Friday, January 17, 2014

An Ode To A Broadcaster

Having grown up in an era where Michigan Football was on TV about 3 to 4 times a season and also in an era where listening to the game was a much bigger deal as people didn’t always plant themselves in front of the tube and actually had lives where they did “Stuff” on Saturday, Bob Ufer, as I’ve mentioned more times than I care to count, was a huge influence on me becoming a Michigan Fan and I’m sure countless other who grew up in that age. 

When the Ufe was gone…there were a lot of fans left wondering what would WJR and the Michigan brass do?  Ufe was un-replaceable….or so we thought.
Beckmann was Ufer’s sideline reporter at the end of Ufe’s run, and while Beckman was capable, I think most fans believed he was just too vanilla and not enough of a homer to step into the largest broadcasting shoes the college football world had ever seen (or probably will ever see).  I mean, he was the calm, cool collected voice that narrated the “Run for the Roses” and the “Run for the Roses II” ALBUMS (Vinyl – remember those?).  If you’ve never listened to these, I believe this is where my initial doubts about Beckman began:  How could the guy that was speaking in between the utter insanity and passion of Ufer possibly replace him?  It was in fact, to me anyway, impossible, and Beckman would only be a one or two season fill in (at best) until a new Ufer identified himself….

(I believe there’s a reader or two out there that might own one or both of these classics!)
So, how did Beckman win over the minds of all the grade school to maturity fans that grew up with Ufer?  Ufer died in the fall of 1981 and I can remember sitting at the kitchen table of a high school buddy having lunch when we heard the news.  Frank had already been handling some of the broadcasts as Ufer’s cancer was eating him away. It was either my junior or senior year in high school and I was listening to Beckman and he “lost his mind” when Michigan’s Steve Smith threw a pass to a wide open Anthony Carter and Anthony scampered for a winning TD.  It was then that I thought, “Well, maybe this guy will work.”

(Thank You Wolverine Historian for the Montage..)
Then, as the years wore one, Beckmann just kind of naturally fell into the “homer” broadcaster roll.  He actually became more Ufer, if that’s possible, than Ufer.  I can’t tell you the number of times I heard, “TOUCHDOWN….MICHIGAN!!!” and felt a little tingle go up and down my back.  I loved the way that Frank paused ever so slightly after announcing touchdown….It was perfect. 
It was actually hard for me to believe that Frank had been the voice of Michigan Football for 33 years.  That’s a lifetime’s work and there’s probably more than a few readers that only know Beckmann…And he’s their Ufer.  I’m sure Beckman would have loved to at least “tie” Ufer in the number of broadcasting seasons…but 36 years by the late Great Robert Frost will be tough to match or exceed in this day and age.
Will Doug Karsch be the next voice?  And will he emulate Beckmann as much as Frank tried to pay homage to Ufer?  I’d love to give Beckmann all the credit for his own passion and flamboyance, but Ufer was first.  And while Frank made the job his own, you can’t help but think that there was a little Ufer influence in there somewhere…
And deep in the recesses of every Michigan Fan’s mind, there’s a little Ufer in all of us….and now there’s a little Beckmann, too. 

Which isn’t a bad thing!

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