Al Michaels might want to consider investing in a Twin Cities condo. His visit to Minneapolis for Thursday’s game between the Vikings and the Cowboys (7:25 p.m., KARE, Ch. 11) will be the fourth time in the past year that he’s broadcast an NFL game from the state, a stretch that includes the NFC wild-card playoff in January.
Flying into Minnesota isn’t an anomaly. In his 45-year career as a sportscaster, Michaels has checked into just about every Twin Cities major venue, for a wide range of assignments that he recalled with incredible clarity during a phone interview Tuesday.
Q: You broadcast the first NFL regular season game at U.S. Bank Stadium. What did you think?
A: I was very impressed. It’s anything but cookie-cutter. Sometimes these new stadiums are more horizontal and swept-back than vertical. From what I could tell, U.S. Bank isn’t like that. I’ve got season tickets for the L.A. Kings, but I don’t really like Staples Center. If a big guy is sitting in front of you, you’ve got to crane back and forth.
Q: Do you believe that it’s not real football unless it’s played outdoors?
A: I prefer to see it outdoors, but it is what it is. What I really like is a retractable roof. But when it’s played outdoors, the weather becomes an element and you play off of that. When I did the game there last January, I woke up in the Grand Hotel [Minneapolis], looked outside at the temperature sign across the street and saw it was minus-24. But the Ski Flying World Championships in 1977 in Norway were even colder. I had 19 layers of clothing on and they had to put balm on my face to get my mouth to move.
Q: The very first NFL game you ever broadcast was at the old Met Stadium. What do you remember about it?
A: Oct. 3, 1971. Vikings beat Buffalo 19-0. The top announcers were doing baseball playoffs, so they called me up. The game was blacked out in Minneapolis and I think it only aired in Buffalo, but the NBC station there was showing baseball, so it played on some UHF station.
Q: And then, of course, there was your famous call of Game 6 during the 1987 World Series in the Metrodome.
A: That’s as wild as anything I’ve ever covered. When Kent Hrbek hit that grand slam, I thought I had a punctured eardrum. We had a sound meter going, and the needle went off the hinge.
Q: Didn’t you later say that you thought the Twins had pumped in artificial sound?
A: I know I did. I don’t have the evidence to back it up in court. I just had never heard a baseball crowd get that loud. Even Hrbek went after me for that one.
Q: Is there a Twin Cities sports venue you haven’t worked out of?
A: I never did a Timberwolves game out of Target Center, but then it dawned on me that I covered the U.S. Figure Skating Championships there in 1991 when Tonya Harding won gold and Nancy Kerrigan got the bronze. All hell broke loose two years later.
Q: Other than prepping and attending the games, do you have any local traditions?
A: We are a Manny’s group. Might have to order the Seafood Tower.
Q: You’ve been doing this for well over four decades. Are you the kind of guy who could retire and spend your free time on the beach or do you plan to keep on going like your longtime friend Sid Hartman?
A: I've been reading him for 1,000 years. Here’s a guy who just writes and writes and writes to this day. I think of his legacy, top quality over an unbelievably extended period of them. To do something for six or seven decades, when a lot of people don’t even live that long, and then to be a craftsman on top of that? It’s almost freakish. In a way, I’d compare him to Vin Scully. What Scully has been to broadcasting, Sid has been to journalism. I could spend enough time on the beach and still do this for a living. I went to see Bruce Springsteen for the first time last March. I watched him perform for three hours and 40 minutes without a break, circle the arena and crowd-surf. I’m going, “Wait a minute. If Bruce Springsteen can do this at the age of 66, I can certainly keep announcing football games. It ain’t that hard."