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1980s / NFL Announcerless Telecast - 1980
"We are just moments away from the kickoff of today's Jets-Dolphins game and a telecast that figures to be different. The fact that we try something different--and dare to--has been greeted with almost every kind of reaction, from good-natured humor to applause to some surprising anger." That's how NBC's Bryant Gumbel's introduced what was about to happen on Saturday, December 20, 1980: NBC was going to broadcast an entire NFL game from Miami's Orange Bowl with neither a play-by-play announcer nor an analyst. It was a meaningless, season-ending game for two mediocre NFL teams, but Don Ohlmeyer (pictured here) turned it into a happening. Ohlmeyer was the first producer of Monday Night Football. He produced and directed three Olympics, won 16 Emmy awards, and is a member of the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame. Based on his years of experience, Ohlmeyer always believed that sports announcers talked too much. Here was an attention-seeking vehicle that would drive that point home. Ohlmeyer also thought the gimmick might be a way to boost ratings points out of an otherwise unattractive matchup. Dick Enberg, who was one of NBC's lead football announcers at the time, was not amused. He was worried. "My first reaction was of incredible nervousness," he recalled. "We're paid to talk, so all of us want to fill the air with lots of exciting words. We all gathered together, hoping that Ohlmeyer was dead wrong. I mean, he was flirting with the rest of our lives. What if this crazy idea really worked?" The game, won by the New York Jets 24-17, featured only sounds that could be picked up by on-field microphones, the referee's calls, plus the usual announcements from the Orange Bowl's stadium announcer. To compensate for the absence of TV announcers, NBC went overboard on its graphics and pre-recorded soundbites of players and coaches. It was a onetime experiment that was largely mocked by TV critics. Surprisingly, though, comments received at NBC's switchboard were about 60% favorable.