For The Last 31 Years, Jim ‘Brandy’ Brandstatter Has Been Calling Detroit Lions Games.
Back in 1987 Jim Brandstatter began his role as color commentator on the Detroit Lions Radio Network. Since then, he has become an iconic voice for the team, one that felt like a friend sitting on the couch next to you. One who flowed through the same emotions of hope, victory, and often, unfortunate loss. When refs made bad calls, he was able to articulate the frustration that you felt perfectly, yet in language that many of us didn’t have that kind of control over.
Brandstatter (also lovingly known as ‘Brandy’) started his time broadcasting Lions games with one of the greats, Frank Beckmann. This was to last for two seasons before Frank was replaced by another great, Mark Champion. In 2005 Mark Champion was replaced by a man who has become a Lions broadcasting legend in his own right, current play-by-play broadcaster, Dan Miller. Much in the same way, Lions fans have been blessed with a series of amazing place kickers, fans have had an excellent series of radio broadcasters covering the team.
These gentlemen were so great that our podcast began the #SwitchToTheRadio campaign. A drive to get people to turn the volume down on their televisions and listen to Brandstatter and Miller call the game in the way that gave Lions fans a better overall experience. It was a way to get rid of the (barely) surface-level knowledge that the national broadcasters had and enjoy the game with the guys who lived and died with the team in the same way we did. Brandy and Miller were the perfect pair for Lions fans to embrace the game with, no matter the outcome.
It was announced on Tuesday that Brandstatter would no longer be providing color commentary for the Detroit Lions Radio Network, he was being replaced by Lomas Brown.
Jim Brandstatter As A Connection Home
Beyond that, Brandstatter was a guy who meant a lot to me personally. He was the voice of “home”. Growing up in Detroit and doing all the things someone in their 20’s does around town, I would hear Brandstatter on the radio whenever I couldn’t watch a Lions game. Traveling to see family, coming home after a friend’s wedding, trips to the cider mill (Parmenter’s is still the best), during runs to Home Depot when I was working on my first house. Jim Brandstatter was always there with me, always the voice of my elation or frustration with my Lions.
I also worked in radio in those days. I produced a top five morning show (when the city was still the 6th largest media market), had shifts on the weekends, I studied the craft of radio daily. Jim Brandstatter was a guy who taught me about connecting with my audience. He taught me about being honest and authentic on the air. He never knew it, but he helped me become better at what I did.
As we grow, things change. I left my radio dream and went to college. I worked in the auto industry for a bit, and then the local economy bit me in the same way it did so many others. In order to further my career and take care of my family, I took a job in Southern California. I had to pick up sticks and move away from everything and everyone I’d known.
The first year was particularly lonely. We were stuck in a new place with people we didn’t know and were at an age where folks don’t just make new friends. There were times that homesickness would settle in, but we had to keep pushing, keep grinding, move the ball forward for the family.
After about eight months it was time for football. I was surrounded by Packers, Bears, and Cowboys fans and I had a team that really didn’t have a whole lot to brag about on the field. I was even without anyone to talk football with in any kind of meaningful way. Luckily, I found something – a taste of home. It was an internet stream of the radio broadcast of the Lions games with Brandy and Dan. I latched onto that every week, and I was transported back home and to all the things that were familiar to me. A place that seemed so far away.
I went old school. I’d putter around in the garage listening to the guys bring the games to life. It was *my* time, a strange sort of therapy for me. It made everything OK.
In time everything fell into place and life continued in a new home, with new friends, and a good footing established. Still, every fall, I returned home to Brandy and Dan and found them on a stream (by hook or crook) telling me about my Lions and taking me back home (although there aren’t any cider mills in SoCal that are worth a damn).
Jim Brandstatter Provides Inspiration
It was at this time that I was inspired to start the Detroit Lions Podcast. I still had that radio “itch” and knew that there were any number of people who found themselves in the same predicament that I had once found myself. It was my chance to help bring the Lions to them. To bring them a conversation, a way to interact, and to be a “friend” who was either a connection to the team they love, or the place they called home.
Jim Brandstatter was a direct inspiration for me to begin our podcast, and its been an amazing ride. Brandstatter joined us a few times on the show, including on our seventh episode, way back when we were still figuring everything out, and he did so without reservation. He did it because he is a class act who remembers where he comes from, who loves his teams as much as we do (or more!), and who makes it a priority to give back to the community. Even if part of that community consists of a couple of idiots who spend their time talking about the Lions.
Jim Brandstatter Is More Than Football
Jim Brandstatter is a past President and active member of the Detroit Sports Media (formerly the Detroit Sports Broadcasters Association) an organization that does a lot of great work in the Detroit metro area, and is a member of the Michigan Sports Hall Of Fame (2014) and holds many other well-deserved honors and awards. Brandstatter is a man who embodies the spirit of the city of Detroit and the state of Michigan.
I personally put Brandstatter’s status as a broadcasting icon right alongside Ernie Harwell. Its a voice that means home, brings hope, and who feels like your friend with you at the game. We’re lucky as fans that we will still be able to hear Brandy broadcasting his beloved Michigan Football, but he will be sorely missed at Lions games.
Change is something that is rarely comfortable. With change comes risk, and WJR is taking their own calculated risk by not renewing Brandstatter’s contract. I wish the very best to Lomas Brown (who will have some really big shoes to fill) and hope he becomes the Matt Prater of broadcasting for the Lions and not the equivalent to Nate Freese.
Time will tell, but at this moment, I felt it important to celebrate Jim Brandstatter’s career with the Lions. This is a significant change, and Brandstatter is someone who we should recognize for all of the joy he’s brought us as Lions fans. His great voice will be missed by many of us on Sundays. That radio stream will feel a little bit less like home.