ESPN drops Michaels from 'Monday Night'

ESPN drops Michaels from 'Monday Night'

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NEW YORK - Do you believe in switching networks? Yes!

Al Michaels appears headed to NBC after ESPN hired former quarterback Joe Theismann, Washington Post columnist Tony Kornheiser and Mike Tirico as its Monday night broadcast crew

Michaels had been with ABC since 1976 and had been the play-by-play voice of "Monday Night Football" since 1986, when he replaced Frank Gifford. A four-time Emmy-Award winner, he is best known for exclaiming "Do you believe in miracles? Yes!" when the United States upset the Soviet Union in the 1980 Winter Olympic hockey tournament.

NBC takes over Sunday night games next season from ESPN. John Madden, Michaels' broadcast partner for the last four seasons, agreed in June to a six-year contract with NBC.

"Al was not comfortable and let us know he was not comfortable with our vision of where we are going," ESPN executive vice president John Skipper said after Wednesday's announcement. "Back in November he said it was the greatest job ever invented. So sometime between the last couple of weeks and November apparently he had a change of heart."

At a news conference July 26, Michaels said he would remain with "Monday Night Football" when it switched to ESPN after 36 seasons on ABC. He was to be paired with Theismann, who had broadcast Sunday night games on ESPN.

"I feel like I'm a creature of Monday night. I'm home and I'm staying home," Michaels said then. "The three words 'Monday Night Football' resonate like no other."

Skipper was evasive when asked about specifics on Michaels, saying only a "satisfactory resolution" had been reached. Pat Gibbons, a marketing representative for Michaels, said he could not reach the broadcaster.

"We will probably discuss and update our position tomorrow," NBC Sports chairman Dick Ebersol said in an e-mail to The Associated Press.

Mike Breen will replace Michaels as the lead NBA play-by-play announcer on ABC/ESPN. He will be joined by former NBA coach Hubie Brown, hired in December 2004 as the analyst.

ESPN plans to use its various television and radio networks and Web sites for daylong buildups to the Monday night games, which will start at 8:40 p.m., about 25 minutes earlier than previously. MNF has not had a three-man booth since Michaels was teamed with Dan Fouts and Dennis Miller in 2000-01.

Theismann was an NFL quarterback for 12 seasons and had worked on ESPN's Sunday night games since 1988. Kornheiser, who had auditioned for the MNF job Miller got, has written for the Post since 1979 and has co-hosted "Pardon the Interruption" on ESPN since September 2001 with Michael Wilbon, another Post writer.

"I've got about 27 gigs right now," Kornheiser said. "I've got radio, I've got television, I've got The Washington Post."

He thinks listeners do care about who broadcasts games, especially "if the telecast has a certain amount of sizzle."

"Roone Arledge and Howard Cosell, among others, sort of changed the viewing habits of America," he said.

He also must adjust his schedule.

"I live like a barn animal. I go to sleep at 9:30 and wake up at about 5," he said.

Tirico has been a "SportsCenter" host for ESPN and handled play-by-play of the last Orange Bowl. He has worked for ESPN and ABC since 1991.

"It's the best play-by-play chair in sports," Tirico said. "To be the next person to sit in it is humbling."

Michele Tafoya returns for her third season as a "Monday Night Football" sideline reporter, and Suzy Kolber was added as a second sideline reporter.

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