MIAMI (WOOD) — As Ohio State turned the ball over on downs with about a minute to play against the Wolverines back on Nov. 27, Jim Brandstatter’s excitement was palpable through his call.
Not just because the Wolverines had punched their ticket to their first ever Big Ten Championship game, but because his friend and radio partner Dan Dierdorf was able to call his first victory against Ohio State in the eight years he’s been the Wolverines color commentator.
“He had talked to me in the summertime about how much he wanted to do that, ‘I want to beat Ohio State. I want to have that opportunity.’ So to have that opportunity, in that last game, and the kind of game it was, the emotional outpouring of the fans, the team, how they did it, what it meant from a standpoint of eight years they haven’t beaten them, the frustration, all that coming out — for Dan to experience that I was just happy for him,” Brandstatter said.
It was the pair’s final game at Michigan Stadium. In January of this year they announced this season would be their last. It has been a remarkable journey for each, both football alums from the university and Brandstatter a 43-year broadcaster for the maize and blue.
“I knew that Ohio State was going to be my last broadcast in Michigan Stadium and I was a little surprised that I wasn’t as emotional as maybe I think I should have been,” Brandstatter said. “But I’ve been there for 43 years, been so many great memories and great moments. I’m just so fortunate and so grateful to have had them. So, yeah, I know that it’s the last, but I don’t feel bittersweet. I don’t feel sad.”
Between his time as the Detroit Lions radio announcer and his years with the Wolverines, he’s called thousands of football games. But there has never been a season quite like this one.
“If I’d have sent this script at the beginning of the year to a screenwriter, they’d have never made the movie, you can’t, this isn’t true. It’s a Hallmark thing,” Brandstatter joked. “Dan and I didn’t want to be the story, we wanted Michigan football to be the story and thank God this team has done what it has done because they have become the story. Dan and I only wanted to be a sidebar. We’re offensive linemen, we don’t want headlines.”
They have found their way of making headlines in this extended swan song season. Brandstatter announced on his social media that Dierdorf would not be able to call the game with him in the booth Friday night at the Orange Bowl because of “circumstances out of his control.”
“It’s going to be hard. I mean, when I found out, it 24 hours, I was morose,” Brandstatter explained. “Having him not here, that hurts me maybe a little more than it even does him, I think. Cause I want him to experience this, that’s I think how an offensive lineman thinks, they want the other guys to have a great time too. And when they can’t, it hurts.”
He’s hoping this is more of a Hallmark movie with a happy ending and Dierdorf and him will have one more opportunity to call a game for Michigan side-by-side in Indianapolis for a national championship. But as a former player and a professional now on the tip of retirement, he understands no games are promised.
“I’m still involved with Michigan football. I want to do an audio book with some of the interviews that I did for my Tales from Michigan Stadium books. I’ve got a podcast that I do. I’m not going anywhere. I’m just not going to be broadcasting football games,” Brandstatter said.
Brandstatter has been in more Michigan locker rooms than he can remember and he’s noticed there is something different and special about this year’s championship team.
“They have this belief in themselves that they’re enjoying each other’s company, they’re enjoying the journey and they’re enjoying the process and let’s have fun while we do it,” Brandstatter said.
He remembers moments in Wisconsin when the Michigan players stole the show during the famous “jump around” done by the Badger students section. And the sportsmanship of team veteran Cade McNamara who was being subbed back into the game after Freshman J.J. McCarthy completed a pass against Ohio State — McNamara turned around and pointed at McCarthy to tell him good job. It’s those things that Brandstatter says sets this team apart.
“Reveling in the other guys success, I think has galvanized this football team into being really a special group that enjoys and loves playing with each other,” Brandstatter said.
As the stage gets bigger for the Wolverines and the lights brighter while the curtain closes on 43 years of broadcasting excellence, Brandstatter is content in knowing that, win or lose against Georgia, it has been a championship of a show.
“I just feel grateful. I feel so grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to do this for 43 years,” Brandstatter said. “To see the things that I’ve seen for my team, my university, where I graduated, where I played. To have the broadcast opportunity, to do these games and meet guys like Bo, Lloyd, Moe, some of the great players, you know, the Leaches, the Wanglers, the Carters, the Braylin Edwards, the Desmond Howards, the Charles Woodsons. I’m just so grateful that I’ve had the opportunity. I’ve lived a charmed life.”