Announcer Al Michaels called his first game with former NFL player and coach Tony Dungy on Saturday, an 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 latest pairing.
In a text conversation with Andrew Marchand of the New York Post, Michaels dismissed the criticism and defended the show’s tone despite the internet’s apparent displeasure.
“Very happy,” Michaels texted Marchand about the broadcast. “I’ve never worked with Tony and I felt extremely comfortable. It was like playing two different games. First half/second half. Tons of fascinating strategies. Nothing like the postseason in any sport. I must have gotten a hundred messages from people who were very happy to see me back on NBC. Read some comments we didn’t sound excited enough for. Internet Compost! You know me as well as anyone — no screaming, no yelling, no ranting. That’s TELEVISION! Ellipses and headlines are [sufficient] when pictures tell a story. I don’t make a game for excessive YouTube hits.”
For anyone who might be confused, calling fan reviews “internet compost” is just a nicer way of saying that he thinks fan opinions are trash, especially internet fan opinions.
Michaels addressed criticism that the broadcast was low-energy, mostly 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 a lot better when Jax turned it into a game. 27-0 makes it sound harder than it is. One of the things I think Tony is good at is that he doesn’t overdo it and doesn’t burden him with unnecessary chatter. He is measured, but almost everything he says has importance and poignancy. Many people who understand the industry resent the over-the-top yelling that makes the game sound like an offshoot of talk radio. I’m in that corner, but there are others who obviously think differently.
Low-energy broadcast by Michaels and Dungy
Michaels and Dungy’s first outing as a broadcast team was one of the most exciting games of the super wild-card weekend, a battle between the Jags and the Chargers. The Chargers jumped out to an early 27-0 lead only to watch it disappear in the second half when quarterback Trevor Lawrence righted the ship after four interceptions. The Jags came right back to win the game 31-30 with a field goal.
It was an exciting four quarters, but Michaels and Dungy sounded like they were heralding a 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 the fans definitely noticed.
It’s important to be fair to Michaels and Dungy. They’ve never been together before, and the chemistry between the broadcasters isn’t always instant. Improvement can take time, as Michaels himself acknowledged 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 modus operandi as a broadcaster was to be in the moment and not belittle radio hosts and YouTube viewers.
His best and most memorable call (which might also be the greatest call in sports broadcasting history) is his unbridled glee and excitement as he says “Do you believe in miracles? Yes!” as time expired during the U.S. hockey team’s incredible victory over Russia in the 1980 Olympics. It involved a decent amount of yelling, hollering and screaming, all of which Michaels said he doesn’t include in his play calls.
No one is looking for that level of excitement and engagement every game, but it would help if Michaels and Dungy at least sounded like they were happy to be there.