NBC's Al Michaels: NFL Season 'Trial and Error' with Possible Empty Stadiums

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistMay 22, 2020

NBC Sports Reporter Al Michaels reports from the sidelines during warm ups before an NFL football game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Buffalo Bills in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Dec. 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

NBC broadcaster Al Michaels opened up about a potential NFL season that could feature empty stadiums, networks adding crowd noise to broadcasts and plenty of uncertainty amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"We know it can't be exactly the way it was," Michaels said, per Jarrett Bell of USA Today. "I see this as a year of trial and error."

He added, "As we go along, we're going to learn on the fly. And I think the audience is going to understand there are going to be mistakes and it won't look as sharp and clean as a regular game will, but I think the audience understands now it's a different template. So, we'll see where we go with this."

Part of Michaels' adjustment period likely won't be calling games from afar, though, as Fred Gaudelli, who is the executive producer for Sunday Night Football, called such a measure a "last resort" and expects the broadcaster and partner Cris Collinsworth to be in stadiums.

"That would be the last resort, to have Al and Cris in the studio," Gaudelli said. "I don't think anybody wants that. You would lose an awful lot if that were to happen. Obviously, you’d be in a pretty tough situation in the country if that's the way everything was going to proceed for something like the NFL."

Michaels' comments come after Fox Sports announcer Joe Buck revealed on SiriusXM's Andy Cohen Live (h/t John Ourand of Sports Business Journal) that his network will likely add crowd noise to broadcasts and perhaps even put virtual fans in the stands for television viewers to see.

"It's pretty much a done deal," he said. "I think whoever is going to be at that control is going to have to be really good at their job and be realistic with how a crowd would react depending on what just happened on the field. So it's real important."

Broadcasts like those involving Michaels and Buck will be key for the NFL from a financial perspective if there are no fans in stadiums this year.

After all, Jonathan Jones of CBS Sports estimated holding games without fans could cost approximately $70 million in gate receipts per team.

Holding a season with television rights and deals could help those teams recoup some of the lost revenue.

As of now, there are no plans to postpone or cancel the NFL season. Many other major sports and leagues, including the NBA, NHL, MLB and MLS, have postponed games and are facing situations where they will likely need to play shortened versions of the remainder of their seasons if they return at all.