Anyway, when I was writing that Samuel L joke for yesterday's post, I decided to search for videos in which Carl Grapentine's voice is easy to hear, just because I needed a reminder of what standard issue Grapentine cadence and diction might sound like. I found this one from the UMass game in 2010.
To make a long story short, I went ahead and searched his name and found the above video of him doing a morning radio show in Oak Park, IL (which I had no idea he did). In fact, I realized that I really knew nothing about Carl Grapentine other than the fact that he is the one who dispassionately yet masterfully narrates what takes place in the Big House on fall Saturdays.
I watched and listened; it's truly amazing how starved for college football you can really get. Here I was, watching a video of Carl Grapentine doing a morning show, detailing the day's weather and various developments in the news--Hosni Mubarak, at that point--and I could close my eyes and feel as if I was in the Big House. Mubarak steps down, the Egyptian people on the coverage. It's 3rd down and democracy.
I swear, I watched the above video and for a second felt like I was in the Big House as Grapentine talked about the weather, African-American composers and performers, and Hosni Mubarak. Whether you like him or not...that's a voice. You and I talk and make noises that are generally consistent in pitch, loudness, and expressiveness, but that doesn't mean that we have a voice. Having a voice is about as inherent as having 4.3 speed, and that's why Grapentine does what he does.
Another point, one that I'm not sure that I like so much: watching this video was my first time seeing Grapentine in the flesh. I sort of enjoyed not knowing what he looked like. To this day, I still have no idea what Howard King looks like. In a way, knowing what he looks like kind of spoils things a bit, deconstructs a bit of the romanticism, I guess, like telling someone how a card trick works. His voice used to be an entity in and of itself, detached from corporeal reality, as if it literally came from up above. I think I'll survive, though.
I know there are some anti-Grapentine folks out there in the fan base. I'm not really sure why that is the case. To be quite honest, Grapentine is about as purely Michigan as a football PA guy could be. I've always thought his understated not-quite-detachment but not-quite-boorish-WHO-WANTS-FREE-PIZZAAAAA to be the perfect blend of dignity, emotion, and narration. Grapentine has a smooth NPR-ish voice, exuding class and maybe even a little pretentiousness (both linchpins of the Michigan Man's persona). It's a voice capable of providing the historical background behind whatever the MMB's halftime show is based on that day, while also saying "Touchdown Michigan" in just about as perfect a manner as possible.
It's no wonder that the NPR descriptor comes to my mind, as apparently others agree that he has a voice for radio. I had no idea...you learn something new every day. In any case, like the "master blues men," I hope that Grapentine will be practicing his craft in the Big House for many years to come. There are few things more rewarding in sports than the Big House crowd going wild after a Denard touchdown, with Grapentine waiting a few seconds to say those glorious words amongst the din: Touchdown Michigan.