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ROSE BOWL / Michigan 21, Washington State 16

For Both Grieses, This Rose Bowl Was an Emotional Call

Television: 31 years after broadcaster Bob led Purdue to victory in Pasadena, son Brian repeats feat with Michigan.

January 02, 1998|LARRY STEWART | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Bob Griese wanted to get down to the Michigan locker room to embrace his son Brian, but he was not quite ready to battle the crowd.

"The tunnels are still jammed," he said. "Let's wait."

For the next few minutes, Griese, having finished his job as ABC's Rose Bowl commentator, was finally alone in the TV booth and able to reflect on what had just transpired.

His son had not only led No. 1-ranked Michigan to a Rose Bowl victory over Washington State, he had been named the game's most valuable player.

"This is just absolutely incredible," said Griese, shaking his head. "It's an amazing story. It couldn't have been scripted any better.

"The frustration Brian felt when he almost quit a year ago, then to come back and now this. I'd hate to think how he would have felt if he hadn't come back and hadn't been a part of all this. This is just unbelievable."

The usually unemotional Griese was so proud he was about to burst.

"When I think what Brian has been through and now what he has accomplished, well. . . ." His voice trailed off.

He began to think about Brian's mother, Judith Ann, who died in 1988 of breast cancer.

"Just before Judy died, she said what she was going to miss most was seeing her sons' accomplishments. I'm sure she's up there somewhere.

"She continues to have a big influence on Brian. He says he thinks about her before every game. It helps him remain calm."

These days, Brian has a stepmother, Bob's wife of three years, Shay. The two met on a plane about six months after Judy's death.

"We talked and played gin rummy, and a friendship developed," Shay Griese said. "We didn't start dating until a couple of years later."

Shay watched Thursday's game in a suite next to the ABC booth. She kept saying it didn't matter who won, but she was the one shedding tears at the end.

Before the game, Griese was typically unemotional about it all.

When asked if he had grown tired of doing interviews about the relationship between him and his son, he said, "Yes and no. I know it's a nice story."

It was a nice story. It's now an incredible story.

It was 25 years ago that the Miami Dolphins, with Griese at quarterback, enjoyed a 17-0 season, the last undefeated season in the NFL. It was 31 years ago that he led Purdue to a 14-13 victory over USC in the 1967 Rose Bowl.

Now, Bob was announcing the biggest game of Brian's life with millions watching.

"I told Brian before the game that he had to win to match me," Griese said.

Brain one-upped dad and then some. He played an almost perfect game, although you wouldn't have known it from the less-than-effusive comments from the game commentator.

There was no cheering for Brian in the broadcast booth. But then Shay Griese said Bob wouldn't be cheering even if they were at home.

"What would be Bob's reaction?" Shay was asked after Brian's first touchdown pass.

"He'd just rewind the tape and start analyzing the play," she said.

Before the game, Griese talked about having to be careful not to be overly praiseworthy or over critical of his son, and Griese played it right down the middle.

In fact, after Brian's second touchdown pass to Tai Streets, it was left to sideline reporter Lynn Swann to dissect the play. Swann concluded by saying, "Bob, my hat's off to your son."

Afterward, as Griese waited to make the trek down to the Michigan locker room, he was asked if it had been planned to let someone else handle the praise.

"No, no," Griese said. "The producer [Jay Rothman] thought Lynn had a better view of Streets beating the defensive back on that play."

Griese exited the press box, and the hordes were all over him with cheers and congratulations as he made his way through the stands toward the field. As he entered the tunnel leading to the locker room, a fairly large Michigan contingent gave him a huge ovation.

Griese smiled. "If Brian were here, he'd say, 'Hey, Dad, what did you do to deserve that? It was me.' "

Griese was let into the locker room. After looking around and asking where Brian was, he finally spotted him.

Father and son looked at each other for a second, then hugged. It was a long, hard hug.

Some of the eye black Brian wore ended up on dad's cheek. Brian, in a show of affection, rubbed if off with his thumb.

There wasn't much time to talk. The national media were awaiting the game's No. 1 star in the interview room.

"Neither one of you said much," a reporter commented.

"Words weren't needed," Bob Griese said. "He knew and I knew."

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