The Runner Sports

TRS Book Club: Lucky Bastard Review

I suppose I owe Joe Buck a bit of appreciation.  After all, it was after my reading of his debut novel Lucky Bastard that the idea of bringing in discussion and reviews around sports books began. Thanks for stopping in, and we hope you enjoy the new addition to the site.



As polarizing as Joe Buck is as a sports broadcaster, Lucky Bastard nearly rivals. A peek behind the curtains of the sports world is always fascinating for fans, and the tales and stories told that were entirely off camera and build new depths to the games we love are usually what drive books like this’ success. And when it’s unabashed anecdotes of behind the scenes stuff, Lucky Bastard really does read quite well. One of this generation’s most powerful names in sports media becomes human, even if just for 295 pages. Love him or hate him, Joe Buck lives the dream life for many sports fans, but just as he mentions within these pages that fans often forget the players they idolize and tear down are humans at the end of the day, so too are the voices (and for that matter writers) that drive the background and informative narrative around sports. For many, the feeling won’t last by the time Buck graces our TV screens next for this weekend’s pending NFL Divisional Round games, but we ride along from the start to the rise of power with scathing honesty and downright funny moments along the way.

Where Lucky Bastard falls short, however, is the often times very elementary writing. As much of a play-by-play savant that Buck can be –the man’s the voice of an entire major sports broadcasting company–, Buck’s writing ability has left plenty to be desired. But that’s perhaps why the man has made a career through face and voice and not behind the press of a newspaper. Aside from a few excerpts and one-liners (that’s what made his career after all), the book lacks the descriptive tone that you figured you could muster from an announcer who made his start in radio. Buck also reaffirms some of what drives the bandwagon of haters. He’s totally unashamed in his humble brags and name dropping. He’s the kind of guy who you might spend even 10 minutes overhearing at a social function, and just feel the need to bump into and spill your drink on. There’s little doubt in the long path Joe Buck has taken to get to this point, and the 10,000 square foot country club home is well deserved, but for a guy who’s spent so much of his career worrying that people thought he was a pompous douche, he kind of reaffirmed many’s stance on him in his own words. The name dropping, especially, getting to the point where you wonder how short this book would have been without sidebars about people whom he knew. Most importantly, his hispter (before they were cool) friendship with Paul Rudd and Jon Hamm. And while the darker admissions always make for a deeper human narrative, the theme of his uneasiness about people questioning his aid from simply being his father’s (Jack Buck) son getting him where he is now (nepotism) appears far too often. In the first half of the book you connect to just how much that impacted him, but by the end, you’re so sick of hearing it rehashed ever so slightly, it actually starts to drive you away.

It’s also a relative shame the Buck decided to write this book when he did. According to its final verses, it comes at a time where Buck feels relieved from the many mental nuances that have haunted him through his career. Feeling care-free, this moment of change might truly have been when he felt his story best seemed fit to tell. It’s a little bit hard to not think this is a strategic timing for Buck, who admittedly makes mention of his latest show in the dying pages. A chance to get his name hyped up (as if some don’t feel there’s already and oversaturation of the man) to drive viewers to his latest enterprise. I’m often the type who doesn’t enjoy a story in progress, and would much rather hear the full tale when it’s done. We’ve missed a sensational defining game and series that Buck got to be part of just days before this title hit bookshelves. His call at the end of the Game 5 in the 2016 World Series was all that Joe Buck understands and does well within his profession, immediately butting out and letting a deafening “Go Cubs Go” consume the broadcast. I’m sure he’s quite sour at his agent that he won’t get to humble brag (well deserved albeit) about that shining moment. I’m sure we’ll get a new edition that has this and more to say. In his 40s, barring another hair plug accident that completely claims his vocal chords, Joe Buck will be around for quite some time.

If you like a peek behind the shrouding curtain into the inner workings of the sports world Lucky Bastard is a decent fix to cure that crave. You may come in already hating the man and leave with some new-found respect, you might not have had an opinion of him and now wish nothing more than to kick him in the shins should you ever find him passed out along the Marina in Cabo San Lucas after reading. As the sports voice (or at least one of) for the generation, it’s certainly a tale every sports fan needs to at least hear out.


Buy your copy today via Amazon.

Tyler’s Rating:3.0 Stars (3.0 / 5)

What’re your thoughts on Buck’s debut in print?

What book do you wanna see reviewed next? Perhaps I’ll take it up for my next read and we can have a talk about.

Tyler Arnold

Tyler Arnold

I am the editor-in-chief of The Runner Sports. I watch more sports than is probably determined healthy and enjoy talking about them all. I am a firm believer in there being a "dropped peanut surcharge" at the ballpark when it's a good throw. Thanks for the read.
Tyler Arnold