Last week, the NY Post reported that Amazon wants to hire Al Michaels away from NBC to do NFL play-by-play on Thursday Night Football. Recall that Amazon will take over the rights to the full season of TNF as of the 2022/23 NFL season. According to the Post report, if that sort of deal cannot be done, then Amazon would also be interested in Joe Buck or Ian Eagle to be their play-by-play lead broadcaster.
All three of those gentlemen are currently under contract with other networks as of this morning; Michaels will call the Super Bowl this year on NBC with Cris Collinsworth; Buck is the #1 guy at FOX and Eagle is the #2 guy at CBS. This is the final year of the contract between Michaels and NBC; so, a bidding war for his services might evolve. Al Michaels is 76 years old meaning two things:
- He could opt to retire after calling the Super Bowl in February 2022 – – although there have not been any reports/rumors that he is considering doing that.
- Whatever networks signs him up to do games starting next season, the contract will not likely be a 10-year deal.
The common narrative regarding NBC Sports is that Mike Tirico – who jumped ship from ESPN’s Monday Night Football assignment – is ready in the bullpen to take over the NBC Sunday Night Football job from Michaels starting next year. If that is indeed how the NBC pooh-bahs want the cards to fall and if Al Michaels indeed wants to “stay in the biz”, then a deal with Amazon makes a ton of sense for everyone.
[Aside: If Tirico takes over for Michaels next year, that will be the second time he has done so. In 2005, Al Michaels ended a 20-year run on Monday Night Football; in 2006, Mike Tirico along with Tony Kornheiser and Joe Theismann took over the MNF broadcast booth.]
Speaking obliquely about the NFL, there was this headline on one of the Internet sites late last week:
- NFL Reportedly Eyeing 18-Game Season
Let me just say that headline did not grab me and make me think there was a News Flash hidden in the article that would follow it. Of course, the NFL would like an 18th game; it will expand revenues because as of 2021, the NFL has not hit the saturation point for its fanbase. If the NFL were to stage an 18-game regular season, it would not dilute the other 17 games; it would represent an augmentation.
Such is not the case with the other two major sports in the US. Both MLB and the NBA have regular seasons that are as long as they can meaningfully be; the same is true for college basketball and college football. No one is suggesting that MLB expand its schedule from 162 games to 170 games so that teams can either start in March or so that the World Series might extend closer to Thanksgiving. Lots of folks – me included – have suggested that the NBA regular season be cut back significantly from 82 games because far too many regular season games are merely dates on a calendar with nothing compelling about them at all. [Aside: By the way, some games that fans might look forward to get diminished at the last minute and without warning when a visiting super-star player decides to take a “load management day”.]
The barrier the NFL must cross to get to an 18-game schedule has nothing to do with the calendar or fans’ ennui; what the NFL must do is to get the NFLPA on board. Players have been opposed to added games ostensibly because of the added wear and tear on their bodies. I am not minimizing or denying that position, but I am not so sure that the union could be convinced to take a more positive view of that circumstance if:
- A larger share of NFL revenue went to players’ salaries by altering the formula that calculates the salary cap – – and/or – –
- Rosters were expanded – – and/or – –
- There were 2 BYE Weeks for each team in the season – – and/or – –
- Exhibition Games were cut from 4 games to 2 games (or even 1 game).
The NFL wants more games because the NFL knows they can sell those games to networks or streaming services such as Amazon. The networks and streaming services want more games because networks can sell time to advertisers and streaming services can sign up more viewers with NFL games on their menu. The NFLPA can hold out and refuse to play an extra regular season game for physical/injury reasons and be on totally solid ground. Or they can use their position to do some hard bargaining – not loud and confrontational bargaining – to get a sweeter deal. Stay tuned…
One more tangential NFL issue if I may … It is now a week shy of 11 months since the Washington Post broke the story about the alleged sexual harassment of the Redskins’ cheerleaders and the “toxic work environment” that existed for women in the front office of that organization. The team hired Beth Wilkinson to do an independent investigation; when more allegations came forward, the NFL assumed control and oversight of Ms. Wilkinson’s investigation. Back at the time of the Super Bowl, NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell said that the report was almost finished. [For those of you keeping score at home, the Super Bowl was 4 months ago.]
If you go to Wikipedia and read the biography of Ms. Wilkinson there, you will probably come away with the idea that the investigation she was hired to do into the happenings within the Washington Football Team’s Front Office is not nearly as complex as ones she has led into criminal matters in the past. When I read the biography, I thought this task would be like a walk in the park for someone of her background and her accomplishments. Therefore, I cannot believe that she is still investigating or that she is still polishing the prose in her report.
If I am correct, the report and its findings – – and perhaps some recommendations? – – are now and have been for some time in the hands of The Commish. I do not pretend to speak for others, but let me say this clearly:
- I am not going to forget about the allegations made in the Washington Post stories.
- The longer this goes on – – now that Ms. Wilkinson has had time to do the competent job we should expect from someone with her credentials – – the more it smells of a cover-up.
- The history of the last 50 years seems to have convinced me that the cover-up is even worse than the crime.
Finally, let me close out today with an observation by English humorist, P. G. Wodehouse:
“The fascination of shooting as a sport depends almost wholly on whether you are at the right or wrong end of the gun.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………