From naughty, talented ASU student to Super Bowl: A look back at Al Michaels’ career

NBC broadcaster Al Michaels, right, has had an accomplished broadcasting career that started at Arizona State. Here he is talking to Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill, left. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

PHOENIX – The news that Sunday’s Super Bowl could be Al Michaels’ last with NBC has prompted reflection on the 77-year-old announcer’s career. Few memories, however, go back as far as the early 1960s, when Michaels was an Arizona State student.

It was there that he crossed paths with longtime Suns radio announcer Al McCoy. The two first interacted when McCoy was calling ASU basketball games, and Michaels was doing the same for the ASU student radio station, known today as Blaze Radio. Michaels also served as a sports editor for the university’s newspaper, The State Press.

“I was doing the games on real radio and he was doing them on the campus radio and then later he applied for the Suns’ radio job and he didn’t get it because they hired me,” McCoy said. “Having known him since he was in college, it has really been terrific to follow his career because he’s had such an outstanding career, both when he started with the minor league baseball in Hawaii and then through his years in Cincinnati and San Francisco with NBC.”

Michaels is set to announce his 11th Super Bowl, this one featuring the Cincinnati Bengals and Los Angeles Rams.

He has been the lead announcer for “Sunday Night Football” since its inception in 2006, but his contract with NBC is set to expire following Sunday’s game. What’s next? During an NBC Sports Super Bowl LVI conference call, Michaels said he has no intention of stopping now.

“I love what I do. I feel great,” he said. “I’m not ready for any rocking chair or golf.”

The announcer made the most of his time at ASU. He told AZCentral that one of his most memorable calls came in 1979 when “the Arizona State mile relay team set the world record at the Mt. San Antonio (College) Relays, 3:04.5, and they broke the world record which was held by the Olympic team by 1.1 seconds.”

He also remembers some hijinx while a student in Tempe. In his 2014 book, “You Can’t Make This Up,” he wrote about a prank he played on The Arizona Republic. He and several ASU friends called the sports desk and shared details about the incredible accomplishments of athlete Clint Romas. Except that Romas didn’t exist. The paper later retracted the story, Michaels said.

Many have gone to recognize the announcer for his time on “Sunday Night Football,” but some became admirers and fans from his time calling MLB games.

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Jeff Munn, the play-by-play broadcaster for ASU women’s basketball, remembers listening to Michaels call baseball games on the radio.

“A summer night in 1974, I could listen to Vin Scully do Dodgers games on the radio, Dick Enberg on the Angels and for one year Al Michaels on the Giants,” Munn said. “For a radio nerd, a baseball fan, it was just nirvana. There are a lot of things but his ability to understand the moment as it’s happening, and it sounds kind of weird but my favorite Al Michaels calls are ones that are both in baseball.”

Ann Meyers Drysdale’s friendship with Michaels has grown throughout the years. It starting when her brother Dave was playing basketball at UCLA and later when Michasels worked with her husband, the late Don Drysdale, on “Monday Night Baseball.”

“They became dear friends and he and his wife Linda are still very special,” said Meyers Drysdale, a vice president with the Mercury and Suns and one of the NBA’s first female color analysts. “We all develop relationships in this profession that we have and you know, so many people have respect for him, not just as a talent but just as a person.”

ESPN and Arizona Cardinals announcer Dave Pasch said “any time Al is calling a game, just his presence makes it feel like a major event.

“He has a great voice, and always offers a sense of place and perspective because of how many big games he’s done over the years. He has such a recognizable and comforting voice, and rises to the occasion for the big moments.”

If NBC decides to move on from Michaels, he is expected to courted heavily. Several reports suggest Amazon will make a push for the veteran play-by-play broadcaster as it becomes the first streaming service to have exclusive rights for a national package of NFL games. Amazon will air 15 “Thursday Night Football” games a year through the 2032 season via Prime video to Amazon customers with a Prime membership.

As he has done throughout this season, Michaels has taken each game week by week and is ready to call another Super Bowl.

“I always felt that the minute you start thinking about other things, it takes you away from this,” Michaels said. “I don’t know what the future will hold, but after this game is over, I’ve got some very close friends and guys who really understand the business inside and out, and we’ll talk about what’s out there and what I might want to do.”

Alex Suarez ah-lek-s swaa-rez (He/Him/His)
Sports Reporter, Phoenix

Alex Suarez expects to graduate in December 2022 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism. Suarez, who has covered ASU athletics for WCSN, is assigned to the Phoenix sports bureau.

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