Chris Myers is a big-game performer.
The Fox Sports sideline reporter, play-by-play announcer, and host has worked the network’s coverage of multiple Super Bowls, including the Kansas City Chiefs win over the San Francisco 49ers at Super Bowl 54, the New York Giants’ upset of the undefeated New England Patriots at Super Bowl XLII and the Patriots comeback from a 28-3 deficit to beat the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl 51.
But Myers doesn’t just call NFL games for Fox. He’s a multi-sport media personality, contributing to the network’s MLB, NASCAR, Premier Boxing Champions, and Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show coverage.
At age 16, he started his own talk radio show in Florida. His career later took him to an 11-year stint with ESPN, where he hosted “SportsCenter” and “Up Close.” His personal friend Bill Murray recently urged him to accept a play-by-play role with the Chicago Cubs’ Marquee Sports Network if and when baseball returns this year.
Meanwhile, Myers is hosting FS1’s new sports quiz show, “The Home Game,” which allows celebrity contestants like Erin Andrews, Charissa Thompson, Cam Jordan, Urban Myer, and Jimmy Johnson to match wits on sports and pop culture trivia.
Front Office Sports spoke with Myers about the pressures of working the Super Bowl sidelines – and if his pal Murray will appear on his new TV show. Excerpts:
Front Office Sports: Your thoughts on TV coverage of the first sports to come back, like NASCAR?
Chris Myers: First of all, I think we’ve all been reminded of how important sports are to our lives and also to how important having fans at sporting events. But something is better than nothing. We have to take small steps.
I applaud sports like golf and NASCAR that have taken a step forward within the parameters of safety and public health to give us something to latch on to and enjoy. It gets our minds off some of the other things that have been so challenging and difficult in these unique circumstances…I think NASCAR lends itself a little more to that because you have the natural sound of the cars on the track and you’re isolating on the cars, on the track, for the most part.
Certainly, the golf events have shown us a lot. We broke through on some things. Having microphones on the golfers or the caddies and the people there. We’ve had that before, but the audio was one of the main focuses of the broadcast. I think these were steps forward in these difficult times. I think the audience appreciated it. I don’t know what the ratings were on those things, but I know that people were watching and they were talking about it.
FOS: CBS Sports’ Jim Nantz said it’s time for golfers to provide more access. To be entertainers as well as athletes. Agree?
CM: Yes, absolutely. I think we have seen signs of that, where they have been willing, whether it’s putting a camera inside a car for NASCAR, or having Joe Buck talking to a player in the outfield while the game was going on. They’re chatting and here’s a fly ball. Again, that was an All-Star game. It’s not a regular-season or a postseason game. But I think there are ways. Like talking to players in the dugout in between innings. So I think that we’ve seen signs of that. And I think we can take that forward.
I think audio is so important when you’re watching sports on television. It really is one of the most important elements after the pictures to enjoy the broadcast. Not just the announcer. It’s what we call the ‘natural sound.’ What you’re seeing and hearing. It could be the quarterback calling out the signals before the snap of the ball and then handing off. Having been down on the sidelines, I think there is enough. You have to be a little careful with some of the language when guys are working in that environment. But having been up in the booth, calling NFL games, and also down on the sidelines, depending on where you can put the microphones, you’ll hear and you’ll feel a lot of things about coaches and what’s being said without giving up your strategy to the opposition. I think there’s enough material there – if the teams and the league are willing to cooperate to help us through. I think that that ultimately will be a good thing. Fans like more access. They want more access.
FOS: How will sideline reporting change after this pandemic?
CM: I think the role of a sideline reporter might require even greater awareness and understanding of health and medicine and, depending on fans in attendance, be ready to explain as part of the broadcast some of the natural audio you heard from the field.
FOS: What are your strongest memories of covering the Super Bowl sidelines?
CM: The first one was a very good one. The Patriots’ win over the Eagles and Donovan McNabb [in 2005]. That was early in the Patriots run. Obviously, the most recent with the Kansas City Chiefs. That whole postseason that team, with [Patrick] Mahomes and Andy Reid, was all about comebacks. When they were down during that game, on the sidelines, they were all comfortable with Mahomes. There was no fear or hesitation. They were like, ‘We’ve been through this, we’ll do it again. It’s just one more game, the last game to do it.’ So that stood out to me.
But that Patriots comeback over the Falcons after trailing 28-3 [in 2017] That one probably jumps out the most. Obviously, it went to overtime. That was the year of ‘Deflategate.’ Tom Brady’s Mom was dealing with an illness. After leading his team back, he was just drained afterward. Fighting to get through the crowd after that great comeback – then having Brady address that. I mean, that’s part of the battle, getting to somebody. You want to get there right away. Because that’s the raw emotion that viewers want to see after such a monumental game and moment.
Sometimes it’s tough to get them to be specific about something in the game, because their first few comments, they’re just exhausted emotionally, and whatever you ask them, I don’t even know if they hear. Or they just want to say, ‘Hey, our team was great.’ It’s just a great sense of relief and joy and they’re spilling and spilling and then you have to bring it back to something specific. But certainly, that stood out. Being on that sideline and seeing the genius of Bill Belichick at work and the determination of Tom Brady coming back from the greatest deficit ever in the Super Bowl. Observing that. I wish I could put that in better words during the game. But it was the magic of that particular team.
FOS: How do you fight through to interview the winning Super Bowl QB in all that bedlam?
CM: You have a plan – always. I think the key is to be next to the camera operator. We also have an overhead camera. But I think with the enormous popularity of the NFL and international media, even if you’re the broadcast rights holder, they just pour out on the field. And so it really becomes this massive celebration, but you’re not ready to party yet. You have a job to do. Getting to that specific person, that’s the hardest part. You really do get bounced around physically….It’s one of the biggest moments you can be in as a player and certainly as a broadcaster. You have to get to that person – and have them talk about those raw emotions and what just happened.
So yes, there’s an art to it. You’ve got to be physically ready. You wear the right shoes, you get bounced around a little, you make sure the cameraman can get an angle, and then you stick the microphone in there however you can get it in there. It’s not exclusive like, ‘Hey, it’s just the two of us talking.’ There are other cameras and other microphones and other people trying to jump in. But I will say the athletes are outstanding at that moment. They realize, ‘Hey, this is, this is a chance to tell everybody how we feel about the game we just played.’
FOS: You’ve called preseason Tampa Bay Buccaneers games. Will you call games with Tom Brady?
CM: Yes. We don’t have our assignments yet. But I anticipate [I will], because I’ve done the Buccaneers preseason games for the last decade and a half. With different announcers. John Lynch came through that channel. Charles Davis. I’ll be working with Ronde Barber on the Bucs preseason games and regional games this year. It’s the biggest off-season score in the history of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Because nobody’s ever got a six-time Super Bowl quarterback before. It’s really put them on the prime time map for the first time since their Super Bowl run (in 2002).
FOS: With Brady moving to NFC from AFC, is Fox going to put the Bucs in every late Sunday afternoon game window?
CM: They’ve gone to the max primetime on the schedule. That’s the NFL. It’s so enjoyable when you get [Ben] Roethlisberger vs. [Aaron] Rodgers or Brady vs. [Peyton] Manning. So now it will be Brady against Mahomes; Brady against Russell Wilson. He’s become a draw like the Dallas Cowboys in terms of a ratings winner. People are going to be tuning in. There’s a lot of curiosity with him being out from under Bill Belichick and the Patriots.
FOS: This is going to be like asking you to name your favorite child. But who’s your favorite broadcast partner?
CM: I haven’t done games with Troy Aikman, but I’ve worked with Troy Aikman in and around the NFL. He certainly would be at the top of my list. His knowledge, his style. He’s got personality and a sense of humor. So I would put him up at the top. It’s funny because I worked with Daryl Johnston last year, his fullback teammate. In baseball too, I’ve worked with some fun people. But I would probably put Troy Aikman up at the top.
FOS: What’s the hardest post-game interview you’ve done?
CM: When I had to talk to Bill Belichick after the Patriots’ loss to the Giants in the Super Bowl after their undefeated season [in 2007]…He still appeared to be in shock…At that moment, the interview had the feeling of a kid in Little League who had never lost before, now trying to accept defeat for the first time in his life
FOS: Tell us about ‘The Home Game?’ What’s it like to shoot the show remotely?
CM: Yes, the remote part is very challenging. But there is something casual and fun about doing it in your own house or den, and talking to athletes, coaches, and sports celebrities in their homes. Not just talking but actually doing a show. It’s kind of a sports quiz game show. I’ve always had an affinity for game show hosts. I think they’re very much like sportscasters. You’re calling something unpredictable. There’s competition. There’s a winner. There’s a prize at the end. Yet you’re ad-libbing, you’re talking to the person and finding out how they were able to win the competition. So it’s been very different.
You miss traveling and going to events. You miss going into an office. When you’re doing the show from your home computer or laptop, you don’t get to see the multiple-choice questions, the graphics. You’re looking into a smaller monitor. You don’t have the earpiece where the producer can say, ‘30 seconds before the break.” Because we’re doing it live-to-tape.
But it creates a casual, fun atmosphere that viewers have adjusted to because they’re going through it in their own lives. There have never been no live sports in my existence. We didn’t know when there was going to be games. Or if there would be games. So I said, ‘Let’s have some kind of competition between people in sports about sports.’ Even if it was like a game show. People have really enjoyed doing the show. The people who have watched have responded well.
FOS: Does ‘Home Game’ fill a sports quiz show void left by Howie Schwab’s ‘Stump the Schwab?’ Or Dan Patrick’s ‘Sports Jeopardy?’
CM: The viewers have to guess along. But they can also compare themselves to guessing against Jimmy Johnson. Or going against a Joe Buck. In between the questions, it also allows me to ask other questions. I can ask JJ Redick, ‘OK, who’s the best pure shooter you’ve ever seen?’ Or ask Dean Blandino, ‘What’s the one rule you would change if you were in charge and you could change rules?’ The overall goal for me was to have a fun, sports game show that people would enjoy, especially during these times. It would lighten the mood and be entertaining.
FOS: I was at a Fox party a few years ago. And you come strolling in with Bill Murray. How did you become friends?
CM: Yes, not to name-drop, but we go back to the ESPYS in the early 90’s when I met him. He was doing something for the show and appreciated my work and Dan Patrick’s. So we became friends. We played some golf. We would go to some baseball games together. Of course, he would always be in disguise.
It’s funny. We went to this Cubs-Mets game at Shea Stadium. He pulls up in a van. He’s practically in this hideout costume. We go in and sit down in the seats quietly. Not a lot of people notice. But Mark Grace [of the Cubs] is in the batter’s circle. Bill teases Mark Grace. He stands up and yells out, ‘Pittsfield’s a minor-league connection.’ As soon as he yells, everybody’s like, ‘There’s Bill Murray.’ Then they swarmed him.
He’s a very astute, diehard, knowledgeable sports fan, not just Chicago sports either. He knows golf very well. When I can, I attend the Murray brothers Caddyshack charity golf event. We’ve been over each other’s houses. He’s a terrific guy.
He’s big on voices. He’s always said, ‘You should do more baseball play-by-play.’ When the Cubs started the Marquee Sports Network, he kind of helped, just as a fan. They’ve allowed me to do some games. Obviously, that hasn’t happened yet because of the [suspended] season. But Bill’s a special guy. He’s very funny. And a very devoted sports fan.
FOS: Will Bill appear on ‘Home Game?’
CM: I’ve talked to Bill and Charles Barkley about coming on ‘The Home Game.’…Those are the kinds of personalities that, no matter what the questions are, people will tune in and be entertained. Bill told me Andrew Dice Clay is the biggest trivia expert he’s run into on anything. I was shocked by that. I never heard that before, but I said, ‘Well, I don’t know if I could get Dice Clay on the show, but we’ll try on the other matchup.’