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Al Michaels Reflects On Move From ABC to NBC, Past Super Bowl Broadcasts

“I said what you want to do on Monday night on ESPN is not how I do games. I would like to have the opportunity to go back where I belong at NBC with my guys.”

Ricky Keeler

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On Sunday, Feb. 13, Al Michaels will call his 11th Super Bowl when he is the play-by-play voice for Super Bowl LVI in Los Angeles between the Los Angeles Rams and Cincinnati Bengals on NBC. This will be his fifth and possibly final Super Bowl on NBC since his contract will be up after the game.

Michaels appeared on the latest episode of The Press Box podcast with Bryan Curtis from The Ringer, telling stories from the previous 10 Super Bowls that he was able to call. He mentioned that 2005 was not a good year and leading up to Super Bowl XL, most of the talk was about what he would do next with Monday Night Football moving to ESPN.

According to Michaels, NBC’s Dick Ebersol came in and signed analyst John Madden, producer Fred Gaudelli, and director Drew Esocoff by the time the season was over. But Ebersol and Michaels were unable to come up with a deal at the beginning. Then things started to change, as Michaels explained:

“We get to the Super Bowl and I’m thinking all of my guys are over there, Ebersol makes another run at me,” said Michaels. “We get close. I had a contract at ESPN, but I’m thinking this is not going to work the way they wanted it to work at that point. They wanted to pair me with Joe Theismann. Nothing against Joe, but I’m leaving John Madden, the greatest of all-time.

“I didn’t like what their philosophy was and finally I went to the powers that be at Disney and since I had been there for a long time (30 years), I said, ‘Guys, I know it’s not going to look good for anybody here, but I think it’s best for both of us.’ I said what you want to do on Monday night on ESPN is not how I do games. I would like to have the opportunity to go back where I belong at NBC with my guys. I know it’s going to be an embarrassment maybe for you guys for losing me and for me, it looks like I am walking out on the contract, but I think it’s the best for everybody concerned.”

One of the reasons things didn’t seem right for Michaels was that he was going to feel different since ESPN’s people were now in charge of MNF and not ABC, and he disagreed with some of their ideas:

“They had a lot of bells and whistles. They had a guy who they were going to put in charge of creative operations of the show who I was not on the same page with,” Michaels said.

” They had ideas that were not my ideas that were tried 20-30 years before that and they were re-inventing the wheel and I was kind of like the Lone Ranger. Instead of being one of the central figures on Monday Night at ABC for 20 years. Now, I’m kind of the guy on the outside. There was a rivalry between ESPN and ABC. ESPN, they were so happy to have MNF and their people were going to do Monday Night and I was the outlier. I knew it wouldn’t work and I knew it would have been very bad for all of us. It turned out fine, at least for me anyway.”

Michaels was the voice of Monday Night Football for 20 years, despite being a position he said he wasn’t particularly coveting while at ABC:

“I was doing Monday Night Baseball. I was very happy doing that. I was doing a ton of Wide World of Sports shows,” he said. “I was doing the number two game in college football and good assignments at the Olympics. I was never eyeing Monday Night Football, ever. All of a sudden, it just popped up one day, thanks to Dennis Swanson. I’ll be forever grateful.”

While Michaels doesn’t want any part of the Super Bowl or any broadcast he does to be about him, he likes to put his own personality into the equation a little bit. He learned that if he starts off doing some analysis, it allows whoever is with him in the booth to go deeper into the play:

“If it’s just cut and dry play-by-play, you might as well have a PA announcer do it,” he said. “I don’t need the spotlight, but sometimes what I try to do is I do the rudimentary analysis that Tim McCarver loved. Instead of just stopping, I would do the early analysis and let Tim and Jim go deeper… McCarver, for one, told me ‘I love when you do that because it frees me to go to places I’ve never been before.’ I love to set my guys up.

“I think it’s a good thing to inject a little bit of your personality from time-to- time. You are not a robot. I’ve been on national TV for 45 years. A lot of people say, I grew up with you. Yeah, they know you, but it’s never going to be about me.”

If you are looking for a walk down memory lane at past Super Bowls, then this episode of The Press Box is perfect for you to listen to in preparation for next Sunday’s game. 

Sports TV News

Al Michaels: Condensed Prep Time For Thursday Night Football ‘A Downside’

“It’s not that they don’t want to be with us, but they’re condensed too, so there’s less time to give to us.”

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There were bound to be unexpected hiccups and unintended consequences as Al Michaels moved to Thursday Night Football with Amazon Prime Video.

He told The Boston Globe Thursday that one of the downsides of the week’s schedule is less prep time with the teams playing in the game.

“When we go to see the teams, it’s not that they don’t want to be with us, but they’re condensed too, so there’s less time to give to us,” Michaels said. “And all the time I’ve been doing this, I’ve built some great relationships with coaches and players and GMs and owners and you name it, and I don’t get that much time to spend with them anymore. That’s a downside part of it for me. Some of the best stories you get come from those relationships.”

Michaels has raised eyebrows this season while not being shy about his disdain for some poor matchups early in the schedule. However, he now understands that there are quality games as the season approaches its close.

“The schedule was a little leaky with the Carolina-Atlanta game and a couple of other games that we’ve had, but now we’re positioned for a nice run down the stretch,” said Michaels.

The 78-year-old was also asked how he remains energetic and passionate for the job he’s held for so long.

The games are exciting. I love sports. You don’t know what’s going to happen. There’s no script. And unscripted television is the greatest.”

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Sports TV News

Jimmy Pitaro: Reaching Younger Audience A Priority for ESPN

“The thing that keeps me up at night is how do we reach the younger audience. As an industry in general, we need to figure out how to be more relevant to younger people.”

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Many in the media industry have voice concern that millennials and Gen Z aren’t consuming traditional media outlets like previous generations. ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro said it’s a priority for the network.

“The thing that keeps me up at night is how do we reach the younger audience,” Pitaro said, quoted by Morning Consult sports business reporter Mark J. Burns. “As an industry in general, we need to figure out how to be more relevant to younger people.”

Pitaro made the comments at Sports Business Journal’s Media Innovators conference Wednesday. It is a continuation of comments he has made in recent years.

In 2018, Pitaro said at ESPN’s upfront “I think we are doing a fantastic job serving the sports fanatic,” said Pitaro. “What about the casual sports customer? Are we doing all we can to serve him or her?”.

In 2019, Pitaro said it was “all hands on deck” to reach a younger audience and women. “We have to be open and go to where our customers are,” he said in regards to reaching younger viewers on social media platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok.

Earlier this year, Pitaro added that ESPN won’t be leaving linear television anytime soon.

“What I will tell you is that as I sit here right now, that business is still incredible,” Pitaro said. “We serve the sports fan anyway and at any time. I know there are a lot of people that still want ESPN in that traditional ecosystem.”

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Sports TV News

Don Mattingly Joining Blue Jays Staff After YES Network Courtship

The former Dodgers and Marlins manager had been mentioned as a someone YES Network was interested in potentially hiring to be an analyst.

Jordan Bondurant

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The New York Yankees regional sports network can take Don Mattingly off its talent wish list. Mattingly was announced Wednesday as a bench coach for the Toronto Blue Jays starting in 2023.

The former Dodgers and Marlins manager had been mentioned as a someone YES Network was interested in potentially hiring to be an analyst.

But Mattingly told Andrew Marchand of The New York Post this week that he had another opportunity in the works but wouldn’t elaborate.

YES also has been considering luring Yankees legend and Hall of Famer Derek Jeter into broadcasting. But no formal talks have taken place.

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