These Royals Fans Want You To 'Mute Buck' And Listen To Them Instead
This story was rebroadcast as part of our best-of 2015 series. It was originally reported in October 2015.
Ask a Royals' fan about FOX announcer Joe Buck, and you might get a response like Adam Jones'.
"I think it's safe to say he did not call last year's World Series with any kind of objectivity."
Jones is the owner of Firefly Technologies, an IT firm in the River Market. And he says the memories of Buck's call of Game 7 against the San Francisco Giants (and Madison Bumgarner) came flooding back when FOX announced last week that Buck would call the ALCS between Kansas City and Toronto.
In frustration, Jones and some friends began an online petition with the hashtag #mutebuck. It made the quixotic demand that FOX remove Buck from the ALCS broadcast team, but it received more than 12,000 signatures in one week. (And a Twitter back-and-forth with comedian and Kansas City-native Rob Riggle ensued.)
Now, Jones and his cohorts have gone a step further. Instead of simply calling for Buck's ouster from the broadcast booth, they're taking to the air themselves, in a manner of speaking. They have 'called' Games 4 and 5 of the ALCS this week on new media streaming site rabble.tv.
"Growing up, I used to pretend I was doing what we're doing now, so to have a legitimate reason to do it: it's a lot of fun," says Jones. "But we freely admit: we can be totally biased. That's the point."
Jones is the organizer and de facto producer of the #mutebuck broadcast. They have streamed out of Firefly's offices, which Jones owns. He also bought the microphones, headsets, and mixing board to be able to broadcast with a "professional sound."
But the other team members have their roles, too. Patrick Marriot styles himself the color commentator (look out, Harold Reynolds). Chris Mullins says he knows baseball well enough to do a serviceable play-by-play. And Mike Farless refers to himself as the "community engagement guy."
"These are my best friends," Farless says. "We're usually saying these kinds of things anyway during games. It's fun to have an audience who appreciates our humor."
Mullins agrees: "We just kind of fell into our roles organically."
Through Twitter and Facebook they have urged Royals fans to mute the FOX broadcast and listen to their admittedly unpolished, sometimes-uncensored, often-digressive patter instead.
"We got a lot of people telling us Tuesday that we weren't narrating the game enough. We got off topic a lot," admits Jones. "But especially with these afternoon games [on Tuesday and Wednesday], what we're finding is that we're a replacement for radio for people listening at work."
On rabble.tv, users can stream fan-produced broadcasts of any number of games, including the now-ended NLCS between the New York Mets and Chicago Cubs, NFL games, college football, and European soccer. There are also broadcasts of non-sporting events like the Emmy's and the presidential debates.
But #mutebuck has seemed to hit a cord, capitalizing not only on the new technology but fan resentment, as well. For Tuesday's game (a 14-2 Royals' win), 1,200 unique users listened to the stream. (Compared to a Chicago-based broadcast of an NLCS game that drew about 300.)
"There were people on our stream from Mexico and Ireland. There are people who messaged us saying they were listening in their car," says Marriott.
They don't pretend to offer anything like what Buck does on FOX's broadcasts. For instance, during Wednesday's Game 5, they sniped at Josh Donaldson's hair ("What IS that?"), critiqued Jose Bautista's beard ("It's gotta be spray-on."), and bragged about the beer they were drinking, ("I'm starting with PBR and then moving to Boulevard").
When Chris Colabello of the Blue Jays hit a home run to put Toronto up 1-0, their disappointment was palpable.
"Yep, it goes into the seats. Toronto is on the board first unfortunately. Not a big fan of that."
They wouldn't be big fans of anything that happened in Game 5. Toronto won 7-1, forcing a Game 6 in Kansas City Friday.
Officials with rabble.tv believe their service could be a harbinger of things to come in sports fans' viewing experience.
"A lot of people are looking for an alternative option to the networks," said rabble.tv spokesperson Gerald Mortensen, in an email. "We're ecstatic that not only do fans want to hear other fans' opinions during the game, but also that we're able to provide a platform for them to do so."
But media experts caution against any undue enthusiasm.
"The key thing is: can any of these niche operations garner enough of an audience to make money. Can you get past the hobbyist stage?" says Max Utsler, a professor at the University of Kansas's School of Journalism and Mass Communications.
Fans loyal to their home team may chafe at unfamiliar voices like Buck's on national broadcasts, but announcers like him are still some of the best out there. Rabble.tv can't match that, at least not yet.
"I still feel like there is a certain amount of professionalism and training that needs to happen that we often find lacking at these open sites," says Clint McDuffie, who teaches a sports media class at UMKC.
On the other hand, the #mutebuck team says unequivocally they have no professional ambitions. (And, if they're being honest, they also admit that Buck is good at what he does.) But that won't stop them from having fun during this latest Royals' postseason run.
Jones says he and his fellow broadcasters will call all the remaining games the Royals play this postseason on rabble.tv. At this point, he just hopes he gets to do some World Series games.
Kyle Palmer is a morning newscaster and reporter. You can find him on Twitter @kcurkyle.