Announcer Al Michaels called his first game with former NFL player and coach Tony Dungy on Saturday, the epic wild-card game between the Jacksonville Jaguars and Los Angeles Chargers. And he has no time or patience for people who didn’t like the energy of NBC’s newest broadcast pairing.
In a text conversation with the New York Post’s Andrew Marchand, Michaels brushed away criticism and defended the tone of the broadcast despite the internet’s seeming dissatisfaction.
“Very happy,” Michaels texted Marchand about the broadcast. “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.”
For anyone who might be confused, calling fan criticism “internet compost” is just nicer-sounding way to say that he thinks fan opinions are trash, specifically fan opinions from the internet.
Michaels addressed the criticism that the broadcast was low energy, largely blaming the game itself for not being interesting enough to get excited about (until the Jags started their comeback, that is).
“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 and Dungy’s low-energy broadcast
Michaels and Dungy’s first outing as a broadcast team happened to be one of the most exciting games of super wild-card weekend. The Chargers jumped out to an early 27-0 lead only to watch it evaporate in the second half as quarterback Trevor Lawrence righted the ship after throwing four interceptions. The Jags came all the way back to win 31-30 on a walk-off field goal.
It was a thrilling four quarters, but Michaels and Dungy sounded like they were calling a midseason battle between two teams that had already been eliminated from the playoffs. During many of the game’s most exciting moments, they sounded like they were watching paint dry or grass grow. And fans definitely noticed.
It’s important to be fair to Michaels and Dungy. They’d never been paired together before, and chemistry between broadcasters isn’t always instant. Improvement can take time, which Michaels himself admitted in his conversation with Marchand.
But the most disappointing aspect of the broadcast is that we know what the 78-year-old Michaels sounded like when he was at his best, when his MO as a broadcaster was about meeting the moment and not belittling talk radio hosts and YouTube watchers.
His best and most memorable call (which also might be the greatest call in the history of sports broadcasting) is his unrestrained glee and excitement while saying, “Do you believe in miracles? Yes!” as time ran out during the U.S. hockey team’s improbable win over Russia in the 1980 Olympics. It included a decent amount of yelling, hollering, and screaming, all the things Michaels said he does not include in his game calls.
No one’s asking for that level of excitement and engagement every game, but it would help if Michaels and Dungy could at least sound like they’re happy to be there.