Minimal knowledge a major coup for Michaels
By BILL HARRIS, QMI Agency
Al Michaels still chuckles when he remembers the real reason he was in the Olympic hockey rink in Lake Placid, N.Y., that famous day in 1980, when he came up with the immortal call, "Do you believe in miracles? YES!"
Those words, of course, put an exclamation point on the U.S. hockey team's longshot victory over the powerful Soviet Union. The Americans subsequently went on to win the gold medal.
So why was Michaels -- who will be part of NBC's coverage of the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver--even in position to utter something so memorable?
"Crazily enough, as a very young guy as the voice of the Cincinnati Reds in 1972, I was hired by NBC to work the Sapporo Olympic Games in Japan," Michaels recalled.
"There were only eight announcers, including Curt Gowdy and Jay Randolph and Jim Simpson and Peggy Fleming, and I was assigned to do the gold-medal hockey game.
"So having done that game, when it came time for the assignments to be given out in 1980 by ABC, on a staff that included Frank Gifford, Keith Jackson, Jim McKay, Howard Cosell and Chris Schenkel, I was the only guy who had ever done a hockey game.
"I was the only guy who knew what offside was. I was icing was. And that's how I wind up in that arena and not doing the biathlon."
Talk about being in the right place at the right time, and managing to say the right thing.
"It's so true -- what you say is that it lives forever, and only in an Olympic setting can it," Michaels said.
"There was a story that I read recently, written by Bill Baker, who was on the (U.S. Olympic hockey team in 1980) and scored a very significant goal against Sweden.
And he was talking about how this has lived on, and talking about Mike Eruzione still going around and giving speeches.
"The headline on the story was, 'His 15 Million Minutes of Fame.' Only in the Olympics can that happen."