Huddle Up with Gus
Huddle Up with Gus

Episode · 1 year ago

Michele Tafoya

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Joining me in the Huddle this week is Michele Tafoya. Since 2011, she has been a reporter for NBC Sports, primarily as a sideline reporter for NBC Sunday Night Football. We find out that her love for sports came from the passion her dad had for sports, a die-hard San Francisco 49ers fan. Her father Orlando Tafoya grew up in San Francisco and attended many games at Kezar Stadium. Michele describes her parents as compassionate and inspiring role models; she gives them much credit for her success. 

By the time Michele was 27, she had earned her Bachelors in Mass Communications from the University of California, Berkeley, and a Masters Degree in Business Administration from the University of Southern California. During her time at graduate school, she really thought about exactly what it was she wanted to do. What she knew was, she loves sports and she loves journalism. She thought if she could marry the two together she would never work a day in her life. There was no shortage of inspiration for her dreams. She admired the works of Lesley Visser and Robin Roberts and felt confident that she could do what they do.

She landed her first gig in her professional broadcasting career; she moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota, and started covering games not only for the NFL Vikings but the University of Minnesota women’s basketball team as well. From there she accepted an offer in Charlotte, North Carolina. She was a color analyst for the men’s basketball team for the University of North Carolina; in 1993 she was the first woman to hold that position. As Michele became more recognized she also became more sought after. From 1994 to 1999 she co-hosted "CBS Sports Spectacular". In 1996 she positioned herself as the first woman to call television play-by-play of an NCAA Tournament game.

Michele quite frequently works several jobs at a time. She is of course humbly proud of her accomplishments, but she credits hard work and dedication for her success. In the new millennium, Michele spent the next decade with ABC and ESPN, in 2004 she was allowed to report side by side with Al Michaels and John Madden for ABC’s Monday Night Football. By 2011 Michele had earned so much respect she was offered a position of sideline reporter for the most-watched weekly game. She was back with Al Michaels for NBC’s Sunday Night Football. With her outstanding sports personality, she won two Emmys; one in her first year with Sunday Night Football and the second in 2013. And in 2014 Michele won her second Gracie Award for her work on Lifetime again, but with the Sunday Night Football syndicate.

...welcome everyone to huddle up with Gus. I'm your host, 15 year NFL quarterback Gus, for, uh, we're here in the new 16 31 digital news studio. If you wanna learn more or listen to previous shows, you can check us out on our website huddled up with gus dot com or wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts. While in the huddle, our guests describe how sports shaped their life. Now let's join the huddle. Hello, everyone, and welcome to another episode of Huddle Up With Us. I'm your host gust for a 15 year NFL quarterback. And, uh, I wanna welcome you to the new 16 31 digital news studio. And also you can find us now on Sounder FM, where Sounder FM is changing the game where you can go and find new ways to broadcast your podcast. So, uh, today's guest is somebody that I think we kind of came on the scene together back in the early nineties, and you know, she's been doing her thing and still doing an amazing job. She is now a sideline reporter for Sunday Night Football, but her list is way too long to go on and on about. She's, she's she's been in over in the Olympics broadcast and everything from skiing Thio. I can't remember some of the other things I've seen Michelle that you broadcast, but you seem to have an awful lot of fun. You have an incredible voice for it. You do an amazing job every time your report on whatever it is you're reporting on because I think you're just an absolute not for for whatever sport you're, and you just know it so well. So everyone I wanna welcome to the shell. Michele Tafoya. We I think you started in 1993. Michelle. I was drafted in 94 so we kind of kind of both came in at the same time. Yeah, so if you were a lot younger than I waas So you know there's that, but it's great to see you and great to be with you. And thank you for the nice intro. Well, I I you know, because I always try to figure out what that intro is gonna be for all my guests. Right, Because some of them are pretty simple. Um, some of them, like you that have just all these footnotes and everything that you've done. It's just amazing to me, uh, that that your career has gone in such a trajectory. It's been amazing, and I love to see it. Oh, I appreciate that. I have been very fortunate, but, you know, and worked very hard. So it Zbynek a long one, that's for sure, right? But it's probably been a lot of fun. It's been a great journey for you because you're flying all over the world reporting on sports. So let's go back to where it all started for you back in California, where you grew up and tell me about the first time you could remember where you fell in love with sports and said, You know, I always want to be involved in this. I don't know if I knew that I always wanted to be involved, but I did. My dad took me to my first major league baseball game. Nolan Ryan threw a no hitter against the Minnesota Twins. He was with California at that time, and that's ironic because now I live in Minnesota, where I cheer for the Twins. But I remember that I remember watching North Carolina State when the final four when the championship. I remember that and falling in love with basketball. We were always a sports oriented family. My dad was a sports nut and my brother was a huge, you know, 6 ft six basketball player, kind of one of those all state California guys. And so we all cheered for his career along the way, and I just So I knew basketball inside and out and played a little bit. I was never a great athlete. I was a good talker, so it's sense. But at some point along the line, I think it was Gus. Um, my dad grew up in San Francisco and was a I mean, a devout 40 Niners fan, and we were growing up in Southern California, where all my friends were L. A Rams fans. And it was, you know, this thesis inferiority complex because San Francisco was so bad for so long. And then when Bill Walsh arrived and and, of course, Joe...

Montana, uh, we got season tickets and we used to drive up the 400 miles to the games, and it was I think that was really for me, sort of. The what sealed the deal is I just loved the NFL so much and continued to follow it so deeply. And then I saw, you know, I saw women getting into this bit and I said, Kash, I think I could do that. You know, I wanna be in broadcasting. I think this might be the way to go. So my question is, who is that person for you? That that that woman for you? Because I've interviewed many. And who was that person for you where you saw them on TV or heard them on the radio or whatever it was that said this? She is gonna help Let me do what I want to dio. Well, I think it was probably Robin Roberts. She, to me, was the model of what a good sports journalist should be and e remember meeting her. And for the first time, it was at a n N C double A tournament when I was working for CBS and certainly Lesley Visser as well. I mean, she was one of the first on the sidelines, and I thought to myself, Wow, um, that's an opportunity, you know? So I think the two of them, But I do want to say This is well and I want to say this for any young person that may be watching this. I was also influenced by men. I was influenced by Bob Costas. I was influenced by Dan Patrick. I was influenced by Al Michaels. Those people influenced me to of how to do journalism well on how to cover sports. Well, and I would like to think that some of us who are happen to be women could influence young men and women that it doesn't have thio matter about your gender. Um, to me, I I went into it thinking, I'm not just competing with women in this business. I'm competing with everyone. I'm competing with journalists. I'm a human being. I don't really care that I'm female. I mean that I did recognize that that may give me a bit of a leg up because I know at that time, you know, women were scarce in this business, and if you could do it well, you could get a job. And so But I didn't outside of that. I just thought of myself as a journalist competing against other journalists and not, you know, putting myself giving myself a hurdle by thinking of myself as, ah minority or as a as a, you know, as someone with a disadvantage. So I I would like to think that good journalists influence good journalism. Good reporting influences, good reporting. No matter what your gender, no matter what your skin color. All of that. Yeah, I think that's that's great, because that's what equality means, right? We don't see anything. It's just whoever is best for the job bond. And that's what that means. And so I think you're coming about it the right way. But there were people that had to fight those battles. Uh, per se You know what I've interviewed? Um, Lesley Visser. I've interviewed Nancy Brenner. I You know all these all these great women in Nancy Lieberman I just had on. I mean, I think about what she's done in basketball. For me, for you. You've been ingrained in football for a while now, but you talk about and you report on so many sports. Did you find it harder or easier to kind of get ingrained with football over the other sports? Because I see football, try really trying to be more inclusive than I feel like it's the N B A. And then it's kind of the other sports. Yeah, well, I'm really proud of two friends of mine. Doris Burke, who's been doing a lot of work on the N. B. A. Is an analyst. I mean, she is really broken through. And then Sarah Thomas, who just worked the Super Bowl, is a good friend, and I'm so I was so fun to watch her. She is. Those to me are, you...

...know, those air pioneers. Sarah's a pioneer. She was the first woman to work a Super Bowl, and I'm sure that she is influencing other women. So I do not minimize that role. I do not minimize that idea that when you see other women doing something, you go. Okay, this is open toe women. Okay, that's great. Um, but I also saw that some women had a chip on their shoulder and thought, Oh, he's not going to talk to me because I'm a long you cannot think that way. You have to think of yourself, and you have to go through whatever fires you have to go through, and I certainly went through them. Believe me, I went through them. Um, but and I'm sure I went through those that were that men didn't have to go through a Sfar as getting the NFL was always my goal. I love covering college basketball. I love covering the N B A. I love covering the Olympics, everything it was. I mean, I'm so blessed. But the NFL was where I wanted to be, and I just kind of kept taking that next step. Gus, you know, just okay, What's what's the next thing for me to dio And and in some cases, I was afraid to ask for certain assignments. But as I became more confident, I got more assertive in asking for different assignments. But, uh, this this path was quite organic. I was working with Al Michaels on the n b. A, and at the time they were looking for a new reporter on Monday Night Football, and he recommended me without my knowing. I had no idea he did that on Boom. It happened. And I've been with his team pretty much ever since, and it Z, it's just been it's just a great office, a good team to be on. Yeah, it is. You think Yeah, eso if we go back to when you were in high school and you're thinking about this because you always fell in low. You loved the NFL. You took those drives up to San Francisco with your family. Your dad, Um when's the first time you really kind of talk to your dad or your family about this is what I want to do. This is in high school, uh, and then said, I want to go on and pursue this in college. What do you guys think? Do you remember those conversations with your family? You know, I think going into college I wasn't even sure this was what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to be in broadcasting of some kind, and my parents were supportive of whatever I wanted to do. Is long as it truly made me happy. Um, you know, I got to college. I was up in Northern California, still going across the bay to 40 Niners games and having a blast and just following it with all of my heart. But I think I only when I got out of college, I got a little cold feet and I thought this business. You know, there, those jobs are few and far between. What if I don't get one? What if I don't get where I wanna go? I need a fallback plan. So I went back to school, got a masters in business. But it was then, Gus that I really realized. Um, I don't want to be. I want to be in front of the camera. I wanna be covering something I love. I want to be doing something I'm passionate about. And that's when, after spending all that time, you know, studying business, which, by the way, it came back to help me. In many ways, um, I told my parents. Yeah, I'm gonna move to Charlotte, North Carolina. I'm gonna take this job that barely pays for anything, but I'm starting. This is I've got to start somewhere. And this is where I'm starting. And they just were always supportive. They just you know, I think that they trusted me toe make the right decisions for myself. And and, you know, I'm glad my dad lived long enough to see me do some really special things. My mom is still alive. She was with me when I won my first Emmy, so that was like crazy nice eso Itt's just It's...

...been a journey that they've very much been a part of. Yeah, that's awesome. You know, I kind of feel the same way about my parents as well. They just wanted the best for you, right? And then we have a good support structure, but your road doesn't sound like it was very easy either. Right? When you when you do make that trip to North Carolina, then you have to figure, you know, all of a sudden I'm not that close to home, you know, because I did that as well. Going from Pittsburgh to Tulsa, it's a struggle. And it's, uh this is something I want to do. But now I'm on my own. So now you get on your own in Charlotte. And what was the thing you learned in Charlotte that that really that you could remember helps you carry you still carry with you today? I think resiliency. I really dio I mean, I think think I've naturally been a resilient person and someone who is a survivor. But, you know, I didn't know anyone in Charlotte. Um, it wasn't a great experience for me the time that I was there. Um, it was a great learning experience. My gosh, I was doing five hours of sports talk five days a week, and you gotta be versatile. You gotta be versatile. This was before the Panthers were in Carolina to this was, you know, we were talking Atlanta Braves. We're talking Duke, North Carolina. Um, it taught me a little bit about how to go with your gut. I remember calling the This was 1994 NC double A tournament. And we all picked our Brack. It's on the air, and I picked cow to beat Duke. And it wasn't because I went to cow. It was because before I left California, my dad took me to a cow UCLA basketball game down at Pauley Pavilion. And I watched that game and I saw Jason Kidd and I saw Jared has, and I saw that whole roster of the cow basketball team beat U. C L. A. Soundly and I and I. And then I got to North Carolina and I watched Duke and I said, Cow can beat Duke. I'm picking cow and ever I got lambasted in in Charlotte, you could imagine people are like, Oh, you home or you're picking with your after Cal beat Duke in the Elite eight. Or it might have been a sweet 16. I'm forgetting. But, um, everyone called and apologized and said, Oh, my gosh, you you knew what you were talking about. That one took some guts and I took abuse for it. It sounds silly because it was just, you know, it's local radio, and I took all the that's abuse. But when you're in it and when you're in that town and everyone's railing on you and you got to stand by what you believe and you know you're kind of Yes, I was a bit of anomaly because I was a woman there, Um, you know, you gotta learn to be resilient and thicken your skin. And I think that was the thing that I took away from that experience. You learned early that nothing comes easy, right? And I definitely learned how to Tulsa. You think you're this guy in high school, then you go to college and you're not, you know, Then you gotta work up to be the guy in college and you get there and then you're not the guy. Then you gotta go. The NFL improve yourself. That's every year, right over and over and over again on. And so, you know, watching your career and doing it following you in all the places that you moved, I was like, Man, that feels so similar to me. Like you were just bounced, like, you know, I played for seven teams, I was all over the place, and you got to kind of move and go with the job is and, uh, you know, that's what was kind of I felt similar. Like, you were all over the place. And then you found your roots in Minnesota. Tell me a little bit about that. Yeah. Who would have figured a girl from Southern California would wind up in Minnesota and be very happy here? That's crazy. As I mentioned to you, Gus, Charlotte wasn't easy for me. It was a very difficult, uh, nine or 10 months there for a number of reasons. And at the time, I don't know if you remember when...

Michael Jordan retired the first time we had an end down in Charlotte, we had an end. We got tipped off to that news before it was public. And the way we got tipped after that news was that the guy who was printing all the retirement paraphernalia for Jordan let us know and before it was public. So we were able to break that news. When we broke that news, our little tiny AM radio station in North Carolina, a station in Minnesota, asked me to come on and talk about it. So I did. And they had me on again. And, you know, after I think the second or third time, they asked me to stay on hold at the end of the interview and their program director picked up and she said, You don't know me, but I wanna hire you. And she flew me out to Minnesota and she flew me around. She drove me around. She showed me everything and she made me want to make that step. And for me, it was a bigger market, you know, They have the Vikings, the twins, the Timberwolves, they had it all. And, um, I said, if you can allow me to be on your Vikings broadcasts, I'll come. So she made me the sideline reporter on their radio Vikings broadcast. And so I said, This is a step in that right direction that I want. This will give me at least another end to what I want. Uh, it was not easy. When I arrived, it was 30 below with the wind chill. Um, you know, I had no idea what I was getting into, but I knew it was the right career move. It was an opportunity that presented itself. And so I took it, Um, And then and then I fell in love with the place because once I saw the seasons change, I was like, You see this in Pittsburgh as well, You see, in California, you don't see that much of a season change right here. We get it all we get all four seasons in their glory, and my first spring that I saw here I was like, Oh, my gosh, there, ducklings. There are bunnies. There are two lips to It was so beautiful to me that I kind of started to fall in love so that even when CBS hired me to go work network TV, I said, I'd like to stay in Minnesota and travel, and I did. Yeah, we loved Minnesota when I when I played, I played there twice and 03 or four and then again in No. Eight. And I always enjoyed driving around Minnesota. You know, whether it's the summer, the winner, Whatever was like you said, It's always so beautiful and one of my favorite things ever was when I would drive through those small towns and it starts to get ice on on all the lakes or the pond or what Everyone and those kids come out and they're cleaning the snow off and they're making their little rinks like you just don't see that kind of stuff anywhere. And it's It was I always loved that about Minnesota. Yeah, it is neat. It z really neat. It's for the hearty, that is for sure, A Z. My husband likes to say that the cold weather keeps the riffraff out. You know, you only you could only be here if you want to really survive it. And believe me, there are days were both he and I go. What are we doing here? Like as I sit here talking to you right now, I think it's it's two degrees, maybe you know, it's It's the kind of weather where you wouldn't wanna walk to the mailbox. But when spring breaks and when the fall comes and I know you experience fallout here, it could be absolutely like, Who's bumpy? Beautiful And so that that I love it was a great you know, Once I met my husband was kind of like all over We put our roots down here. We're raising our kids here and eso here we stay. And I've just been really lucky enough that all the work that I do requires that I travel, so it kind of doesn't matter where I live. And if you look at our Sunday Night Football crew, our producer and director live in Connecticut. Al Michaels lives in L. A. Cris Collinsworth lives in Fort Thomas, Kentucky. I lived in Minnesota, and we all kind of, you know, just converge every week, whatever city we're gonna be covering. So it's worked out. Yeah. So who's the leader of that team? Is it...

Al Michaels for sure? Al and Fred Gaudelli, our producer Fred knows what he wants, and he doesn't accept. He's kind of like a Bill Belichick Gregg Popovich kind of mix. Um, he is. He's a leader. He knows what he wants. He doesn't accept anything below a certain state. I mean, you know the standard you're being held to every week. So in that regard, he is the leader of the pack. When the three of us Al, Chris and I go out to dinner, it's a trifecta we are all competing for who can tell the best story. But you know, Al is the AL is the master of ceremonies because he has so many great stories to tell and so much experience. My gosh, the the breath of his experience. Gus is mind boggling. And I knew that before, but I saw him when, and I saw him going to the radio broadcast or the television broadcast Hall of Fame. I was there for the ceremony. I was with Mad, and I was with Fred and and they did a montage of his career. I waas blown away. The guy has seen and done so much, and I just the respect I have for him is enormous. Yeah, how do you do? A montage of his career, which seems like it would take about two hours a day least. Yeah, it was. So it was about a 20 minute clip. Real. And, you know, you just saw these quick bits of him from the youngest age doing, you know, stuff in Hawaii to when he got to San Francisco, then with the Reds and Cincinnati did the earthquake Siris in Northern Calif. I mean, and then there's, you know, do you believe in miracles? And it's just it's so tremendously amazing, uh, toe work with him and Chris, too. I mean, Chris is one of the hardest workers I've ever met in my life. They both are. So you know the standard when you walk in the door and you gotta work your tail off to reach it, right? Well, I watched your first when Al Michaels, Um, when you joined the team and it was your first time on interview. And I think you interviewed Jason Garrett right with with Sunday Night Football. I think that was a charge. It was the Chargers plan, the Cowboys, something like that. And Al Michael said all these great things about you and I wanna welcome her to the our team and all this. And you were just like. Yeah. Thanks, Alan. And you went on an interview, Jason, Like you've just been doing it forever. You know, it was it was great. It was like from the beginning. You guys were You were just like it sounded like you guys were just clicking, you know, a Z I mentioned, I think, earlier, Alan, I worked on the MBA together, and, um, we clicked them and, you know, it just I don't know what it waas we just clicked. I just He is for anyone that you know doesn't know him. Well, um, he is He and his wife were just so warm, and he just took me under his wing. I you know, I know people say that a lot, and I guess I had never experienced it until Al and he just Come on, kid. We're going to do this and it's gonna be fun. And it's, you know, And then, you know, I worked with Madden on the first two years of Monday night football that I was there and he was great, but he was no pushover. You know, I had toe kinda earned my way with him and prove what I could dio so, But it's fun being in that environment. I like being pushed. I like being pushed to the point where you do you know, you you just wanna You just wanna do everything right. You want to do it the right way. You wanna be the best at it that you could be? Um, but it ain't for the faint hearted. Its's a lot of work, but, you know, it's it's a lot of fun. It's really rewarding. So talk to me a little bit about when you're I mean, obviously, it's during the game. You're doing the...

...sideline reporting. It's like right before half or after half. You're trying to grab that head Coach, Um, do you come up with those questions or somebody? Where are you working with somebody? Toe kind of go along with the storyline of the game, Are you? How do you kind of determine what you're gonna ask him? Well, and we do those, unlike some broadcast, we do those off camera because we believe we get the better information when there's not a camera pointed at the guy. Now there have been some circumstances. We did a Super Bowl where we talk to Doug Peterson at halftime walking off the field, and that was I was so grateful he did it. It was so insightful. But for the most part at regular season games, I'm talking to those guys now. I do that all myself. We do have a silent producer in the truck whom I bounce ideas off of, but we have done so much preparation during the week. You know, we've talked to each coach going into the game during the week and our production meetings, so we know what they want to accomplish. We know what they're thinking about in terms of the strategy for that game. We know what what their mindset is, and then, you know, it either happens or it doesn't in the game. And so you want to combine what you've learned going into that game with what's actually happening in the moment and you know better than anyone. It doesn't always happen the way you wanted toe happen. And so you know, and look, I'm just so grateful these guys are willing to talk to me at all that you tell me if you're trailing, what does it feel like walking into that locker room at halftime. And aren't you just hell bent on correcting the problems? Well, I think that it's been so ingrained to us as in the football world, like in the NFL, whether your coach or a player that that you're gonna have to talk to the press, you're gonna have toe communicate with the media like my whole career, like, terrible game. Terrible. Um, embarrassment. Whatever. I've had them all. You're gonna have to go and discuss this with the press, and you're gonna get tough questions, and they're not always gonna be what you want, and you have to learn to deal with it. And if I think people see that if you can't deal with those things, how the heck are you going to coach a team, right? That's what I get at, right? You can't. You can't handle that like a two question thing. Like, at that point, how are you gonna go in and talk to your team at halftime and get them to rally? So I think that you know, I love when I watch hockey because hockey there, right on the bench, doing it. I want you guys sometimes just to be like on a sideline, grab a guy sometime and say, Hey, what were you thinking on that? Like, it would be incredible. Uh, it would be the best, you know, and yet we're not there yet. Uh, the MBA was close. I worked on the MBA for about eight years on ESPN and ABC, and you could be in the hope, you know, you could listen, and you could be in it, But you could listen into the huddle. And most coaches were pretty okay with that. And so you got a sense with the NFL. And this season has been really different, Gus, because you could hear everything this season with no fans in the stadium. You know, you can hear all this stuff, but they've got you know, they don't want you to quote exactly what you've heard. So you could characterize a conversation. You could sort of describe it, but until you until you get to have time with the coach, you can't really quote anyone. Um, but anyway, the coaches have been great. Um, this year was different because rather than walking side by side with them off the field toward the tunnel and really getting a feel for, you know, their body language. What their facial expressions were, who they were talking to is they were walking up. You were leaning over like the stands going. Hey, coach. And, you know, sometimes you had a mask on or they had a mask on and you're trying to hear each other and eso This year was quite different in that regard, but yeah, no, I Look, I think I'm versed enough to know what, what to ask in those situations. Andi, that's what I dio...

...if you ever caught yourself being a fan of the game while you're there and just watching it and kind of, you know what I mean because sometimes you're a fan and like, it's exciting and you just space out and you forget why you're there. Have you ever caught? Yeah, I think that's happened. I am quick to remind myself while I'm there. I try to stay very conscious of that. But there are moments. Sure, when you're watching an exciting game or it's back and forth or, you know, yeah, you just go. You're like biting your tongue, you know, You know, if you're accidentally caught on a camera shot and you're going? Yes, that would probably be not a good thing. So you have to stay. You know, you're staying objective. That is the job. Um, that's where sometimes I envy, like some of these home broadcast. You know that the team broadcasters who get Thio win I got to do that. When I covered the Olympics specifically in Rio, I covered swimming and we were interviewing almost exclusively the American swimmers after number one because they were succeeding number two because that's who our audience was interested in. And you, you kind of got to be a little bit more of a homer in those instances. But when you're covering two teams, I yeah, you can't do that. So talk to me a little bit about the Olympics, because professional sports here in the US are so kind of regimen. You know, the timeline and everything an Olympic seems like. It's more spread out. Like if you gotta talk about a certain sports as swimming, are they pretty on a guideline? Is it easier to kind of study all that or is it way harder because seems like Olympics are more spread out Well, the best example I can give you probably is the swimming, because that was That's my most recent memory. The first Olympics I ever worked with the Winter Games in Nagano. And I was hosting the late night studio with Al Trautwig, and that was a blast. And you covered everything from figure skating. The hockey Thio lose to everything. And you know you have research that's provided for you. We have these great research departments that call all the information and prepare help you prepare for it. Um, with swimming in Rio, I just I just delved into all of the swimming research I could do. And it was I think the 1st 10 days of the Olympics or all that swimming is condensed into that time. There are other events going on all over the place, but you are given a beat, if you will. You are given an assignment. And my assignment was, uh, was this the aquatics, the swimming, not the diving, but it was fantastic. It was long days because we'd work that the heats In the morning we go back to our little office, this makeshift office and a parking lot and sleep on air mattresses for about an hour and a half, then get up and get ready for the big competition that was airing in prime time. So it was a full day's work. You got home about two or three in the morning and you got up again the next day and started over. And but it waas so fulfilling to be there for Michael Phelps. Final Olympics was phenomenal. The storylines were great. There was so much going on. The U. S did so well s Oh, I think you do. No matter when you're covering sports, if you're open to covering all of it, you have to be a quick study. You have to be a quick learner, and unfortunately I am. And that helped me a lot with swimming. Yeah, I think now may be wrong with this, But, you know, you talk about Al Michaels a lot and somebody who can quick study a lot of different sports Seems like Alcon do that. And what a good mentor that would. You know, because you are like that. You understand all sports very well, very fast. And it seems like Al is like that too. So is he helped you in that regard Well, just watching him and watching Chris and their work ethic has certainly helped. Um, it's they both provided examples in different ways. Um,...

...you know, we are all together in these production meetings with players and coaches how they approach those. Um, how Chris does this film study is just unbelievable. I mean, unbelievable how much he prepares for a game. And s o, you know, again, it sets a high bar, No question. But I think you know, I think ah, lot of my career happened before I met Al, and I was just willing. I think you gotta be willing to say you want me to do downhill skiing and Kitzbuhel, Austria. Okay, I'll go, and I'll study my brains out, and I'll do it. You know, You want me to do the College World Series in Omaha? Okay on. Did you just commit yourself? It's kind of like when you go to college, Gus and you, you know, you can go to sociology at this time. You're gonna get a French. At this time, you're gonna goto, you know, Polly side here and e con there, and you gotta learn all of them and in order to pass your test. And that's pretty much what this iss eso I know Your dad was a huge 40 Niners fan. My dad was just always a fan of all sports too. But when I got to the NFL, he always wanted to come to a game or, you know, to get me something from this guy or you know what I mean? He just He was old school, my dad on dso I'm thinking like the kind of fan your dad waas You will see that kind of guy because you were at a lot of games. You you got toe go to a lot of games. Was he like, Hey, can you give me some tickets? You know, you come into town or how was your dad and your family with that eso at that time? I wasn't in their neck of the woods very much, But I do remember one of the most gratifying things for me was when I took him to a 40 Niners game. I was working s o. He got to come down on the field with me pre game. It was like being around a little kid, you know, he wanted to pack eyes on the back and say, Go get him. You know, he waas out of his mind and it was so great. Um, you know, he My dad was a guy who, when the Olympics were in L. A. In 1984 he made sure that he could procure tickets to take his kids, and he ahead of time, drove down toward the Coliseum and found a little side street where he could park. And he talked to the neighbors there and he said, I'm gonna be bringing my family. I don't want to deal with, you know, $2030 parking tickets can, you know, over the place Can we park here and walk? And I remember we had these. This is so silly. But in our backyard we had orange and lemon trees, and we would pick fresh lemons and fresh oranges for the people who let us park on their straight. And we bring them in the mornings before the Olympics, you know? And then we walk over the Coliseum and watch Mary Decker run or or whatever and eso he he you know, he always he was so into it. And, you know, he happened to go to Galileo High School, where O. J. Simpson happened to go. And I remember that one time. That was a real point of pride for him. You know, he when he was a kid, he snuck into 4900 games that he's our stadium. Um, you know, he he just Yeah, he he never really asked for anything. But when I offered, he was so excited. It was it was a joy to be able to do that for him. He was a little He was a little shy with that stuff, but, um And then when I started doing play by play in the W N B A and even in college basketball, he would tell me I sit on the couch and I watch, and I'm so nervous that you're going to screw up s my dad? Yeah. So it Z. Like I said, I'm glad that he was able to live long enough to see me, Do you know? Okay. So that it didn't make him nervous. Oh, yeah. My dad would be called home. Hey, Dad, would you think of the game? You...

...threw three interceptions. Why threw four touchdowns, but you threw three interceptions. Why would you do that? You know, like it's the same. It's kind of the same thing there. So nervous. And that's how he was coming out. And I used to take him and his brother. So when when he was still alive, toe the training camps When we have training camp, you know, we'd be there three weeks. Well, him and his brothers would pull up. He was one of 15 kids, and they would pull up. It would be like a clown car, right? They'd pull up in all these old guys would get out, and I'd be like, OK, this is your area. You guys just stay here. And next thing you know, there's one uncle talking to this coach, another uncle talking to that coach and, like, they're just spread out. And I'm just like, Oh, well, if you got the oh, a little bit e o. Yeah. My s o my dad's brother. Uncle Paul. His son Mitch played for the Buffalo Bills, Um, through three of those Super Bowls, and then he moved on to Seattle. And so Uncle Paul kind of knew the grounds he felt like I'm this old guy. I've been here before. I could go wherever I want right now that he was always the one that was We called him the Wanderer E. I just I love stories like that. Yeah, you know, that was for me. That was always so much fun. Um, but, you know, and I think about your career and journalism now and compared to when you first came in in 90 I think about when I first came in and what we had as faras Internet and connection and finding out things. And now how fast it can come to you and how quick you could do it. How does that change journalism for you? And how does it change? Getting ready for a game? I mean, you're a quick learner, so I mean, you have to be quicker. Yeah, well, to a certain extent, you do. But one of our policies is always yes. Do we wanna be first? Absolutely. But we want to be right. We wanna be right. We don't wanna, you know, brush to something and at the expense of getting it right. So I'm very careful about that. My job, fortunately, doesn't require a tongue of social media or tweeting things out. And that's not like what we want to do, because our best stuff we want to save for the air, you know? So if I learn something, I'm not necessarily going to tweet it out or put it on anything because I want to save it for the broadcast. Um, but yeah, I mean, it's it's interesting. Um, we found out when James White, uh, lost, you know, his mom and dad were in Miami and we're in a car accident prior to a game that Sunday, and we felt literally we found out about two hours before kickoff that James wasn't gonna be playing because of this accident, and we had to move fast on Bond. We needed to be able to report this respectfully, properly, correctly, Onda sensitively. And, uh, and and the team was not confirming or denying. And so it was It was very tough. Um, but that's when you dig in and you do your proper research and you try to get in touch with the right people and you are able to say what you can say. Um, I think the most challenging one for me was when Gary Kubiak was coaching the Texans. This game was against. I want to say it was against Indianapolis and he went. He went down at halftime. He he just collapsed at halftime and we had to cover that. Yeah, live on the air. And I was the person on the field to watch to collect information, to go find Wade Phillips, who was filling in after Gary was taken to the hospital. All of this stuff And, um, the game for me. At that point, the game was a footnote. Now my store Iwas you know, this guy's life...

...was we thought on the line. And so when you're in that kind of a serious moment and you've seen the man on live television lying on his back, um, that became our story. And so you know, But those situations are fraught with opportunities to screw up, try to get ahead of it, and to say I think and you can't do I think you gotta know. You gotta know. Yeah, and And if anybody knows, Gary is just amazing guy, he was He was my coach. And when I played for the Broncos and so I've known Gary for a long time, and he was in Minnesota in your neck of the woods for last few years as well. You know, after that whole incident happened with him, I thought he might get out of coaching forever. But I think once it's in your blood, it's in your blood. I don't think e don't think it's that easy to leave. Yeah, I know. And now he's stepped aside again. And I know the Vikings air really gonna miss him because Zimmer relied on him tremendously. So what you're saying is we're not going to see any Michele Tafoya Ticktock videos on the sideline anytime soon. God, no, no, no, no, no, you're not. We tried to do some live tweets in commercial breaks a few years back, and that was fine. But no, it's it's much better when I could just focus on inside the task at hand, right, You know, And one thing I wanted to talk to you about, and I know you've talked about this on on other shows. My wife is in mental health and she works in women's behavioral health, and I know that there was a struggle for you, um, having Children and you dealt with mental health. And then this year I mean, you've gone through all that and you're a strong, strong person and probably so many people look up to you because it's not an easy thing to talk about or deal with on. Do you have great support of your husband, but talk a little bit about the mental health that you've seen through this year and the pandemic and the NFL and struggles? Did you guys have conversations about that? Did you wanna talk about that a little more? You know, certainly It was a topic of conversation every week with players, particularly with players that ended up testing positive at some point. Or, you know we're going through it. I think the universal feeling that we got was that it was really hard for these guys. And you try to imagine it, Gus, you know, you're used to being in the facility, hanging out in the locker room, hanging out your meeting rooms. There were so much of it done virtually this year that players really felt separated. Dak Prescott came out and said he found himself feeling depressed when the pandemic began and his brother had taken his own life. And Dak really went in this when in this tailspin, and he was very open about it for me. Personally, I think what has been difficult is seeing my kids and their cohorts around town not be able to go to school. Um, the first part of the pandemic last, you know, starting last March, I think it was not good for my kids. And it wasn't that the schools weren't prepared. They were prepared to have zoom classrooms and all the rest, but to take kids away from their social environment, it was very, very. And it continues to be Ah, hot point of contention. And my kids are now back two days a week, which is great. Um, but it isn't the same. And I think we are seeing it take a toll on a lot of people. My mom is turning 90 in July. She has been, you know, everyone's been so protective of her eso she hasn't gotten to see people is much as she wants s Oh, I think it's really been,...

...you know, difficult for everyone. But I've tried to tell people. Look, look, read a little bit about World War Two read a little bit about stuff that went on during the Depression. We all made it through that. We can make it through this. And so this is the time when you learn a lot about yourself. And so I've tried to make the most of all of this and find opportunities for growth within it. Yeah, and that's so important. You know, just I have those struggles to I mean, don't leave home, right. There's nowhere to go. You know, this month is always, ah, hard Month for me, for the reason that our anniversary is the first of February. Then it's Valentine's Day that my wife's birthday is the 16th. So there's always like, Okay, I got a plan, all these things. So this year I'm like, Honey, we can't go anywhere like there's nowhere we can go because she's worked in a hospital. Luckily, she's had both vaccinations now, but I understand. Yeah, I understand that, And for me, it is a difficult thing. And when kids come up to me and say, Well, I can't do that I said, Well, you're not alone. Everybody is going through this right? So we will all get through this and we will all be stronger, Um, in the end. But I just think that your personality, how strong you are has had to have an impact on your family on the people around you because you've just done so many great things in your career. And, you know, I've always looked up to you, and I appreciate you always being so kind to everyone, right. It's not easy, right to be kind to everyone. I think you do an amazing job of that on and off the field. Well, that is That means the world to me, Gus, that you even remember those interactions. And I think it Z I think it's worthless and a waste of time to bring any anchor or negative emotion to your job to your life. Of course, we all feel stuff. We all feel it, but I think one of the things that I've really been focused on the last several years is you control one thing in your life, one on Lee one, and that's your mind. I'm not talking about your brain and how smart you are. It's about how you make up your mind every day, toe look at something. So in the beginning of the pandemic, I remember we were just like, Oh, how long is this gonna be or we're talking Two weeks. What are we talking it? And I suddenly realized we don't know and I've got no control. What am I gonna Am I going to come out of this whenever it's over Feeling like I just wasted a bunch of time waiting, or am I gonna come out of it better? And so I made a list of things that wow, I have suddenly have time to do stuff that I didn't have time to do it before, right? I have time to read. I have time to write. I have time. Thio, pick up the phone and talk to my ah lot of friends. I have timeto exercise. I have time to learn to cook. And so that's why I think you saw a lot of people learning to bake and learning to cook and learning a new language or whatever. And I and I applaud that because you had to sort of shift your mind. Thio. These were the circumstances. I don't have control over what I do. Control is how I approach it. And so I've just always felt like when you treat other people kindly on you, make up your mind that you're gonna be positive in a situation you're probably going to get that sent back your way. And even if you don't, at least you could walk away from the conversation or the interview or the interaction feeling like I did my part. I did my best, and that's all I could Dio. And if they were unhappy with me or they were a jerk to me, I If I let that affect me, Gus, then I'm part of the problem because I'm allowing myself toe, let it affect me. I'm giving that person across the table for me the power to hurt me. And I've decided I'm not doing that. I'm just...

...not doing that. So if you wanna be a jerk and talk mean or say something bad on Twitter, um, that's your choice. But I get to decide how I receive that. And so I just always believe in being positive and trying to spread that. Yeah, I know. I think that comes through in all the interviews because, um, coaches feel that people feel that, you know, there we see him as a coach, but they're humans to, you know, you think about what Andy Reid had to go through before the game happened with the sun and everything and all the emotions and he still coached. Uh, so we're all just humans in, and I think you do an incredible job of it and even for you, like you probably thought when this all started, we're not gonna have a season. What am I gonna do in the fall? You know, it was it was all up in the air. It really was. And I can tell you that there were a number of people on our crew who thought there's no way there's no way we're having a full season. No way. I mean, they just and I kind of looked at it as I'm just gonna take this thing one day at a time. Do what I have to dio and we'll see where it goes. And, you know, the league does deserve congratulations for the way that it handled everything the teams deserve. Pats on the back for being able thio, Um, stick to the all the those that did to stick toe all the protocols right and go through it every day. I mean, what people didn't see what these guys went through, like drive to the facility in the morning, take your nasal swab test, drive back home, sit around, wait for your zoom to start, and now be in your living room on a zoom meeting with your position group or your offense or whatever all alone and then maybe driving again for a workout or for a walk through and then drive home. And now, look, no one's gonna pity these guys. I'm not saying that because they were all working. They're making a lot of money, but it wasn't like a breeze. You know, it wasn't just easy. It required a lot of effort to keep everyone safe. Yeah, especially all the friends I have talked to. They're still playing and, uh, that our coaches now like even Ryan Fitzpatrick, right after the season. He test positive, and he can't see his family for 10 days after the season. He's quarantined in his his hotel room or his apartment in Miami. He can't see his family, and he was going stir crazy. So It's been a crazy thing. One last thing I wanna I wanna ask you. Obviously, yesterday was the Super Bowl. Now I want you to be a fan here, and, you know, it's it's over. We know who won. But give me a little synopsis of what you thought. Your huge NFL fan. You've seen all these storylines, Uh, tell me a little bit about what you thought, um, about this game. And like, none of my predictions came true. I'm terrible. That stuff so that none of it came true. So, uh, tell me a little bit about what you thought about the game. I, you know, look, early on, I thought Wow. Okay. Each team, I think, had a three and out almost immediately. That's typical. Okay, that's not unusual. And then I thought Okay, Kansas City. Okay. Oh, there goes New England again. Wow. Oh, this lead is stretching. But you know what? We've got a whole second half to play, and we've seen Kansas City do crazy things before. And we've seen Tom Brady throw interceptions and a half, so we'll see. You know, I was I think a couple of things jumped out at me. When Tyron Matthew got really upset and God in Brady's face and was really irate on the sidelines, I was surprised. I know tiring fairly well. Um, yeah, The game makes you emotional, and it could bring stuff out of you that normal life. Doesn't I get that? But I was surprised that it got so and Chris Jones to Who is one of the funniest, nicest, sweetest people you're ever gonna meet...

...and, you know, cost his team with the penalty, and those penalties were just killing them. And I thought, Okay, this has got to change at halftime, and it didn't much. Maybe they weren't penalized as much, but for those kinds of things, But they just could not find the groove. And I Then I just realized, you know what? This Tampa Bay defense is way better than I thought it waas. And I underestimated how much losing his two starting tackles was really gonna impact Patrick Mahomes and this offense, and you know it. There just came a point where you sort of settled into the idea that you know what? This isn't going right for Casey. We can point to a lot of reasons why this is going really well. For Tom Brady and company. We can point to a lot of reasons. Why? And I think a major one was that defense shock Barrett. A lot of these guys, they were just tremendous, right? And, um And then I try to tell myself you're watching sports history like Gus. You know, there are a lot of people out there who love to hate Tom Brady. You know, they love to hate him. They love to hate the patriots. They love to hate him. You're watching history here. Enjoy it. You know, enjoy. Enjoy what you're seeing because you're likely not going to see anything like this again. And, um, you know, Yes, he seems like this golden boy, This golden child, the whole the whole life story. But you cannot take any of this away from this man and what he's accomplished at age 43. And, you know, I remember my dad and your dad, and your uncle is probably did the same. They tell you the stories about Mickey Mantle, about Joe DiMaggio, about Willie Mays, about these great moments of Jesse Owens, These great moments in sports that they were live for and it seemed like, Oh, that's ancient gosh, but it sounds so cool. It sounds like it was so amazing. That's what we're saying. It's so cool and it's so amazing. And we're watching it now and we'll be telling our kids and grandchildren about it and just kind of saber that. That's what I decided to dio Yeah, now I agree with you. I love how they depicted, like, the old school versus new school with, you know, uh, Tom versus Patrick and it is right to really, really good quarterbacks. Obviously, once the Goat one is trying to get there. And that was a great dynamic in the game. And I thought the other thing that was really cool was that was the first Super Bowl where it was played in the home. That home team got to play in it. I thought that was amazing to that. I don't think we'll probably ever see that again. And, um, you know, I don't know unless Tom Brady comes back, maybe they'll have it in Tampa. But you know how this goes out. There is years and years of it, and I don't know if you ever see that again? It z Yeah, the whole big picture of it was amazing. The fact that it was played with socially distance fans and fewer of them. All of it is just a memory in the making, and we're gonna look back on it. And the people who were wearing masks and our grandkids we're gonna go. Why were they wearing masks? And you're gonna explain it to him and the whole bit. And so while I wished for a more competitive game, Um, I'll tell you this some of those moments with Patrick Mahomes in the second half where he ran for, like, six miles before throw and then almost hitting his targets, right? You're like, how is he doing that? And those were really cool, so I know they lost. But you gotta give it up to Patrick Mahomes for those moments. Those were amazing. They were incredible. One where he was kind of sideways to the ground, parallel to the ground. He threw it. The guy literally hits the running back in the hands and should have caught take away. The whole game was, you know, it was just amazing story, you know,...

...not only Tom, but Gronk to you. Think about a guy who took a year off and came back and just two catches in the Super Bowl. Like their all time leaders in history and touchdowns together, they beat Jerry Rice on Joe Montana, and I don't think anybody's ever gonna catch them like there's so many great storylines from this game. There truly were. There truly were, and under normal circumstances, it would have been a zoo in that place. It would have been excitement off the charts. Um, it just you know, all of that got a little bit dampened, but for sitting at home and watching it, it was something else. And yeah, it was fun to see Gronk be able to get a couple touchdown catches. And I, you know, all year we wondered, you know, is Gronk gonna be Gronk? But when the time's mattered, he was drunk, right? Great. Uh, halftime show. Good or bad? Would you like, Do you like it off? My audio was off a little bit, but I really like the music of the weekend. I dio I like him. I thought some of the show was kind of odd, but kind of a cool way. I almost got sick when he was in that gold tunnel thing. Like the house of mirrors or whatever. I was like, Oh, my God. I can't watch this, but yeah, that's true. We're not used to that, like, virtual reality way can't handle. I get seasick. But, you know, it was People always love to pan these shows. And, gosh, I've seen some great ones, and, you know, there are only gonna be a few that stand out. Kind of like the games themselves. Prince YouTube, Bruno Mars. Those air three that come to mind The Rolling Stones that were great. But, you know, it was okay. It was okay. Yeah, I kind of felt the same way, too. And my first thought I had was when he was in that room is how is he going to get out of there? He's gonna get lost their home. Yeah. Then he kind of just disappeared among all the people with their faces covered like they are. That was kind of cool. Um, last thing before we go, please let our audience know where they confined you next. Or if there's any charities that you'd love them to go on support. And you know what you're gonna be doing now that the season is over? Where is Michele Tafoya? Going where? We're going to see your land next. Well, we're waiting to find out if will be in Tokyo for the Olympic Games, and it's very much 50 50 50 s. Oh, my next, like actual assignment would be covering the use A trials in Omaha, Nebraska. Those will probably only happen if we're going to the Olympics, right? And so, um, the schedule was to go toe Oh, Maha and then go with the team to their training camp in Singapore and then go on to Tokyo for the games. I just don't have a clue, Gus, what's gonna happen here? I know that people keep insisting that there will be an Olympic Games, but I don't know if NBC is going to send all of its announcers. I don't know how this is gonna work, so I'm kind of in a holding pattern that way. But I gotta tell you, I'm just loving being home with my two kids right now. I am cherishing these moments because they're so few and far between their fleeting time goes by so fast as you know, and eso and then I'm not on social media anymore because I just again it just seems like a waste of my time and energy. Andi, I don't really like, uh, some of the environments there, so there's really no way to follow me. Alright, alright, alright. Well, enjoy. Hopefully your kids like monopoly. I play that with my boys all the time. I never win because they still all my money. It's just like my life. I know, I know we do. We enjoy Monopoly to We played one night with my wife and my she was losing. She's like...

I'm tired to go to bed. She just gives all her money to my other son. And I'm like, Wait, that's not fair. You can't do that like that's just because I'm bequeathing my my property and my money to my son. It's basically what she said. It's my money. I could do with it what I want. So I said Okay, I lost. Well, hey, Michelle, I want to thank you for joining me on huddle up with Gus. It was a pleasure. You're one of the kind ist most endearing people I've ever met in football, and I want to thank you for all you do. Thank you, Gus. It's been a pleasure. And I had so much fun and you're very kind. Thank you. Thank you. Have a great day. I hope it doesn't snow too much. And I hope it gets a little bit warmer in Minnesota. Have little will be good for you to enjoy Pittsburgh. All right, take care. Thanks, Michelle Number. Hi. This is former NFL quarterback Gus Frerotte, 16 31. Digital advertising is your one stop shop to promote your business and get new customers for award winning creative to getting as online in display video O T T connected TV and streaming audio Go to 16 31 digital advertising dot com.

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