Q-and-A: Al Michaels, and why Mr. Prime Time would never be hosting a Super Bowl viewing party


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Quaterback Brett Favre talks with Al Michaels during warms up before a Vikings-Saints game in New Orleans in September, 2010.

As much as Al Michaels loves to slip in a wagering reference or two into an NFL telecast, he won’t predict a victory for either the New England Patriots or New York Giants on Sunday.

The only thing he says he’s rooting for: A triple overtime game.

Bet on it happening someday on his watch. Even if that means the NBC Emmy-Award winning play-by-play man loses his voice by the time it’s all over.

The man who by some measure has logged more hours in prime-time than anyone else in TV history – it’s eclipsed 2,400 easily by now, whether Ripley’s believes it or not – has an eighth Super Bowl to add to his resume.

“I think of the old Mary Levy line, ‘Where would you rather be than right here, right now?” Michaels said this week. “This is it. There’s no event like a Super Bowl.”

The 67-year-old longtime resident of Brentwood took some time off from his prep work to discuss how he fits into the grand scheme of Super Bowl XLVI:


Q: Can you put some context into this “more primetime hours” stat that now follows you around – and you’re adding at least four more of them to the total with this game? Doesn’t Guinness have to verify this somehow?

A: It’s more than 100 complete days if you look at it one way. But if you consider I’ve done 500 games on “Monday Night” and “Sunday Night” football, there’s 1,600 hours. Then 14 years of “Monday Night Baseball,” another 600. That’s already 2,200 and we haven’t got to anything from the Olympics. When we started adding this up back at ABC, we thought Frank Gifford had to have been on the most hours with all his years at “Monday Night” and all that other stuff. It’s really amazing. That’s 3 months straight of my career. I’m glad I didn’t have to do it all in a row.


Q: To do a triple overtime game . . . are you sure the new OT rules even allow that? We’ve heard Bob Costas saying that the old overtime rule may have been flawed, but the new version of it is “awful.” Where do you side on it?

A: I’m not in favor of it, but I’m not totally opposed to it like Bob is. He’s very passionate about it. There was a time when maybe a coin toss and a cheap field goal could win it, so be it. That’s not a big deal to me. The way it worked out in the Denver-Pittsburgh (overtime playoff) game was pretty interesting (a touchdown on the first play for the Broncos). You saw it again in the San Francisco game (the NFC championship against the New York Giants) were it still might be going on if not for a botched punt. All things considered, in a way, this new way makes things more interesting. It adds to the strategy of the game. But I’d prefer to go back to the old rule. So you lose a coin toss. You understand that a 52-yard field goal can beat you. But that also means if they miss, you get the ball at the 42 going the other way. I think the rule is as equitable as it can be. I’m not the guy who’ll be beating the drum about how bad it is.


Q: There’s also the replay rule that has been part of more than 10 years now in Super Bowls, and TV is embedded in the process. Are you any more comfortable now having a network obligated to have an effect in the outcome of a Super Bowl?

A: We’ve been doing it this way, and there’s no way around it now, so you live with it and accept it. The guys in the production truck are the ones on the spot. Twenty years ago, you probably don’t get a replay of that kick glancing off Kyle Williams’ knee. That’s all cable cam and high-definition and zoom lenses, watching the rotation of the ball every so slightly. But with technology, you either accept it, or you don’t and be accused of being a dinosaur. I hate to say “it is what it is,” but that’s just the deal.

Q: Speaking of technology, what’s your perspective of having the Super Bowl streaming free on the Internet for the first time?

A: I don’t follow that really closely. What does it mean, you can be out of the stadium and watch it on your phone? Look, we live in an amazing world. I was on a trip last year to Israel, and I’m at the Golan Heights and over there is Syria and the other way, there’s Jordan. And I’m doing day trading on my phone. That’s insane. But when it comes to technology, that’s about all I know.

Q: So that means there probably won’t be a time when you’re sending out tweets from the booth during a game?

A: I would doubt that. I’m very certain. All that could happen is I’d be trying it and I’d get something from the director on the ISB and something would go wrong. Ain’t gonna happen.


Q: Where would you be watching the Super Bowl if you weren’t covering it? Do you have any favorite hangout over the years?

A: I want to just watch the game, so I’m in my family room, with just me and my wife. I don’t want to be at a party where there’s 100 people in the room, and 86 of them are experts. You always get in a situation where there’s one guy who knows more than everyone else. I want to watch the game. I’ve already got Cris Collinsworth as my expert.

Q: You always seem to have your antenna up as far as the NFL returning to L.A. Is your goal someday to call that first game in whatever venue it occurs?

A: God willing, I’m still alive. We all know it comes down to getting a stadium built. Until we get that done, we’re dead. No team is coming here until they put that shovel in the ground. But will that ever happen? We live in a state where, if you separate us from everyone else, we’d have the sixth largest economy in the world. And we have three of the worst football stadiums in the world. Other municipalities have figured out a way to get a stadium built. God willing, I’ll be able to do one of the first NFL games back in L.A., or hopefully they’ll have a moment of silence in the press box for me.


Q: Well, you are the stage of your career where you seem to keep getting all these lifetime achievement awards (like this one here by the Sports Emmys a year ago). Does it worry you that others seem to know something that you don’t?

A: Should I be getting a bunch of stuff from AARP? Here’s the deal. I have a good mathematical brain, but when I wake up each morning, in my brain, I’m still about 19. That’s how I look at things. I try to keep in shape. I can still walk a golf course. I can do a 10-mile hike. I don’t want to think about any of those other numbers.

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