MLB Season Ends

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

"You Can't Make This Stuff Up"


I just finished reading the new autobiography by legendary sportscaster Al Michaels about his career behind the mic called "You Can't Make This Stuff Up: Miracles, Memories and the Perfect Marriage of Sports and Television."

It's an enjoyable read from one of the best-known voices on television. Michaels doesn't take himself too seriously as he guides his readers through his formative years growing up in Brooklyn, going to Ebbets Field, a short move to Long Island, and then going to Southern California, where his broadcasting career began.

He began his professional career in baseball, doing the AAA Hawaii Islanders games before moving over to the Cincinnati Reds radio booth in 1971. He moved over to the San Francisco Giants in 1974 before going to ABC in 1977 to do college football, where his national career began to take shape.

Michaels has been part of two of the most famous sporting events of the later 20th century, the 1980 gold medal win by the US hockey team, and the lead announcer of the 1989 World Series when it was struck by an earthquake and eventually delayed the series by 10 days. He gives insights into both events that take the reader back to one glorious, and one tragic, time in American history.

He has a passion for hockey, even before he made his legendary call back at Lake Placid in 1980. And golf is his current all-consuming passion, and does plenty of name-dropping on who he's hit the links with: everyone from Michael Jordan to former president George W. Bush.

Michaels even talks about some of his forays outside the sports world, when he talks of his appearance on "The Dating Game" ( you can see that on YouTube), "Hawaii Five-O" (the original series with Jack Lord, who doesn't come off too well in Michaels' retelling), and a cameo role in the 1998 comedy film "BASEketball" (which Michaels did against his better judgment). The book also includes some funny tidbits like his swiping a phone from a hotel in 2000 that Al Gore might have used on Election Night that year, and his great fandom for Howard Stern and his raunchy radio show.

But I found the most interesting parts of the book were how Michaels retells his relationships with the most controversial people in his sporting life, and dedicated a chapter to each. He has little love for Howard Cosell, who he was partnered with on Monday Night Baseball back in the early 1980s, as Cosell had turned bitter against ABC and the sports he was covering and really didn't hide that fact. Michaels worked with O.J. Simpson during the 1984 Summer Olympics and had nothing but nice things to say about him in terms of his working relationship. But, of course, the majority of the chapter about Simpson is on the murder of his wife and friend, and Michaels' working with ABC News on the day of the slow-speed chase in L.A.

Michaels talks in detail about his long tenure on "Monday Night Football" with his various partners, from John Madden to Boomer Esiason. And about the difficult conversion he had to make in moving over to Sunday Night Football on NBC.

"You Can't Make This Up" is generally a fun read that I would definitely recommend if you've followed Al Michaels' career, like I have. Lots of fascinating stories and name dropping throughout the book. He's lived an interesting life covering the world of sports, and as the legendary broadcaster Curt Gowdy once told him, "Never get jaded." It sure sounds like Al Michaels has heeded that advice.

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