Michaels' slam simple as A-B-C
Only announcer to do championships in four sports set to call NBA Finals again
By Cecil Conley, STAFF WRITER,
THE SUPER BOWL, Stanley Cup Finals, NBA Finals and World Series. ... Al Michaels has been there and done each of those championship events in his 28 years at ABC. Michaels became the first man to complete the broadcasting Grand Slam last year when he called the NBA Finals for the first time. He will be in San Antonio on Thursday night for Game 1 of the 2005 Finals between the Spurs and Detroit Pistons.
Before making the trip, Michaels took time to reflect on his career.
Q. When ABC approached you about calling NBA games before the 2003-04 season, you did not jump at the opportunity. Why were you hesitant?
A. My first reaction was I haven't followed it, I haven't done basketball in a long time, and I'm probably not the guy. I went in with some nervousness and trepidation last year because I had not done the NBA and had not followed it for a number of years. I wanted to bridge that long gap and be able to sit down at the piano after not playing it for 30 years and hit the right notes.
Q. Now, a year later, it appears you enjoy being courtside? How much fun has it been?
A. I feel a heck of lot more comfortable right now. It's been a lot of fun for me to observe this firsthand and to do it, and to get to the point where I can do the kind of job I wasn't sure I could do a year and a half ago. At this particular point, I'm getting a kick out of it.from Sports 1
Q. What does it mean to you to be the first broadcaster to be involved in covering the championships of all four major sports?
A. Over the course of time, you're going to wind up with an opportunity to do all these things. So as I look back after 28 years now at ABC, I've gotten to do about everything that you can possibly do. In the terms of the four major sports, there are no regrets — let's put it that way.
Q. Jim Nantz at CBS and Joe Buck at Fox call two or more sports for their respective networks. Are the networks relying on one broadcaster to be their signature voice, as appears to be the case at ABC with you calling the NBA and "Monday Night Football?"
A. I think it's more of a case of their respective networks feeling they're the best guys to do it, not necessarily to say this is our signature voice. That's the really motivating factor behind it, as opposed to taking someone and trying to make them a fish out of water. I think in my case, I was here and I've done a lot, and they knew I was there. But I had to — at least in my mind — know that I could do basketball at the highest level. I just didn't come in, and I'm sure they didn't want me to come in, just because I was their signature voice, if you want to look at me that way. I wouldn't have done it for that reason.
Q. Before joining ABC in 1977, you worked for the San Francisco Giants for three seasons. How were the Giants back then?
A. I had been with the Reds. My first major league job was with Cincinnati in '71,'72 and'73. That was the beginning of the Big Red Machine. But I go from this great team that would go on to win a couple of World Series in the mid-'70s to the Giants, who at the time were moribund. The team was pretty terrible in those years. I got used to doing a lot of games where the Giants in midseason would be about 20 games out. And one night, it was a famous night where I just said, "Tonight's attendance is ... why give the figure? Let me just start naming people."
Q. The Giants were bad, but what about the summer weather in the Bay Area?
A. I remember I would get into my car (in Menlo Park) to go to a night game, and I would have played tennis with my shirt off at about 2 o'clock and then taken a shower. I would have gotten into my car at about 4 o'clock with air conditioning full blast. I'd turn off the AC around San Carlos, and by the time I'd get up to Burlingame I've got the heater on. So within half an hour, I had been through all the seasons.
Q. You were hired by the Giants in 1974 after Lon Simmons retired following the death of his first wife. Simmons returned in 1976, so you worked with him for one season. How was that experience?
A. That's as much fun as I've had in broadcasting. We just had a blast. The only depressing part after the'76 season of leaving Major League Baseball for ABC full time was the fact that I wouldn't have the chance to work with my man Lon anymore on a day-to-day basis. That was something I will always treasure because the teams were pretty terrible. Lon and I had a laugh every 10 minutes.
Q. Speaking of the Giants, you called the 1989 World Series and were at Candlestick Park for Game 3 when the Loma Prieta earthquake rocked the Bay Area. Does "I think we're having an earth ..." rank with "Do you believe in miracles?"
A. I couldn't even get the "q" with the "u." I know one thing. You don't rehearse for it. That was something we had never quite discussed. Maybe 15 or 20 minutes after the earthquake, well before anybody was able to get any information, people were chanting, "Play ball! Play ball!" Then we began to find out what had taken place, and then it became a whole different animal at that point.
Q. The ground also shook in 2002 when John Madden joined you in the booth on "Monday Night Football." There was talk at the time that no booth was big enough for the both of you. How have you and the former Raiders coach made it click?
A. Any time I had to read or hear on the radio about John and I and how was it going to work, all I knew was one thing: Those people didn't know us — had never talked to us, didn't know us. John and I laughed about it because the two of us, in terms of what we thought going in, knew it couldn't miss. I had to temper my enthusiasm because this can't miss. This is just too good. What really happened was it was too good. It was just what we thought it would be.
Q. With "Monday Night Football" moving to ESPN in the 2006 season, it remains to be determined if you and Madden will remain partners. Have you given that any thought?
A. If I have any regret about "Monday Night Football," it would be that John and I didn't get a chance to do this eight to 10 years earlier. Maybe we will be together for a long time in the future. I hope that's the case. But I wish we could have gotten another eight to 10 on the front side of this.