This past Saturday, The Michigan Daily celebrated its 111th birthday. It was an inauspicious celebration did anyone on campus actually notice yesterday morning that it is now celebrating “One hundred eleven years of editorial freedom?”
It”s not that I expected birthday cards and cakes waiting when I got into the building on Sunday morning. Nothing of the sort. The anonymity with which the Daily aged a year is one of the things that I like most about working here reliability.
The Daily is as reliable as Ann Arbor”s sudden weather changes. And from day one, Daily Sports has been there.
In that first paper, the front page showed a story about Michigan”s rugby club a pretty different look than it has now. But then again, what did you look like when you were one day old?
Today, Daily Sports is doing the same thing that it was doing 111 years ago. It is printing everything that happens in the world of Michigan sports. But it”s doing it from a different perspective than that of any other paper a student”s perspective.
That altered vision is what makes the Daily so special. It”s Rich Eisen, currently an anchor for ESPN SportsCenter, deciding that he had to forgo the mass hysteria that had taken over Ann Arbor”s streets on April 3, 1989. Sure, Eisen wanted to celebrate Michigan”s first ever national championship in basketball, but he had a job to do. So he ran across campus right after Rumeal Robinson hit the fateful free throws and got to work on the next day”s Daily.
It”s about football writers that couldn”t wait to leave the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1, 1998, because they couldn”t handle the fact that decorum forbid them from exploding when the Wolverines won the title.
When you read up on a game in Daily Sports, you”re getting predominantly the same information that you would from most professional papers. What”s different, though, is that you”re getting it from people represented by those who wear the winged helmets on the Michigan Stadium turf. You”re getting the news from people who have a real stake in the outcome.
What”s special is that you”re hearing from people who often feel a need to tap “The Victors” quietly in the Yost Arena pressbox after a Michigan goal, but who are more than ready to criticize the team that, deep down, they love.
Just a week after the first Daily was printed, the sports staff made it very clear that it would not print blind support for any team. As it said, 111 years ago this coming Saturday, “We believe that a spirit of mild criticism will do more to help our athletics than promiscuous adulation.”
Dan Perrin, a Daily sportswriter in the late 1970s, was not too intimated by Bo Schembechler to ask a question critical of Michigan”s kicking game, which in the 1979 season started off 1-10 on field goal attempts. Perrin also wasn”t about to back down after Schembechler grabbed him by the throat.
As was reported in the Daily 22 years ago today, “”I was confused,” he said. “At first, I didn”t understand why he lost his temper. In retrospect, I think Bo was just frustrated with his kicking game, not necessarily angry with me as an individual.””
Daily Sports is about a lot more than the free trip to the events that you cover. It”s about more than a chance to see your name in print. It”s about seeing in depth all the good and all the bad that Michigan sports has to offer.
It”s about breaking the story that former Michigan quarterback Brian Griese was arrested in 1996 at Scorekeepers, a local sports bar, for throwing a brick through a window. The Daily knew not because it was in a police report, but because staff members happened to be at the bar at the time.
“When Griese got arrested, we broke that story because we knew more people at Scorekeepers than anyone else,” said former Daily Editor in Chief Michael Rosenberg, who currently covers Michigan sports for the Detroit Free Press. “The joke at the time was that he couldn”t have been aiming for the window. That was before he made $80 million.”
It”s about Bob Wojnowski, who currently writes for The Detroit News, getting arrested in Columbus in 1982. Wojnowski and a Daily photographer, in town for the football game the next day, were taken into custody after photographing a police officer arresting another man. The way I have heard the story told is that Wojnowski and the photographer spent four hours in jail simply because the officer was an Ohio State fan, and they were Michigan boys.
Personally, I”ll always remember being called a sonofabitch by Jake Crouthamel, Syracuse”s athletic director, for catching him in a lie during a phone interview. A freshman at the time, it was at that moment, as I listened to the phone on the other end click silent, that I realized that the Daily was the place for me.
“It”s the best thing I ever did,” Eisen said of devoting his college life to the Daily. The same goes for me.
Happy birthday, Daily. To 111 more.
Jon Schwartz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org