'This has an asterisk': Mike Tirico's comment rankles fans after Lions upset Chiefs

NBC Sports play-by-play announcer Mike Tirico, left, sits next to color commentator Cris Collinsworth
NBC broadcasters Mike Tirico, left, and Cris Collinsworth report on the Dolphins-Chargers game Dec. 11 at SoFi Stadium. Tirico drew the ire of Detroit fans Thursday night with a comment after the Lions' upset win over the Kansas City Chiefs. (Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

Mike Tirico was singing the praises of the Detroit Lions.

The NBC broadcaster proclaimed Thursday that they're "not the same old Lions" after Detroit's 21-20 road win over the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs to kick off the 2023 NFL season.

He compared the Lions favorably to a Chiefs team that years ago started its current run of dominance in similar fashion on opening night.

"The blue and silver's for real," Tirico said as the team celebrated an upset win over the Super Bowl favorite Chiefs on the field and its long-suffering fans no doubt did the same while watching the national telecast at home.

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But Tirico also put an asterisk next to the Lions' win that colleague Cris Collinsworth had just described as "a milestone moment" for a team that hasn't won a playoff game since 1991 but finally has some hype and seemingly momentum after a strong finish last season.

More context will be provided below, but here is the quote from Tirico that has Lions fans fuming:

"This has an asterisk because of no Chris Jones and no Travis Kelce ... ."

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The reference to two Kansas City stars who did not play — defensive tackle Jones because of a contract dispute and tight end Kelce because of an injured knee — wasn't the end of Tirico's sentence. Here's the rest:

"But after what you saw at the end of last year and what you saw tonight, the blue and silver's for real."

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No matter though — pretty sure most Lions fans stopped listening after the asterisk part. Tirico's name was trending on X (formerly Twitter) Friday morning, with words like "ridiculous" and "weak" being used to describe a take some felt was an example of a perceived media bias toward the Chiefs and star quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

Here's the commentary from the broadcast that started as the final seconds ticked away:

Collinsworth: "Watch the reaction now of this football team. This is a milestone moment for them to come in here and get this win."

Tirico: "Not the same old Lions — the 1-0 Lions. They come into Kansas City on opening night and beat the champs. We saw Buffalo do it last year in L.A. to the Rams, we saw the Chiefs go into Foxborough in 2016 and win on opening night. That announced to everyone that the Kansas City Chiefs were going to be a factor. This has an asterisk because of no Chris Jones and no Travis Kelce, but after what you saw at the end of last year and what you saw tonight, the blue and silver's for real."

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In that context, it doesn't seem like Tirico was necessarily trying to downplay the Lions' achievement with the "asterisk" comment. More likely, he was just stating facts in an attempt to be as objective as possible. But was it necessary to do so at that moment?

Fans who are all too familiar with "the same old Lions" certainly didn't think so.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.