman draws viewers' ire
NEW YORK -- He hears it walking into baseball and football stadiums and he heard it again Tuesday night about an hour before the taping of his television show at the Equitable Center Theater in midtown Manhattan. It has become a familiar sound for Joe Buck, someone in the crowd screaming "Artie Lange."
Depending on your point of view, Lange, a stand-up comic and The Howard Stern Show cast member, either saved or hijacked the June 15 debut episode of Joe Buck Live. He engaged in a battle of wills with the host, and when Buck joked that his favorite Web site was TMZ.com, Lange attacked. He asked Buck, "What's your second favorite?" and then created his own URL involving a sex act that we still can't print three months later.
HBO Sports president Ross Greenburg publicly banned Lange from appearing on future programming. But in a smart and unexpected move, Buck opened his show Tuesday with a taped segment that featured Lange bumping into the sportscaster on Seventh Avenue in Manhattan and chasing the host down the street.
"For me to walk out to there and act like that didn't happen, that's not me," Buck said after the show. "I'm not going to run from that. I'm glad we did it and Artie was game for anything. Ironically enough, he and I have become pretty good friends."
Buck and Lange becoming chums might have been the biggest news to come out of the second episode of Joe Buck Live, which featured a Hall of Fame quarterback panel (John Elway, Dan Marino, Joe Namath), two of Texas' biggest talkers (Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones) and Curt Schilling announcing that he was not running for Ted Kennedy's Senate seat in Massachusetts. The show lacked the fireworks of the opener but provided some entertaining sports conversation, especially when Namath and Schilling appeared on camera. Schilling said he was "incredibly disappointed" with the Roger Clemens situation and admitted in the Web-only "Overtime" segment that during the early days of his career, "I drank to the point where it was going to potentially cost me my career."
If you're scoring at home, the well-heeled Cuban and Jones were the only guests who got into R-rated language, with Jones saying he was "scared sh------" about his stadium because of the risk involved with the cost. Jones said he watched the NBC broadcast of the Cowboys-Giants on the flight from Dallas to New York on Tuesday afternoon and was pleased with what he saw.
"I thought NBC did an outstanding job," Jones told SI.com. "Only 7 percent of NFL fans have ever been to an NFL stadium, and one of the reasons I made the investment in the stadium -- we could have built that stadium for 30 percent less -- is the perception and how it is visualized through the eyes of [the likes of] Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth and portrayed because our fans live these stadiums and games vicariously. I was very pleased with what I saw. I just saw the first half but I would hope the stadium did the talking for me."
The jury is still out on whether Buck can carry a primetime sports-talk show on a regular basis, but Greenburg was clearly happy afterward. Buck's third show is scheduled for Dec. 7.
"This is where we want to be," Greenburg said. "This is the kind of show we want. I thought Joe felt really comfortable. You could see it on stage. He asked all the questions that we wanted asked and we heard a lot of interesting answers. I don't think we went too conservative. I think we made some smart television. I think we tried to force too many laughs last time around and we let them come naturally this time around."
Said Buck: "Anytime you do something the second time, it will get better. And it will get better the third time. But the stakes are high because you are only doing it four times a year."
As advocated by this space on multiple occasions, Buck needed to address what happened with Lange on his show, and it can be argued Joe Buck Live would have been more interesting had Lange appeared in studio. Greenburg said they never considered that option but Lange agreed to tape a bit. After the studio audience reacted positively, Buck pumped his fist in the air offstage.
"Joe felt very strongly that we had to address Artie Lange somewhere because he had been living with it for three months every day," Greenburg said. "I agree with him in retrospect. We were very reticent to give Artie any airtime, but looking back on it, Joe was right. You could not come on the air tonight and play like Artie Lange never happened. So this was the way to acknowledge it and send it off."