- NBC’s trio of Cris Collinsworth, Al Michaels and Michele Tafoya had a trick up their sleeves with throwback costumes for the NFL season opener.
The first regular-season NFL game between the Packers and the Bears didn't begin with color commentator Cris Collinsworth rolling into the frame 30 seconds after play-by-play analyst Al Michaels started to talk. Instead, the NBC broadcast for the Bears-Packers game simply opened in the booth, where the two men sat side-by-side. I was shocked—where was Collinsworth's signature move? But there wasn't enough time to wonder, because then I noticed the old-time-y costumes.
That’s right, folks. The football lords might have taketh away, but they sure did giveth, too. Collinsworth, Michaels, and sideline reporter Michele Tafoya were all dressed up as sportswriters from the 1920s. The men wore three-piece suits, pinstriped shirts, and adorable little bowler hats with cards that said PRESS tucked into the bands.
“Thank God for the hats,” Collinsworth told me. “Otherwise, people would have thought Al and I pulled those outfits out of the back of our closets.”
The hats certainly helped. Did they make Collinsworth and Michaels look a little bit like Fozzie Bear and Kermit in The Great Muppet Caper? Sure, but that was a feature, not a bug. Michael's pants, however, were a bug. Literally.
“Everything was great until I realized my pants were moth-eaten,” Michaels said. “No head to toe shots for me, thank you very much.”
Tafoya rocked a long black skirt, ruffled blouse, and a little headpiece over an intricate, 1920’s bouffant. She always wears pants on the field, but the NFL only turns 100 once. Sometimes duty calls, and in this case, duty looked like a time before television. The outfits coincided nicely with the start of New York Fashion Week.
“I felt like I had to explain my clothes and hair to everyone (at Soldier Field),” Tafoya said. “I’m not sure how many people thought I was wearing something from the 20s or just decided to change my look. It took two hours to get my hair in that position and almost as long to take all the pins out at the end of the night.”
Last season, America fell in love with The Collinsworth Slide. I looked forward to Sunday nights mostly because I knew Collinsworth would gracefully glide onto America’s television screens from the right like a sly dad playing a joke on his expectant kids. Fans fell in love with the bit, and the weekly tradition became a meme. It grew so popular on the internet that during the last Sunday Night Football broadcast of the 2018-2019 season, Collinsworth switched it up and slid in from the left.
“We saw the great reaction that this has been getting, so we decided to wink at the admirers by having Cris come in from the other side,” Sunday Night Football executive producer Fred Gaudelli said at the time. “We hope everyone enjoyed it.”
Gaudelli and his team came up with the idea to dress the analysts like something out of the musical Newsies as they brainstormed different ways to celebrate the NFL’s 100th season.
“One of the ideas was to have Al, Cris and Michele dress in Roaring Twenties era attire, complete with ‘Press’ hats for Al and Cris,” Gaudelli said. “They immediately embraced the idea. We fitted them for the clothes before our preseason game in Nashville in August. And you saw the result tonight. Clearly, they had a lot of fun with it.”
Did they ever. Michaels and Collinsworth wore the outfits for the whole broadcast, so when the cameras cut away to the booth, the gift of their slightly baggy vests continued to give. Tafoya on the field remained committed to her 1920s garb, too. NBC tweeted out a video of the fittings, in which Collinsworth grins and says, “Oh, the theme is wonderful. Can’t wait to put on my hat.”
Now here’s a guy who really loved that hat. Would I have appreciated a slide-in? Yeah. Of course. But if NBC can keep me distracted with shenanigans like this one, I could learn to live without it. In fact, here’s an idea: Dress up Collinsworth, Michaels, and Tafoya in clothes from different decades all season long. Give us silk shirts and bell-bottoms for the '70s (without moth-holes), Don Draper fedoras for the '60s, maybe even some Tommy Hilfiger and Lisa Frank for the '90s. Clip a scrunchie to Al's head. Get weird with it, NBC. America's Sunday nights—and 100 years of football—rest heavy on your shoulders.
Or just bring back The Collinsworth Slide.