Al Michaels, Bears go way back

Announcer could call 3 straight Bears games

If circumstances play out, Al Michaels could find himself on the call for three straight Bears games.

Michaels and his NBC colleagues will work the Bears-Eagles game Sunday night. There's a strong possibility NBC will be at Soldier Field on the evening of Dec. 29 if Bears-Packers is for the NFC North title. Under flexible scheduling guidelines, the NFL will announce Monday its selection for the final Sunday night game of the season.

Finally, if the Bears go to the playoffs, Michaels could be on hand if their first-round game is on wild card Saturday. NBC will air both games that day.

All in all, it could be quite a Bears feast for Michaels. The 69-year-old announcer always relishes doing Bears games, ever since his first in 1986 when he took over the play-by-play duties for ABC's "Monday Night Football."

Here's my interview with Michaels.

How would you feel about doing three straight Bears games?

It's hard to speculate. It also could be three straight Philadelphia games. The Bears make for great TV. They're always a good story.

You always have had a special affinity for calling Bears games. Why?

It starts with the history. The Bears are one of those iconic teams, like Green Bay, Pittsburgh and Dallas, that people want to watch. The name just resonates. If you go, "Jacksonville Jaguars," people go "What?" For teams like the Bears and Packers, it's different.

It doesn't matter what kind of year they're having. People forget for a moment what their record is.

What are your memories of calling Bears games?

I remember the night it was raining sideways and the wind was blowing 40 miles per hour (a 33-6 Packers win in 1994). We had a preseason game in the '90s that was canceled midway through the third quarter because of thunderstorms. We had a phenomenal overtime game with Jets, with the turf coming up in Cap Boso's facemask. There was the guy jumping out of the stands to catch an extra point.

I can't say there's one game. Rather, it is a compilation of games through the years. There's always a lot of excitement with the Bears.

You have been around the NFL for a long time. Can you remember a more unpredictable year?

It's the best unscripted television of all time. I watch all the games on Sunday afternoon and I've got palpitations with the way they're being played out. The margin between being 6-10 and 10-6 is razor thin. Take Dallas. They are as star-crossed a team as I've ever seen. They lose games you just can't lose.

During the week, you hear all these experts say, "The key to winning the game is sealing the edge." Are you crazy? There are 400 keys to a game. Yet we've created a cottage industry with guys yelling about "sealing the edge." But hey, people watch it.

I run into people at airports on Mondays, and they're saying, "Did you see this game or that game?" There's so much craziness and drama. It's why we love sports.

However, there is an unusual dynamic taking place. While ratings are exploding ("Sunday Night Football" is No. 1 in prime time with an average of 21.6 million viewers), the threat to the future of the game never has been greater. How do you view the concussion issue?

I'm concerned. I believe the league is trying to get it right. No more head in the sand. The real issue will be with parents. Do we reach the point where a parent says, "You're not playing." If parents won't let their kids play football, then where is the future for the sport?

The Winter Olympics are around the corner. The Games should bring another round of retrospective stories on the 1980 U.S. hockey team. How often are you asked to reprise your "Do you believe in miracles" call?

It has been 34 years. If you're 40 or under, you don't remember it. But what has happened is an HBO documentary on the team and the movie "Miracle" raised the awareness (for a young generation of sports fans). I can't tell you how many youth coaches tell me they show that movie to their team at the beginning of the season. It truly was a great moment for the United States. It's great that people still talk about it.

You are a big Kings fan. Can they beat the Blackhawks this year?

How many Blackhawks are going over to Sochi (to compete in the Olympics)? Listen the Kings lost Jonathan Quick, and they still play phenomenal. They bring up a goalie named Martin Jones. Now all goalies should be named Jacques Plante. Anyway, this guy plays six games and has three shutouts. So we'll see.

Fog Bowl: It easily is the best game nobody saw. On Thursday at 7 p.m., Comcast Sports Net will relive the "Fog Bowl," otherwise known as the Bears-Eagles playoff game on Dec. 30, 1988. Remembering that surreal day on the show will be Mike Ditka, Dan Hampton, Randall Cunningham, and naturally Tom Skilling, given the weather component.

"It was the weirdest day I have ever seen in my life," Ditka said. "I don't think people can understand unless they were there. With the TV, you know what you saw on TV, I mean it was terrible … and so the people at the game were the only ones that knew what it was all about. There's a lot of conjecture that I had something to do with it, but no … although I did say a prayer."

Special contributor Ed Sherman writes at shermanreport.com. Follow him @Sherman_Report

 

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