Michele Tafoya will work her final NBC Sunday Night Football game at Super Bowl LVI on February 13.
Tafoya began her sports media career in 1993 and is now the most-honored national television sideline reporter in U.S. sports with four Emmy Awards.
“My time with NBC Sports has been the most satisfying of my career. I’ve had the good fortune of collaborating with a team that is amongst the best at what they do, and the support I’ve received in this position has been unparalleled,” Tafoya said. “The list of people to thank is incredibly long, but for now, I will say I am immeasurably grateful to Fred Gaudelli, Drew Esocoff, Al Michaels, and Cris Collinsworth. They are the backbone of the Sunday Night Football family.”
“Some may consider me crazy to walk away from one of the more coveted roles in sports television, and I do not doubt that I will miss many aspects of the job. But for some time, I have been considering other areas I would like to explore both personally and professionally. I couldn’t ignore that little voice anymore after what we have all endured over the last few years. There’s no better way to walk away from covering the NFL than with one more Super Bowl!”
Tafoya will work her fifth Super Bowl (and 327th NFL game, the most national primetime games for an NFL sideline reporter) at SoFi Stadium just around 10 miles from where she grew up in Manhattan Beach.
Tafoya’s trophy case has become quite crowded over the years. She was awarded the Sports Emmy for Outstanding Sports Personality – Sports Reporter 4 times, and also received 2 Gracie awards from the American Women in Radio and Television – awarded to “Outstanding On-Air Talent in a Sports Program” for her work as a sideline reporter on Sunday Night Football, and in 1997 for “Outstanding Achievement by an Individual On-Air TV Personality” for her WNBA work with Lifetime. Along with these awards she has covered some of the biggest events and names in sports including the Super Bowl, Olympics, Michael Phelps, and Brett Favre.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING ABOUT MICHELE TAFOYA:
Fred Gaudelli, SNF Executive Producer — “No one has performed the sideline reporter role better than Michele in my professional lifetime. She’s as good at her job as Al and Cris are at theirs. Her contributions to Sunday Night Football have been significant and I know she’ll be successful at whatever she chooses next.”
Drew Esocoff, SNF Director — “Michele is the consummate professional and more important, the ultimate friend. I’ve enjoyed every second of our work time together. We will miss her contributions to SNF which have been enormous!”
Al Michaels, SNF Play-by-Play – “Michele Tafoya is the perfect broadcast partner. I’ve worked with Michele on both the NFL and NBA on close to 350 telecasts and she always hits it out of the park. Her preparation is unmatched and her ability to convey what she’s addressing in the moment is flawless. And she does it in the snow or rain or heat or any element you can think of. What she does on the air speaks for itself but what she does behind the scenes in fleshing out stories through the years has been invaluable to me and to John Madden, Cris Collinsworth, Doc Rivers, Hubie Brown and every production unit she’s been a part of. And on top of all this is who she is – brilliant, funny, compassionate, understanding and a mom who just happens to have raised, along with husband Mark, two beautiful children. Working with Michele has been pure joy.”
Cris Collinsworth, SNF Analyst – “I am having such mixed emotions with this announcement. I am so happy that Michele gets to turn her attention to her passion for changing the world. But, I am saddened at the thought of losing such an important member of our family. Michele makes every day at NBC Sports fun. She can take a joke and she can certainly dish them out. We have all had so many laughs together that at times it is easy to take for granted how incredibly talented she is and how hard she works every day at her craft. Michele is our standard. When topics that require meaningful research and depth of thought come up on Sunday Night Football, Al and I always say the same thing, ‘Let’s go down to Michele.’ Michele, we love you and will miss you badly.”
Brett Favre, Hall of Fame Quarterback – “From Monday nights to Sunday nights, I always enjoyed spending time in the production meetings with Michele. However, my absolute favorite was the postgame interview because we had won the game. Fortunately, I was able to participate in my fair share of those. Michele always kept the focus on the game and asked the questions fans wanted answered. I want to wish her the best in whatever comes next, and congratulate her on a great career.”
Peyton Manning, Hall of Fame Quarterback – “Michele Tafoya is a true professional. During my time in the NFL and even going back to the University of Tennessee, I always enjoyed my conversations with her in production meetings and our interviews on the field. She would bring out the joy in players during her interviews. That is one of her biggest strengths, getting players to talk about their emotions, what they were thinking and all that went into helping their team get a big win. It was always fun talking with Michele after a game because that meant you won and she had a unique way of bringing out all that went into that moment. Michele has done it the right way and done it for a long time at the highest level. I wish her all the best in this next chapter. One heckuva job well done, Michele. Congratulations on an extraordinary run, and I wish you all the best.”
Joe Buck, Troy Aikman Visit Bristol For First Time Since Signing With ESPN
“My anticipation for the start of this season is literally off the charts; I’ve never been this excited.”
Monday Night Football on ESPN is going to have a new sound this year with Joe Buck and Troy Aikman in the broadcast booth. The deal is reportedly worth a combined $165 million, and will officially begin on September 12 when the Denver Broncos visit the Seattle Seahawks at 8:15 p.m. EST on ESPN.
“I’m thrilled to officially welcome Joe and Troy to ESPN and Monday Night Football,” said ESPN Chairman Jimmy Pitaro. “They are elite broadcasters who have been at the forefront of our industry for more than two decades [and] are universally respected, and fans truly appreciate their candor and expertise.”
Buck and Aikman visited ESPN headquarters in Bristol for the first time today. The broadcast duo, now entering their 21st season in the booth together, is switching networks for the first time, a move that was initiated because of Aikman’s expiring contract. Throughout the season, Aikman had an inclination that it would be his last at Fox; however, he would have stayed at the network. The original thought, according to Aikman, was that he would call Thursday Night Football on Amazon Prime while continuing his role in doubleheader games with Fox – but it was quickly realized that it would not be feasible.
“ESPN began conversations with me, and it was an opportunity that was just the best fit for me,” said Aikman. “I didn’t think that was going to happen until a little bit after the Super Bowl.”
Buck’s contract was not set to expire until the end of this season, but after watching his veteran partner change networks, the possibility existed that he too would depart.
“When I knew Troy was gone, I think there was a little bit more intensity in my talks with Fox about ‘Was I going to stay there?,’ or ‘Was I going to try to continue my relationship on-air with Troy?’,” Buck reflected.
After approximately a month of negotiations between Buck and Fox, the broadcaster was off to ESPN. While the negotiations moved quickly, Buck never felt like he was taken for granted by Fox after working there for 28 years.
“They tell you how much you’re worth to them every time a check arrives,” said Buck. “They prove all that stuff by letting you continue to do it, and the relationships that we had. It was very collegial and very friendship-driven, much more so than employer-employee at Fox, and I expect the same will continue here at ESPN.”
Much of the media landscape across the National Football League has been significantly altered going into next season. Whether it is Buck and Aikman going from Fox to ESPN; the new Fox booth of Kevin Burkhardt and, upon his retirement, Tom Brady; the addition of Thursday Night Football on Amazon Prime with Al Michaels and Kirk Herbstreit; and Mike Tirico being moved into the lead Sunday Night Football role with Cris Collinsworth, the game will adopt a new sound upon the season’s opening kickoff.
ESPN Head of Event and Studio Production Stephanie Druley commented that amid the new broadcast landscape, the network believes it now has the number one football broadcast booth in the country. Additionally, she revealed the addition of a second Monday Night Football booth to be announced in the coming weeks as part of the network’s new broadcast rights deal with the NFL. The secondary booth will be calling three games this year and five games next year, and an announcement with more details is forthcoming.
For Buck, being welcomed to ESPN was representative of a full-circle moment, as his father Jack called Monday Night Football on the CBS Radio Network with Hank Stram. While Buck idolized his father and strived to one day be like him, he was always attentive as to what was going on in one of the other booths in the stadium.
“I knew as a little kid something special was going on two doors down, and that was when Howard Cosell was there; Don Meredith was there; Frank Gifford was there – and it was, ‘Man, that is the peak of sports and media,’” said Buck. “My anticipation for the start of this season is literally off the charts; I’ve never been this excited.”
“This is an opportunity with ESPN that I’m really excited about,” added Aikman. “We’ve been doing it so long in one way [and] it feels like it’s 2001 again…. I have nothing but respect for the people I worked [for] at Fox, and appreciate the way I was treated for the 21 years I was there, but am excited for the next chapter.”
NFL Explains How World Cup Effected 2022 Schedule
“We didn’t strategically deploy any of our games to either go really strong or go a little less strong, because we knew there was going to be soccer that day.”
This will be the first year that the World Cup will be contested during the NFL season. It isn’t a challenge professional football is used to in America. That is why Mike North, the NFL’s vice president of broadcast scheduling, told Richard Deitsch that it was important to do some homework.
“Very early in the process we got with our broadcast partner at Fox and we knew that there weren’t going to be any windows where Fox was not going to be able to broadcast an NFL game,” he said.
The real effect had to do with the NFL’s international schedule. Five games will be played outside of the United States borders this season. North said he wanted to understand the potential schedule for the World Cup so he could create the best atmosphere for the international contests.
“I’m not sure we’re doing the right thing for the fan in Germany if we’re playing in Bayern Munich’s stadium while the German national team is playing a World Cup game; I’m not sure we are doing the right thing for our fans in Mexico if we were playing a game in Mexico on a day when the Mexican national team was playing. So we were certainly aware of the World Cup schedule and worked very closely with our friends at Fox to make sure we were aligned on how we were going to approach it.”
North said that he wasn’t worried about football beating fútbol. He just wanted to understand what he was putting his teams up against.
“We didn’t back out of any of our windows. We didn’t strategically deploy any of our games to either go really strong or go a little less strong, because we knew there was going to be soccer that day.”
FIFA moved the World Cup to the final two months of the year in 2022. To play the games any earlier would have meant players would have been dealing with extreme heat in Qatar.
The first match will be played on November 21. The final is scheduled for December 18. That overlaps with weeks 11 through 16 of the NFL season.
Peter King: ‘Tom Brady Needs To Study Cris Collinsworth’
“He’ll know that to be good, he has to get out of his comfort zone of all niceties and tell it like it is.”
Peter King dedicated a not-insignificant portion of his “Football Morning in America” column this week to advice for Tom Brady. FOX announced last week that the Buccaneers’ quarterback will become the network’s lead NFL analyst upon his retirement.
Brady’s decision and his reported salary have been the source of much speculation and prediction amongst his soon-to-be colleagues.
King is optimistic that Tom Brady will be entertaining and informative when he makes his FOX debut. He did offer the GOAT a little bit of advice about what he should be doing in the months leading up to calling it quits on his playing days and starting his new career.
“I think what I’d do if I were Brady is study Cris Collinsworth—and honest to goodness, I don’t say that because I work for NBC,” he wrote. “I say it because Collinsworth knows how to talk X’s-and-O’s conversationally, he’s an easy listen, and he can criticize when the time comes.”
Interestingly, last week, Collinsworth says he hears from most former players that are getting ready to make the jump to broadcasting. He was surprised he never heard from Tom Brady before FOX announced their deal.
King had two other suggestions. The first was that Brady watch multiple games from start to finish so that he can hear what the give-and-take between a broadcaster and analyst sounds like. The other is that he has to commit to being interesting and not censoring himself. King has faith that Brady will be able to do that.
“He’ll know that to be good, he has to get out of his comfort zone of all niceties and tell it like it is. On that LeBron James show last year, Brady said, ‘Ninety percent of what I say is not what I’m thinking. There’s a part of me that doesn’t like conflict, so in the end I always just try to play it super-flat.’ That has to end once he’s on TV if he wants to be any good.”