Let’s go back to Compuware Arena, several years ago, when Trenton High School was on its way to winning yet another state championship.
I was relaxing between periods when Darryl Sattler, a former THS hockey player, announces to me, “Hey I just saw Mike Tirico!”
I got up from my seat and walked into the corridor to prove Darryl was imagining things. I thought to myself, Mike is way too busy, he’s either at home with Debbie and the kids, or at a major sporting event, or in an airplane flying back and forth.
Then suddenly I hear my name called. I looked and under a baseball cap and without a business suit is the one and only Mike Tirico!
I exclaimed, “Mike, what are you doing here?” “I’m here with my son and nephew to watch the big game.” My surprise was conditioned by knowing Mike is the iconic voice of ABC and ESPN sports — he’s everywhere. If he is not hosting a major sporting event he is calling the play by play of that major event.
The list of his responsibilities is staggering: Monday Night Football, The British Open, The Masters, The U.S. Open of Tennis, World Cup Soccer, NCAA Football, NCAA Basketball, the NBA, ESPN Sportscenter, ESPN Radio. What an amazing resume! This is why you can understand my surprise to see him as a spectator at a Michigan Hockey High School State Championship.
Mike is married to Trentonite Debbie Gibaratz, a former THS standout in softball and basketball. Debbie met Mike while both were attending Syracuse University.
Debbie as an athlete was smallish in stature, but mighty in ability. The 1985 Trenton graduate took her hardwood talents to Syracuse, and by her senior year she was the captain of the Syracuse women’s basketball team.
Mike started his broadcasting career at a small station in New York state. This led to his job at the ESPN anchor desk, which later saw Mike doing just about every major event for ESPN/ABC. He became the go-to guy for the network known for his ability to articulate in any sport assignment.
I learned years ago the professional/college sports announcers are the most talked about in the sports world next to the athletes themselves. The discussion about the announcers centers around their styles, their presentations and their flaws. The announcer adds spice to the broadcast. Remember how Al Michaels declared, “Do you believe in miracles? Yes!!!”
Michael’s words at the end of the USA’s victory over the Soviets in the 1980 Olympic game are immortal and were spontaneous, his reaction was something people across the country were likewise thinking themselves, that this was indeed a sports miracle.
Mike Tirico, Al Michaels, Jack Buck and the one and only Howard Cosell to name a few had the versatility to do the play by play or analyze more than one sport. Howard Cosell was a flamboyant announcer who, like Mike, was famous for Monday Night Football, and his tit-for-tat with Mohammed Ali was legendary. Howard’s personality was described as conceited, overbearing, and verbose, but as a broadcaster people tuned in to hear and see the announcer that the public loved to hate. The announcer, whether it be on TV or the radio, can be the catalyst that sparks the interest in a sport.
One example of this would be Bob Ufer, the famed unconventional University of Michigan football announcer. A lady I knew told me she stumbled onto a U of M game Bob was announcing on the radio and she
became a Wolverine football fan for life. My friends and I could not wait for Saturday afternoon to listen to
the Michigan game, to hear the excitable Bob Ufer scream, “5-4-3-2-1 TOUCH-DOWN!” Only Bob Ufer could say in his emotional way, “Meeesh- igan!”
Many announcers are ex-athletes who embarked on their career by being in the right place at the right time. The best example would be Pat Summerall in 1962. Pat was sharing housing with a former New York football Giant teammate, Chuck Conerly. One day, Pat answered the phone and it was CBS calling for Chuck Conerly, asking if he would be interested in doing the color for the next football game. Pat answered, “Chuck’s in the shower but I’ll have him return the call as soon as he gets out.”
The network caller said, “I’m really pressed for time, how about you Pat? Would you like to try?” That was the beginning of a career for Summerall who would do a straight style for 45 years of broadcasting a variety of sports as well as being a spokesman in commercials.
There are people like Joe Buck, and Jeremy Schaap who have followed in their fathers’ footsteps — maybe Cam and Jordan can follow in their dad’s path as well. When they were under the age of 5 I would ask them what they were going to be when they grew up and they would answer, pronouncing and leaving out the ‘s’, “We’re going to be ’portscasters!” Jordan is now in high school and probably putting sportscasting on the back burner. He excels in soccer, and is a holder of the 200-meter freshmen record in track for his Michigan high school team.
There will come a day when the Trenton High School hockey team will be in pursuit of a record number of state championship games and maybe Cam or Jordan can announce the game — if they’re as good as their dad, because he’s the best at what he does.
Tony Mazzella welcomes readers to friend him on Facebook, where he frequently shares recollections about some of the interesting people and businesses in Trenton’s past.