Thursday, May 24, 2018
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10 Questions with Mike Tirico

Some may argue that as the play-by-play commentator on ESPN's 'Monday Night Football', Mike Tirico has the best job in sports broadcasting. Others might argue Tirico, himself, has a better job. Known for his versatile skill set, Tirico also serves as the network's top golf host for major events and serves as a play-by-play voice for NBA games on TV and radio. He has also chipped in on the network's tennis and soccer coverage. A Syracuse University graduate, Tirico lives in Ann Arbor.

You've been versatile throughout your career, is there one sport, or one event, you prefer over all others?

It sounds like a copout but I really do look forward to the next one up no matter what it is because if I said Monday Night Football then how can I give the proper importance or meaning to working the Masters or the British Open or the NBA finals on radio and things like that?

ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit says Detroit airport is his favorite. Are you willing to go that far?

Hey, that's my home airport. We rule. I will tell you that it went from worst to first when the new one opened. It's right up there because it's never overcrowded, easy to get around. You can get a decent coffee, meal, and a place to sit in the middle of almost everywhere. You can't say that about most airports in America.

Why do you live in Ann Arbor?

My wife grew up in Trenton, Mich. She was an all-state softball and basketball player and played her college sports at Syracuse. That's where we met. We came back here about 11 years ago to be with her family.

Do you expect Michigan to make a coaching change in football?

It's such a hard call because things haven't worked the way they hope but we know from his West Virginia days, Rich is a very good coach. If you jump the ship now then you really take a couple more years to get started again because you've recruited the last two years for this style of offense. If it were me, not knowing everything that's going on, I would wait one more year and decide after that.

What's been the issue?

I just think wins. Michigan fans — and they're some of my closest friends — I tell them all the time they're spoiled. But that's what happens when you're at the school that's won the most games in the history of the sport. Celtic fans weren't happy when they were struggling. Yankee fans, 20 years ago, were displeased. Fans of teams that are used to wins and success don't really handle rebuilding very well.

Switching to the Lions, everyone says improvement is being made, but is it?

Yes. The people who are impatient and critical of the results this year are not really spending time looking at what's going on. I said before the season started, given their schedule, four wins would be very possible with that current team. I wasn't factoring in that they'd use three quarterbacks. I think if they had healthy quarterbacks you'd be looking at a six or seven win team when it's all said and done.

Do you expect an NFL lockout next year?

I don't. I can't see a scenario where players and owners are stupid enough to screw this thing up. I say that in such harsh terms because the sport's never been healthier. We've seen better football on the field and yet the popularity of this sport is amazing right now. ... The sport is in such a good place, and there would be irreparable damage done if they can't figure out how to spread the pie.

Looking ahead to next year again, do you expect John Gruden to be sitting next to you again on Mondays?

I hope so. I've seen enough in the NFL and college to know nothing's for sure, but I know John's plan right now is to stay with us. There were a lot of people who wrote that he'd be gone after one year. I didn't see one of those people write that they were wrong. … I'm sure he'll coach again someday. I just hope it's more than a few weeks. I hope it's a few years.

Are we beginning to see a trend of coaches taking a few years off to do TV? Bill Cowher and Jeff Van Gundy come to mind.

Possibly. I talked to [Celtics coach] Doc Rivers about this last week. Coaches right now are making enough money that they don't have to go back right away to coaching. They can take a couple of years off and watch their kids grow up.

Perhaps more so than other play-by-play guys, you inject commentary into the games. For instance, on Monday you said the Texans were giving a "garbage effort." Is that something that has evolved within you over time?

I call games down the middle and try to understand who we're speaking to. We're speaking by and large to a group of fans who are sitting and watching the game at home. It has evolved into a sports world of honesty. I'll never be critical of someone's effort unless it's bad effort, and it's blatantly obvious. I have the ultimate respect for pro and college athletes to go out and do what they do on a regular basis but there's also some reality that you need to be loyal to the viewers. If somebody's not doing a good job and the team's giving a very poor effort in a game they told us they have to win, you have to say it.

Will we ever see a streak like Brett Favre's 297-regular-season starts at quarterback again?

We might. I doubt it, but if we go to an 18 game schedule Peyton Manning's five years away. Is he going to make it? I'd guess no. I think there are too many odd things that happen. It's a lot toughness, it's a lot intelligence, and it's a lot of absolute grace of God. They all factor in. So my gut would say no, but we need to be careful about being sure that it's no because there's a guy that's more than two thirds of the way there at this point.

— Ryan Autullo

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