Al Michaels: "It's Been a Year That the NFL Would Like to Forget"
The NBC sportscaster, plugging the Super Bowl, talks about concussions, an L.A. team and covering the league's off-field woes over the past four months.
The team behind NBC's top-rated Sunday Night Football franchise also gets the Super Bowl this year. And ahead of the Feb. 1 telecast, sportscaster Al Michaels and producer Fred Gaudelli met with reporters to talk about this year's planned coverage from University of Phoenix Stadium — though the NFL's recent PR woes commandeered some of the discussion.
"It's been a year that the NFL, in many regards, would like to forget," copped Michaels, when asked about the Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson scandals. "I think we have a responsibility to address the issues. We can't belabor it, but if we have news, we have to be at the forefront with it."
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Timing of the Rice scandal in particular, when video of him beating his wife in an elevator leaked online just a week into the season, was an obstacle for Michaels and his contemporaries this fall. That said, the fear that the scandals would turn off football fans — at least for now — has proven unfounded.
"To me, they haven't," said Michaels, citing Sunday Night Football's average 21 million viewers. "You look at the television ratings and the attendance, I think fans can compartmentalize this stuff. They know there's a lot insidious stuff that needs cleaning up, but they want their football."
"You don't want to intrude on the game too much," added Gaudelli. "It's a tricky dance, but it's a dance you have to do."
Because football sportscasters are rarely assembled without being asked to sound off on the game's more hot-button issues, Michaels was also asked about his latest feelings on the concussion crisis. In short, the biggest issue he sees now is finding players down the line — not the safety of the players currently in the game.
"Almost every rule the league has instituted in the past years has been about safety," Michaels said. "But when kids are coming up, who want to play football, are not allowed to by whoever is raising them ... that would be a problem down the line."
One area where he did demure was on the subject of Los Angeles getting its own football team, a suggestion recently dampened by Roger Goodell and bolstered by St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke.
"This is probably closer than L.A. has been in a long time," Michaels said. "If this stadium gets built in Inglewood, a team will definitely come here. Will it be the Rams? I don't know. You can't just pick up your team and move it without the league approving it."