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Book Review: Al Michaels' You Can't Make This Up

December 20, 2014

Each week will highlight a book that it finds of interest to readers. This week is:

You Can't Make This Up: Miracles, Memories and the Perfect Marriage of Sports and Television, by Al Michaels, with L. Jon Wertheim, William Morrow, $28.99, hardback, 288 pages.

If you are familiar with sportscaster Al Michaels, it's because he's been all over the sports landscape. Recently turned 70, Michaels' 40-plus year career has taken him to the championship moments of the NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB, Triple Crown races, and most legendarily, to the Olympics. His "Do you believe in miracles?" call as the United States ticked down to an improbable hockey victory over the Soviet Union in 1980 will be a broadcasting moment replayed as long as TV sports highlight packages are compiled. He presently does NBC's Sunday Night Football.


There is not as much golf as I would like to recommend this autobiography to a pure golf fan, but given that the Brooklyn-born Michaels is a golf fanatic, the sport does figure into his account. The latter half has enough golf anecdotes interspersed to make it interesting for the golf fan, including how Michaels made a call to O.J. Simpson to play golf on the day Simpson's wife and an acquaintance of her's would later be murdered. Early in the book, Michaels writes about how his father, Jay, a talent agent-turned TV rights negotiator had worked with legendary agent Mark McCormack on buying rights to sports events. Michaels' father ended up founding and running Trans World International, IMG's television division.

During his career with ABC from 1977-2006, Michaels covered golf at events such as the Tiger Woods "Showdown at Sherwood" night-time specials played under the lights with the likes of David Duval.  He writes about those events, as well as his rounds of golf with athletes and celebrities. Throughout the book, Michaels drops a lot of famous names, but it's not obtrusive or excessive. He's simply telling his life's story and the people he met along the way, many of whom became or were famous.

I particularly enjoyed: The nostalgic nature of Michaels' life. He begins by talking about growing up in Brooklyn with three baseball teams in New York to follow. His remembrances of New York's great athletes and how they impacted his life to what it became is something all sports fans can relate to from their own childhood when it is common to adore athletes. Michaels was able to continue that adoration of the players of his youth when his family moved to California, coinciding with the Dodgers' move to Los Angeles.