Al Michaels is always ready for some football, and on Thursday the sportscasting legend looked back on a National Football League season filled with turmoil while also glancing ahead to Super Bowl XLIX — which will be his ninth in the booth.
“It’s been a year that the NFL in many regards would love to forget, no question,” Michaels told TheWrap during a lunchtime panel at NBC’s Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour in Pasadena.
Michaels was answering a question about the fall full of scandal which, regardless of who wins the big game next month, will mostly be remembered for Ray Rice’s and Adrian Peterson’s domestic violence cases. He then discussed his own job of reporting on such matters as a broadcaster.
“I think we have a responsibility to address the issue — I don’t think belabor it,” Michaels said. “If we have news, obviously you want to be at the forefront of telling people what you know that is brand new and not just rehashing things.”
Despite the black eye of the current gridiron year, Michaels sees
“People say to me, ‘Will people lose interest in the NFL?’ And to me, they haven’t,” he said. “If you look to television ratings as well as attendance, I think the fans can compartmentalize a lot of this.”
“They know what’s going on, they know there’s a lot of insidious stuff, a lot of stuff that needs to be cleaned up — they understand that,” Michaels continued. “When you get to the weekend, the fan has basically said, ‘I want my football.'”
Then, Michaels spoke about the other hot-button issue in the NFL: head injuries — and that one has much more lasting potential impact on the sport, he opined.
“Concussions are a major threat to a degree … to the extent that when kids are coming up and want to play football and are not allowed to by their parents or by their grandparents — whoever is raising them — I think that would be the most important issue going down the line,” Michaels told us.
“Almost every rule that the league has implemented in the last two or three years has had to do with safety,” he concluded. “No one has their head in the sand anymore about concussion issues.”
Super Bowl XLIX airs Sunday, Feb. 1 at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBC. The big game will take place at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.