Michigan quarterback Wilton Speight is sacked by Ohio State defenders Chris Worley (35) and Jerome Baker last season in Columbus. "There was no dip in intensity," ESPN broadcaster Chris Fowler said of the game. "There were no lapses or lulls."
ANN ARBOR — I sat down with Fox broadcasters Gus Johnson and Joel Klatt last week and spoke to ESPN’s Chris Fowler by phone this week about the Ohio State-Michigan game.
Johnson, Fox’s lead play-by-play voice and one of the most recognizable broadcasters in sports, is a Detroit native who remains a devoted Michigan fan. Klatt, Johnson’s partner in the booth, played quarterback at Colorado and also grew up in the state. However, it didn’t stop Klatt from ranking Ohio State-Michigan as his favorite game to watch. Fowler, also a Colorado graduate, lived in Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Colorado. He too grew up tuning in to the Buckeyes and Wolverines.
There will be a story in Saturday’s Blade chronicling all three broadcasters experiences and viewpoints relating to the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry. Below I’ve included some outtakes from the interviews.
On Jim Harbaugh: Johnson said he spoke with another Michigan reporter last week about the game and he was asked if Jim Harbaugh is the right man to lead the Wolverines. ”I stopped him right there and said, What are you talking about? You sound ridiculous,” Johnson said. “And he said, well, he hasn’t beat his rivals. And I said, well, I know he beat Michigan State. Oh, I get it. He hasn't beaten Ohio State. That’s a problem. No matter what we remember about the program when Brady was there and Rich Rod was there, even though Harbaugh’s had success, he hasn't beaten Ohio State. That’s how important it is.
On being a Michigan fan: “Because I was a fan it was too personal for me when Michigan wasn't winning. It was hard to watch. I made a good living, but I don't like having to stick my foot through the TV and have to buy new TVs. It feels like that to me. Michigan is the only team I allow myself to be a fan of. That will be suspended [this week].”
On how big games feel different: “You certainly feel it. That builds during the course of the week, whether you hear the coverage or you just sense the people asking you about it. You get a sense of the enormity and size of scope of the interest. I haven't done nearly as many big events as Gus, but when we’ve gotten into moments within games that I know are huge, that’s when I feel it the most. You just sense the size of the stage. I felt it at the end of the Penn State-Ohio State game.”
On Fox broadcasting the Ohio State-Michigan game: “If anyone would tell you that that isn’t the first game you thought about it, they’re lying. That’s immediately the game that sticks out.”
On Ohio State-Michigan: “For me, it’s not even the game but the two places in college football history that both programs occupy.”
On the 2006 Ohio State-Michigan game: “I remember vividly speeding home. Like, literally driving like a crazy man home in 2006 to make sure I saw the No. 1 vs. No. 2 game. It was a great game, it was an epic game. It was a cold day in Denver. I’ll always remember that experience.”
Klatt grew up during the height of the Colorado-Nebraska rivalry. During the mid-1990s, when the teams squared off, there were always national implications. Despite living in Colorado — and later quarterbacking the Buffaloes, Klatt still said the biggest game of his childhood was Ohio State-Michigan.
On Ohio State-Michigan: “You witness something that you know is a part of the sport’s history. You know as you’re watching it that, Wow, this is special. This is meaningful. They’ll talk about this forever. That’s the nature of the rivalry. When things happen, they’re amplified.”
On the 2002 Ohio State-Michigan game: “The tension inside the stadium was so palpable. Finally, when Ohio State withstands the last drive and wins it, the release, the pandemonium, the emotion — it had been pent up all year, all week, all afternoon. The release was just amazing, it was euphoric. It was one of the most tension-packed followed by euphoric sports events I’ve seen.”
On the 2016 Ohio State-Michigan game: “Every play from the start felt like it was a championship event. There was no dip in intensity. There were no lapses or lulls. That game, as it unfolded, we were fortunate enough to see something special with everything on the line. You walked out of there sensing that you’d witnessed a piece of the history of the rivalry.”
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