As NBC’s Mike Tirico approaches the one-year anniversary of his final broadcast with longtime partner, Jon Gruden, he admits that he has been struggling with what he calls ‘post-Gruden depression’. “It’s been a lonely 12 months,” Tirico acknowledges. “I’ve been irritable, not eating or sleeping much.” The former Monday Night Football announcer left ESPN last winter in hopes that he would become the successor to the undisputed greatest play-by-play man in sports, Al Michaels.
With Michaels at the top of his game at age 72, it appears that moment may never come. “The man is strong as an ox and sharp as a tack,” reveals Tirico. “I’ve seen him curl dumbbells while day-trading stocks and sipping vodka tonics through a straw. But you never know.”
NBC has largely left Mike to sit at a desk by himself on Sunday Night Football as an on-the-field Bob Costas clone, which is not only redundant for viewers, but embarrassing to Tirico. “I have a whole film crew just for me,” explains the demoted broadcaster. “I can see the looks of pity on all of their faces. They’d much rather be up in the booth with Al [Michaels] and Cris [Collinsworth]. And so would I.”
The NFL and NBC have been kind enough to allow Tirico to relieve Michaels of his duties for a handful of telecasts as they picked up a number of Thursday night games this season, but he sees it as nothing more than a tease. “Me and Jon [Gruden], our relationship was a grind, like a marriage in a lot of ways,” recalls Tirico. “Working with the great Cris Collinsworth was like a quick rebound with a perfect-10. Sure it was fun, but we both knew it was fleeting.”
Tirico admits he has not missed a single Monday Night Football game since he left the door open for new play-by-play man, Sean McDonough, to fill his shoes. He has bitter admiration for the duo’s chemistry. “I’m happy for them,” whimpers a teary-eyed Tirico. “But when I see Jon wisecracking with McDonough, whacking him with pool noodles, it does bring up feelings of jealousy. I usually shut down once Jon brings out the props. I have my wife describe to me the 'Gruden Grinder' on Tuesday morning.”
Needless to say, it’s been a traumatic year for Mike. “I half-jokingly refer to my condition as ‘post-Gruden depression’,” confesses Tirico. “But my psychiatrist has said my symptoms are virtually identical to that of postpartum depression. I'm surprised I'm not lactating,” he spitefully chuckles to himself. Fortunately, the worst seems to be behind him. “For a while there it was getting bad. I would find myself waking up in my car parked outside ESPN studios with an empty 12-pack or Coronas. Now I stick to Prozac.”
In addition to taking anti-depressants, he has also joined a support group for new mothers. Jon Gruden declined for comment because he’s “having too much of a hoot” with his pal Sean McDonough.