Michigan Museday Meets Michigan Replay, Part 1 Comment Count

Seth May 16th, 2012 at 9:51 AM

2photo

Bob Lipson, the most interesting man on a blue planet

Through various iterations of music players I have had a Game Day mix that I play on the drive from metro-Detroit to Ann Arbor. It's organized in a specific order to mimic the Michigan experience, beginning with a track imploring that the band take the field, and the whole pre-game concert, plus a bunch of Victors trios, Let's Go Blues, a halftime show, the hospital's string instrumental, and Temptation/Hawaiian WC. It concludes as any rightful Michigan weekend must, with Across 110th Street.

Michigan Replay ran from 1975 through 2008, beginning on Channel 7, moving to 4, and then back to 7 before ending up at Fox. The Sunday show spanned three coaches, two hosts, and six athletic directors. In some ways it was the spiritual predecessor to MGoBlog, in that its calling card was picking apart the plays from a wide angle, and using the latest available medium—television—to bring fans closer to the program than they'd ever been before.

Many people made the show what it was—from the coaches who finished their game days with after-midnight taping sessions an hour's drive away from their wives and beds, to the humble Jim Brandstatter, to the camera guys and crew like Pierre Woods and MGoReader Mike Berens.

But if you narrow Michigan Replay down to one guy, that guy is producer Bob Lipson. I recently had the great pleasure to sit down with Bob and ask him to tell the story of the show that for 33 years became part of the fabric of Michigan football. What follows are Bob's recollections of three wonderful decades, as recreated from notes written by a poor blogger trying to scribble while listening to one of the most fascinating stories in Michigan football, much of it not at all the way you imagined it happened. I know some people will remember things differently. What I have tried to present is the tale as Bob told it to me.

--------------------------------

Live from WXYZ Channel 7: 1975-1979

In 1975 there were basically three networks. Michigan was as big as any team but still had its games broadcast about four times a year—when it was the ABC Game of the Week. At this time Bo was doing a Sunday TV show on Channel 4 that the people at Michigan weren't very happy with. Bob Lipson was working for Channel 7, under a general manager who was also head of Michigan State's alumni association (Bob refers to them only as "Sparty").

Lipson, a Michigan fan though not an alum—he's a Wayne State grad—had an idea to across-110th-street-sdtktake over the program with a better format, and got the principals, including Bo and, somewhat reluctantly, athletic director Don Canham, to agree (Lipson spoke with great respect of Canham, even though they butted heads, and later listed him along with Jerry Hanlon and Elvis Grbac as the three people who left the strongest impression on him of all his years with the show). As payment Bo got whatever sponsorships they could sell in the credits scroll. The first host was Larry Adderley, another Sparty, who got the gig by nature of being WXYZ's main sports broadcaster (Larry later became the Tigers' play-by-play man).

The theme from a Blaxploitation flick and its now iconic percussion/horn funk melody was chosen mostly by happenstance: "I was frantic to find a theme song right up to the last minute of the first show back in '75," Bob recalled. "I just stumbled upon it while trying everything in the channel 7 library and settled on it the night before the first show."

The first episode aired after the first game of the '75 season, at snackycake Wisconsin (two traditions we all miss: early season conference games, and Wisconsin being a pushover). From the start it was a ratings success; it helped that Michigan was No. 2 in the country. The myriad Sparties around the network—specifically Jim Osborn who was president of the MSU Alumni Association—wanted, and created, their own show to run after Michigan Replay, however Sparty wasn't much to look at in the '70s so the network was essentially taking a loss to make sure everything stayed square.

Doing the show live had its funky moments. Back then Bob would pick out cuts directly from the coaches' (all-22) film on Saturday nights and have them ready to go for the Sunday filming. One time a crew member put the double-perf (meaning it has holes on both sides, people born after 1990) film into the machine backwards while playing it back during the taping, with the effect that everything was flipped horizontally. As Adderley professionally acted as if nothing was amiss, while breaking down a play Bo decided to point out that despite appearances, quarterback Rick Leach is indeed left-handed.

Here I'd like to mention that Bob shares our distaste for EXTREME CLOSE-UP footage whose analytic value is limited to ENT doctors.

Bob's Show, Bo, Budweiser, and Brandy: The 1980s

What's a Valhalla?

After five years of producing the show for WXYZ, Lipson knew he had a success and wanted to leave Channel 7 and own the show himself. He found a new home at Channel 4, the NBC affiliate. Since Adderley was Channel 7's guy Bob got a new host from Channel 4, that station's number 2 sports guy behind Al Ackerman (and a former player for Bo) Jim Brandstatter. Brandy got the call that he'd be coming on board for Michigan Replay while he was on his honeymoon, and canceled the trip to come back immediately. As you can see above from the early Brandy episodes, the rapport with Bo was an instant fit, as Jim, more so even than Adderley, had the humility to let the coach and the game be the story each week.

Former Eastern Michigan athletic director, Alex Agase, who holds the interesting distinction of being an All-American at two Big Ten schools (Illinois, then Purdue while training for WWII), was by this time a volunteer assistant for Bo. Among his duties were driving the head coach of Michigan to Detroit and back to do the shows. In true Schembechlerian fashion, after spending all day Saturday coaching football, and the hours after each game on Saturday night breaking down football film with his coaches, and the half hour talking about football on TV, what Bo wanted to talk about most on Tom_Slade,_Jim_Brandstatter_and_Fritz_Seyferththose hour-long rides was, of course, football.

The sponsors that Lipson drew were mostly clients from (I'm going to spell this wrong) PR firm Darcy, McManus, & Bowles, who, as was standard practice in advertising for the day, got a few Michigan perks (like Bob's seats) with their deals. In return Bob got three main sponsors: Pontiac, Cadillac, and Budweiser. Bo didn't mind the cars; he hated Bud. Hated it. Hated the very idea of alcohol mixing with his clean-cut Michigan show. Finally Lipson jokingly promised Bo if he could get the Michigan Milk Producers to come on board he'd drop Bud.

In 1984, Lipson moved again, this time back to Channel 7 but with the ability to reach a far greater audience through their network affiliates. Meanwhile the network was pressuring Channel 4 to get rid of Brandstatter, who didn't fit the hip '80s ideal of a program host. It was unrelated but perfect timing that when NBC pulled the plug on Brandstatter, Lipson was packing for Channel 7, and could thus bring his host with him.

Michigan Replay already reached homes across the state and into Toledo (and trebled Sparty's show's viewership in East Lansing) but this got Bob's little show all over the region, perhaps an understated part of how Michigan became one of the first truly national collegiate brands. People were tuning in every Sunday as far away as Tennessee to have Bo break down the latest game. The show was now an integral part of the Michigan football experience, a weekly tradition for more people in the state even than going to the football game, a perfect match for its era. But then came 1989.

End of Part I. Sorry to break this up, but Hail to the Victors is shipping at the end of this week and I have to get back to it. Coming up next week: how Fox changed everything and nothing, tapings at 2 a.m., Mo, Lloyd, the studio in Crisler, what do you do with 10,000 square yards of used stadium turf, and what really happened in 2008.

Comments

Seth

May 16th, 2012 at 10:19 AM ^

Yeah I stand by that. You hear Bob talk about what he wanted to do with his show and Brian Cook talk about what he thinks the point of this blog is, and it's a little uncanny how similar they are. Both wanted to use the unique properties of a relatively new medium to cut through the mystery and just show people exactly what the coaches are looking at.

Maybe I should have been more specific. Bob said the tape review segment was his calling card. Brian says this about UFR. This is where I made that connection.

GoWings2008

May 16th, 2012 at 10:24 AM ^

Very fond memories of watching Michigan Replay with my old man...the show only worked, for me, with Brandstatter chatting with Bo.  I loved the way Bo would break down a play, very deliberate and calm, when we all know he wasn't that calm on the sidelines on Saturday. 

Cool to hear Lipson give homage to Grbac...funny, slightly off-topic story about Grbac.  A friend of mine who attended Syracuse was pledging a frat, and the upper classmen told him and his other pledges to "go find Elvis."  So, they drove overnight from NY to AA to get a picture and an autograph from Grbac...he gladly obliged. 

CLord

May 16th, 2012 at 10:33 AM ^

I'd love a transcript of UIfer's comments at the end of the Indiana game.  Only half was audible but from the sound it, the entire diatribe was epic.

zlionsfan

May 16th, 2012 at 11:02 AM ^

I kind of lost my taste for early-season conference snackycakes. It wasn't as bad as losing to Notre Dame, but it still started the Big Ten season 0-1.

But in the '70s, yeah, they were pretty sweet. (Aside from the narrow escape against Northwestern in '72; I was too young to be aware of that at the time.)

El Jeffe

May 16th, 2012 at 11:45 AM ^

I was 10 and sitting in the very endzone that Carter scored in during that IU game. The next 33 years have been a total disappointment in comparison.

Also, in re Brandy's comment about "the Hoosiers, a coming power in the conference"?

Lolhoosiers.

M-Wolverine

May 16th, 2012 at 12:10 PM ^

I know everyone is really busy game weeks, but we need more of this when THE LAST/NEXT GAME!!! isn't the concentration.  I can understand the Blog wanted to keep some distance from one-on-one interviews with current staff, players, etc., since it's not completely journalistic and not in any way impartial, and doesn't want to be put in the position of criticizing someone who was really good to the blog, or whatever.  But it can certainly help us fill in blanks, or just remember, past history, as kind of a long term online record of Michigan Athletics that goes beyond the "just the facts, ma'am" way MGoBlue might.

So I'm guessing this confirms that there were only two hosts.  Someone thought Don Shane might have done it shortly too, but the timeline doesn't seem to mesh.

I've heard Brandstatter given many accolades, but I have to admit, this is the first time I've ever heard "humble" used. 

I don't know whether to find it funny or depressing that people (for good reason) have to be reminded there used to be only 3 networks (and usually a couple of UHF stations!). But we're probably 2 generations past that, with not only young adults who never grew up in a world without a hundred+ stations, but now have never lived in a world without an active Internet.  But actually Michigan games getting on tv that much was actually a lot.  There were a whole lot of teams who NEVER got on. And not just the awful ones. After scholarships, this was the biggest change in Big Two - Little Eight match-ups in all the conferences: now everyone can be seen on tv. Before, if you wanted to watch you kid play on tv, he better be going to one of a dozen schools.  No with things like the Big Ten Network, every Indiana Football game is on tv. (And there was a good long time there where Wisconsin football was WORSE than Indiana).

I'm curious what he said about Grbac.  I guess an impression doesn't have to be a positive, but I've heard and seen widely varied reactions to him.

It interesting how things work out sometimes. 110th St. is almost a happy accident.  But it sticks.

I'm not surprised to hear his Sparty boss issues. I wonder if he was still around when Don Shane started taking over sports there. He was probably part of the hire of Diana Lewis, and she's always been very Spartan slanted (even though I don't think she went there; though her daughter did).  Never forgiven her for the near glee she took in the airing of the Moeller tapes.  Still rather there than whatever Channel 4 wanted to do to the show. I think their "hip 80's sports", and I'm thinking "Michigan Replay, hosted by Bernie Smilovitz"...and ugh. Don't get me wrong, for what a local news sports segment is outside of Anchorman, he's fine for quickly and entertainingly reporting results to people who aren't really interested in sports (and ESPN made that even more so).  But him sitting around with Bo, discussing game film?  The rare post game when playing at ND on NBC is enough to convince me it would have been painful. 

Seth

May 16th, 2012 at 2:12 PM ^

Re: Grbac he didn't elaborate very much but I can ask. The sense I got--this is just opinion here--when talking to him is that Bob is a strong-willed, bright, and capable kind of person who doesn't wait for someone to give him extra responsibility -- if he thinks he can do something he just goes and does it until someone tells him to stop. From what I know and have heard rumored about (called his own plays and personnel, created and coached player offseason drills before that was really a typical thing, told the cameras which player in the locker room to talk to) I would guess that was it. But like I said, I didn't get any elaborate from Bob himself so my guess is as good as yours.

Unrelated entirely: Personally I like Grbac because 1991-'92 was when I took the big blue plunge. It would be some time yet before I knew linemen and linebackers (except Erik Anderson--I knew him) but somewhere in my head is this notion that Grbac is still Michigan's quarterback, and I have to convince it that the successive Grbac clones who came after are not him. This is also why I had an unreasonable affinity for Matt Gutierrez even after Henne started a full season.

The FannMan

May 16th, 2012 at 12:38 PM ^

Who used to also watch the Sparty show on weeks they lost just to enjoy the schadenfreude?  

Alright, that's everyone.

If Michigan Replay was the predecessor of this blog, then the Sparty show might have been the predecessor of TWIS.

Seth - really good work.  I enjoyed it and I am looking forward part 2.  I gues its OK to wait if it means getting HTTV.

Feat of Clay

May 16th, 2012 at 1:17 PM ^

I was totally engrossed and then you cut out on me!!   Hail to the Victors or no, you're a Michigan grad so you know what it means to go without sleep to get work done.  CHOP CHOP

For real, though, this is fascinating stuff.

New Kid On The Blog

May 16th, 2012 at 1:29 PM ^

According to Wikipedia:

"In Norse mythology, Valhalla (from Old Norse Valhöll "hall of the slain"[1]) is a majestic, enormous hall located in Asgard, ruled over by the god Odin. Chosen by Odin, half of those that die in combat travel to Valhalla upon death, led by valkyries, while the other half go to the goddess Freyja's field Fólkvangr. In Valhalla, the dead join the masses of those who have died in combat known as Einherjar, as well as various legendary Germanic heroes and kings, as they prepare to aid Odin during the events of Ragnarök."

 

The Indiana game was not on TV so we listened on the radio while Ufer went nuts. We weren't sure what exactly happened for a while but we knew Michigan had won.

uminks

May 16th, 2012 at 2:49 PM ^

I like the Across 110th Street theme song! When I here that song I always think of Michigan football thanks to Michigan Replay!

May be my memory got mixed up...Don Shane may have done some on-field reports during the Brandy years for Michigan Replay.

In the 70s we always got the ND and OSU game televised....and may be one other top pre-season game against Missouri or TAM! And of course the Rose Bowl and other bowl games after the '75 season. Most of the time being a young Michigan fan during the 70s, I had to listen to Michigan games on the radio...but during the mid and late 70s this was great with Ufer!

Bando Calrissian

May 16th, 2012 at 6:23 PM ^

Anybody else remember a shortlived/sporadic Michigan Basketball version of Michigan Replay?  I distinctly remember a Steve Fisher show almost identical to football version, right around years 3 and 4 of the Fab Five-era, maybe?

The Geek

May 17th, 2012 at 4:04 PM ^

Seth, this is a great article, thank you! I know it's repeated on these boards quite a bit, but the Michigan Reply theme song, and Bob Ufer's horn are two of my fondest childhood memories...

 Good stuff.