Tony Dungy and Al Michaels

While many were excited to see Al Michaels return to NBC for the NFL playoffs, they noted that he and broadcast partner Tony Dungy didn’t sound excited themselves during Saturday night’s game.

While there wasn’t much worth getting excited about early on, the Jacksonville Jaguars pulling off a 27-point comeback to beat the Los Angeles Chargers on a last-second field goal was definitely something to get excited about. That didn’t seem to happen, and the Michaels-Dungy duo reacted as though their bus had arrived.

Michaels disagreed with the online criticism and texted with New York Post’s Andrew Marchand about his performance over the weekend. The Amazon Prime broadcaster, who was on NBC in an emeritus role, told Marchand he was “very happy” with his performance and called the comments about him not sounding excited enough “Internet compost!”

“Must have gotten a hundred texts from folks who were very happy to see me back on NBC,” Michaels said. “Read some comments that we didn’t sound excited enough. Internet compost! You know me as well as anyone — no screaming, no yelling, no hollering. It’s TELEVISION! Ellipses and captions are [sufficient] when pictures tell the story.”

While I disagree with him on this, Michaels has a valid point. He’s an old-school broadcaster, and there’s an argument to be made for the play-by-play person to be understated and let what’s on the screen tell the story and not make the broadcast about him. Pat Summerall did that, and he’s regarded as one of the greatest broadcasters ever.

Though Marchand noted, and I agree, that the broadcast lacked energy largely due to having two low-energy guys on the broadcast paired up for the first time. Summerall had John Madden. Michaels had Madden, Cris Collinsworth, and now Kirk Herbstreit. Those are all guys who can pump up the excitement and compensate for Michaels’ understated style. Opposites attract when it comes to broadcasting and it was a big reason why Michaels and Herbstreit fit so well together even though they only called games this year.

Michaels admitted that when it was a 27-0 game, it was more difficult to sound excited. And given all the terrible Thursday night games he had to call on Amazon Prime, he sure sat through a lot of subpar football this year. But when the Jaguars came back, it was time to be more excited and Michaels disagreed with the concept of a broadcaster having an “over-the-top-yelling” style.

“I thought the energy was much better once Jax made it a game,” Michaels said. “27-0 makes it difficult to make it sound like more than it is. One of the things that I think makes Tony good is that he doesn’t overtalk and load it up with unneeded blather. He’s measured, but almost everything he says has relevance and poignancy. A lot of folks who understand this industry are annoyed with the over-the-top yelling that makes a game sound like an offshoot of talk radio. I’m in that corner, but there are others who obviously think otherwise. Don’t you find it ironic that the most understated announcer of all-time was the iconic Pat Summerall. And before that — Ray Scott. And lots of folks still yearn for that style. One size doesn’t fit all.”

Michaels had a good reason to take issue with some of the criticism sent his and Dungy’s way, but a lot of the criticism wasn’t “internet compost” either. The criticism was valid, though maybe Michaels and Dungy should receive less criticism and more criticism should be placed on NBC for pairing up Michaels and Dungy in the first place.

Neither Michaels and Dungy are bad broadcasters, but when paired together, it just didn’t mesh well. Some of it is due to that being their first game together but a lot of it is due to them having similar broadcasting styles. That’s something for NBC to consider next year when they pair Michaels up with someone from the NBC football talent pool for a playoff game.

[New York Post]

About Phillip Bupp

News editor for The Comeback and Awful Announcing, highlight consultant for Major League Soccer as well as a freelance writer for hire. Opinions are my own but feel free to agree with them.

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