A Salute to Steve

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“It’s been weird,” Buckhantz said. “I’ve just kind of been watching everything from afar, and it just feels a little weird to think that after 22 years since 1997 I may not go to training camp, I may not be involved in anything the Wizards do, I may not talk to the players, or you know, have meetings or any of that.

“It just feels really, really strange.”-The Athletic

Try describing the role of a play-by-play broadcaster to a non-sports fan.

So that person tells us what we are seeing already with our own eyes?…

And in a way, they are right. It is a strange job to grasp, but a role that somehow is interwoven into the heart of the sports landscape. They are with you at your team’s lowest lows and highest of highs. They gasp with you at amazing dunks and shake their head with you at sloppy mistakes.

They become part of your viewing family. You, me, and Buck. All of us sitting around and watching a franchise that just can’t quite ever get it right.

Steve Buckhantz has been that voice for Wizards fans for over two decades.

From Agent Zero game-winners to Javale McGee missed dunks to John Wall alley-oop passes he’s been in your home. You may not even have paid a lot of attention to him. And really, in broadcasting, that’s a good thing.

If he is a seamless integration into your viewing experience, he’s done his job. Provides a little bit of clarity, provides rising levels of excitement when necessary, and makes you feel a part of the action no matter where you are watching. That’s the gig. Mix in some analysis and stories from his counterpart and you’ve got yourself a broadcast team.

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But beyond the logistics and job duties is a person. And with any public-facing position, a lot of it comes down to likeability. Do I like this broadcaster? Do they seem nice?

Morals aren’t the qualification for basketball broadcasting, but listening to Buckhantz over the years you looked at him as the friendly optimist who was fiercely loyal to the team that he spent his career describing over the air. He combined his signature calls with a grandpa-esque demeanor. He was smooth, unruffled. He had fun. And we did too.

And now, unfortunately, things have come to an end.

NBCSports Washington will roll out their shiny new team of former Fox broadcaster Justin Kutcher in combination with a duo of Drew Gooden and Caron Butler this upcoming season. Things will be different, very different.

Kutcher is good, he’s been in the business a while himself, and he, unfortunately, has to bear the burden of replacing such a beloved figure in local sports. I am not envious of that gig.

Things are changing fast for the Wizards. Their long-time GM is gone, the team shuffles rosters around faster than a Vegas dealer, and the ownership group is focused on unveiling new Sports Books and higher-end dining options.

For a fanbase that already struggles with identity, the team seems to be providing no clear path to follow. Is the team tanking? Is the team going for a title? Who is the GM? Who is making decisions? So many questions, so little answers.

But Steve, we’ll miss the stability and grace you brought every single night on the air. Hopefully, this isn’t goodbye, but if it is we wish you the best of luck and we’ll think of you anytime a Wizards player hits a game-winning shot at the buzzer.

Dagger

 

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