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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

Roger Goodell: ‘Wouldn’t Surprise Me’ To See Thursday Night Football Move to Flex Scheduling

“Not today, but it’ll certainly be something that’s on our horizon.”

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Thursday Night Football

In 2023, Monday Night Football will join Sunday Night Football in having the ability to flex NFL games into its window. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Thursday Night Football could someday join that elite club.

During his “State of the League” speech Wednesday, Goodell said Thursday Night Football having the ability to flex matchups “wouldn’t at all surprise me”.

“Not today, but it’ll certainly be something that’s on our horizon,” the NFL Commissioner said.

ESPN bargained for the ability to move higher profile games into Monday Night Football during its negotiations with the league for the next television contract that begins this upcoming season.

NBC has long held the ability to shift a select number of games from earlier windows into the Sunday Night Football primetime slot.

Amazon Prime Video just completed the first of an 11-year contract that sees the streaming platform spend nearly $1 billion per year on the Thursday Night Football package.

One of the largest storylines of Amazon’s debut season with the NFL was the near-constant ridicule from play-by-play announcer Al Michaels over the lackluster TNF schedule. Michaels made headlines over several weeks for his candor on the lack of interesting matchups, going as far as to joke that if the schedule didn’t improve he would retire.

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Sports TV News

Michael Irvin Removed From NFL Network Super Bowl Coverage

“I came into the lobby and I talked to somebody. I talked to this girl. I don’t know her, and I talked to her for about 45 seconds.”

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A complaint from a female to NFL Network has caused the network to remove Michael Irvin from its Super Bowl coverage.

NFL Network did not comment on the nature of the complaint or the allegation of any impropriety by Irvin, simply stating Irvin would not be a participant in coverage of the event from Arizona.

“Michael Irvin will not be a part of NFL Network’s Super Bowl LVII week coverage,” said NFL Media Vice President of Communications Alex Riethmiller in a statement.

Irvin claimed the interaction happened during a brief moment Sunday after having dinner and drinks with former Cowboy defensive back Michael Brooks.

“This all happened in a 45-second conversation in the lobby,” Irvin told The Dallas Morning News. “When I got back after going out … I came into the lobby and I talked to somebody. I talked to this girl. I don’t know her, and I talked to her for about 45 seconds. We shook hands. Then, I left…That’s all I know.”

Irvin, 56, admitted he didn’t recall the conversation between him and the female but called the interaction “just a friendly conversation”. He defended himself by saying “There was definitely nothing physical”.

The report from The Dallas Morning News added that Glendale police officials do not know about any incident regarding Irvin.

A report from Front Office Sports claims ESPN executives are “poised to pull the plug” on Irvin’s scheduled appearance on First Take from Radio Row Friday.

The Pro Football Hall of Famer has been with NFL Network since 2009, and in August of last year signed an extension to remain with the cable channel.

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Sports TV News

Pro Bowl Lowest Rated Since 2006

While the numbers decreased, the Pro Bowl was still the second-highest rated All-Star Game for the major professional sports leagues.

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The NFL completely revamped its Pro Bowl format for the 2022 season, and the changes did not garner more viewers.

An average of 6.28 million viewers tuned into the event across ABC, ESPN, and DisneyXD Sunday for the first 7-on-7 event. That number is a decrease of 6% compared to last year and is the lowest-rated Pro Bowl since the 2006 event saw just 5.96 million viewers. That figure excludes the 2021 Pro Bowl, which was a “virtual” event due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

While the numbers decreased, the Pro Bowl was still the second-highest-rated All-Star Game for the major professional sports leagues, with the MLB All-Star Game seeing an average viewership of 7.51 million. The 6.28 million who watched the Pro Bowl is a virtual tie with last season’s NBA All-Star Game.

The Pro Bowl Skills Challenge — now produced by Peyton Manning’s Omaha Productions — did see a large increase in viewership compared to last year. More than 1 million viewers tuned into the Thursday night primetime event, which is the second-best figure on record. That audience is a 23% increase compared to last year’s event.

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