If you had your choice of attending Super Bowl LII or the 2018 Winter Olympics, would you go to Minneapolis or South Korea?
Mike Tirico chose PyeongChang.
The sportscaster, who is calling all of NBC’s Thursday night games and hosting all the Sunday night games this season, will not be involved in the network’s coverage of the Super Bowl, something NBC gets only every third year.
But it’s not as if he’s just headed to South Korea as a fan of winter sports. He is NBC’s new prime-time host, stepping into the role filled by Bob Costas at every Olympics, winter and summer, since 1992.
“You follow a Bob Costas. You don’t replace him,” Tirico said. “And I’ll try to do the job in my own style that I’ve been showing to everyone for the last 25 years on TV.”
The Super Bowl is just one day. Tirico will be the face of the 2018 Games for 18 consecutive nights, “and there is no other job like that in American television,” he said.
Tirico said he would like to be part of NBC’s Super Bowl coverage, but the choice to forgo that in favor of the Olympics was a no-brainer.
“As I tell my kids all the time — life is a series of tradeoffs,” he said. “And I feel like I won on that trade.”
There’s not a more high-profile job in TV sports than hosting the Olympics. Jim Bell, the executive producer and president of Olympic programming and production for NBC, said Tirico “is the perfect guy for it.”
I’m generally loath to agree with network executives when they’re launching into hyperbole. But in this case, Tirico really does seem like the perfect fit for the job — he’s smart, eloquent and personable. Not everyone can convey personality and charm on television, but Tirico can.
And it’s not an act. Well, if it is an act, it’s a unbelievably good one. I happened to get on an elevator with Tirico shortly after he took questions from members of the Television Critics Association a few months ago, and he greeted me with warmth and enthusiasm.
We chatted for a bit — we got off on the same floor — and he couldn’t have been nicer. Tirico even pretended he’d read some of my sports-on-TV columns. I’m really skeptical about that, but it was astonishingly kind of him to say.
Trust me, I’ve talked with hundreds of TV actors and sportscasters over the past 28 years. Most of them don’t go out of their way to be friendly to a TV critic from the No. 30 television market.
It’s not that NBC is in any way preventing Tirico from working the Super Bowl. It’s a matter of timing and logistics.
The problem is that the Super Bowl will be played Sunday, Feb. 4, and NBC’s coverage of the Winter Olympics begins Thursday, Feb. 8, a day before the Opening Ceremonies. Actually, by the time the Super Bowl starts, it already will be Monday in Korea.
“It will be Super Bowl Monday for me,” Tirico said, “which will be a first.”
The last time a network had both the Super Bowl and the Winter Olympics was CBS in 1992, and there was a 13-day gap between the two events.
“The Olympics are special. They’re still great,” Tirco said. “It’s one of the very few things that still bring the world together for a common goal. And maybe more than ever we need that in our world.”
Coming from some people, that would be easy to dismiss as hype and overstatement. From Tirico, it came across as completely sincere.