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A Chat With ESPN’s John Buccigross


Photo courtesy ESPN

Whether with the historic lines of the Bard or a sly quip about DirecTV’s extended programming options, chances are you’ve heard John Buccigross call highlights for “America’s game” – disc golf, of course – on ESPN.

Though the longtime SportsCenter anchor has made a name for himself with his quick wit, he’s earned his way into disc golfers’ hearts by being one of a handful of broadcasters at the worldwide leader to lend his voice to an ever-expanding portfolio of incredible shots that have made the air and helped increase the sport’s mainstream profile. On the heels of Paul McBeth’s historic 18-under par round at the Great Lakes Open – which received a nearly two-minute feature as part of SportsCenter’s “Haven’t Seen It…Should” segment – we exchanged emails with Buccigross to get his thoughts on disc golf, just how those Macbeth lines from the highlight reel came to pass, and if he can see the sport breaking through to the mainstream.

1) What did you think of disc golf when it first appeared on your shot sheet a couple years back?

I’ve known about disc golf for a long time. A public park near me has had a course set up for years so it wasn’t a surprise.

2) How do you feel about the sport now as it has started to appear on SportsCenter more often?

I respect any competition but I’m not very good at throwing a Frisbee. I don’t enjoy doing things I’m terrible at!

3) Have you ever played? If so, how did it go?

I haven’t officially played. Like I said I have low confidence in yo-yos, harmonicas, and disc golf.

4) I know there are a few disc golfers who work at ESPN, and they've been instrumental in getting the sport on the air. What's the vibe like among the ESPN disc golf crew?

They don’t wear uniforms to work so they are incognito. I assume you need bug spray? They seem to be in the woods a lot.

5) What was your reaction when you first heard that a professional disc golfer shot 18-under par?

The Swedes have a system called “54.” They teach, mentally, that is should be possible to birdie every hole and shoot 54. And that golfers should think that it is possible. That’s what I thought of when I saw the 18-under.

 

 

6) The McBeth commentary, with all of the Shakespeare references, was a treat. How did that come together?

I was handed the shot sheet and had about 30 seconds to prepare. I saw the name and felt like it would be good filler to a highlight that probably had a lot of Frisbees in the air. I didn’t say what I was doing and some might not have even made the connection, but that’s how I like to do things: quietly and unexpectedly.

7) I'm sure you've seen, either via social media mentions or otherwise, that disc golfers can be protective of the sport. Have you ever noticed when people have gotten upset about it being called "frolf" or maybe taken some of your commentary too personally?

I have not been chirped on social media by a disc golfer, but after 22 years at ESPN my skin is as thick as a tree trunk. Nothing bothers me. The downside to that is sincere compliments also don’t usually penetrate. But, the response to the McBeth highlight was all positive.

8) Here's another one based off social media chatter. Disc golf: real sport, or no?

Sport is 99% competition. Otherwise, it’s just exercise. If you keep score or time, it’s a sport.

9) Based on what you've seen of disc golf, give me an athlete from another sport who you think would excel at it, and why.

Anybody who is great from the wrist to elbow. [Roger] Federer, Tiger Woods, Shohei Otani, Steph Curry.

10) Disc golf is a sport that is still an outlier that hasn't broken all the way through to the mainstream. As far as broadcasts go, it mostly lives online. In your estimation as a professional broadcaster, do you think it has the potential to break through to more traditional coverage?

Probably not. I think people will always look at it as a backyard game, and for the most part the Frisbee seems to have lost its mass appeal that was there when I was growing up. But, I could be wrong.

Comments

A few weeks ago, ESPN2 aired coverage of the 2018 Cornhole World Championships, so it's a bit silly to say disc golf won't break through to traditional coverage because it's a "backyard game."

It's painfully obvious from his comments that we need more mainstream education about the game, but the more coverage the better, so I'm glad ESPN is adding even a tiny bit of disc golf to its programming.

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