Al Michaels Has a Few Words for His Critics
By Kyle Koster
Al Michaels and Tony Dungy took an understated approach to Saturday night's epic come-from-behind victory by the Jacksonville Jaguars over the Los Angeles Chargers and people couldn't help but notice it was a stark departure from the normal fare. Because the broadcast is a thing that exists, it generated online criticism from far-flung corners. Only one intrepid reporter was brave enough to text Michaels on his private jet as he flew from Florida back to Los Angeles, and that reporter's name is Andrew Marchand, who presented the exchange in this morning's Sports Clicker newsletter.
Al Michaels labeled criticism of his and Tony Dungy’s game broadcast of the Jaguars’ incredible comeback playoff win over the Chargers Saturday by describing it as “internet compost!”
Michaels said he was “very happy” and is not going to do a game for “over the top YouTube hits.”
“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,” Michaels texted The Post. “I’m in that corner, but there are others who obviously think otherwise.”
It's perfectly understandable that Michaels would want to defend himself. He's one of the best to ever do it and no one denies that. It's also obvious that if he hasn't lost his fastball, he's definitely working in more off-speed pitches. One might argue that using the words "internet compost" and "YouTube hits" does not project a strong sense of being "with it." Perhaps Michaels' approach has been carefully considered and intentional this entire time. Perhaps he's attempting to retcon the pieces together after a first year with Amazon and spot start on NBC that lacked a little punch.
His point about the volume shooters in the industry who value decibels over content is viable. The pendulum has swung the other way and it feels as though there are too many play-by-play voices who believe that to be the only path. And yet, it doesn't do much to move me personally off the idea that Saturday night was a missed opportunity for everyone. A classic game like that needed a classic call. Or at minimum, one that reflected the collective excitement of the audience.
The open lamentations about being forced to call some less-than-exciting games and a general on-air indifference brought us to this point. Michaels spent the entire year acting like he didn't particularly care that much and eventually the audience believed him.
Next season brings with it the chance to rebound and find that enormous happy medium between being low-energy and screaming into the microphone for attention. Call me an optimist, but I think it can be found.