Broadcaster Al Michaels is responsible for one of the greatest calls in American sports history, when he asked if the U.S. believed in miracles as its Olympic hockey team defeated the Soviet Union at the 1980 Lake Placid games. Since then, Michaels has gone on to become one of the most recognizable broadcasters on television, covering the NFL on Monday Night Football with Cris Collinsworth and Amazon's Thursday Night Football with Kirk Herbstreit. But when the Los Angeles Chargers faced off against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Saturday, fans began to take umbrage with Michaels' less-than-enthusiastic tone during the third-largest comeback win in NFL postseason history.
Al Michaels Crosses a Line, As Trevor Lawrence Crosses the Goal Line
Paired with former Super Bowl-winning coach and NFL analyst Tony Dungy, Michaels was set to call the AFC wild-card game in the Saturday night primetime slot. As the game got rolling, It was clear the Jaguars were outmatched as Trevor Lawrence threw an insane four interceptions in the first half, three of them to the same Chargers defensive back.
As the teams went to the locker room, with the Chargers leading 27-7, Michaels sat down for his legendary halftime meal. As Michaels began feasting on a full spread, the Jaguars began game-planning for their epic comeback. When the broadcast resumed and the Jaguars began scoring, fans grew annoyed with the lack of enthusiasm and verve coming from the booth. Some even called the booth "sleepy."
Perhaps it was Michaels and Dungy's lack of chemistry, or maybe a clumsy rhythm between the two NFL icons, but the booth just seemed ... bored. For example, here are two of the biggest plays of the game, Lawrence's stretch for a successful 2-point conversion and Riley Patterson's game-winning field goal. Close your eyes and listen to both of these plays, and see if you can tell what quarter they took place in.
Trevor Lawrence gets the 2-pt conversion to bring the Jaguars within 2! A FG wins it! What a comeback! pic.twitter.com/yefZey4b0m
— Mike Messina (@mikeamessina) January 15, 2023
— Grind City Media (@grindcitymedia) January 15, 2023
Michaels Responds to Criticism
After the game, reporters reached out to Michaels to ask about his take on criticism that his performance failed to live up to the excitement of the game. Spoiler alert: Michaels didn't have the same opinion and then took a few jabs at fans sounding off online.
"[I] had never worked with Tony and it felt extremely comfortable. Was like doing two different games. First half/second half. Tons of fascinating strategy. Nothing like postseason in any sport. Must have gotten a hundred texts from folks who were very happy to see me back on NBC. Read some comments that we didn't sound excited enough. Internet compost! You know me as well as anyone -- no screaming, no yelling, no hollering. It's TELEVISION! Ellipses and captions are [sufficient] when pictures tell the story. I'm not doing a game for over-the-top YouTube hits."
Michaels then continued his defense of the broadcast, using a version of "A lot of folks who understand this industry."
"I thought the energy was much better once Jax made it a game. 27-0 makes it difficult to make it sound like more than it is. One of the things that I think makes Tony good is that he doesn't overtalk and load it up with unneeded blather. He's measured, but almost everything he says has relevance and poignancy. A lot of folks who understand this industry are annoyed with the over-the-top yelling that makes a game sound like an offshoot of talk radio. I'm in that corner, but there are others who obviously think otherwise."
Michaels is a legend -- no one is disputing that. But to not acknowledge the sports climate we currently live in, not to mention the one Michaels works in, is quite the jump. Over-the-top YouTube hits? Do you mean compilations of the best calls of all time? Michaels has lost the plot a bit here as he goes on the defensive. In fact, his own definition of his style that's devoid of screaming, yelling or hollering is categorically untrue.
Exhibit A: Isaac Bruce's Touchdown in the Super Bowl
January 29th, 2000
Kurt Warner throws the game-winning 73-yard TD pass to Isaac Bruce in the Super Bowl! #KurtWarner #GoosebumpSports #NFL #IsaacBruce #SuperBowl #Rams #Titans pic.twitter.com/2tFUAcmMeL
— Goosebump Sports (@GoosebumpSports) July 17, 2021
Exhibit B: Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals Miss Game-Winners
Today in sports history October 23, 2016: The Seahawks played the Cardinals to a 6-6 tie on Sunday Night football. Both teams missed easy FGs in OT to end a tie. #Seahawks fans you remember this game? ?
— George Jarjour (@GeorgeOnTap) October 24, 2020
Michaels and his "folks who understand this industry" may want to take a look at the clips that keep them in their jobs. While I'm sure some are "annoyed with the over-the-top yelling that makes a game sound like an offshoot of talk radio," but doesn't that show a clear misunderstanding of what fans are looking for in a broadcast? Vin Scully's Dodgers broadcasts were basically one-man radio shows. In fact, Scully started out as a radio broadcaster before making the jump to television. To say that there's a push to steer sports broadcasters away from sounding like talk radio is missing the entire point.
Michaels is a legend, but even legends are not immune from criticism.
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