NBC’s Mike Tirico travels 12,000 miles for Super Bowl and Olympics
After a layover in Japan and spending Tuesday adjusting to the 1 p.m. jet lag, Tirico returned to primetime Olympics coverage on Wednesday and Thursday. Then on Friday, he flew to Los Angeles to start hosting the network’s Super Bowl lineup as well — and on Sunday, which NBC dubbed “Super Gold Sunday,” he’ll do something brand new.
“Being able to host the Super Bowl and host the Olympics on the same day is…” Tirico said in an interview. “[It’s] not even a dream because I’m not dumb enough to dream that big.
In all, he covers almost 12,000 miles in a week, a dizzying ride across time zones and sports, oscillating between gold medalists and soccer champions.
Tirico, 55, is already one of the country’s preeminent sports commentators. Since leaving ESPN for NBC in 2016, he’s hosted some of the network’s most high-profile events, including golf tournaments, the Olympics, Indianapolis 500, Stanley Cup and Triple Crown races. .
After the Super Bowl, he’ll present the Vince Lombardi Trophy at SoFi Stadium and soon add another line to his growing resume: Tirico is set to soon replace NBC play-by-play broadcaster Al Michaels on “Sunday Night Football.” The 75-year-old Michaels’ contract expires after Sunday’s game.
This month-long period – Tirico left the United States for China on January 24 and the Olympics will end on February 20 – has been in the works for about two years. In early 2020, Tirico said, Molly Solomon, president and executive producer of the Olympic Production Network, and Sam Flood, president and executive producer of NBC Sports Production, gave him a sheet of paper outlining their wacky plan. That sounded “really cool,” Tirico thought.
Last October, Tirico began spending a few hours a day preparing for the Olympics. In mid-January, when he finished making play-by-play for the Cincinnati Bengals’ victory over the Las Vegas Raiders in the wild-card round, he stepped up his Olympic studies, moving on to “As often as you were awake,” he said.
“His hard work is remarkable,” said Fred Gaudelli, executive producer of ‘Sunday Night Football’. “You really can’t throw too many things on his plate, and he handles every one of them with great aplomb.”
“It’s impressive to say the least,” added NBC Sports President Pete Bevacqua. “He’s at the top of his game.”
Even though he’s jet lagged and even though this month’s broadcast activities have little in common – other than a massive global audience – Tirico can’t let the public know how much effort he has to put in this month. here to just get on the air and look fresh, polished and prepared.
“I feel embarrassed to talk about [my schedule] because I really do it on the shoulders of two amazing teams,” Tirico said. “Our Olympic team is pulling off what I think – no, I’m sure – is the toughest remote broadcast in US sports television history given covid restrictions.”
In China, “covid-zero” conditions and travel restrictions have forced all broadcast teams to operate with fewer staff on site than normal. Fences around hotels, venues and the International Broadcast Center created virtual bubbles, cutting journalists off from the host city’s 21 million people.
Despite the Games’ logistical challenges, NBC executives believed it was essential for Tirico to be in China at least for the opening ceremonies. Tirico said he fully understood the geopolitical magnitude of the moment as he stood at Beijing’s National Stadium about 25 meters from Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
On air, Tirico noted that “everything and everyone attached to these Games faces questions.” He criticized China’s human rights record and noted the US government’s “statement that the Chinese Communist Party is guilty of committing genocide against the Uighur Muslim population in the western region of Xinjiang. “. He and Solomon, NBC’s director of the Olympics, said they were proud to have framed the Games for global audiences without diminishing the athletes. But Tirico knows the critics wanted the politics left out.
“You will never satisfy everyone, especially in our country in 2022,” he said.
During the Olympics, Tirico said, he didn’t dine much with co-workers. He’s disappointed that he didn’t get to experience Beijing – no coffee like in Rio de Janeiro or kimchi like in South Korea – but the team has embraced the mantra of “exhilarating, not exhausting”.
One night after the show, Tirico said, the five-person production group stayed late to watch some events. In speed skating, Ireen Wüst of the Netherlands won a gold medal in the 1,500 meters, set a record time (1:53.28) and became the first athlete to win gold medals individuals at five different Olympic Games. Next, the crew watched four curling rinks.
“It was like the coolest thing,” he said.
On Thursday afternoon, Tirico rehearsed the Lombardi Trophy on Microsoft Teams and went to a production meeting for the Olympics primetime broadcast, his last in Stamford before flying to Los Angeles.
“It was as good as I expected,” Tirico said. “I just hope the weekend pays off [it all] disabled.”