Note: I’m going to be out for a couple of weeks. However, I’m leaving behind some gifts for the holidays: The best of my Q/As. I’ll feature a new one each day through Jan. 2. Please check in. Happy Holidays to all.
Seriously, Tirico doesn’t have to take a back seat to anyone with his schedule. Actually, October is a slow month for him. He only has Monday Night Football as far as play-by-play is concerned.
Starting in November, he will pick up weekly NBA games. His calendar includes Big Ten college basketball games in the winter and three of the four golf majors in the spring and summer. He also does weekly radio shows and podcasts for ESPN.
For all I know, Tirico calls sandlot games in his spare time.
Tirico and Jon Gruden are in Chicago tonight for the Bears-Detroit Lions game. Here’s my Q/A.
You don’t have one month during the year when you’re not working a significant event for ESPN. Why do you take on such a busy schedule?
My schedule can be a challenge. I have an extremely understanding family and wonderful people who facilitate things for me.
I grew up in New York when Marv Albert was doing Rangers and Knicks game, doing sports on Ch. 4 at 6 and 11, and he was NBC’s guy for boxing on the weekends. I went to Syracuse because of Marv Albert, Bob Costas, Dick Stockton. I wanted to be like those guys, and that meant you just couldn’t say, ‘Oh, this is too much.’
Listen, we’re not digging ditches. We’re talking about sports. Even though you’re drained at the end of the day, it’s not that hard. It’s a pretty good job.
This is the first time you’re working with a two-man booth for Monday Night Football. What has that been like for you?
The most significant part of my job is to get the most out of an analyst–make them relevant. It’s much easier to do it with one person compared to two. I love Jaws (Ron Jaworski). We text all the time.
But the difference with two people is that it is more of a conversation. I can carry on a dialogue easier than trying to deal with a third person. I can ask a second or third question.
What is it like to work with Jon Gruden?Jon is the best prepared of any analyst I’ve ever worked with. I truly understand why he’s been so successful. When we meet with coaches (prior to a telecast), they have so much respect for his knowledge and ability. He’s on the cutting edge of what’s going on.
When you see his preparation, it helps you to understand why good coaches and bad coaches make such a difference in the NFL. When you watch our games and listen to the things Jon says before they happen, it’s incredible.
I bristle at all the people who say Jon is too positive and never gets negative. If they don’t think Jon doesn’t point out mistakes, then they aren’t listening to the game.
Does Jon go to a different level of appreciation about the ability of guys? Absolutely, because he’s coached players. He knows what it takes to be Peyton Manning and what he does out there. Not to get on my soap box, but we’ve turned into a miserable society if we can’t enjoy being around the best in the world.
If you watch a game, Jon will say why a guy is doing that and why a guy is not doing that. When people say Jon’s not critical, I call those people lazy. They need to listen closely to the game.
I’ll get ripped for saying that, but that’s good.
You’re in your seventh year calling Monday Night Football. How have you evolved as an announcer?
I’m sure your 100th column was better than your first. I go back and watch every game. I’m always looking to get better.
However, I always say nobody watches for the announcers. They watch for a good game. If they really watch for the announcers, then on Sunday, the networks should put their best announcers on their worst game.
If Fox put their No. 7 crew on the Giants-49ers game, it wouldn’t change the rating for that game. All we can do is hopefully enhance the experience.
Let’s go back to the end of the Seattle-Green Bay game. How did that play unfold for you?
You start with the fact Seattle had a chance to beat Green Bay. Then the play happened. First, you’re amazed that the ball didn’t hit the ground. Now all my attention goes to the officials and I see nothing.
Then they make two different calls. Wait, what you got here?
Looking back, I’m glad about two things. When I made the call, I used the word ‘simaltaneous.’ Ultimately, that’s the rule they were looking at. I’m glad I used the correct word.
Second, I’m glad after the fire bomb hit, there was the reality that this was the most significant faux pas of the replacement officials. We said it was going to put pressure on the league to make a change. And it did.
Do you really call sandlot games in your spare time?
No, c’mon. Going to the Tigers game tonight (Tirico, who lives in the Detroit area, was going to game 4 of the ALCS). I’m glad it’s one of the one sports I don’t cover. I’ve never taken a credential to a baseball game. I have a partial season ticket, and it’s the one sport where I can truly be a fan. It’s so much fun to be there with the family.
I love waiting in line for the concessions, sitting in the stands. It makes you appreciate the people who fill the stadiums. It helps you be connected to the consumer.