Al Michaels Is A Man For All Seasons, So Long As There Are Four

07.18.11 6 years ago 62 Comments

When last we happened upon superannuated television broadcaster Al Michaels, he was likely horribly butchering the pronunciation of New Orleans and finding a way to compare an element of an NFL play to something that happens in jai alai. Well, now we get to see Michaels in a whole new context. A lofty context. That’s because the Sunday Night Football announcer is your substitute Peter King in this week’s MMQB. And boy, does he have a lot of generic life advice to dispense.

But there are pressing issues to tackle, as well. Will NFL referees ever get their hands on some slack? How many houses will receive poxes? Is there aloofness in our drinking water? If so, how many parts per million? How does he feel about CM Punk winning at Money in the Bank? He is super psyched or just regular psyched? These answers and more after the jump.

It was at an ABC affiliates’ meeting in 1989, in a ballroom at the Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles, that a tape was rolled in front of some 500 television station executives. Its purpose was to get the assembled group stirred about a football season that was still some three months away.

These meetings always feature preview looks at a network’s upcoming fall lineup and are designed to get the affiliate body enthused about the to-debut-in-September products. I’ve been to dozens of these dog-and-pony fests. Most of the presentations involving the upcoming dramas and comedies and made-for-TV movies are usually met with responses that range from polite applause to utter boredom. Then there was this one.

[Googles ABC 1989 Fall season]

[Noticed that “Family Matters” debuted on ABC that year]

[Awaits story of Reginald Veljohnson leaping naked out of a cake]

It was a six or seven minute clip that featured highlights from the prior Monday Night Football season.


But what set off the most incredible scene I’ve ever witnessed at one of these affairs was the way the tape opened. There, from the world of country music, stood Hank Williams to ask, “Are you ready for some football?” That’s how Hank’s now-iconic ditty was born. The place went wild.

Luckily, the room was stocked with rowdy friends.

This was in June. If that affiliate body could have opened up the season that night, they would have scrapped every other show on their schedules.


By the way, 1989 was a great time to be zany. Maybe even the best. Truly a Rick Reilly-ian age.

And what still amazes me is how a 16-game season can be turned into a 365-day gabfest. That means (excluding playoff games, but including four preseason games) there are 345 NON-game days a year for each team, and fans STILL almost daily think and talk and argue and obsess over their teams.

Not sure why you eliminate playoff games from that equation. Either way, most fans (at least the ones that don’t deserve to die screaming) don’t only pay attention to their favorite team. That means, there are 17 Sundays in the regular season in addition to 16 Mondays and eight Thursdays, including the season kickoff game, where they can be enjoying live action. That means there are only 321 non-game days each calendar year. See? So much less of a void to fill with inane chatter.

[Tunes into NFL Live to listen to Tedy Bruschi discuss which NFL coach would survive longest living on the surface of the sun.]

There are times when I talk to fans and feel that an autumn without football would lead to some small form of a national nervous breakdown. One thing I do know: When this labor dispute is over, either the owners or the players will have won the negotiation game on the equivalent of an overtime field goal. But one team will have won the game within the game by about 71-0. The lawyers. Just bill those hours, baby.

Another triumph for Florio’s dark minions.

When this labor impasse gets reduced to “millionaires against billionaires,” that’s a gross oversimplification. It’s usually said or written with scorn with the underlying theme being “a pox on both their houses.” There are too many good people on both sides. I’ve known dozens of owners and hundreds of players through the years who’ve devoted too much time and money and resources to terrific causes to be linked with the devil.

BREAKING: Many NFL players and owners are not active Satanists.

This is just another old-fashioned labor dispute that just happens to be played out in the blinding glare of a national spotlight. Now you want a real “pox on both their houses” dispute?

Then look no further than the Capulets and the Montagues!

Let’s line up hedge fund managers against derivatives traders. Winners get a trip to Pamplona to run with the bulls. But I digress…

Yeah! Get ’em, Al Michaels! Tell ’em why you crotchety!

[Wipes away tear from the last time he looked at an assessment on his condo]

On the other hand, the player will still have roughly 40 more productive post-football years. What I’m saying to the players here is learn to take care of your money. Read a couple of books on personal finance. Don’t get involved in any investment you don’t totally understand.

Basically, don’t be Mark Brunell.

When I was broadcasting the San Francisco Giants’ games in the mid-’70s, we had a good young pitcher by the name of John D’Acquisto. Bright guy. Good guy.

Lofty guy?

On the bus to the airport in Chicago one day, I’m reading the Wall Street Journal and John sits down next to me and says, “You must know about this stuff. My accountant wants me to invest $40,000 in a San Joaquin Valley avocado farm. He says at worst I’ll get a 4-to-1 write-off. And it could return 10-to-1.”

I asked John how much he was making (I think it was about $65,000) and with a wife and, as I recall, two young children, if he really loved avocados that much. He laughed. And then, to make sure he got the point, I said, “When you’re getting a 4-to-1 writeoff, why don’t you just call up the IRS, invite a couple of agents over for dinner and then put them up in a guest bedroom for a month. Because you’ll be living with them anyway.”

Turns out, auditors REALLY LOVE avocados.

So a cautionary note to the guys coming into the NFL: everyone wants to get into your wallet. Taxes will eat up almost half your salary. Beware the entourage. Beware the jewelry store. Beware the McMansion with dubious resale value. Protect your bread.

Mind the gap.

Respect the sun.

Immanentize the eschaton.

Rock that body.

Herp the derp.

There’s still plenty of life after the NFL, but build up a nice little cushion. The boring investment is often the smart investment. Don’t buy oceanfront property in New Mexico.

Invest in platitudes.

And once in a while you can still hit Vegas because there are few greater thrills in life than a 40-minute roll at the craps table. And make sure to take the odds.

Bill Simmons’ mom should probably take Al Michaels on an episode of Maury.

Aggravating/Enjoyable Travel Notes of a Lifetime

Yesssss, a lifetime supply of petty bitching! Time-tested nuggets!

When a hotel relishes its “hip and trendy” reputation, find another place to stay. Almost every one of these “hotspots” has a “too cool for school,” 24-year-old male model wannabe in a black t-shirt who “greets” you at the front desk with terminal aloofness.

“Nothing” “terminally aloof” “about” “placing every phrase” “inside” “sarcastiquotes”.

The rooms are almost always undersized and furnished in post-modern style, which basically means: next time, bring your own furniture. Good luck with your room service order. Beware “boutique” hotels. The only boutique I want to see in a hotel is the one selling sundries and newspapers next to the lobby.

There had better be a duck pond, too. When Michaels wakes up at 4:30 every morning, that’s the only company he craves.

Al Michaels’ core demo

Then there are the 75-year-old, refurbished hotels living on long-gone reputations that have no present validity. I’ll never forget seeing Earl Weaver, then managing the Orioles, at the batting cage before the fifth game of the 1979 World Series in Pittsburgh. Earl looked like he hadn’t slept in a month. When someone asked if he was all right, Earl said, “Yeah, I’m just exhausted. Couldn’t get a wink at the hotel last night.” Then the guy asks, “Well, where are you guys staying?” And Weaver says, “We’re staying at a [bleeping] hotel that’s so [bleeping] old they named William Penn AFTER the hotel.” Classic.

Ah yes. The William Penn Westin. PK can whine all about it. Not very Pittsburghish at all.

Here’s an idea for most airport restaurants, fast-food or otherwise.

Offer your customers a Zantac tablet on the way out. Or put up a sign that says, “Indigestion Guaranteed.”

Better yet, just mash my pills into the apple sauce, would ya?

And before we jump off the restaurant train, a word about those new eateries (particulary in New York and Los Angeles) that open up to great fanfare (mainly due to bought-and-sold P.R. campaigns). When you hear that you can’t get a reservation for three months or you can’t get a table after 6 or before 10:30 or you can never get a live voice on the phone when you call in, chances are that the 24-year-old from the hotel (the one with terminal aloofness and the stinking attitude) is now probably working the podium there. The chefs at these joints take themselves much too seriously. In fact, when I hear the phrase “hot new chef,” and you can’t get in for weeks, here’s what I think — closed in six months.

Because nothing ruins a business like being really, really busy.

And here’s a plea to airline cockpit crews — why do some of you have the mute button on when you know there’s turbulence ahead? And I’m not talking about the clear air kind. How hard is it to tell the customers that there’s rough weather ahead and we’ll be out of it in X number of minutes? In fact, every trip should begin with a what-to-expect weather report.

“Look, I’m old and I’m frightened. I might keel over any minute. I just want to know that if we hit an air pocket and my heart gives out that the last thing I hear is not the jungle music emanating out of the ear buds of the young ruffian sitting next to me. Did you know his aloofness is terminal? It is literally killing me. All I want is a little companionship before I die. Please, for the love of God, flight attendant – talk me through to the end. Let pass through into the whiteness of your teeth.”

Granted, the majority of crews basically do this but I’ve experienced dozens of trips where we’ve hit rough stuff (sometimes for long stretches) and the passengers hear nothing. We know you’re up there but why not give us a little information. It’s comforting just to hear that you’re trying to find a different altitude or whatever as lightning flashes all around. This should be part of the pilots’ manual.

[Skims “How to Fly Plane” section]

[Pores over “How to Console Edgy Codgers Through Pointless Yammering”]

[Responsible for worst tragedy in history of airline industry]

And while we’re at it, maybe the airlines could check their aircraft P.A. systems once in a while. Is it just me or has anyone else noticed you can’t make out the announcements on about one in four or five flights?


I know it’s pricey, but when you’re domiciling at a Four Seasons Hotel, the road is a helluva lot better experience. They’ve trained their people brilliantly over the last 30 years and 99% of the time they get it right. You don’t always get what you pay for on the road, but in this case it’s as close to a guarantee as you’ll find.

Did that motherfucker just use domicile as a verb? If anyone in that booth were capable of such obnoxious pretension, I was sure it’d be Collinsworth.

Also, what’s that? You don’t get to stay in the Four Seasons anytime you’re on the road? Some life you lead. Toiling away, saving up pennies for your avocado farm. Peasants.

In my book every other chain is a “Two Seasons.” My road credo is “Four Seasons or Bust.”

OH HO HO! FANCY TRAVELER BURN. That goes for you too, The Conrad. Even PK’s pride and joy can’t measure up.

I will also make it my life’s mission to get a “Four Seasons or Bust” bumper sticker on Michaels’ Lincoln Towncar if one is not already there.

And there you have it. Press ‘1’ if I sound like a crotch.

[Hits ‘1’ until the button breaks and his finger bleeds]

Press ‘2’ if I’m more like a snob.

Press ‘3’ if you’d like to hear your options in Hawaiian.

Mahalo and Aloha.


Ten Things I Think I Think

1. I think if I ever underestimated the passion for pro football in this country, that notion was completely dispelled during the lockout.

I have come into contact with literally hundreds of people who’ve said, in essence, “I can’t live without it. They HAVE to play. Tell me they’ll reach an agreement. What am I going to do all fall?” I tell them, “It will all work out in the end. Don’t fret. Stay optimistic.”

I feel like Dr. Phil.

Listen up and listen good, Joe Buck. You wanna talk down to your audience and be bemused by your idiotic audience’s borderline unsetlling obsession with the thing you deign to cover. Well you best learn from the OG of that hustle.

2. I think that every time I hear or read someone making a case for NFL conference realignment, I’d like to sit them down for a history lesson. Almost everything in sports is cyclical, especially in a revenue-sharing world. The NFC or AFC dominates for six or seven years in a row and the knee-jerk reaction is to shake them up. Then the pendulum shifts back and, over time, some semblance of balance prevails. Now I know there are occasional exceptions. I’m sure some Bengal fans would like to curse me out right now, wondering when their time will come. What can I tell them except patience is a virtue. Some day, some day…

Cincy has some dipshit fans, but I’m fairly certain even the dumbest of them realize that moving the Bengals to the NFC wouldn’t improve the team’s fortunes in the slightest.

4. And on the other side of San Francisco Bay, I think the 49ers got it right with the hiring of Jim Harbaugh. I think the worst day in the history of that franchise was the day Eddie DeBartolo was linked to a scandal involving then-Governor Edwin Edwards of Louisiana, which eventually led to Eddie’s removal as the owner. The Tiffany franchise of the 80s and 90s has been through a dreadful last decade. I think Harbaugh’s the right guy for the facelift. And speaking of facelifts…

Canny segue into an personal anecdote.

And that’s some quasi-PK-esque logic. The Yorks are drooling retards who have set the franchise back 50 years. Surely this head coach with name recognitions but no pro experience will right the ship in no time at all.

5. The home of the 49ers, Candlestick Park, is 51 years old but doesn’t look a day older than 173. Some future civilization will dig this thing up one day and wonder what the hell those people were thinking in mid-20th century.

Future civilizations should stop placing so much importance on archaeology.

I announced the games of the San Francisco Giants from 1974 through 1976, so I have some street cred here.

San Francisco: also liberal in doling out street cred.

That dump is a monument to political chicanery in San Francisco in the late ’50s — the mayor and the developer/land owner were pals — and that’s how Candlestick got built in the worst possible location.

Then again, political chicanery is not limited to any finite era. Or geography.

So wise.

Hey everybody, an old man’s talking!


Anyway, I was at a Giants game at AT&T Park two weeks ago, and if that’s not the greatest baseball stadium in America, it’s at least in your exacta box.

Easily the most gambling term-laden MMQB since Cousin Sal guested.

Any Giants fans who had to shiver through 40 years at Candlestick must now feel they’re in heaven.

OH SHIT! Is someone trying to claim that another non-Hub city has a LYRICAL LITTLE BANDBAWX to call its own? On PK’s turf, no less? Just you wait until Peter gets back and spends half of next week’s column refuting Michaels careless attempt to usurp Fenway Park’s rightful place as the Augusta National of baseball stadia.

6. I think the 2011 season will have its share of officiating controversies, blown calls and teeth gnashing by fans whose teams get the short end of the stick on any given weekend.


I also think that NFL officiating crews do a far better job than they’ll ever get credit for. These guys will never get the props they deserve. If they could look at every play at six million frames a second, they’d never get anything wrong.

Except they fuck up replays all the time.

But we know it doesn’t work that way. They get one shot in the moment. Anyone who thinks the job is easy doesn’t know what he doesn’t know. All I’m saying is you don’t have to adopt a zebra. Just cut these guys a little slack.

“Well… okay.” – No one

9. I think, as I said in Peter King’s MMQB a month ago, that Los Angeles will be the home to two NFL franchises before the end of this decade. But ONLY if a new stadium is built. Otherwise, Los Angeles will have exactly the same number of teams it has now — none.

It’s like Peter never left. “L.A. will have minimum four NFL teams by 2013, but only if they solve a seemingly intractable stadium issue that has seen little inroads in recent years. In other news, world peace is within our grasp, but only if we get rid of religious tensions and achieve universal access to abundant resources. If not, plenty more wars to come.”

The league would clearly prefer the downtown location. But we all know politics. And there’s no way to predict where the monkey wrenches will be thrown.

Only that they will be.


10. I think I’m really happy Peter returns next week. I’ve used up all my brain cells. Welcome back, PK.

Way to use up Michaels before the season even starts, PK. We should get the airline forecast to replace him in the booth.

[top pic via 30fps]

Around The Web