Back in November my pal Buddy Moorehouse of Stunt3 Multimedia (of the Emmy nominated Black and Blue) sent over this note and I had to share. He wrote:
On Dec. 10, 1980, Michigan played Kent State in basketball (I was a junior at the Daily at the time, and was one of the assistant sports editors). A reporter from the Michigan Daily named Mark Fischer wrote the preview for the game. His lede for that story became legendary at the Daily. It was, without a doubt, the worst, most tasteless, most incredible thing that’s ever been printed in the paper.
I can’t recall the specifics of how this actually made it into print (I wasn’t working that night; I’d like to blame this on Drew Sharp). But it caused an enormous shitstorm between the Sports and News departments, and the next day, the News people ran a front-page apology.
I got to thinking about this today because my daughter (who is a gymnast) is considering attending Kent State, because they have a decent gymnastics team. That prompted me on a quest to find the story, so I searched on the Google News Archives, and bingo, I found it.
So here they are: The most tasteless Daily story ever, and the apology that ran the next day.
Take care and Go Blue!
Prepare to cringe:
I’m guessing my man Fisch looked at his lame arse assignment (a hoops preview for Kent State fergodsakes), swallowed a couple drinks, and hammered out something he figured would be cool, edgy and funny to spice it up. It probably read a LOT better at 2am with some tunes blasting. But anyway you slice it…THUD.
You can’t unring that bell—but here’s the best shot by Daily editor Mark Parrent:
Thanks to Buddy for passing this along!
P.S. Michigan killed defeated Kent State 97-72 on 12/10/80.
[Ed. Originally posted Feb 7 2011, I'm moving this up front due to the 30th Anniversary]
I’ve been digging out a few interesting old stories on the periphery of Michigan football in recent days and here’s another story I think you’ll like.
You know Bob Wojnowski of course, the long time Detroit News columnist and the Nutter Butter-gobbling co-host of the great ‘Stoney and Wojo’ radio show from 1995 to 2009.
Wojo is a Michigan grad and cut his journalistic teeth at the Michigan Daily three decades ago. In one of his final assignments as sports editor, he and Daily photographer Brian Masck became part of the story back in 1982 after they spent a few hours in a Columbus jail.
After midnight on November 20, 1982, the evening before The Game, the two were down on High Street taking in the sights and sounds with a few of their peers from The Lantern. When a pickled reveler started cussing out the police monitoring the scene, the cops got rough–brutally shoving him up against a wall. Masck questioned the police tactics and whipped out his camera hoping to capture the scene.
When the cops told him to put away the camera, Masck challenged the legality of such a request and was arrested. The Daily later published this shot, the best Masck could manage:
Meanwhile, Wojo saw this go down and protested Brian’s arrest (and also tried to fetch the car keys in Masck’s pocket). Wojo was promptly arrested as well.
They spent a few hours in the Columbus clink before being released around 6 a.m.
Fast forward to the early 1983. Once the “charges” were dropped against he and Masck, Wojo dropped this guest opinion piece/bomb (he was no longer editor) into the March 22, 1983 Daily. I was going to highlight a few sections but it’s too good. For those who have heard the story before I still encourage you to read this piece of vintage Wojo from the aftermath of this incident:
I’ll have a pretty interesting follow-up in the next couple days [Ed. It’s posted now]. I reached out and exchanged a few emails with Masck about all this and he shared some great stuff. I asked him (not being snarky, I was generally curious) why he had his camera at with him at 1am-ish on High Street, back when cameras didn’t fit in your pocket of course. You’ll love his answer.
You may have heard Wojo comment recall that night over the years, but I’m not sure how many people have heard from Masck—the guy who first stepped in to question (and photograph) the police before he was arrested.
Recently we swapped a few emails about those events and he shared some great stuff. Other than to ask him about any lingering memories or collateral, I was generally curious why he had a camera with him after 1 AM on High Street the night before the game. Of course you couldn’t fit a decent camera in your pocket in 1982.
“I learned as a freshman that it was important to have a camera ready to shoot because, on April 18, 1981, I was the only photographer to capture the arrest of student/gunman Leo Kelly being led to a squad car in front of my dorm, Bursley Hall,” Masck shared via email. “Kelly was convicted in the murder of students Edward Siwik and Douglas McGreaham. The photograph was published around the world. So I carried a camera everywhere and tried to be prepared to shoot when news happened.”
That’s not the only Masck photo that’s been seen around the world. If you are reading this post there’s a 99.4% chance you have a vague familiarity another one of his photos:
On that night in Columbus, thanks to the cops, Masck didn’t get the shot he wanted. But the police were concerned enough to seize the camera and arrest him despite the protests from he and Wojo who made it known they were journalists.
“Today, with cell phone cameras, that incident would have been on YouTube before we made it to the lockup,” Masck told me. “Boy, how technology has improved the sharing of information.”
“On the other front, we continue to witness media arrests in insignificant things like our High Street arrest, but just last week in Egypt where an attempt to silence/blame journalists failed to produce the desired results. Big events or small, the easiest target may be the journalist. Without images of an event and credible reportage, the truth can be easily hidden. [It’s a] struggle that won’t likely end.”
These days Masck is co-owner of Media Café Online, LLC a small Internet/Media company in Linden, Michigan—a safe distance from the jurisdiction of the Columbus police.
After it happened, media relations made an announcement in the box that Brandon Herron’s 94-yard interception return for a touchdown was the longest in modern (1948-present) history. But the postgame notes make a more definitive claim:
Herron’s 94-yard touchdown was the longest interception return for a touchdown in Michigan program history. The previous record was 92 yards, held by Ken Tureaud (vs. UCLA, Sept. 30, 1961) and Thom Darden (vs. UCLA, Sept. 25, 1971).
Offhand, the only other long interception return I could recall in the “pre-modern” era was Tom Harmon’s pick of Iowa’s Nile Kinnick which he took back for a score at the Big House in 1939. The rub here is figuring out exactly how long that return actually was.
Love the kids chilling on the wall [U-M Bentley Historical Library]
Of course this appears to be happening right on the goal line which would imply, if he took it back, that this would have went for 100 or so yards. Hmm.
I scanned through the news archives of the game and best that I can determine is Harmon had at least two picks and that the above photo is probably not the one he took to the house. More evidence comes from the postgame when Coach Fritz Crisler said, of Harmon, “He’s best known as a runner but I’d say his blocking and defensive work are equally good. Iowa threatened only twice after their touchdown. Harmon stopped both.”
Stopped, in this case, probably means an interception. This is backed up by a 1955 Michigan Daily piece that discussed that famed 1939 battle and coincidentally reprinted the above photo. The Daily wrote that Harmon was “the defensive star of the  game, intercepting several passes.” That article also mentioned the big play in question:
On one play, the fabulous “98” accounted for what the next day’s Daily termed the most spectacular play of the afternoon, intercepting a Kinnick aerial on his own five-yard line and tearing down the sidelines unscathed for a 95-yard touchdown run, as Michigan triumphed, 27-7.
This is a toughie, but given what I know about how football history (particularly statistics and legends) tend to be stretched, the answer is it was probably around a 90 yard return. But I do take stock in what The Daily wrote at the time. I doubt that the New York Times had a man at the game and The Daily certainly had a few eyes on the play.
Verdict: Screw it. Call it 95 and give it to Harmon.
Of course this may all be moot. Historians like Dr. Kryk or Dr. Bacon or someone else out there might recall a longer, less conspicuous interception return of 95+ yards prior in the early days of the program.