In Al Michaels, NBC has its 'Miracle' man
By Alan Robinson
Published: Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013, 7:45 p.m.
Al Michaels wonders whether he'll ever have another game to match this one.
No, not that game.
Michaels is the iconic sports announcer best remembered for his “Do you believe in miracles?” call when the United States' college kids beat the Soviet Union's all-world men's ice hockey machine at the 1980 Winter Olympics.
The longtime voice of “Monday Night Football” and now the Sunday night game on NBC, Michaels has broadcast more than 500 NFL games and numerous Super Bowls. The Thursday night Ravens-Steelers game in Baltimore will be his 26th Steelers primetime telecast.
The best NFL game he has called? To him it's easy: Steelers 27, Arizona Cardinals 23 in the 2008 season Super Bowl in Tampa, Fla.
To Michaels, the game had it all: superlative individual performances (James Harrison's 100-yard interception return touchdown, Larry Fitzgerald's spectacular catches), a great comeback (by the Cardinals) and of course a miracle finish (Ben Roethlisberger to Santonio Holmes for 6 yards and the winning touchdown with 35 seconds remaining).
Yes, Michaels' second miracle finish.
“I thought it was the most exciting Super Bowl of all. The NFL Network did one of those 10 best Super Bowls, and that was ranked No. 1,” Michaels said.
It wasn't necessarily the matchup. NBC analyst Cris Collinsworth thinks the Cardinals (9-7 that season) might have been the worst team to reach the playoffs.
“It was a matchup nobody really expected. The fact Pittsburgh got there wasn't a surprise. The fact Arizona got there was shocking,” Michaels said. “You have this regal franchise with multiple Super Bowl wins going against this franchise that, when you attach a word to them, the word was futility.”
But, as Michaels said, “That game had so many incredible moments.”
“And it wasn't only James Harrison's 100-yard return,” he said. “First of all, a 100-yard interception return is phenomenal no matter when it happens. But to happen when it did, with Arizona going in to take the lead? Then he intercepts it, and he's going down the sidelines, and every Cardinal seemingly has a chance to get him, and Larry Fitzgerald is running through the bench area trying to catch him? What people forget is if Harrison is out of bounds at the half-yard line, the (first) half is over. It's either a touchdown or nothing.”
There also was an Arizona goal-line stand and the winning drive led by Roethlisberger that ended with his pass to Holmes that had to be accurate to the inch to succeed.
“The pass off to Holmes was insane. There were three Cardinals around him,” Michaels said. “All these things were going on. The drama was spectacular.”
Michaels still makes the occasional journey to Pittsburgh for NFL games, but longtime broadcast partner John Madden, now retired, does not. Don't expect him for a vacation, either. Since 1972, Pittsburgh has been Madden's least-favorite NFL venue.
Remember, Madden was the Oakland Raiders coach on the losing end of the Immaculate Reception.
“He never really liked coming into Pittsburgh and only because of that game,” Michaels said.
Did Madden ever get over losing on Franco Harris' shoestring catch of a deflected Terry Bradshaw pass in the final minute?
“I tried to joke around a little bit (about it), but his brow would crease a little bit and he wouldn't laugh. It was something that hung with him,” Michaels said. “He felt he should have won that game, and it could have been another Super Bowl for him.”
The NFL's greatest finish? Michaels didn't call that game. Curt Gowdy did for NBC.
One announcer is allowed only so many miracles in a lifetime.
Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @arobinson_Trib.
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