BOSTON — Father-son stories are not uncommon in high-level sports. Bob and Brian Griese are living one that sounds familiar, only it's decidedly different after a certain point, a fact millions watching the Rose Bowl may discover New Year's Day.
Those who haven't already viewed ABC's coverage of University of Michigan games will learn the network has entrusted Hall of Fame quarterback Bob Griese to dispassionately analyze the play of the Wolverines and his son Brian, the team's quarterback.
This might seem an impossibly tall order, except that the father has pulled it off with characteristic Griese cool so far, and ABC is counting on him doing it one more time as top-ranked Michigan meets Washington State in Brian's final college game.
At stake for Michigan is a perfect season and the team's first national championship in 50 years.
Recently the Grieses fielded questions from reporters during separate teleconferences, Brian first on a University of Michigan hookup, and Bob less than two hours later on a joint ABC press conference with his regular broadcast colleague, play-by-play man Keith Jackson.
Three years ago ABC decided to avoid any appearance of unfairness by keeping the Griese-Jackson duo off University of Michigan games. Thereafter the policy was changed, perhaps because Griese is a pro in the booth and ABC wants its top broadcasters working big games.
Bob says it's not his nature to lavish praise on any player and he's certainly not about to gloat over his son's performance. "I let Keith take care of that," the dad says. "If I have to underplay a good play that Brian makes, I think he understands that."
Papa Griese says he's received no complaints about how he's handled his son's games. On the contrary, Ohio State University president Gordon Gee and others have written him congratulatory notes on a job well done.
Brian says he had never dealt with his father as a media figure until Bob was assigned to interview him following Michigan's Rose Bowl-clinching victory over Ohio State. Although awkward, Brian says it was special too. "It was nice for him to be at the game so he could see us win the Big Ten championship and share the moment with me."
Brian is the youngest of Bob's three sons (their mother passed away in 1988). The older brothers saw limited action at the University of Virginia and North Carolina. Bob says Brian wanted to "blaze his own trail," so enrolled at Michigan, where he's had his ups and downs.
In fact, his father says Brian became frustrated when benched last season. The dad says he is pleased that his son stuck it out at Michigan and finally earned a trip to Pasadena. Bob guided Purdue University to a berth in the 1967 Rose Bowl and later was quarterback of the Miami Dolphins when, 25 years ago, they completed a perfect 17-0 Super Bowl season.
Brian says he was only 5 when his father retired from football and that his dad never taught him the intricacies of quarterbacking. "I really just wanted him to play catch with me," Brian says.
Bob acknowledges that in many ways the father-son quarterbacks are alike. "I think Brian's strengths are his intelligence, his decisionmaking, his leadership, and how he approaches the game. That's pretty much the way I was."
The father has told the son to have fun at the Rose Bowl and to approach the game like any other. "You may be playing in the Rose Bowl," he says, "but it's just a football field like any other, 100 yards long and 50 yards wide. You don't have to throw the ball any better. Just play the way you're capable of playing." Considering the advice comes from a two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback - and his dad - Brian's likely to heed it.