Mike Carlson Exclusive

26 04 2012

If Mike Carlson was in this year’s NFL Draft, he would have a battle on his hands to even be selected, never mind worrying about where he would land.

This is by no means an attack on an internationally coveted football broadcaster and journalist, but merely the thoughts of the great man himself.

Mike Carlson

“Hahaha I don’t think there would be much call for a 195 pound tightend who can’t run fast or block well”, in reference to his playing days at Wesleyan College.

These days you’ll see Mike Carlson hosting Channel 4’s ‘Sunday Night Football’ show, similar to his role on Channel Five’s coverage of the sport.

“The Channel 4 job followed on from my previous role at Channel 5, it’s the same production company that makes the shows and they hired me when they first started NFL.

It was good for me because Sky had just let me go, without telling me, but the Sunday/Monday games went to Five and I moved from the host to the analyst role, which made more sense”

Mike has earned himself a cult following after using some peculiar phrases during his analyses. Lines such as; ‘The Bush you can support’ in reference to Reggie Bush and former President George W. Bush and the New Jersey Giants (New York Giants’ home stadium is in nearby New Jersey, not New York) have gone down well with the viewers when commentating on football.

“It all started from doing those minute and a bit highlights of Sunday’s games for our Monday night shows on Channel 5. I needed to do something other than just recite who was scoring or what, so I started improvising and thankfully the producers loved and encouraged it.

When asked what he enjoys most about presenting live on television; “It’s the challenge of saying something meaningful and entertaining ad-lib, with a producer talking in your ear, and the host looking at you like you’re crazy”.

We know that Mike is on the television now but where did it all begin for him, who ignited his passion for football? Predictably, it was his father, like so many before and after him, a father’s influence is greater than a small boy’s desire.

“I grew up with football, my dad played that and ice hockey in high school. He played against Levi Jackson in the Hillhouse versus West Haven thanksgiving game in front of 25,000 fans in the Yale Bowl.

He also played a year at University of Connecticut, where he came up against NFL Hall of Fame Andy Robustelli at Arnold College, (that was his claim to fame). He took me to the Yale versus Connecticut game when I was five, my grandad used to work there, and we saw almost every Yale home game from the time I was six until I started playing in high school”.

Mike Carlson

If anybody ‘follows’ Mike Carlson on social networking site Twitter, they will know that he is quite opinionated and seems undeterred by outside influences, something he displayed when turning down a scholarship at the renowned University of Pennsylvania.

“I went to Wesleyan University, a division three college that has since produced Bill Belichick and Eric Mangini, whilst turning down a scholarship from the University of Pennsylvania, mostly because I wanted to play lacrosse again and Penn wanted me to lift weights and get up to 225 pounds and play defensive end or linebacker. I wound up playing defensive end in a 4-4 defence and a split end on offense, (which was my dream) on Wesleyan’s freshman team which had 18 guys on it. I played tight end on the varsity for three years, the first of which we went unbeaten and won the Lambert Cup”.

After realising he wasn’t going to make it as a professional player, Mike took up a career in journalism.

“I was always writing, I did some on the papers in high school and college and a few freelance things while I lived in Montreal, getting an masters at McGill University, (I turned down the chance to try out for the Redmen, but played a lot of very competitive basketball in the gym with their team).

When I came to London I tried to get a journalism job and the editor of UPI liked me, but couldn’t give me a job thankfully he recommended me to UPITN, a television news agency they ran with ITN. The rest was history…I became their sports editor, went to ABC Sports, and then to Major League Baseball Intl”.

As any journalist will know, the small interviews are fine and pleasant but we are all in the business to capture that exclusive or big name. Mike is no exception and he has interviewed NFL royalty.

“In the NFL my best interview was with Jerry Jones (Dallas Cowboys owner), who didn’t like that I contradicted him and then there was Al Davis (former Oakland Raiders owner), who appreciated that I didn’t contradict him.

In the NFL Europe days, I loved the way coaches and players were so approachable and open. Jack Bicknell, Jim Criner and Ray Wollsey taught me so much about the game, I really miss those days. I loved the feeling when we set up to interview Aaron Stecker in New Orleans and he came in and looked at me and said, ‘you still doing this shit?’ and I replied, ‘you too? mines a lot easier”.

Moving on to football in the United Kingdom, Mike is of the view that football participation will only remain amongst the diehards.

“I believe football over here is reasonably big as an attraction; we’ve got a great product both live and on television, but as a participant sport it’s always going to be a long shot, partly because of entrenched sports as competition but more because the sport is so time, money, and technology intensive…you can’t just give them a ball and play in the street and then play virtually the same game as the pros”.

He is however more upbeat about the NFL International Series which will return in October of this year.

“I love it, and I think it’s a forward-looking idea. You wouldn’t see the English Premier League do something like that. It has its limits but I’d like to see one neutral site game for each team, every year, played overseas”.

Mike Carlson

Mike was brave enough to give FightForTheYard some predictions ahead of the 2012 NFL Draft and upcoming season;

Q) Moving on to the upcoming NFL Draft, who do you think will make the biggest reach?

You mean like the Atlanta and Julio Jones scenario? We’ve already seen the winners in that contest: Washington!

Q) Who do you like the look of more, Luck or RG3?

“I liked Luck in 2010, when I did Notre Dame versus Stanford, as much as any quarterback I’ve seen in years as an NFL prospect. What’s interesting to me is that he would have been a perfect fit for the Manning system at Indy, but who knows what their new attack will be like. RG3, I’ve seen only in the bowl game, but he’s got talent, and seems like a great fit for Shanahan, though his track record with developing quarterbacks isn’t that great”.

Q) If you were the St Louis Rams GM, what would you have done with the 2nd overall pick in the draft?

“Exactly what they did, I’d love to see them land Kalil, but they won’t, and I would serious consider trading down again if they got a good offer for the 6th pick”.

Q) Give me an early prediction for the next Superbowl, who do you fancy?

Who knows? Before the draft? Hmm, Randy Moss doesn’t make the 49ers favourites although I still think San Francisco and Baltimore were the best teams last season, in the sense of balance, with the Giants right behind them, but then again the Giants had a big play quarterback”.

And finally,
Q) What is next for Mike Carlson?

I’ve written a few books and I have been trying for a while to do an American football book. I would really love a radio show, a music one, a talk show, or a combo; I’d call it, ‘Old & in the Way’, just like me”.

FightForTheYard would like to thank Mike for his time and commitment to this interview.