The Michigan Daily - Sports Monday - November 13, 1989 - Page 3
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CBS' basketball halftime host speaks on how he
became one of the sport's most important fans
For many sports fans, mid-
winter Sunday afternoons mean
names like Magic Johnson,
Michael Jordan and the NBA on
CBS. But when the teams leave the
court at halftime Pat O'Brien steps
in. O'Brien has the difficult task of
gluing viewers to their sets while
the players take a breather. O'Brien
hosts "At the Half," a halftime
magazine-type show that relays the
latest sports info as well as stories
about what America's favorite
basketball players do off the court.
*.Daily sports contributor David
Schecter spoke recently to O'Brien.
Daily: How do you account for
your excellent rapport with the
players in the NBA?
'I have a unique way
of looking at things.
And, really I'm kind
of an outsider in
sports, I'm looking in
from a fan's point of
O'Brien: When we get into
situations where I have to grab
these guys after a contest, and if I
, don't know them and they don't
like me, they don't know who I am
or what I'm about, I can't just be
grabbing a guy and he's going,
"Who are you?"
But I've got my own thing with
every player. I think, no in fact I
know, they like me. Because I'm
always fair with them. If I'm going
continued from page 1
Phil Parker. "He'll have some
losses, but it will be interesting to
see how he does."
Parker later saw Gilbert capture
the Eastern Michigan Open title at
134 pounds, the only Wolverine to
do so Saturday.
v The Wolverines feature another
first-time starter at heavyweight in
sophomore Phil Tomek. Tomek
fills the job vacated by Bob
Potokar, who did not return for his
fifth season. The 220-pounder fin-
ished 6-6 overall last season, but
according to assistant coach Kirk
Trost, "Tomek doubled his wrest-
ling ability over the summer. He's
on the technical level of an
"He could have more success
than Potokar had," Bahr said.
Another Wolverine who did not
start last year, but by no means
lacks experience, is senior 177-
pounder Justin Spewock. Spewock
vied for the starting spot last year,
but gave way to James Dye when
he got injured early in the season.
-"He's as good as anyone around. He
just hasn't had a chance to prove
it," Bahr said.
Fellow senior Fritz Lehrke, who
placed fourth in the Big Ten and
qualified for the NCAA tournament
last season, returns as one of the
Wolverines' experienced starters.
Bahr has high expectations for
the 190-pounder. "He's among the
elite in the country and should be
an all-American this year."
Someone who was an all-
American last year is Gotcher.
Competing at 150 pounds this
season, Gotcher sets as his goal a
national championship. A WN
ranks him fourth in his class, with
Indiana's Brian Dolph in the top
sport. Because Dolph hails from the
Big Ten as well, more than one
matchup is imminent.
Illinois coach Ron Clinton
concurred. "Dolph is better tech-
nically, but Gotcher is one hell of a
competitor," Clinton said.
In the first meeting of the
season, Dolph beat Gotcher in the
finals of the Eastern Michigan
N Gotcher, Lehrke, and Spewock
to be tough on them, I tell them
and I'm straight with them and they
like that. And, I don't ask dumb
D: Where did you develop your
off-beat sense of humor?
O: I guess my father gets credit
for that. He had a great sense of
humor. It's all timing and in the
way you observe things. You
know, some people look at a glass
half full, some half empty. I have a
unique way of looking at things.
And, really I'm kind of an outsider
in sports, I'm looking in from a
fan's point of view.
D: You appear on television as a
type of cult hero. People tune in
every week and know you'll reveal
something we don't know about the
players. Does your strong
background in news, working with
people like David Brinkley have
anything to do with this?
O: I was in the news for 10
years before I went into sports, so
I'm really not your average sports
commentator. I learneda lot from
David Brinkley. The premiere thing
I learned form David was how to
write. I write everything. I write
everything I do. In this business
you can put your stamp on your
work if you write it yourself.
If you read everybody else's
writing what you become is a
compilation of everybody you hire.
I think I stand out because I write
my own stuff and I think it out, and
everything is me. I'm not
criticizing other people, I'm just
saying you put a stamp on yourself
if you do your own writing.
'At the Half' has become kind of
a cult show. There are certain
things people look for every week.
But we also give out a lot of
information. Before, halftimes just
used to be a couple of highlights
from the first half, and a few stats.
Now, we're going to show you a
player off the court, we're gonna
show you what a player does when
he's not playing basketball. We're
going to give you news of the
league. I think it's an informative
show, and then we have some fun
too, along the way. The show kind
of evolved itself. It kind of has a
life of its own. Now, it's very
D: Why did you decide to attend
the University of South Dakota?
O: I grew up very poor, so there
were no other opportunities to go
to any other schools. I'm glad I
went there, if I had to do it again,
I'd go there again. It was a fantastic
place to be in the 60's. I grew up in
a very small farm town in the
Eastern plains of South Dakota near
Sioux Falls. So I'm the hero there.
It's the only place I'm a hero.
D: It took you along time before
you actually made it to network
television and 'At the Half' didn't
O: In this business there are no
short cuts. People who want to get
into this business should realize
there are no short cuts. The people
that take short cuts don't make it.
The people who take the long road
are going to be sitting on top. But
if you pay your dues and do
absolutely everything in the
business, you know you're going
to last longer than the other guy.
D: Who were the people you
looked up to growing up?
O: John Lennon was always my
sort of role model. I was never
much of a Beach Boy guy. David
Brinkley was always my role model
in news and I ended up working
with him. I've always been pretty
fascinated with Albert Einstein, as a
matter of fact. You know, he didn't
speak a word until he was eight
years old. He was sitting at a table
and the first words to his parents
allegedly were, "My soup is cold."
And they said, "How come you
haven't spoken for eight years." He
said, "Up until now everything was
in order." It's a true story.
'I think it's an
and then we have
some fun too, along
the way. The show
kind of evolved
D: How would you classify
basketball players as a group?
0: Basketball players, as a
category are pretty smart guys. All
of them went to college. Most of
them finished college, and if they
didn't, they went back to finish
their degrees. But they know I've
got a job to do, and they let me do
it. Magic, Jordan, McHale and
Salley are some of my favorites.
Holtz and hate mail:
What a combination!
Imagine. Notre Dame head football/pugilism coach Lou Holtz actually
said that he might not take his No. 1 team to a bowl game. And he said it
with a straight face.
You see, Holtz is pouting over how interminably long the football
season lasts. As violins came to a crescendo in the background, Holtz told
the press that his football team hasn't had a break since late summer.
Let's just say that we won't throw him a hankie.
Look who's talking. What gall. The reason why Holtz thinks the
season is too long is because his team played in the Kickoff Classic,
otherwise known as the Warm Up For Michigan Game, last August. If he
didn't think getting a head start on the Wolverines was so important,
maybe he wouldn't be whining like a child who missed the ice cream
For years, Michigan coach Bo Schembechler has refused to play in this
football game because it would make the season too long. When asked
what it would take to change his mind and play in the Kickoff Classic,
Schembechler smiled and said: "I guess if I want to beat Notre Dame..."
All along Schembechler knew that playing in this East Rutherford, NJ
game would be debilitating to his team. Not because the Wolverines
would choke from all the New Jersey refineries, but because his team
wouldn't rest from August till January. I guess Holtz found this out the
After Holtz got off his soapbox, he left the pressroom and was reported
to mutter, "sometimes you wonder who your friends are." Who can make
such a ludicrous statement about not taking the most popular college
football team to a bowl and then wonder whonhis friends are?
If he had any friends, they should take him aside and ask him what he's
been smoking and then take his car keys away. Because Holtz will never
carry out these idle threats. Ridiculous.
If Holtz does hold back his team from a bowl game, then I would
respect him for doing something to help his team. But just making idle
threats is not only bush league but also childish.
With that subject neatly tucked away in the middle drawer, let's look at
another item, specifically hate mail. The following letter was written to
me after last week's column in which I said that the Michigan Marching
Band's song selection has been pretty poor of late. Recently, other bands
have been coming into Ann Arbor with inferior bands and still stolen the
show due to Michigan's ennui-provoking song selection. You know,
widely popular, peppy songs like "Malaga" and "Guantanamera." Wonder
if John Philip Sousa wrote that last one.
So, here it goes:
Dear Mr. Eisen:
I am writing in reference to your column of 11/6/89 (Purdue's Silver
Twins: What a combination!), in which you trashed the Michigan
Marching Band, in print, for all to see...
Perhaps you would rather hear the Band play Guns-n-Roses, or Lou
Reed, or Bruce Springsteen, or rap "music." Let's forget the fact that
students constitute less than one fifth of the audience at a typical
Michigan game, and that the majority of fans likely have considerably
broader tastes and tolerances than students such as yourself. And never
mind that you think more of Purdue's trademark , a giant bass drum
than you do Michigan's - namely the high step. .That is your opinion,
and there's nothing wrong with that. What I cannot respect, however, is
your employment of blatantly false statements, and your selective
omission of other facts which would run counter to your implicit
argument that the Michigan Band is lame.
While forsaking all dignity in going ga-ga over the Purdue twirlers,
you somehow decided that you had become an authority on recent halftime
music. You told all that "Indiana did a Blues Brothers routine that really
charged up the crowd." Well, it might interest you (and regrettably
misinformed readers) to know that (1) Indiana's Band didn't even come to
Ann Arbor this year because of the Alumni's Band presence at
Homecoming; (2) the band which did play "Blues Brothers" was
Maryland (3) this occurred five weeks ago, not two, as you stated, and
(4) their arrangement was actually penned by Michigan band arranger John
Stout and used by the Maryland band with Michigan's permission...With
a little journalistic homework, you might have discovered this...Well,
Mr. Eisen, you wouldn't even know Tchaikovsky if he jumped out of the
ground and bit you on the nose. My point is, you clearly haven't been
paying enough attention to know what the hell you're writing about...
Now about the twirling. You certainly liked the Purdue twirlers, and
commented lavishly about how talented they were. Granted they are
talented; but did they really show up the Michigan Band, as you claim? If
you had gotten off your duff and done- some more homework, you might
have discovered that Michigan's freshman twirler was actually invited after
the game by one of the Purdue twirlers to teach at a summer twirling
camp at which the Purdue twirlers are also instructors...
I would hope for the future that, should you continue to be a cheap-
shot artist you will at least get your facts straight! As a journalist, this is
your foremost responsibility to your readers.
Wolverine wrestler Jason Cluff lost to Michigan St.'s Soo Thackthay in the 188-pound weight class Saturday.
Bahr happy with young wrestlers
showing at Eastern Michigan Open
by Matt Rennie
Daily Sports Writer
Michigan wrestling head coach Dave Bahr had a
chance to view both the near and distant future during
Saturday's Eastern Michigan Open. Not only did his
veterans face some stiff competition, but his heralded
first-year wrestlers also got their first taste of
The field was highly competitive, with half the Big
Overall, Bahr was pleased with what he saw.
"This is a good place to start," he said. "We had
some good performances and some not so good
performances. There was some really good wrestlers
He was particularly pleased with his rookie class, a
group which recruiting experts ranked second in the
country last year. "I thought our young kids looked
really solid. Joey Gilbert was very impressive," he
number one in the country.
Gotcher will have plenty of opportunities to face
Dolph again during the course of the season, and he is
already thinking about that. "I've got to open up more.
He's not going to score a lot on me," Gotcher said. "I
know I can beat him."
Sam Amine, who finished third at 158 pounds,
turned in a strong performance, avenging his only loss
with a 6-1 victory in the consolation finals.
Jim Feldkamp, a 142-pounder, and Lanny Green, at
167, also placed in the top four of their classes.
The Wolverine frosh left their impression on all
present. In addition to Gilbert, Sean Bormet looked
strong in the 150 class. Despite his impressive
showing, Bormet will probably be redshirted because
of the presence of Gotcher.
Lehrke said this year's open was typical of these
early tournaments. "Everyone's a little bit rusty. We
have to make the effort and get that concentration
You wouldn't know sarcasm if it jumped out of the ground and bit you on
the nose. Did you actually think, for a minute, that I was actually praising
the Purdue twirlers? I guess you kind of glossed over that part about
"redshirt sophomore Bea Arthur" being next in line for the Golden Girl
slot. Sarcasm, M, sarcasm. Maybe I can give you a quick example of this:
Gee, M, I'm really psyched that one of our twirlers is good enough to
teach in a summer twirling camp. That just makes me want to stand up
and sing "The Peanut Vendor" in exultant joy. See? That's sarcasm, M.
By the way, M, aren't you the guy who sends James Bond out on all
those cool missions? Why the secrecy? Now, about the Maryland band
being the one to play the Blues Brothers instead of the band I incorrectly
named - Indiana. OK, M, you got me. I guess it was Maryland that
kicked your butt instead of Indiana. My mistake. Oops. Now, M, I like
the Michigan Marching Band. When 225 members come cascading into
the stadium, I get goose bumps just like everybody else. I like the
formations, too, and I love the high step, even though you inexplicably
accuse me *of liking the bass drum better. And I surely did not call the
Marching Band lame. Never did I rip on anything but the choices of songs
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