Tirico looks to­ward Olympics while also on foot­ball duty

South Florida Times - - SPORTS - By BARRY WIL­NER

NEW YORK (AP) - Mike Tirico will fill the 100 days be­fore the Pyeongchang Games with foot­ball and fig­ure skat­ing.

With speed skat­ing and down­hill ski­ing. Curl­ing and hockey.

Tirico will be NBC’s prime-time host for the Win­ter Olympics, which be­gin a few days after the Su­per Bowl in Fe­bru­ary. In­deed, in that role for the first time — Tirico had some host­ing du­ties at the 2016 Sum­mer Games in Rio de Janeiro, but Bob Costas was the pri­mary an­chor — Tirico will miss the NFL’s ti­tle game in Min­neapo­lis. By then, he’ll be hun­kered down in South Korea.

“I have never watched a Su­per Bowl on a Mon­day morn­ing,” Tirico joked re­cently be­fore head­ing to Pyeongchang this week for some prep work and re­ports for NBC News. “Of course I would have loved to do both, but lo­gis­ti­cally it so un­re­al­is­tic. If I leave Min­neapo­lis on Sun­day night after the Su­per Bowl, I’m not at the IBC (in­ter­na­tional broad­cast cen­ter) un­til Tues­day in the mid­dle of the day in South Korea, and Thurs­day we are on for the first prime­time show. If you have one bad weather day, what are you go­ing to do?

“And we’re em­bark­ing on 18 straight nights of prime-time tele­vi­sion and want to do it the right way. And this is my first time do­ing this.

“The Olympics are the big­gest event over an ex­tended pe­riod given the num­ber of con­sec­u­tive nights in prime time. So re­al­ity sets in, and it’s great that Bob will be able to host the Su­per Bowl and do as good or bet­ter a job than has ever been done.”

Tirico isn’t step­ping away from his Thurs­day night foot­ball gigs or his work on Notre Dame games, so he’s had to mix in re­search and in­ter­views on luge and bob­sled, freestyle ski­ing and ski jump­ing. Sev­eral Olympic hope­fuls train at a rink in Can­ton, Michi­gan, near where he lives, so Tirico has spent a few hours there watch­ing fig­ure skat­ing prac­tices — for the first time in his life.

While he won’t be call­ing any events in Pyeongchang and notes that ev­ery­one at NBC is heav­ily re­liant on the ex­perts the net­work uses for the var­i­ous sports, Tirico rec­og­nizes the need for more than a pass­ing knowl­edge of a stone (curl­ing) or a sit­spin (fig­ure skat­ing).

“On the TV side, I’ve been go­ing back and watch­ing the last few Win­ter Olympics piece­meal over the last sev­eral months to see how it plays out,” he says. “I have watched it as a fan, and you get one sense of it. But now with the eye of be­ing a host, see­ing dif­fer­ent things and how the Olympics will play out as a host.

“I won’t be asked for tech­ni­cal as­pects of skele­ton or luge, but I need to un­der­stand the story lines of what we are look­ing for. And in prime time, that means re­ally know­ing the prom­i­nent sports.”

Not that the Win­ter Olympics are filled with prom­i­nent sports. Hockey would fit that cat­e­gory, ex­cept that the NHL is not send­ing play­ers for the first time since 1994. Other­wise, it’s likely that a vast ma­jor­ity of view­ers rarely if ever have tuned in to see the other sports since, well, the Sochi Games in 2014.

But that adds to the ca­chet of the Olympics.

“The ath­letes, by and large, are in our lives for 2 1/2 weeks,” Tirico said. “The other 200 or so weeks be­tween Olympics, they mostly are off our radar. The cy­cle of even the great­est of Olympians is a cou­ple of games or three, max. You con­stantly are in­tro­duc­ing new stars and sto­ries. That’s one thing our place has thrived on. That is at the core of any of us who got into this business; we love telling sto­ries. It’s part of our cu­rios­ity to in­tro­duce per­son­al­i­ties to Amer­ica, or with a Lind­sey Vonn or Mikaela Shiffrin to up­date their life story lead­ing up to that few min­utes that im­pact the rest of their lives.”

While at ESPN, Tirico had no in­volve­ment with the Olympics. He moved to NBC in the sum­mer of 2016 and has es­tab­lished him­self as the pre­mier sports broad­caster on tele­vi­sion if he hadn’t al­ready done so at ESPN.

And now, a huge new chal­lenge. He’s clearly stoked for his first Win­ter Games and the role he will have. He’s ea­ger to see which sto­ries ba­si­cally jump off the ice and snow and straight onto the tube.

“That is what makes it must-see TV, those mo­ments are so dra­matic,” Tirico says. “There’s four years of buildup to a down­hill run or slalom run or short and long pro­gram. How you will be re­ferred to in the fu­ture is on the line. Those things stay with peo­ple for life.”

PHOTO COUR­TESY OF YOUTUBE.COM

Mike Tirico

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