Even if you don’t particularly like sports you’ve probably heard the voice of Al Michaels. He’s the only announcer in history to broadcast the major championships of all four major North American sports: the NBA Finals, the Stanley Cup, the World Series and the Super Bowl. On top of that he’s also covered the Winter and Summer Olympics, horse racing’s Triple Crown, golf, and college football. He’s covered just about every sport imaginable, and thanks to his involvement with Wide World of Sports, a bunch that you probably can’t imagine.
In Michaels’ long and storied career, there are three huge moments that “crossed over” into the world beyond sports. In 1980 it was Michaels who was behind the microphone when the US Olympic hockey team defeated the Soviet Union in perhaps the largest upset in history. Coming at a time of Cold War tension, economic decline, and the hostage crisis in Iran, the game was a boost to sagging US patriotism, and Michaels’ closing line became an all-time classic. “Do you believe in miracles? Yes!”
In 1989 Michaels was covering Game 3 of the World Series in San Francisco when an earthquake struck. The game was obviously postponed, and Michaels turned into an on-the-scene reporter. A similar thing happened in 1994 when Al’s close friend and neighbor O.J. Simpson led police on a chase in his white Bronco. It was Michaels who alerted Peter Jennings to the fact that a caller claiming to be able to see O.J. in the van was actually a prankster from the Howard Stern radio show.
These events are covered in depth in You Can’t Make This Up, making it a very interesting read for anyone with an interest in sports and television. For sports fans, the rest of the book is also a treat, as Michaels has been present at an astonishing number of great and memorable moments, like Don Denkinger’s blown call in Game 6 of the 1985 World Series, Dave Henderson’s home run off Donnie Moore in 1986, Brett Favre’s epic performance on Monday Night Football just after his father’s death, and Ben Roethlisberger’s winning touchdown pass in Super Bowl 43.
The book gets off to a bit of a slow start as Michaels describes his upbringing and his college days, but once he gets his big break as the play-by-play announcer for a Triple-A baseball team in Hawaii, the remainder of the book sticks to his career in broadcasting.
Michaels is justifiably proud of his career but retains a sense of how lucky he is to be able to do what he does for a living. Many of his anecdotes have a “gee whiz” quality to them, which would be grating from someone else but works for him. Michaels has worked with and covered some legendary characters over his long career, and he is delightfully forthcoming when talking about them. He is unsparing when it comes to perhaps his most legendary and certainly most controversial co-worker, Howard Cosell. You don’t have to wonder how Michaels really felt about him.
Michaels has been involved with so many important moments in the history of sports and television that his memoir would be worth reading for that perspective alone. It’s a godsend that Michaels and his co-writer L. Jon Wertheim have been able to present these stories in the same confident, warm, and conspiratorial voice that he has earned him so many admirers in his work.