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Thursday, May 18, 2006

Go Blue...eh

According to the Detroit News, Michigan is about to announce a radio deal for its sports broadcasts that amounts to the Balkanization of U-M athletics across the airwaves.

To recap, Michigan football and basketball had been carried on WJR, the 50,000 watt Detroit superstation. That is until seven months ago when the station shocked everyone by dropping the Wolverines in favor of broadcasting MSU games instead. Even worse, Michigan officials claim they were negotiating in good-faith with WJR when they were cut loose for the Spartans.

So, who's going to be carrying the Wolverines now? Well, a lot of people, actually.

Michigan football is expected to be broadcast on CKLW 800, another 50,000 watt AM station...but a Canadian 50,000 watt station located just across the border in Windsor. The games will also be simulcast on Detroit's WOMC, located at 104.3 on your FM dial. Basketball will air on WWJ 950 and hockey will be carried on WXYT 1270.

Sweet mother of God! For a second there, I thought the MZone might pick up a sport of two.

I happen to think this looks bad for Michigan. The main carrier of Wolverine football isn't even located in the continental United States anymore. In addition, we now have this patchwork of stations to carry the other U-M sports. How...Northwestern of us.

Benny disagrees, saying that in this day and age, nobody really listens to the games on the radio anymore. He feels true Michigan fans are either at the game or watching it on TV.

That may be, but I still think it looks bad. It's a perception thing in my book.

The only good news regarding all this is that Frank Beckman, Michigan's long-time play-by-play announcer, and Jim Brandstatter, the former Michigan player and Beckman's color man, will continue to call the games. So at least Michigan fans have something to be happy aboot.


Benny Friedman said...

The move by WJR was all about basketball. I can't imagine many people under the age of 55 listen to Michigan football on the radio. I live outside of Michigan but haven't missed a football game in years - because they're all on TV. The days of grandad listening to Ufer while working out his sexual frustrations in the garage are over.
Between TiVo, HDTV, and home theater systems, it's becoming more preferable to stay home and watch the games instead of actually going to them. Radio? Please. I'll occasionally listen to some random game while in the car, but have no use for commercial radio otherwise.
Basketball, on the other hand, still might have a few radio listeners. There are 30-some games a year, so a fan might not re-arrange his life to watch every one, the way he does for football. So this whole move is a reflection on how our basketball program pales in comparison to Sparty.

Anonymous said...

Don't listen to the radio? C'mon. I have two thoughts on this that would lead me to believe that this doesn't bode well for UM. First, you haven't ever been pissed enough at the tv commentary to turn it off and listen to the radio while you watch it on tv. Second, when all of your sports are on one station, it is easy for fans (who might not be UM fans but just big college sports fans) who travel through the area on business regularly to find it on the radio because there is consistency.

Jeremy said...

Listening to Brent Musburger call Michigan games is like getting a handjob from an angry bear: You're supposed to enjoy what he's doing but you just want to kill and skin him. The guy flat-out hates Michigan and I try to watch the TV with Brandstatter in the background whenever I can.

I love how about a week after WJR made the decision, Michigan beat MSU in basketball. Five weeks after that, MSU lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament. And this was after we beat them in every other sport. Glad those WJR guys paid attention to the Pontiac Challenge Cup standings.

Benny Friedman said...

Anon, you make good points. As I said, I live outside the area so listening to Beckmann instead of the TV guys isn't an option. Personally, I think the college football guys do a pretty good job on TV, though it sometimes is preferable to listen to your hometown guys.
Yes, having one station as the "Home of Michigan sports" is a good idea. But will college sports fans in Michigan on business really care that the football and basketball teams are on different stations? Will they even notice? And is that such a bad reflection on Michigan sports?

Benny Friedman said...

Jeremy, you really think Brent hates Michigan? If anything, I think we're one of his favorites. Accusing announcers of hating your team is like complaining that the refs are always to blame when your team loses.
Personally, I love Brent as an announcer. The only criticism I have of him is that he's a front-runner. If your team is playing well, there's no bigger supporter. But when we're going bad he can be a tough listen. But he knows the game, has passion for it, and, I think, does a great job.

surrounded in columbus said...

i agree w/ you that the end result- where you land on the radio dial- is pretty unimportant. even for us old guys who like being in the garage listening to the game, w/ the availability of web based or satelite radio, the broadcast power of the flag station isn't much of a consideration anymore.

that said, i think Yost is correct that the value of the "brand" name of "michigan" sports is sliding. the way this unfolded, not only WJR's dumping of us, but the other stations lack of overwelming enthusiasm to pick us up, shows the declining value of our "stock" in the last 5 years. whether radio is really the future or the past for the rest of the world, it's clearly WJR's future and they don't see us having much value in theirs.

i think this whole fiasco epitomizes Martin's lack of talent for the AD's job. he might be a good businessman, but he simply has NO CLUE about what the "A" in AD is all about and how important the sports are to the sports dept.

boat boy was completely unprepared/shocked by WJR's announcement last fall. under his tenure, the revenue sports have slid in their performance on the field, but he doesn't seem to get the correlation between a winning team and marketing/sales. it appears to never have occured to him that a b-ball team that hadn't won squat in 10 years wouldn't have any market value so long as they had "M" on their unis.

it's not that he hasn't fired Carr or Amaker, or made a lot of talk/buzz about the need for change. it's that he doesn't seem to even notice the records. he doesn't seem to see any connection between winning and popularity/sales.

i find it particularly troubling when i read about his plans for the sky boxes/stadium upgrades. he seems to think he can drop $240 million on new facilities and that the money will continue fall out of the sky, regardless of how the team performs.

don't get me wrong- i think sky boxes are the future (unlike radio). but in no other business in the world are sales/revenue as directly linked to short term performance as they are in sports.

yeah, season football ticket non renewals were only 4% from last season to this- but that's double the average drop off. boat boy has got to wake up and realize that sky box sales and W-L records are joined at the hip. WJR sent him a real clear message on this- i hope he listens to it.

Benny Friedman said...

Great comments, as usual, surrounded. We're going to have more about Martin and the luxury boxes tomorrow.

Jeremy said...

Well, I think I'm just opposed to him so I look for it, but all I hear is anti-Michigan bias. It's never a great run by Michigan, it's a great tackle by the defender. I just remember in 2005 when Michigan basketball was losing to Northwestern, he pointed out least four times through the course of the game why Horton was suspended. When Steve Lavin praised him for remaining unbiased, I threw up.

I guess it's all been downhill for me since hearing Keith Jackson and Bob Griese call the '97 games.

IC said...


While I loved your handjob from a bear imagery to describe listening to Musburger call a Michigan game, I disagree with your belief that Brent "hates Michigan."

I agree with Benny re. Musburger, particularly how it seems he's pulling for the team that is doing well in the game. Having met Musburger several times and hearing about him from a friend who knows him well, my impression is that Brent definitely likes and respects Michigan and the prestige of the program.

Regarding the radio shakeup...talk about a tempest in a teapot. It doesn't mean a goddamn thing for the program.

Does anyone really think a recruit--even a local one--will think, "Hmmm...Michigan always wins, they're always on tv, and I'll play in front of the largest crowd in the country every home game. BUT their games are carried by a Canadian radio station...I'm going to State or tOSU!"?

I feel bad for the 1%--2% tops--of Michigan fans in Michigan who have to be in their cars on Saturdays, for whom scanning the dial might present a problem. Otherwise, as I noted earlier, it doesn't mean a goddamn thing.

Jeremy said...

I also saw an ESPN classic broadcast of the ~1992 UM/OSU game at the horseshoe, referring to said 'shoe as "the big house in Columbus." Dude. Not cool.

To his credit, he stopped by a marching band practice one day a few years ago and he was very excited to see us and had great things to say. My proud parents have heard him heap praise on the MMB on the air on multiple occasions. I appreciated that.

surrounded in columbus said...

he is quite the bandwagon jumper. my favorite "brent moment" was ND - Northwestern game during which he predicted Powlus would win "Heisman after Heisman". 4 tds against the wildcats turned out to be his career highlight film, but Brent was right about it in the moment.

i politely disagree w/ the importance of the radio deal. as i said to Benny, the radio station isn't important, but the "deal" is.

think about it this way- when a radio station- a dying medium- doesn't think you're worth as much as the sparties, you've got a problem.

we're on a slide. this is just the top of the hill.

Yost said...

"Listening to Brent Musburger call Michigan games is like getting a handjob from an angry bear"


That was great, Jeremy.

Tom said...

I guess it's all been downhill for me since hearing Keith Jackson and Bob Griese call the '97 games.

So since you had the father of your starting quarterback doing color, every other announcer has seemed anti-Michigan. Gee... I wonder why.

Am I the only one who brings a radio to listen to during the games? I like knowing about stuff like injuries right after they happen. Plus, it's a much better way to keep up with the scores of other games rather than relying on the infrequent and out-of-date scoreboard updates (at pretty much any stadium) or the crapshoot that is getting a cellphone signal out of a packed stadium.

Yost said...

"So since you had the father of your starting quarterback doing color, every other announcer has seemed anti-Michigan. Gee... I wonder why."


IC said...


I sent my comment before reading yours. You make some excellent points.

However, I'm not nearly ready to say Michigan is about to slide from the top of a hill. Based on one bad season? Based on the desperate decision of a radio station’s execs, trying to save its rotting hide on the cheap?

Keep in mind that this is the same WJR that demonstrated less-than-impressive intelligence, wisdom, and foresight when it either ordered or was complicit in firing Hall of Fame Tigers announcer Ernie Harwell. I'm surprised WJR is filling the Saturday afternoon spot with Sparty when they could simply replay their beloved Rush, Hannity, or Dr. Laura. I suppose the O’Reilly Radio Factor was too expensive.

You correctly point out that radio is a dying medium, so why should it bother you that it is reaching out to State instead of us? Let Sparty be tethered to radio's corpse.

Like a 97-year-old man who changes his shoes so he can dance like he used to, WJR will soon discover that jettisoning Michigan broadcasts for Sparty games won’t cure what ails it; only its certain and oncoming death will.

surrounded in columbus said...

you & Benny are right- the changing of radio stations is hardly a mole hill, let alone a mountain. in and of itself, the radio move isn't real news.

two ancillary issues are (at least to me). first, it's almost embarassing how Martin has handled/been handled by this. i have thought for some time he didn't have a clue, and this hasn't changed my opinion. he got surprised by WJR, had no alternative plan in mind, let alone in progress, and still hasn't solved the problem. he looks like the amateur he is.

Benny promised more on the stadium expansion, so i'll wait to read that before going too far off the reservation, but i think his handling of the radio deal may be emblematic of where the expansion ends up. what if he handles the $200 million deal the same way he has handled this??? that kind of mistake will hurt for a long while.

second, WJR dropping us isn't the only problem we've had lately. in fact, it's just one of many bumps the sports programs have hit in the last 5 years. no ncaa tourny for b-ball in a decade. very lack luster performance in football- we've gone over the stats before. if the radio deal was the only negative, we wouldn't be talking about it, but it's not an isolated event. most worrisome is the first point- we have an AD who doesn't seem to understand/care.

Aram said...

Don't forget that WTKA 1050 will continue to broadcast Michigan sports, despite having a fairly weak signal. The News probably didn't pick it up because it's an Ann Arbor station.

Anonymous said...

i go to nearly every home Buckeye game through the season & I ALWAYS have an ear bud in one ear to listen to the radio guys. love the insight from the sidelines and always know the yards to first, etc.

i think to many it's simply a comfort thing as well.....a.m. radio broadcast brings you back to your childhood & fond memories.

TODD LABER said...