Sports is Michaels' calling

BILL HARRIS -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:18 AM ET

Al Michaels is not all about sports. But once the NFL season starts, he has to be.

"The hardest thing, without question, is the preparation," said Michaels, who has been in broadcasting for almost 40 years.

"I have a lot of interests besides sports. But when it gets to football season, I can't read a book, I barely can go to the movies, I barely have time to watch the news."

It's a good thing Michaels still loves what he does.

The veteran play-by-play man will be on the job again tonight, working the NFL season-opener between the New Orleans Saints and the defending Super Bowl-champion Indianapolis Colts (TSN, NBC).

"Curt Gowdy was one of my heroes, one of my mentors," said the 62-year-old Michaels. "And he said to me one time, 'Kid, you're going to have a long career -- just don't get jaded.'

"There is a sameness, yes, but there's something about competition, watching the best of the best, and the chess-match aspect of every sport that still fascinates me."

Michaels, who grew up in Brooklyn, comes by his fascination honestly. His first memory is of Ebbets Field, where his dad took him to see a Brooklyn Dodgers game when young Al was only five.

"We lived within walking distance (of the ball park)," Michaels recalled. "It's the first conscious memory I have, seeing the green grass and the white uniforms and Jackie Robinson and Pee Wee Reese.

"My father took me to hockey at Madison Square Garden, so I saw the Rangers when I was five, I saw the Knicks when I was five, and the football Giants. We didn't sit in the best seats, believe me. I grew up very middle class. But I loved sports and it's the only thing I ever wanted to do."

Michaels' most famous call was his "Do you believe in miracles?" pronouncement when the U.S. Olympic hockey team beat the Soviet Union in 1980. Michaels' broadcast partner for those Olympics was Ken Dryden, and Michaels asked what Dryden is up to these days.

"Politics," came the response.

"That makes sense," Michaels said. "Ken certainly is smart enough."

Hockey history notwithstanding, Michaels has become most closely associated with the gridiron. He joined Monday Night Football on ABC in 1986, and when the NFL moved its marquee primetime game to Sundays last season, Michaels and analyst John Madden shifted to NBC (tonight notwithstanding, Michaels and Madden will settle into their regular slot on Sunday when the New York Giants visit the Dallas Cowboys).

Crew chemistry on the NFL's primetime broadcasts is something that gets dissected annually. But Michaels said debatable assumptions sometimes cloud the analysis.

"The great fallacy is that people think if the game was phenomenal, the telecast was phenomenal -- not necessarily," Michaels said. "Sometimes the telecast will be terrific and the game will be crappy. Or the game could be great and the telecast didn't quite get there.

"But when you have an occasion when the game is great and everybody hits every note in what they do, that is as great a thrill as you can have in this business. Luckily, I still get to experience that a couple of times a year.

"This is a job people would die for, so I'd better appreciate it. And I do."


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