Commentary by Art Vuolo, Jr.
This is Holy Week, today is Good Friday and Holy Cow, what a week it has been for one of the most decent guys in sports broadcasting, Jim Brandstatter! Those of us who are Michigan Football fans should be delighted that the man who Frank Beckmann affectionately called "Brando," has received the nod to succeed him as the new voice of the Wolverines' football team. Add to this exciting news the fact that he will be joined by his former teammate and longtime friend Dan Dierdorf and you have instant chemistry in the radio booth!
Perhaps the reason I am personally so excited to see this happen is due, in part, to the fact that it was my pleasure to help out via my extensive archive of U of M games. In 2003, when back surgery prevented Frank Beckmann from making the trip to Evanston, IL for the UM-Northwestern game, Jim was pressed into service calling the game, with Steve Courtney doing the color commentary. Brandy called me and asked if I had that game? I said I have just about all of them. After checking, that game was still on the original video cassette (a Beta tape none the less!) So, I copied it, with Jim on the audio, onto a DVD and watched it at the same time. I thought "wow he's damn good at actually calling a game!" When he came over to pick up the disc he was truly amazed at the library of Michigan video I've accumulated over the past 35+ years. A copy of that DVD was given to Michigan Athletic Director, Dave Brandon and the rest...is now history.
In an e-mail I received from Jim Brandstatter on Thursday he said, "Thank the Lord you still had a copy of that Northwestern game when my copy didn't work so well...that was big...I had no idea at the time, but it turned out large." My pleasure Brando.
In an e-mail that I sent to Dave Brandon, I said that the most popular buzz-word in media these days is BRAND. Branding is what stations all strive for and the Michigan brand is iconic. Brandon starts with brand, and Brandstatter starts with brand, and together they'll build a brand that M-fan's will love! Michiguide founder and webmaster Mike Austerman pointed out a unique alignment of Jim's and Dan's in local radio booths. The Lions have Dan Miller and Jim Brandstatter, the Tigers have Dan Dickerson and Jim Price and now we will have, at The Big House, Dan Dierdorf joining Jim Brandstatter covering the Maize and Blue. We believe this has never happened in any other region of the country.
There was a lot of speculation as to who would get the job up on the fifth floor of the press box in Ann Arbor. Other than Brandy, some of the names mentioned were: Doug Karsch, Matt Shepard, Dan Miller, Mark Champion and Larry Henry. Some wondered if age would become a factor. Jim and Dan are not youngsters, they played for Bump Elliott and Bo Schembechler in 1968-1971, that was a few years ago. Sports broadcasters get better with age. Names like Harry Carry, Ernie Harwell lasted into their 80's. Vin Scully (LA Dodgers) and Marty Brennaman (Cincinnati Reds) are still going strong with Scully pushing 90 years old! With age comes extensive knowledge of the game and its history. Bob Ufer's total recall of past Michigan games was encyclopedic. Imagine if he had lived beyond his 62 years? God bless his cotton-pickin' maize 'n blue heart. Between Ufer and Beckmann only two announcers covered Michigan football from 1945 through 2013, which is almost 70 years. Unheard of.
Jim Brandstatter hosted the long-running "Michigan Replay" TV show for many years and still does "Inside Michigan Football." He worked at WILX-TV 10 in Jackson/Lansing where he met local news anchor Robbie Timmons, who he married in August of 1980 and they live in Commerce Township. When I first met Jim he was at WDIV-TV Channel 4 and yet Local 4 had no coverage of Thursday's breaking news. Fox 2, WJBK-TV had nothing on their 5, 6 or 10 pm news, and Only WXYZ-TV Channel 7 made mention of the announcement. Why is local TV so afraid to report stories about local radio?
Dan Dierdorf's radio days began at one of America's most legendary stations, KMOX-AM (1120) in St. Louis where he has lived for many years, but he has a place in northern Michigan and said an opportunity like this to work with his friend of 40 years will probably keep him in Michigan during the most beautiful time of the year. Both Jim and Dan were interviewed simultaneously on WJR by Mitch Albom on Thursday, and that station is the voice of the Michigan State Spartans! Maybe we CAN all get along after all.
With Dan Dierdorf's extensive work with college and pro football, nationally on both ABC and CBS, he will be great this fall. Yes, we remember that Frank worked with former assistant coach Jerry Hanlon and former player Bob Thornbladh, but his many years with Jim Brandstatter were magical. We can expect many great broadcasts for Season 135 as a new era begins with a couple of great Michigan men. Now coach Hoke, let's just win the games!
Contact Art Vuolo, Jr. via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org