Joe Buck, Hank Stram and a helicopter: A Thanksgiving Tale

Joe Buck will be on the call for the Lions-Bears game on Thanksgiving Day.
(Elsa Garrison / Getty Images)

For Joe Buck, getting home to his family for Thanksgiving is paramount.

So the Fox play-by-play man won’t linger after calling Thursday’s Bears-Lions game in Detroit. He’ll hightail it back to St. Louis, where he was expected to arrive around 5:30 p.m.

The importance of getting home was instilled in Buck by his father, legendary announcer Jack Buck, who would go to great lengths to get back to his family for the holidays.

“My earliest memory of Thanksgiving was going with my dad to Detroit when he was broadcasting with Hank Stram,” Joe Buck said, referring to the former NFL coach turned color analyst. “My dad chartered a helicopter to get us from the Silverdome to the airport on time so we could get to catch a flight home back to St. Louis to have Thanksgiving dinner with the family.


“The funniest part of it was Hank Stram came down to the helicopter with us, thinking that he had a seat on the helicopter. There were only two seats for passengers. I legitimately think he looked at my dad like, `'Well, I guess you’re going to have to leave your son behind.’ My lasting memory was looking down at Hank and his steamer trunk filled with clothes and him holding his toupee on as the helicopter lifted off the ground.”

Rams quarterback Jared Goff did not throw a touchdown pass in November. He hopes to break that slump when the 6-5 Rams visit the Arizona Cardinals on Dec. 1.

Young Joe Buck was living a dream life, especially for 11-year-old sports nut.

“We got to the airport on time,” said Buck, 50, whose father died in 2002. “And god knows where my dad got the helicopter, probably Helicopters-R-Us for about $28. Somebody that was willing to actually fly two people back to the airport out of a Lions game.”


Left in the prop wash was Stram, known for his love of clothes and anything but an efficient bag-packer.

“Hank traveled with a steamer trunk,” Buck said. “We all showed up at the helicopter, and the pilot’s like, `'Are you kidding me?’ I don’t think the helicopter could have taken off with Hank’s suitcase alone.”

Then again, Buck said, the trunk was probably essential.

“He had to get the hotel pillows and towels home somehow.”


Philip Rivers is only under contract with the Chargers through this season, although he’s indicated he’d like to continue playing beyond this year.