NBC will air the Super Bowl this
year. Are you disappointed your
travel plans will likely overlap?
They will, and I am. There’s no reason
to lie about it. As a person who’s been to
the last 25 Super Bowls, I hate that it’s
on our network, where I call NFL games
and host our NFL studio show, but I
can’t go to the Super Bowl. But the reason is the best reason humanly possible:
I’m hosting the Olympics. Logistically,
to get off the air Sunday night in Minneapolis, fly halfway around the world
and two days later not only start the
18-night run but do it for the very first
time, it’s unrealistic.
The current political situation in
the Korean Peninsula is unstable.
How much are you preparing for
politics to enter the Games and
affect your job as host?
You have to prepare. Politics have always been at the root of some cause of
concern around the Olympic Games,
whether it’s countries competing that
have a conflict or have long-term ill
will between them. Certainly over the
last few Games, multiple concerns
have come up about where the Games
are being contested. This one seems to
be a little sharper at this point, but I
think that’s part of your responsibility
as a host to be prepared. From my perspective, it’s not as though I’m just the
sports guy who doesn’t know what’s going on in the world. My other major in
college was political science. I’m a political junkie. You’ll find MSNBC on my TV
more often in the afternoon than you’ll
find sports. So I stay up on this stuff.
Naturally, people are coming to watch
sports. If the story goes beyond the competition, hopefully we can broaden it
out properly for folks.
We’re seeing politics mix into
sports more and more. How cautious are you with the words you
use during a typical broadcast?
I think we need to be smart. It de-
pends on the context in which you are
appearing in the media. If you’re coming
on and hosting your own radio show on
a station where political conversation is
the format, then obviously you’re going
to be weighing in on these things. When
sports come into play, of course your
opinion might be in your mind and in
your heart, but what’s my role? My role
is documenting the event. You’re not
tuning in for my opinion on the politics
related to the sporting event. So I try to
keep my personal feeling out of it.
A lot has been made of concussions and player safety issues
in the NFL. Is this a long-term
problem for ratings if people start
turning away from the sport?
I think it’s going to show in participation. Do we see people continue to
participate in football? Obviously, we
know more about the concussion issue
and other health and safety issues than
we did 15, 20 years ago. You’re seeing
the people who run football try to figure out the safest way to play the game.
No sport is safe. We were talking about
the Olympics. There’s an incredible risk
in many of these sports. Individuals are
doing the best they can to try to mitigate the risk factor and increase the
safety factor. I don’t know if we’re going to see the NFL be in the same place
it’s been for the last 20 or 30 years, but I
think the people involved are doing everything they can—not in the name of
ratings, but in the name of the health
and safety of the people involved—to
keep the game as healthy as possible.
Are there any sports venues that
you look forward to visiting more
Yeah, Lambeau Field is great. Augus-
ta National is, say no more—for that
exact reason. People love it, and to be
able to go there with the Golf Channel’s
coverage of the Masters keeps that an-
nual week on my calendar, which I just
love. Notre Dame Stadium obviously
has jumped in there as one of the great,
iconic places. But I always tell people my
favorite venue for any sporting event is
one that’s close to home. So Ford Field
in Detroit. If the Lions end up on the
schedule multiple times, I’m all for that.
How many days a year are you on
It’s about half. It had gotten up near
200 a few of the years about five or six
years ago at ESPN, and I’ve been able
to cut it back to about half the year. It’s
something that comes with the job. I’ll
be working a game on Christmas Day,
an NFL game, and that will make it 15
or 16 straight Christmas Days I’ve been
on the road covering the NBA or three
of the last years, the NFL. Those are just
things that come with the job.
Do you enjoy the travel?
I love seeing America. I really do.
The chance to see America has been a
great part of this job. I can’t even count
how many countries I’ve been to, most
every continent save Antarctica. But
work has taken me to Rio twice, to
South Africa for the World Cup, to Asia
not just for the Olympics but for golf
events, and the United Kingdom every
summer for the last 20 years for the
Open Championship. For a kid from
Queens, New York, who has settled in
the Midwest in Michigan, the chance
to see the world and see America and to
get to talk about sports is something I
still enjoy and still appreciate. n
“IT’S A RARE AND UNIQUE
OPPORTUNITY BECAUSE YOU
ARE THE CONTINUING FACE
OVER 18 STRAIGHT NIGHTS.”