Alan Richard Michaels (born November 12, 1944 in Brooklyn, New York) is an American television sportscaster. Since 1977, he has been employed by ABC Sports and has been one of the most prominent and respected members of his profession.
Michaels has won numerous awards during his career, including the Emmy Award for Outstanding Sports Personality (Play-by-Play Host) four times, the NSSA Award from the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association three times (he was also inducted into their Hall of Fame in 1998), and "Sportscaster of the Year" once each from the American Sportscasters Association and the Washington Journalism Review. In October 2004, Michaels was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
To date, Michaels is one of two sportscasters to be a play-by-play voice or host for the championships of the four major American pro sports, having called Super Bowl, World Series, NBA Championships and the Stanley Cup Finals (the latter as a host, not play-by-play). Baseball Hall of Famer Bob Wolff has also called the championships of the four majors, with the difference that Wolff's initial NFL Championship coverage came before the Super Bowl era. Marv Albert has been the play-by-play voice of the Super Bowl, NBA Finals and the Stanley Cup Finals and a post-game field reporter for NBC's World Series coverage.
Early life and career
Michaels attended Alexander Hamilton High School in Los Angeles, California, where he was a football and baseball player. Michaels graduated from high school in 1962. He later attended Arizona State University, where he majored in radio and television and minored in journalism. He was also a brother of Sigma Nu Fraternity. He began his broadcasting career in Hawaii in 1968, calling the games of the Hawaii Islanders baseball team in the Pacific Coast League. He also called play-by-play for the University of Hawaii's football and basketball teams, and was named Hawaii's "Sportscaster of the Year" in 1969.
In 1971 Michaels moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, where he became the lead announcer for the Cincinnati Reds of Major League Baseball. That year, he made his first historic call ever. In Game 5 of the National League Championship Series, with the Reds trailing the Pittsburgh Pirates 3-2 in the 9th inning, Johnny Bench was at the plate with one ball and two strikes and on the next pitch Al said "1-2 the wind and the pitch to Bench, change hit in the air to deep right field, back goes Clemente at the fence...it's gone!!!" The Reds would win that game 4-3 and advanced to the World Series. He covered the World Series in 1972 for NBC Sports.
In 1974 he moved on to a similar position with the San Francisco Giants, and also covered basketball for UCLA and regional NFL games for CBS Sports before signing with ABC in 1977. Since then, he has covered a wide variety of sports for the network, including Major League Baseball, college football, ice hockey, track and field events, figure skating, and many events of the Olympic Games.
Monday Night Football
His longest-running assignment was that of the lead play-by-play announcer on ABC's Monday Night Football telecasts, which he began in 1986. Before that, Michaels most notable NFL assignment for ABC was hosting the pre-game coverage of Super Bowl XIX. In 1988, Michaels called his first Super Bowl. Three years later, Michaels was on hand to call the thrilling Super Bowl between the New York Giants and Buffalo Bills. When Bills kicker Scott Norwood, missed a potentially game winning field goal (and thus, ensuring the Giants victory), Michaels simply described the play by calmly proclaiming "No good! Wide-right!"
The trio of Michaels, Dan Dierdorf (who joined Monday Night Football the year after Michaels' first), and Frank Gifford lasted until the 1997 season, when Gifford was replaced following disclosure of an extra-marital affair. Michaels briefly became the center of controversy due to a verbal slip on the final Monday night game of the 1998 season (between the Jacksonville Jaguars and Pittsburgh Steelers on December 28). Michaels said, "No shit" in response to a question posed by Dan Dierdorf about Buffalo Bills quarterback Doug Flutie. Dierdorf said to Michaels about the halftime interview with Doug Flutie, "Are you gonna tell 'em how you're sick of all this B.C. stuff?" It turned out that Michaels thought that a commercial break was going on and that his microphone was turned off. Incidentally, Michaels reportedly opposes the FCC's attempts to tighten censorship rules, saying that there are much more important things to worry about than trying to protect people from every little thing.
Former Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Boomer Esiason replaced Gifford in 1998, and Dierdorf was dropped in 1999. Esiason and Michaels reportedly never got along, and it led to ABC firing Esiason shortly after the conclusion of the 2000 season. Esiason complained to the New York Times that Michaels "could have been better for me, and I tried with him, but it never clicked with me because he never wanted it to click.” To that, Michaels gave a terse response to Esiason's claims in a released statement:"I will not join in this juvenile vitriol." Unexpectedly, comedian Dennis Miller joined the cast in 2000 along with Dan Fouts. The move was a bust, and in 2002, John Madden joined him in a well-received pairing.
In 2005, it was announced that Monday Night Football would be moving from ABC to ESPN beginning with the 2006 season. Despite speculation that Michaels might be joining NBC Sports to broadcast that network's forthcoming Sunday night NFL package, he opted for a contract with ESPN to continue as the MNF play-by-play announcer through 2013. Plans were for Michaels to be teamed with Joe Theismann on the Monday night telecasts.
National Basketball Association
In 2003, Michaels was named the lead announcer for ABC's telecasts of the National Basketball Association, replacing Brad Nessler. Michaels first teamed with Doc Rivers, but Rivers was named head coach of the Boston Celtics on April 29, 2004. When Hubie Brown resigned his post as coach of the Memphis Grizzlies in late November, The NBA on ABC hired Brown, who previously had been an analyst for CBS Sports and Turner Sports' NBA coverage, to sit courtside with Michaels.
In his first two years as lead broadcaster for the NBA, Michaels broadcast six regular season games per season (approximately one-third of the network's total telecasts) with all but one of those games airing from either Los Angeles or Sacramento. During the playoffs, Michaels broadcast six games per season, even opting not to broadcast Game 1 of the 2005 Western Conference Finals. Michaels has been criticized for his percieved lack of interest in the NBA by several outlets, namely the New York Post.
Some of Al Michaels' critics have generally accused him of excessively flattering veteran athletes. He has also been accused of being gullible, buying in to the hype and manufactured aura that athletes with good PR usually get.
The Miracle on Ice
Two of Michaels' more famous broadcasts were of the 1980 Winter Olympics ice hockey medal round match between the United States and the Soviet Union, and the attempted third game of the 1989 World Series.
In 1980, an unheralded group of amateur ice hockey players from the United States won the Gold Medal at the Olympic Winter Games. The medal round match on February 22—which, contrary to popular belief, did not assure the team of the gold medal—was of particular interest, as it was played against a heavily favored squad from the Soviet Union, and was in front of a partisan American crowd in Lake Placid, New York whipped into a patriotic fervor by the Cold War. Michaels' memorable broadcast of this game, including his interjection—"Do you believe in miracles? YES!"—as time expired on the 4-3 U.S. victory, earned the game the media nickname of "The Miracle on Ice".
Michaels along with broadcasting partner, Ken Dryden, recreated their Olympic commentatory in the 2004 movie Miracle. Although Michaels and Dryden recreated the bulk of their commentary for the film, the closing seconds of the game against the Soviet Union used the actual original ABC Sports commentary from 1980. Gavin O'Connor, the director of Miracle, decided to use the last 10 seconds of Michaels' original "Do you believe in miracles?" call in the film because he felt he couldn't ask him to recreate the emotion he experienced at that moment. Thus they cleaned up the recording to make the transition to the authentic call as seamlessly as possible.
1989 World Series
On October 17, 1989, Michaels was in San Francisco, California, preparing to cover the third game of the 1989 World Series between the home team, the Giants, and the visiting Oakland Athletics. ABC's network telecast began with a recap of the first two games, both won by Oakland. Soon after Michaels handed off to his broadcast partner, Tim McCarver, who started assessing the Giants' chances for victory in the game, the Loma Prieta earthquake struck. McCarver fell into a stunned silence, but Michaels astutely said into the microphone, "I'll tell you what, we're having an earth--!" just as it went dead, providing the only concurrent broadcast account of what had happened. Audio was restored minutes later (a green ABC Sports graphic replaced the picture though) where Michaels, over a telephone line started off by trying to make light of the chaotic situation by quipping that it was "The greatest open in the history of television -- bar none!" After ABC restored the telecast with a backup generator, Michaels gave an eyewitness account of the aftermath at Candlestick Park, the Giants' stadium, for which he later won an Emmy Award for news broadcasting, becoming only the second sportscaster ever to win the award.
Al Michaels, Tim McCarver, and Jim Palmer remained a calm and reassuring presence in what could have been a scene of panic. According to Tim McCarver, when the earthquake hit, he, Michaels and Palmer immediately grabbed a hold of what they preceived to be the armrests. In reality, the announcers were clutching on each others' thighs and they were left with bruises the next day. Years later, Al Michaels would boldly admit his strong belief that had the earthquake lasted much longer than 15 seconds, he would've gotten killed. Michaels added that the only time that he really got scared during the earthquake was when he moved in a position which he perceived to be backward. The three announcers were simply sitting on a ledge with their backs turned and nothing else behind them in the booth.
1986 American League Championship Series
Even though the events of October 17, 1989 in San Francisco are widely considered to be the most memorable baseball-related moment of Al Michaels' career, three years earlier he was on hand for what he says was "the greatest of all the thousands of games I've done."
On October 12, 1986 at Anaheim Stadium, Michaels along with Jim Palmer called Game 5 of the American League Championship Series. The California Angels held a 3 games to 1 lead of a best-of-seven against the Boston Red Sox. In the game, the Angels held a 5-2 lead going into the ninth inning. Boston scored two runs on a hit by Wade Boggs and a home run by Don Baylor, closing the gap to 5-4.
When Donnie Moore came in to shut down the rally, there were two outs, and a runner on first base, Rich Gedman, who had been hit by a pitch. The Angels were one out from getting into the World Series for the very first time in their existence. But Dave Henderson hit a 2-2 pitch off Moore for a home run, giving the Red Sox a 6-5 lead. The Angels were able to score a run in the bottom of the ninth, pushing the game into extra innings.
- "The pitch . . . Deep to left and Downing goes back. And it's gone! Unbelievable! You're looking at one for the ages here. Astonishing! Anaheim Stadium was one strike away from turning into Fantasyland! And now the Red Sox lead 6-5! The Red Sox get four runs in the ninth on a pair of two-run homers by Don Baylor and Dave Henderson." - Michaels on the call.
Moore continued to pitch for the Angels. He was able to stifle a 10th inning Red Sox rally by getting Jim Rice to ground into a double play. Nevertheless, the Red Sox were able to score off Moore in the 11th-inning via a sacrifice fly by Henderson. The Angels could not score in the bottom of the 11th, and lost the game 7-6.
The defeat still left the Angels in a 3 games to 2 advantage, with two more games to play at Fenway Park. The Angels were not able to recover, losing both games by wide margins, 10-4 and 8-1.
Game 7 of the 1986 ALCS ended with Calvin Schiraldi striking out Jerry Narron. Just prior to the moment, Michaels set-up the situation by summarizing the Red Sox's dramatic come back in the series. "The Red Sox can go from last rites to the World Series...and they do!" - Michaels on the call.
Michaels currently resides in Los Angeles, California (although he has often called games with a slight Brooklyn accent). Since August 27, 1966, Al Michaels has been married to Linda Anne Stamaton. Al and Linda have two children together, Steven and Jennifer.
- Michaels interrupted Peter Jennings to explain that Jennings was part of a prank call during O. J. Simpson's Bronco chase. He understood the prankster's use of the term Baba Booey as an association of being a Howard Stern fan.
- While a guest on Jimmy Kimmel Live, Michaels recited a couple of songs from rapper 50 Cent, who sat next to Michaels.
- Episodes of Wide World of Sports featuring Michaels early in his ABC career have been featured on least two separate occasions on the ESPN Classic comedy series Cheap Seats. At one point on Cheap Seats, Michaels' then dark, curly hairstyle grew sarcastic comparisons to Quiet Riot lead singer Kevin DuBrow.